How to use the body to heal the mindOur bodies are connected to the mind through various feedback mechanisms. We can tap into them to find inner peace.
Imagine this: if you had a broken leg, would you try to heal it by running it out? You probably wouldn’t, right? So why is it, then, that when you have a heavy heart, are dealing with intense emotions, or have a mental health concern, you expect your brain to function at its full capacity and blame yourself for not being able to do so? Why do you try to reason it out? Don’t you think that trying to address your mental health concerns by thinking about it too much and stressing over it constantly would make the situation worse?
No one is perfect. Everyone has their ups and downs, good days and bad ones too. Just like how we can physically fall sick sometimes, we can also experience a deterioration in our mental health. There is no need to blame yourself and feel guilty or ashamed for having been through a rough experience and having difficulty being at your best sometimes. Do not judge or label yourself for feeling sad or vulnerable at times. Remember that emotions are a part of being human, and if you are desperately trying to escape them, stop and accept that sometimes it’s ok to be hurt. Think of your pain as a valuable lesson that helps you learn how to handle the ups and downs of life.
So, if you are having a bad day or a few bad ones, let yourself catch a break. Do not try to overexert or drown your pain in work, substances, or continuous distractions. Because as logical as it may sound to try and forget everything by being busy, expecting yourself to get a lot done when you yourself are in the process of healing will only cause you additional stress, making you crash harder if you fail to attain the goals or perform a bit worse than your expectations.
Instead, let your body help in healing your mind. At some point in our lives, we all have been physically ill and experienced firsthand the mental exhaustion that follows. Be it a simple common cold or a chronic illness, when our physical body is suffering, our mind cannot perform at the best of its ability. Nonetheless, what we might have failed to notice is that the same goes true when our mental and emotional health is suffering.
Physical repercussions like lethargy, restlessness, insomnia, heart palpitations, and shortness of breath are a few ways our body responds to an emotionally difficult phase. This happens because our emotions and their physiological symptoms all originate in the brain, and one is not completely independent of the other. Our bodies are connected to the mind in a beautiful harmony through various feedback mechanisms. And here is how we tap into these mechanisms to make our body a tool to heal our mind:
Move your body to energise your mind
It might sound like an oversimplified solution and a rather counterintuitive one if your mental health has drained you of your energy and motivation. However, just sitting around for some motivation to strike before you take any action will only make your condition worse. Numerous researches have concluded that increasing the amount of physical activity can significantly enhance mental health. So, incorporate some form of exercise as a part of your daily routine and push yourself to engage in it for at least fifteen minutes each day, even if you don’t feel like doing it.
Spend more time doing things you love
If exercise is not your cup of tea and seems like too much of a challenge, you can also opt for other activities you enjoy, like dancing, gardening, cycling, hiking, or travelling. Make an effort to incorporate as many creative activities and hobbies as possible. Anything that energises you will help reduce that emotional fatigue, and the more you enjoy an activity, the easier it will be to get started and follow through with it.
Relax and unwind
If your mind is too overwhelmed and refusing to quiet down, instead of trying to forcefully shut down the voices in your head, try to calm your body down first through relaxation techniques like mindfulness practice, progressive muscle relaxation, or even a simple deep breathing exercise wherein you breathe in deeply through your nose, hold for it a few seconds, and exhale slowly through your mouth allowing your body to relax with each breath. These activities will greatly help you relax and rewind from your day-to-day stress and have proven effective in mental health conditions like anxiety disorders.
Take small steps towards building confidence
Make a list of things you are good at. Set daily, specific goals for these activities for the day and try to achieve them. There is no need to push yourself too hard, and it’s ok if you take just a single step towards it, but a step at a time. By doing so, you will experience a gradual boost in self-esteem and confidence, eventually leading you toward better mental well-being.
Manandhar is a mental health advocate who provides psychosocial counselling.