By Orly Katz, LCPC at Everyday Counseling and Coaching Services
We often hear about something called the “mind-body connection,” the idea that we can use our body to influence our mind and vice versa. But what does this actually look like in practice? And what can using the “mind-body connection” help us with?
The mind-body connection is the idea that we can engage in certain actions, such as controlling our breathing, to influence how our mind and body react to certain stimuli. Have you ever heard that you should take a few deep breaths when you are feeling overwhelmed? That’s because the technique of deep breathing allows our mind to relax, which in turn relaxes our other bodily functions, including heart rate, blood pressure, and tension.
For more information on how this works, take a look at the following video:
Now that you’ve learned how this connection works, let’s consider some situations where using this knowledge can help us to gain control over how our mind and body reacts to situations:
- Anxiety: Paced breathing for a few minutes can lower your heart rate and blood pressure, direct contributors to maintaining feelings of increased anxiety.
- Anger: Paced breathing can help your perception of events to “slow down,” allowing you more time and clarity in making healthy choices in response to anger,
- Tension: Paced breathing allows your mind the opportunity to relax. When you are feeling tension, try combining paced breathing with specific muscle relaxation over a ten minute period. When you start breathing, spend your first minute clearing your mind and scanning your body for any areas of tension. Over the next eight minutes, focus on relaxing each muscle group for one minute each, moving from your feet to legs, pelvis/hips, abdomen, lower back, hands/arms, upper back/shoulders, and neck/facial muscles. For the last minute, continue paced breathing while holding your relaxed muscles.
By utilizing paced breathing, you can gain control over how your body reacts to different stimuli, decrease stress, and help your body to cope in healthy ways. Try to make a commitment to practicing paced breathing for ten minutes a day for one week – what improvements do you see?