Harnessing the Power of the Mind-Body-Spirit Connection to Improve Mental Health


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By: Shelly-Anne Johnson, LCSW

Until the 17th century, most of the world, including the western world, had awareness of the important connection between the mind, body, and spirit. Virtually every system of medicine in the world treated the mind and body as a whole. However, that started to change when the west began viewing the mind and body as two distinct entities, and largely disregarding the spirit as a relevant part of overall wellbeing. In the West, we view the body as a machine, complete with replaceable, independent parts that can be treated and sustained outside of the mind. While this has been beneficial with respect to the advances in the areas of surgery and trauma care, it has downplayed the human’s innate ability to heal. This school of thought minimizes the tremendous influence the emotional and spiritual beliefs of an individual has on their ability to thrive.

The 20th century has seen a gradual shift in research with renewed interest in the mind-body connection. New research has also confirmed the medical and mental benefits of mind-body practices/therapies.  These modalities use the body to affect the mind. Examples of mind-body therapies include active meditation, mindfulness training, yoga, qigong, and some forms of dance. Being in touch and present in the body can help with presence of mind. Grounding techniques like earthing (balancing your electrical energy with the earth’s electrons by reconnecting to the earth), has come into prominence in the past few years as the benefits have been undeniable. Going into the sun has proven beneficial even for older adults with dementia and sick children as it affects both the physical and mental wellbeing of individuals. We now know that exercising, movement in the body releases endorphins into the brain which improves mood and can decrease anxiety and stress. Researchers are seeing the gut-brain connection as well, some even referring to the gut as the “second brain.”

The journey to mental health wellness can be a dauting one, and for many having something to believe in, a higher power, can mean the difference between life and death. Some patients say what stopped them from killing themselves was the belief that if they took their own life they would go to hell, that this is a cardinal sin. Many of our patients in recovery tell us that God is what got them through the dark times. As this age-old wisdom of the mind, body, and spirit connection is coming back to the forefront of medicine, it will be to our benefit to find ways to integrate aspects of the mind, body, and spirit into our everyday. Here are some things you can do:

  • Stay focused with a positive mindset: Choose motivating thoughts and be your own cheerleader.
  • Feel every emotion in your body: Take a moment and be mindful of how the way you are feeling emotionally is affecting your body (i.e., stress can show up as aches and pain, when unchecked, stress can even develop into disease).
  • Follow what makes you feel good: Reach for the better thought, the better feeling, something positive in each moment that rings true to you. After all, a life is made up of moments.
  • Be present: Practice meditation and be more mindful of/stop ignoring your emotions (it’s ok to feel your emotions, even the ones that don’t feel good).
  • Keep Moving: Good physical health = good mental health

We are all inextricably connected to our minds, bodies, and spirit. Our spiritual wellbeing provides us with purpose as we live life through our values, our minds-emotions help guide us as an internal GPS alerting us and connecting us to our environment and to others. All of this housed in our bodies, the vehicles that is driven by our mind and spirit. It is essential that we keep our bodies nourished and strong to aid in recovery and achieve a better quality of life. A strong immune system, good gut health, etc., is related to good mental health. Each part existing in tandem, each part vitally important to the next. Take time to care not just for your body, but for your mind and spirit as well.

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January 6, 2023


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