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Your mind and body are powerful allies. How you think can affect how you feel. And how you feel can affect your thinking.
An example of this mind-body connection is how your body responds to stress. Constant worry and stress over jobs, finances, or other problems can cause tense muscles, pain, headaches, and stomach problems. It may also lead to high blood pressure or other serious problems.footnote 1
On the other hand, constant pain or a health problem like heart disease can affect your emotions. You might become depressed, anxious, and stressed. And this could affect how well you treat, manage, or cope with your illness.
But your mind can have a positive effect on your health, too. Having a positive outlook on life might help you better handle pain or stress. And it can help you stay healthier than someone who is less hopeful.
Your brain produces substances that can improve your health. These substances include endorphins, which are natural painkillers. And there's gamma globulin, which strengthens your immune system.
Research shows that what your brain produces depends in part on your thoughts, feelings, and expectations. If you're sick but you have hope and a positive attitude and you believe that you'll get better, your brain is likely to produce chemicals that will boost your body's healing power.footnote 2
Negative thoughts and emotions can keep your brain from producing some of the chemicals that help your body heal. But this doesn't mean you should blame yourself for getting sick or feeling down about a health problem. Some illnesses are beyond your control. But your thoughts and state of mind are resources you can use to get better.
When you are stressed, your body responds as though you are in danger. It makes hormones that speed up your heart, make you breathe faster, and give you a burst of energy. This is called the fight-or-flight stress response. If the stress is over quickly, your body goes back to normal and no harm is done.
But if stress happens too often or lasts too long, it can have bad effects. Long-term stress can make you more likely to get sick, and it can make symptoms of some diseases worse. If you tense up when you are stressed, you may develop neck, shoulder, or low back pain. Stress is linked to high blood pressure and heart disease.
Stress also harms your emotional health. It can make you moody, tense, or depressed. Your relationships may suffer, and you may not do well at work or school.
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We all have different ideas of what it means to feel well. Try this thought exercise, and focus on your mind-body connection.
Maybe you have a health problem. Or maybe your mind is troubled in some way. Either of these struggles can make life harder. And they can leave you feeling unwell. Ask yourself:
It could be about your body or mind feeling healthy and whole. It might be some combination of the two. Ask yourself some questions about feeling well.
Some people also consider spirituality as part of their mind-body wellness. You can use these same steps to think about wellness across your body, mind, and spirit. For example, ask yourself:
Here are some ideas to help your mind-body wellness.
Try one or more of these techniques to help you relax:
Laughter and humour make life richer and healthier. Laughter increases creativity, reduces pain, and speeds healing.
Being resilient means you're able to bounce back from tough situations or problems.
Spiritual wellness can bring comfort and lend strength for handling life's challenges.
CitationsYaribeygi H, et al. (2017). The impact of stress on body function: A review. EXCLI Journal, 16: 1057–1072. DOI: 10.17179/excli2017-480. Accessed March 10, 2022.Rasmussen HN, et al. (2009). Optimism and physical health: A meta-analytic review. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 37(3): 239–256.
Current as of: October 20, 2022
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: Patrice Burgess MD - Family MedicineKathleen Romito MD - Family MedicineAdam Husney MD - Family MedicineChristine R. Maldonado PhD - Behavioral Health
Current as of: October 20, 2022
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:Patrice Burgess MD - Family Medicine & Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & Christine R. Maldonado PhD - Behavioral Health
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