THE BEANBAG PSYCHOLOGIST 02
The Emotional Body and the Physical Mind
What would you find in the snapshot of a doctor’s waiting room? Toothy smiles and hearty laughs are far from the picture, surely. Expressions of sickness, fear, apprehensive frowns and screaming kids (and the occasional screaming adult) seem to be a more accurate description of the scene!
There is such a close relationship between our physical wellness and our emotions and vice versa. Many of us are the very picture of gloom when down with a fever, but a surprise visit from a close friend and fun conversations have the power to instantly make us feel better. This indicates the existence of a two-way passage of information from the body to the mind and the other way around too.
How do our bodies tell us our mind is feeling something? Many of you must have heard the expressions “butterflies in the stomach”, “giddy with excitement”, “scared to my guts” etc. Through physical sensations such as sweating, giddiness, short and quick breaths, tightened muscles, blood pressure and even acidity, the body is constantly trying to get our attention to the state of our minds.
Research confirms that our brain releases a hormone called cortisol at times of high stress. Cortisol helps us to gather more energy to either stay and fight or flee from danger. An increased secretion of cortisol takes place when we are made to endure prolonged stress. This can lead to many physical problems such as heart disease, aches and pains, reduced immunity to diseases, ulcers and even aging! This is the extent of the impact our emotional states have on our physical body.
The good news is it is possible to control our emotional states through our bodies as well. A caring teacher may have advised you to take deep, calming breaths before attempting a difficult task. There is a fantastic scientific logic to this advice. When we are scared or nervous, our sympathetic nervous system is activated, making us breathe in short pants whereas a deep breath activates the opposing system called the parasympathetic nervous system, which reduces the production of cortisol and other stress hormones and thus induces a feeling of calmness and well-being.
For an overall sense of well-being we should pay attention to the mutual influence of the body and mind on each other so we are better able to control one through the other and achieve balance!