Exercises for good posture

Helpful exercises to correct posture

We all know exercise is an important component to our daily health. The following exercises were developed by Dr. David Jockers, DC, MS, CSCS to help combat poor posture and to help restore health and proper posture.

Perform each of the following exercises twice a day for one minute. In 30 to 90 days you will notice improved posture and all its benefits.

a. The Eagle: To do this exercise, imagine opening your arms just like an eagle spreads its wings. Stretching your arms overhead will open the lungs and boost oxygen intake. The boost in oxygen stimulates tissue regeneration and increases blood flow.

Instructions for Exercise:

  1. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart
  2. Start with arms lowered and adjacent to sides
  3. Simultaneously lift both arms above your head
  4. Pause for a moment
  5. Lower arms back down to sides in a slow and controlled movement
  6. Repeat for 1 minute

b. The Hummingbird: This is a great exercise to remove the slouch from poor posture and to realign the head with the spine. The hummingbird strengthens the muscles between the shoulder blades, improves muscle fibers around the thoracic spinal column, opens pectoral muscles, and lifts the rib cage.

Instructions for Exercise:

  1. Lift arms so that they are parallel to the floor
  2. Bend elbows and facepalms forward to form a 90-degree angle between the bicep and forearm
  3. Rotate arms backward in a circular movement while squeezing shoulder blades together
  4. Repeat for 1 minute

c. The Trap Opener: The trapezius muscles stabilize the shoulder blades providing support for head and neck movement. Habitual forward head posture pulls and weakens the shoulder blades which consequently also relocates the ribcage. This exercise will release stress from the trapezius muscles and dispose of the so-called “monkey” on your back.

Instructions for Exercise:

  1. Relax your shoulders
  2. Drop your chin towards your chest
  3. Roll head slightly to the right side
  4. Use your right hand to massage trapezius muscles on the upper left side of the back
  5. Repeat exercise for opposite side
  6. Perform for 1 minute

d. The Butterfly: The butterfly is a great exercise to correct forward head posture.
Performing this exercise regularly targets muscles in the neck and shoulders that cause chronic neck pain.

Instructions for Exercise:

  1. Focus on lifting chest toward the ceiling
  2. Bring your hands back against your head so that thumbs point down. *Optional: If reduced flexibility hinders your ability to lift arms and hands behind head, perform exercise standing flat against a wall. You can also align back of head against a seat.
  3. Use about 10% of strength to push head backward while keeping head straight
  4. Hold for approximately 10 seconds
  5. Relax and repeat for 1 minute

e. The Chin Tuck: A contrasting exercise to the butterfly is the chin tuck. This exercise balances the opposite core muscles in the neck by strengthening the deep neck flexors. Performing the chin tuck helps balance your head and neck, reducing the occurrence of forward head shift.

Instructions for Exercise

  1. Focus on lifting chest toward the ceiling
  2. Maintain head position with ears over the neck
  3. Place 1 hand on your forehead
  4. Gently push forward with about 10% of strength (muscles in neck should contract and head should appear immobile)
  5. Relax and repeat for 1 minute
balance

Standing Tall: The Importance of Good Posture

Did your mother or teacher have to constantly tell you to stand tall or sit up straight? Well, as it turns out, their advice was right on the money. Posture is how your body is positioned when you are sitting, standing, or lying down. This article will discuss why good posture is important, the health consequences of poor posture, and steps you can take to improve posture.

All of us admire those with good posture, it is an attractive feature and those with good posture give a sense of command and control. Unfortunately, very few people are committed to practicing daily rituals to improve their posture. This postural neglect can have serious consequences on our overall health.

Why is Good Posture Important?

Posture is the window into your spine. Your spine has a powerful relationship with your brain, spinal cord, and overall organ function. The curve in the spine is there to provide support and balance to the musculoskeletal system. This natural curve is essential for preventing deformation to bones, joints, muscles, and tendons.
Correct posture reinforces the natural curve of the spine and not only influences how you look but helps you breathe, improves concentration, supports vital organ function, and stimulates overall well-being. Correct posture protects against disc degeneration that can lead to inflammatory conditions and disease. It is also critical for protecting the central nervous system.

What Is Subluxation?

In our modern society, we daily repeat activities that create stress on the supporting spinal column. Slouching, crossing legs, Smartphone use, and incorrect ergonomic practices at home, school, and work cause poor posture.

These daily activities lead to the abnormal curvature of the spine and abnormal stress on the nervous system, which is known as subluxation, or partial dislocation. Subluxation interferes with nerve impulses and can manifest in numerous physical symptoms.

Examples of physical symptoms from subluxation include:

  1. Neuropathy, a disease or disorder, generally degenerative, that affects the nervous system
  2. Back pain or neck pain
  3. Chronic pain common in the hips, joints, lower back, pelvis, and knees
  4. Irritation of a specific area such as arm pain
  5. Weakened immune system
  6. Organ dysfunction
  7. Inability to move or exercise normally
  8. Dizziness and loss of balance
  9. Loss of bladder or bowel control
  10. Autoimmune conditions
  11. Fatigue
  12. Headaches and migraines

The spine is susceptible to numerous traumas, including birth, regular physical activities from exercise and sports, as well as accidental injury from car accidents and falls. Depending on the type of injury and which nerve pathways of the spine become disrupted, spinal subluxations can increase the risk for weakened immunity and lowered quality of life.

Loss of the spine’s natural curve inhibits normal physiological and nervous system functions. The ability to protect the brain stem and support the communication of nerve impulses throughout the body becomes suppressed.
In addition, physical limitations of the body marked by poor posture accelerate the aging process and increase inflammation. This is a result of the body’s inability to manage stress and tissue trauma appropriately.

Forward Head Posture

Probably the most noticeable and common postural issue is forward head posture. It is an exaggeration of the natural curve of the neck. The natural curve, or arc, helps protect the brain stem and the spinal canal, where the spinal cord and nerves that travel to every region of the body are housed.

As the arc reduces it becomes unstable and results in a forward head posture. Causes of forward head posture include:

  1. Looking down while typing or reading (which has become excessive with the use of smartphones)
  2. Sitting improperly with shoulders rounded and back hunched
  3. Driving with your head more than 2 inches away from the head rest
  4. Carrying a backpack or heavy purse over one shoulder

Forward head posture causes major stress on the musculoskeletal system. It can lead to many health issues. For every inch your head extends forward, your neck must support an additional 10 pounds (nearly 5kg) of weight, and depending on the severity of the forward head posture, it can add up to 30 pounds (about 14kg) of additional weight on the spinal discs, ligaments, and tendons. This results in a cascade of injury to internal organs, like the lungs (which affects breathing), and affects blood flow and oxygenating the blood.

3 Ways to Improve Your Posture by Correcting & Preventing Sublaxation and Forward Head Posture

#1: Chiropractic Care – Chiropractic adjustments can help compensate for postural abnormalities leading to an improvement in the health of the spine and the whole body. Research found that chiropractic adjustments and rehabilitation exercises lead to the correction of forward head posture and cervical lordosis and restored pulmonary function.

#2: Lifestyle Practices – The first step to achieving good posture is being aware of your postural habits. Once you are aware of your poor postural habits, you can replace these habits with new healthy postural habits.

Four suggested lifestyle practices to reinforce good posture include:

  1. Make sure the top of your computer screen is level with your eyes, about two feet away from your face
  2. Carry a backpack squarely over both shoulders to balance the weight distribution
  3. When carrying a purse or duffle bag, carry it diagonally across the torso
  4. Have ample lower back support while sitting or lying for prolonged periods

#3: Exercises – Daily practice of posture correcting exercises will help create new postural habits.

How much is too much?

How much is too much?

How many times have you taken a bite of a food and said, “I’m so bad – this is so bad for me”?
News Flash: there’s no such thing as a good or bad food. No food is morally good or morally bad. If you have a food labeled as bad, then eating it makes you a bad person. What do you do to bad people? You punish them.

So, here’s the question: Are you punishing yourself because you’re “bad” for eating something that “is bad”. Can you begin to see food as neutral? Can you see the error in thinking?

What we need to realize is that it isn’t the food, it’s the quality and the dose. The true value of food is less about what food you’re eating and more about the quality and how much of it you eat.

Quality is everything. If you’re going to eat a slice of pizza, eat the best one you can find (or make it yourself using a vegetable crust rather than white flour).

Choose the highest quality version of the foods you’re going to eat anyway. When you elevate the quality of your food, you elevate your metabolism.

Quantity … ah, now there’s the rub. How much is enough? How much is too much? Do you know when you’ve had enough, or do you eat until your pants are so tight you can’t to breathe? Do you know when you’re hungry, or do you eat because the clock says it is noon?

Here’s the challenge:
Write a list of some foods that you can eat in moderation, but if you over-indulge it’s a problem.

You see – you do know what they are; now, all that is necessary for you to do is respect your body enough to allow quality food in, in moderation, and know when and where to draw the line. Having trouble completing this challenge? Hit the button and make an appointment because that’s one of the things I’m good at – helping you figure it all out.

bread-breakfast-coffee

What Am I Supposed to Eat?

Often, when I’m out at an event and happen to bump into someone who knows I’m a health and nutrition professional, usually the first thing that happens (after “Hi”) is either an apology for eating what they’re eating, or a question … WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO EAT? IS THIS OKAY?

As we all know, there’s a glut of information available on diets – most of it very confusing. It seems there’s a new incarnation of an old idea every year with all kinds of voices crying, “Eat vegan!”; “Eat like a caveman!”; “Eat soy!”; “Don’t eat soy!”; “Count calories!”; “Don’t count calories!” You get the picture. The fact of the matter is that all diet theories – and there are at least 100 of them – are simply shifting the balance, the source, or the timing of macronutrients. They change the ratio of how many carbs to fats to proteins are measured. High carb/low carb; high protein/low protein; high fat/low fat – these ratios are the balance of macronutrients: protein, fat and carbohydrates. We need to look at the basic macronutrients and a little bit of science to make sense of it all.

There are six main nutrients needed for energy, maintenance of tissues and regulation of bodily processes. Those are carbohydrates, fats, proteins, water, vitamins and minerals. The “macro” nutrients are fats, proteins and carbohydrates and for the sake of basic nutrition science, we’ll stick with these.

The Mighty Macronutrients – Carbohydrates

Macronutrients provide your body with energy, which is measured in calories.  We’ll start with carbohydrates.

Carbs are organic compounds that contain single, double, or multiple sugar units.  Our bodies look to carbs for quick energy because carbs are a very powerful, fast-acting, energy source.  There are three kinds of carbohydrates: complex, simple and fiber.

  • Simple carbs have a simple chemical structure and they’re broken down and metabolized very quickly by the digestive system – they’re also usually sweet. Think fruit for a healthy example and bread, cookies and chips for the “other” kind.
  • Complex carbs take more time to break down and digest; they’re savory or starchy – like potatoes, squash or lentils.
  • Fiber can’t be broken down. It’s the intestinal scrub brush.  There’s no caloric value in fiber, but without it the gut can be in serious difficulty.  That’s why it’s so important to eat some of your fruit and vegetables raw or only slightly cooked.

The Power of Protein

Proteins are large, complex molecules that are critical in the body at a cellular level and are needed for structure, function and regulation of the body’s tissues and organs.  They are made up of amino acids, of which there are 21 different types that can be combined to create a protein.

  • Proteins are used to produce new tissues for growth and repair and they regulate and maintain body functions.
  • They define what an organism is, what it looks like and how it behaves.
  • Enzymes, used for digestion, protection and immunity are made of proteins.
  • Proteins are used as a source of energy when carbohydrates aren’t available, usually as a last resort.
  • Proteins are found in meats, poultry, fish, cheese, milk, nuts and legumes.

Many people have had great success with weight loss using high protein diets, such as Atkins and the Paleo diet.  And, while these types of diets can be very effective, they’re not necessarily the right fit for everyone.  It’s important to honor your body and your own individual metabolism; we’re all different and there isn’t a one-size-fits-all diet.  Our metabolisms are all different.  What works for one may not work as well for another.

Some people handle animal protein quite well, others can’t manage it at all.  Knowing the type of protein that works best for you is important to your dietary health and success.

Fats are a big subject and I addressed it in my blog in August.

That’s where understanding nutrition theory comes in and, that’s where I come in.  In the meantime, you’re welcome to eat whatever you want to eat.  I am not the “eating police”.  However, if you really want to know what to eat and if what you’re eating is doing you good, then we need to meet and spend some time together.  I’m always happy to do that!  Just click on the button and make an appointment.

 

Alcohol - Empty Calories

Empty Calories – What is Your Food Filled With?

I was chatting with my daughter today and she expressed, once again, her dismay that so few people seem to consider how nutrient deficient their food choices can be. She likened a small croissant at more than 400 calories to a bowl of blueberries containing the same number of calories. If you haven’t seen the comparison 125 blueberries or 1-1/4 cups is worth 100 calories. Times that by four and that’s a lot of blueberries!

In terms of nutrition for us humans, the term “empty calories” applies to foods and beverages composed primarily or solely of sugar, fats or oils (the unhealthy variety widely and generously used by food manufacturers), or alcohol-containing drinks. For example, carbonated soft drinks, energy drinks and fruit juices; cakes, cookies, pastries, donuts; processed meats and processed cheeses are all sources of empty calories. All of these provide food energy but little or no other nutrition in the way of vitamins, minerals, protein, fiber or essential fatty acids.

A very small amount of empty calories is okay, but most people eat far more than is healthy since the proportion of nutrients relative to energy content is way out of balance.

Here’s a thought … when the urge for something sweet strikes again, why not try a juicy peach or half a banana? You’ll at least be getting some nutrition that will help your body as opposed to taking in something that could be causing you harm.

 

 

Catch Some Pure Vitamin D from the Sun

Catch Some Pure Vitamin D from the Sun

Summertime is the best time to get the necessary amounts of vitamin D; the Sunshine Vitamin.  Did you know that most people in the northern hemisphere are vitamin D deficient?  It’s true.  Yet, this can be easily remedied, especially in the summertime, by going out into the sun and allowing your largest organ, your skin, to absorb those delicious rays.

Vitamin D helps to boost your mood, immunity and energy.  Even though you can get small amounts of vitamin D from your food (and of course there are supplements), the best way is direct sunlight exposure.

Although sunscreen is important, it can interfere with the absorption of vitamin D.  15-20 minutes of unprotected time in the sun is sufficient to give you a good dose of this vitally important vitamin.

What About Sunscreen?

After taking your 15 minutes of vitamin D, be sure to practice safe sun habits and apply sunscreen.  Just  be sure you’re lathering up with sunscreen that’s free of PABA, OMC, 4MBC, Benzophene-3 or Homosalate, which have been linked to an increased risk of skin cancer.  Hats are a great option for added protection.

Now go get your vitamin D.

 

 

Is Sleep Overrated?

Is Sleep Overrated?

Are you getting less sleep than you need believing it’s normal?

Sleep – that oft times elusive commodity – can make or break your day, depending on how many hours you managed to garner. For some people who get little sleep and have to perform high demand tasks day after day, the common comment heard is this: “Sleep? It’s Over-rated”.

But is it?

After all, most of us are very aware of the eight to ten hours of sleep priority and we know that a good night’s sleep is really important – but few of us ever experience it consistently. The phenomenon of “sleep debt” has left many people with a hazy memory of what being truly rested feels like. And, just to make matters a little more interesting, the myriad interferences to our circadian rhythm caused by stimulants like coffee, alarm clocks, lights (including our devices) compound the situation.

It is true, though, that lifestyle and health impact individuals’ sleep needs. In order to know how much sleep you need, you’ll need to know where you fall on the “sleep needs spectrum” as well as check out what factors inherent in your lifestyle affect the amount and quality of your less – that would include your work schedule, stress levels, diet and exercise.

So, How Much Sleep Do We Really Need?

I spent some time at sleepfoundation.org where I happened upon their recommended sleep times chart, which you can access here: https://sleepfoundation.org/sites/default/files/STREPchanges_1.png
According to their site, it is difficult to pinpoint exactly how much sleep people need specifically, but they’ve created the above chart that indicates minimum and maximum ranges for health along with “recommended” windows of time – general rules that have been agreed upon by experts.
They do suggest that before you can find the number that most closely relates to your particular sleep needs, it’s important to assess how different amounts of sleep affect you. Below is their set of questions to ask yourself before you check the chart:

  • Are you productive, healthy and happy on seven hours of sleep? Or does it take you nine hours of quality ZZZs to get you into high gear?
  • Do you have health issues such as being overweight? Are you at risk for any disease?
  • Are you experiencing sleep problems?
  • Do you depend on caffeine to get you through the day?
  • Do you feel sleepy when driving?

Improve your health by making sleep a Priority

How do you make sleep a priority? Well, first of all you have to assess your own particular needs and habits around sleep. Observe how you respond to various amounts of sleep. If you’ve had a poor night’s sleep, check in with your mood and energy levels then compare them to times when you’ve had a great night’s sleep. A good question to ask is, “How frequently do I actually get a good night’s sleep?”

There are a few tips given by the Sleep Foundation that can help you achieve better sleep:

  • Stick to a sleep schedule, even on weekends.
  • Practice a relaxing bedtime ritual.
  • Exercise daily.
  • Evaluate your bedroom to ensure ideal temperature, sound and light.
  • Sleep on a comfortable mattress and pillows.
  • Beware of hidden sleep stealers, like alcohol and caffeine.
  • Turn off electronics before bed.

The most important take-away is to make sleep a priority. Schedule it the same way you’d schedule any other activity; put it on your “to-do list” and be sure to cross it off at night. Don’t make sleep an afterthought, something you get around to when everything else is taken care of. Stop the activities in order to get the sleep you need. You might even find you enjoy life more.

 

 

Without water everything whithers, including you!

Now that the weather is warming up significantly it’s important to ensure you and yours stay adequately hydrated. Did you know that when you feel thirsty it is actually a cue that you’re already dehydrated?

We need even more water than usual when the weather is hot and we’re sweating a lot. Check out the information below to determine if you’re getting enough water. I’ve even included some tips for those of you who “hate to drink water” to help you stay hydrated during the summer months.

How Much Water Should I Drink?

Drink between 64 ounces and 0.67% of your body weight

  • For example, if your body weight is 150 pounds, then you need to drink anywhere between 64 ounces and 100 ounces (0.67% x 150) of water per day
  • Another, simpler way to figure out how much water to drink is to halve your weight and drink that number in ounces of water. So, a person weighing 150 pounds (you have to convert to pounds if you think in kilograms), divide that by two and it’s 75 pounds. Think of the number in terms of ounces, i.e. 75 ounces of water, and you have just over nine cups of water per day.

The amount of water you’ll drink depends on:

  • How much water you normally drink
  • Your level of activity (how much you sweat )
  • How much caffeine or alcohol you drink daily. Both caffeine and alcohol are dehydrating, so be sure you go “1-for-1”
  • The temperature where you live. Really hot summers require more water

You can tell that you’re drinking enough water when:

  • Urine is on the light side. If the urine is dark and there’s not much of it, then you’re likely not drinking enough water
  • Urine is abundant
  • You have to empty your bladder about every two or three hours. If you’re going constantly, you could be drinking too much water

NOTE: When you when you first start to increase water consumption, you WILL be in the bathroom more often than you’re used to, but that will only last a few days and then the body will adjust

How To Drink Water When You Don’t Like The Taste Of Water

  • Add slices of lemon, lime, cucumber or orange to water
  • Add mint leaves to water
  • Add your favorite flavor Emergency-C to water for sparkle and taste
  • Drink your favorite flavor herbal tea, iced or hot
  • Use a fabulous drinking glass or goblet!
  • Heat water and drink with lemon

Bonus “How To” Tips for Water

  • Drink 20 oz (1-2 glasses) of water first thing in the morning. You’ve been asleep for 6 to 10 hours, so it’s time to hydrate!
  • This can even replace morning coffee, as rehydrating the body and brain will lead to clearer thinking and better energy
  • Keep a lovely pitcher of filtered water in your fridge at home or near your workspace with the amount of water you want to drink each day. This makes it easy to remember to drink water and to track your intake
  • Drink a 8 oz of water before exercise
  • Sip water during exercise
  • Bottles, bottles everywhere! Keep glass bottles of water in your car, at the office, or around your work areas
  • If you can’t access a filter for your water, then let drinking water stand at room temp for an hour or more. This reduces the amount of chlorine in drinking water, as the chlorine will evaporate
  • If you have digestive challenges, drink most of your water between meals
  • You can add Trace Minerals, Celtic Sea Salt or Green Powder

 

beach-chair-daylight

People have forgotten how to relax; how to be lazy, wind down and enjoy life.

Have you noticed the extreme emphasis placed on productivity, efficiency (or should I say hyper-efficiency), on wringing every ounce of production out of every last minute?

It seems most people have lost the fine art of relaxation … the joy has gone out of life and the very thought of being disconnected from their technology makes them break out in hives.

Check out some of the latest reading material – bestselling books, magazines, blogs and YouTubes on productivity and efficiency and note how many of them give you tips and ideas on how to get the most out of any time you may have to spend waiting (in line; in the doctor’s office; in traffic; the airport – you get the idea), how to maximize your energy in the least amount of time possible, how to use your commute time to really get things done, how to get more out of your workday, how to create a super-effective meeting, and on it goes …

People are constantly checking their iPhones, inboxes, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook in a bid to get more done during their longer working hours.

So, tell me – to what end?

Is it about making more money for ourselves or our corporations? Are we trying to hold on to our jobs, the jobs we might want to quit anyway?

I suppose it is possible we’re trying to get everything (and then some) done for the love of doing it, and if that’s so, then Great! However; pounding out long hours working and putting life and rest on hold isn’t necessarily the best idea. There really are times when it’s good to Do Less, relax and breathe.

So, How Do We Do That?

Obviously, most of us understand the concept of working long hours in order to be productive and get things done. But, what if there was another way? What if it turns out to be working on important things, creating brilliant things and then relaxing?
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not advocating spending the day surfing the web or vegging in front of Netflix, or even napping all day … yet, on the other hand, why not? Why not take a delicious nap? How about a long lunch and a little siesta? Why not sit on a park bench with a good book?
Why not just enjoy those days when productivity seems elusive?

While it’s important for many of us that we earn what we need in order to pay the bills, being obsessive about productivity is not especially healthy. When you can’t seem to get things going and you’re not feeling productive, let it go – take a breather and stop beating yourself up with guilt.
You know, some of the major companies are incorporating nap time into the work schedule of their staff. Check this article out that appeared in the prestigious Forbes Magazine:
It’s Time To Start Taking Naps At Work
It’s totally Zen. If you take the time to relax and refresh, you’re far more productive than if you push through with little sleep and a lot of stress.

We Need to Learn How to Relax

The really sad news is that I even have to write this part of the blog. Most of us don’t have a clue how to relax. We get so upset at the thought of stopping and getting less done instead of more, that we can’t even wrap our brains around relaxation.

If you’re one of the rare individuals who actually does know how to relax but is feeling guilty about it, I encourage you to let the guilt go. Relaxing is good for you and actually makes you more productive.

But for those of you who have forgotten how to relax, you’re going to have a tougher time. Here’s a hint: don’t stress out about it. If you don’t know how to relax, it’s OK. Breathe. Take it slowly –

One step at a time …

  • Take 5 minutes to go outside for a walk. Breathe the fresh air.
  • Give yourself more time to do things. More time means less rush.
  • After work, get outside, take in nature and run around if you can.
  • Play. Play like a child. Play with a child. Play when you work.
  • Give yourself a day off. Sleep. Watch TV. Eat bonbons.
  • At work, give yourself an hour off. Don’t try to be productive. Just have fun.
  • Take evenings off. Seriously, no working in the evenings.
  • Get a massage.
  • Breathe.
  • Watch your pets – they have it mastered.

And, here’s the Zen of it all:

Step by step, learn to relax. Learn that productivity isn’t everything. Creating is great, but you don’t need to fill every second with work. When you do work, get excited, pour yourself into it, work on important, high-impact tasks … and then relax.

 

 

Mind-Body Connection

Is There Really a Mind-Body Connection?

Throughout millennia, the connection between mental and physical health has been pondered and debated by healers all over the globe. Today, this same powerful connection is being recognized by science as a factor that directly affects health outcomes, whether emotional, spiritual or behavioral. Research is focused in a new field, that of mind-body medicine and the findings show clearly that emotions and thought patterns can contribute to imbalances in the body. Therapies such as visual imagery, meditation, yoga, and biofeedback are being employed to restore and promote health and re-establish balance.

“The beliefs you hold about yourself and the world, your emotions, your memories, and your habits all can influence mental and physical health. These connections between what is going on in your mind and heart, and what is happening in your body, form the psycho-emotional roots of health and disease.” Jennifer Weinberg, MD, MPH, MBE Preventive and Lifestyle Medicine Physician and Author

There is a direct physiological connection between the mind, (where mental states including thoughts, beliefs, attitudes, and emotions reside) and the chemical responses that occur in the nervous, endocrine and immune systems that use hormones and neurotransmitters as the “language” to communicate between the mind and body.

This is how it works in one arena: The parts of the brain that process emotions are connected to the spinal cord, muscles, cardiovascular system and digestive tract via neurological pathways. It is this connection that allows stressors, emotions or major life events to set off physical symptoms. Think about feeling nervous and experiencing “butterflies in the belly” or your heart pounding hard when you’re in a stressful situation.

It is the intersection of these systems that create the mind-body connection, which in turn influences health or disease. Anger can easily trigger stress hormones that can suppress the immune system and lead the way for infections or even cancer to develop.

The Powerful Impact of Vibration

Our bodies are made up of atoms and water, both of which are in motion constantly, creating a type of wave energy that influences their structure and function.
In a very well-known study done in Japan by Dr. Masaro Emoto two different mediums, water and rice, were exposed to words and music, both positive and negative. The results were stunning as the effect of these vibrations caused physical changes to the water and rice. If words have such a powerful effect on water, it behooves us to consider the effect of words on our bodies and in our health, especially since we are comprised mostly of water.

Your Body Has Feelings

We are aware that negative emotions can have a profound effect on our bodies. Fear can contribute to digestive upset and stress can produce a migraine. Other negative emotions like anger, anxiety, resentment or depression, can manifest disease or other forms of imbalance in the body.
The experience of various emotional states produces physiological sensations in different parts of the body. A map of emotions has been created by scientists to indicate where different emotions are activated on the bodies of study participants. This connection goes in two directions: they affect the way you behave and the physiology within your body and, the way you perceive these body reactions influences your emotions.

Emotions that are repressed or stuck can be especially harmful to physical health. Studies show that people who suppress their emotions are more inclined to experience imbalance of cortisol (the stress hormone) compared to those who are able to freely express their emotions. Compounded over time, the net result contributes to both the development and progression of cardiovascular disease and cancer.

Your Beliefs Can Make You Sick

Hopefully you can now see how the mind-body connection – that is the way you think and feel and the deep-seated beliefs you hold – can all lead to the development of disease. Left unexplored and unresolved, they create a subliminal sense of anxiety, depression or anger that has the potential to disrupt your body’s natural healing mechanism.

A very common expression of the interaction of belief and physical sensations is in the case of chronic pain. Essentially, pain is a combination of the physical sensations, your emotions around the pain and the meaning the pain has for you. They all share similarities in their neurological pathways. This is seen played out in people who lack social support. These very people are more likely to have heart (and other) problems than those with supportive relationships: conversely, when people with cancer experience a decrease in symptoms of depression, their chance at survival increases.
It’s important to have support to deal with emotions and change beliefs. Having the right kind of support can help with the reduction of symptoms of depression as well as the physiological response of inflammation.

Healing In All Areas

In order to heal and prevent disease, it’s important and necessary to combine physical, spiritual and emotional modalities. Thankfully, there are a variety of mind-body approaches that are designed to help you process your emotions, change your habits into lasting behaviors and gain physical wellness, like the ones I teach in my Habit Change Program.

Toxins that are built up in the body through toxic emotions can be dealt with by remaining present and aware. By learning strategies to help you pay attention and identify emotions that come up, process those emotions and find a plan of action to deal with them, healing flows in all areas.
There are a few ways to effectively express, experience and process your emotions. One way is to talk them out with someone you can trust. Or, you can write your thoughts and feelings and share them with a trusted person.

Meditation is a very wonderful and valuable mind-body practice for mindfulness that helps to modulate emotional responses. The Eastern arts of yoga, breathing practices and Tai Chi are both physically and mentally healing.
On the Western front, hypnotherapy and biofeedback have proven to be very useful in addressing mind-body issues.
All of these amazing tools help to increase body awareness and help to gain control of the mind-body connection in order to create an internal environment that promotes health rather than disease.