The body mind connection is such a basic aspect of our existence that it is easily taken for granted. Yet, this doesn't stop it from affecting almost every area of our lives. Dealing with stress is a perfect example.
When managed well, stress can be a positive and compelling force, fueling our achievements. When managed poorly it becomes detrimental and highly destructive. Skillful use of the mind body connection holds the key.
The body mind connection is perhaps one of the very first facts of our existence. It creates the very fabric of who we are.
The mind body connection is with us from the very beginning and it stays with us until the very end. It's always there - to support us, to guide us and to help us live life to the full. Learning to skillfully use this holy bond is an important key to stress relief and enhanced well-being.
When stressed out, people can benefit greatly from working with the connection between body and mind. Stuck in the mind, stress is almost inevitable. Stepping out-of-the-mind allows us to alleviate stress. The body mind connection allows us to do this.
Although the body mind connection is always there, it is easy to lose sight of it when thinking too much. We think about problems and try to find their solutions. We worry. We fear. We regret. We admire. We get caught up in the drama of it all to such an extent that we become whatever is playing on the screen of our mind. The body is completely forgotten - the very thing that houses the mind!
Losing awareness of our body creates stress in more ways than one...
It Creates Stress by Exposing Us to Physical Danger
Our body is the most immediate connection we have to our environment. When we lose touch with our body, we also lose touch with the environment our body is inhabiting. This can be dangerous.
When preoccupied by thoughts we instantly become attractive targets to would-be muggers, who love the fact that we are focused on our own little world and are not fully 'there'. With compromised awareness of our surroundings we also become more accident-prone.
Potential harm can be invited into our lives through distraction and lack of awareness. Our body is wise and knows that it is vulnerable when our awareness is 'switched off'. This is how being distracted, in and of itself, can be very stressful.
It Creates Stress by Causing a Loss of Perspective
Thinking too much is stressful. It often seems that the more we 'think', the more distressed we become. We turn things over and over again in our mind. We analyze and calculate. We worry. With a dominant portion of our attention captured by thought, we have little reserves left over to put the contents of our mind into perspective.
There is a time and place for deliberation, reflection, strategic analysis and constructive thinking of course. In fact, this is what thinking should really be all about. Thinking should be a creative, constructive and positive activity. Yet, most of what we usually like to refer to as 'thinking' is nothing of the kind that can actually better our lives.
We engage in self-doubt and self-pity. We worry about things we can't control. We compare ourselves to others and worry that we will never measure up. We regret the past and are anxious about the future. All the while the body and the life that we are actually living is forgotten. An endless procession of petty preoccupations have taken over our life. Stress inevitably accumulates.
There is Another Way...
How would it be like to step out-of-the-mind to connect with the body on a more regular basis as a way of dealing with stress? This is the essence of learning how to deal with stress. Without stepping out-of-the-mind, we have no-where to go. We remain trapped in a spiral of negativity that keeps on feeding itself.
Stepping out-of-the-mind... we may be startled to find that we have left our stress behind! We awaken to our body, to our environment, and to ourselves in a way that feels very right and very good. A part of us may wonder how everything could feel so wrong one moment and so right the next - yet this is our undeniable experience. Nothing has changed, yet somehow everything has changed. Stepping out-of-the-mind we feel at home in our very own skin. Where we were feeling alienated, both from ourselves and others, we suddenly feel we belong.
The contrast is striking.
We all have a body and a mind. We usually become acutely aware of the body or of the mind when something goes wrong. We become highly conscious of the body when we feel pain or discomfort. We become super-conscious of the mind when it has us in the grip of some fearful or worrisome thought.
What a shame to become aware of the body mind connection only under such duress. The body mind connection has so much more to offer. Through skillful use of the body, we can ease distress in the mind. There are many different ways to do this.
Physical Exercise and Stress Relief
One highly effective way to use the body to take ourselves out-of-the-mind is through physical exercise. In other words, through sweating our bu** off (for more on this visit three simple ways to be happy )! As a martial artist I am a firm believer in the virtues of physical exercise, especially if the physical exercise encourages keen awareness of the body-mind connection.
One of the reasons I can wholeheartedly recommend martial arts in considering possible outlets for exercising is that they give you benefits on multiple levels. On the one hand, you get all the benefits you would from any other physical activity. Yet, at the same time you will also develop mental focus and discipline and learn to defend yourself and loved ones. Put all of this together and you have a very potent stress buster on your hands!
There are many other body-mind disciplines you can choose from, so don't worry if you aren't interested in learning martial arts. Yoga or Pilates can be other excellent choices with well-recognized stress relief benefits.
Find the type of physical exercise that is best suited to your temperament and personal inclinations. Once you find the physical activity you most enjoy, stick to it, and use it regularly as your very own, full-proof, stress-release valve.
The important thing is to sweat-out your bodily tensions on a regular basis. Burn away all worry, anxiety or fear that may be lingering in the recesses of both body and mind. Physical activity opens skin pours and helps release toxins. Make the utmost of your body mind connection by giving yourself thoroughly to the activity at hand.
With all tension having left your body, all stress will have left your mind as well. Notice how this feels. Note the undeniable truth of it. Remember how your body and mind feel at this point. This will become your mental template for future workouts, and will give you all the self-motivation and direction you'll need.
Another Simple Body-Mind Stress Buster
When the mind is troubling you with worry, judgement, fear or disapproval - stop. Take a deep breath. Shift your awareness from your thinking to the sensations of the body. Feel your body, as if, from the inside-out. With each out-breath, exhale all thoughts. You'll be amazed at how such a simple shift in awareness can carry so much well-being with it.
This article introduced a few ways in which the body-mind connection can be used to manage stress. The body, can be used in such a way as to ease the mind. By the same token, skillful use of the mind can effectively put our body at ease. Remember, body and mind are one.