Fortunately, gone are the days when the mind-body connection was considered some sort of spiritual mumbo-jumbo. More and more people, including scientists and health professionals, are starting to recognize the powerful effects of this connection on our wellbeing.
There are countless peer-reviewed studies that demonstrate these effects in various ways, but today we will focus on mental disorders. You may be surprised to know that some mental issues cause real physical symptoms and tangible changes in the patient’s body.
Here are four mental disorders that demonstrate the real power of the mind-body connection:
Hypochondriasis (health anxiety)
Those suffering from health anxiety know better than anyone else how powerful their anxious mind can be. Just talk about someone’s illness and a brief mention of its symptoms can make you actually feel them. As a result, you get trapped in an endless loop of worrying, and these feelings get even more intense.
The more you focus on your body and its sensations, the more convinced you are that something is not right. You thoroughly analyze how your body works and the reasons why you might be having this sensation. When you reach the peak of worrying, you finally decide to go and get a few medical tests.
And guess what? Everything is fine. Magically, right after you receive the rest results (or a couple of days after), your symptoms just disappear. Hypochondriacs are a clear demonstration of how reliant our physical body is on our mind.
Generalized anxiety disorder
This is another one of anxiety disorders that involves a broad range of physical symptoms. Some examples include digestive issues like constipation, nausea and bloating, difficulty breathing, muscle tension, increased heart rate, and even heart pain.
With years, if left untreated, many of these symptoms can evolve into chronic physical ailments, for example, Irritable Bowel Syndrome or heart disease.
And what causes all these physical symptoms? Nothing but the mind. The region of the brain called the amygdala, which governs our fear responses, goes through a few chemical changes. This distorts the balance in the production of neurotransmitters such as dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin.
As a result, the body sets itself into stress mode (even if there is no real stressor) and exhibits those unsettling mental and physical symptoms like the ones above.
Dissociative identity disorder
This is probably the most curious case on our list today. When a dissociative identity disorder patient switches personality, there can also be biological changes in their bodies.
For example, when a person is in their true self, they may not be allergic to oranges, but as soon as an alter personality is in charge, they are. There was even a case when a blind woman regained her sight with the help of a personality switch!
How incredible is that? Just imagine how powerful the mind-body connection is if someone can cause such major biological changes in their bodies with their mind only!
Eating disorders like anorexia or bulimia can have serious consequences for a person’s physical health and lead to horrible changes in their body. And yet, the reason is usually purely psychological.
Eating disorders often have to do with deeply rooted self-esteem issues. For example, patients with anorexia nervosa tend to be too hard on themselves and have unrealistic expectations towards their bodies. As a result, they are starving themselves, believing they are overweight, even if it’s not true. But the root of the problem is low self-esteem and perfectionism.
What does it mean and how to use the mind-body connection to your advantage?
You have seen from the examples above that the mind-body connection is real and very powerful. Now, the question is: how do we bring about its positive effects, not negative ones like in the case of mental disorders?
Be aware of your thoughts
The first step to improving your life with the mind-body connection is to watch your thoughts. Every single day, we make thousands of thoughts, and many of those are negative. Negative self-talk can be incredibly powerful and not only does it prevent us from living the life of our dreams, but it is bad for our health too. So be aware of your negative thought patterns and limiting beliefs.
Practice mindfulness and other types of meditation
A good way to achieve awareness is to practice mindfulness. It basically gives you a more clear idea of your own thoughts without changing or suppressing them. Other types of meditation work wonders for our mind and body too, which is confirmed by numerous studies. Include Meditation in your daily routine and you won’t regret it!
Make sure positive thoughts overpower negative ones
When you catch yourself thinking something bad about yourself, blaming yourself for an insignificant mistake or worrying about something, just replace this negative thought with a positive affirmation.
For example, if you are feeling that you are not good enough, concentrate on a statement like: “I am worthy of happiness and success”.
If you are a hypochondriac, you can use an affirmation such as: “My body is perfectly healthy. I am full of energy and I’m feeling great”.
Similarly, if you have had a bad day and feel guilty about something you have done, remember all the good things you did today and endorse yourself for them. The point is to focus on the positive instead of giving negative things the power they don’t deserve.
Let me finish my article with this quote, which perfectly captures the power of our mind in our lives:
‘If you knew how powerful your thoughts are, you would never think a negative thought.’
– Peace Pilgrim