How your mind can cause a problem in your body (and vice versa)

All the symptoms you’re experiencing in your body, whether headaches, migraines, dizziness, or vertigo, are linked to psychological factors. Even though you can’t see or touch your mind, your thoughts and attitudes are perpetuating your physical experiences. This article will explore the mind-body connection, and help you understand the connection between psychological factors and physiological experiences.

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Vanessa Jerusalimiec
Pavel Kotlykov
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Have you been experiencing dizziness? Maybe you have frequent migraine headaches or tension headaches, or have vertigo. Do you have other symptoms you can’t explain, like fatigue, low blood pressure, anxiety, or depression? When you look for the physical cause of your symptoms, you may find the symptoms don’t easily fit into a diagnosis. We know what it’s like to face a long list of symptoms, and feel confused about what to do next. If you’re experiencing a number of physiological disturbances, you need to look beyond the body. When you only look at the physical symptoms, you’ll miss a very critical piece of the puzzle: your mind.

Your emotions, beliefs, and mental habits have an impact on your physical health. This mind and body connection can show you the root cause of your symptoms. Understanding what is happening in your mind can help you treat the physical symptoms.

The Connection Between Psychological Factors and Physiological Experiences

Your body and mind are inconstant communication, and your psychological state will affect your physiological experiences. Your beliefs about the world around you, and about yourself, shape your physical experiences. Your thoughts and emotions are connected to your body, and have more influence on your health than you might expect.

Feeling butterflies in your stomach, for example, is a physical experience in response to a thought, emotion, or feeling. When you’re in a positive state of mind, you feel energetic, and easily get through your to do list. But when you’re feeling depressed, your body responds with low energy, and you have a hard time getting anything done.

In our society, the role of the mind is often downplayed. We’re not trained to notice what we’re thinking or feeling, or to see the effect our thoughts are having on the body. In fact,when you feel nauseous you think about what you ate for lunch, and you don’t stop to notice what you’re thinking or feeling. We don’t realize that our behaviors, beliefs, and reactions to things happening around us gradually manifest in our physical health and wellbeing.

Too often, we look for a physical explanation to pain, and don’t understand that our thought patterns play a role in these physiological experiences.

The Mind-Body Connection

The mind and the body are intimately connected. Our thoughts, attitudes, and beliefs impact our bodies. These psychological factors can negatively or positively affect our health. You should know that your habits and tendencies can be the real cause of your headaches, dizziness, or vertigo.

In the same way, our physical body effects our mind. What we eat, how much we exercise, or if we have an illness or injury, can affect our thoughts and emotions both positively and negatively: helping with mental clarity, or disturbing our peace of mind.  

Take stress for example. When your mind feels stressful, whether about your job, your relationship, or your finances, you may experience tense muscles, back pain, headaches, or even vertigo and dizziness.

  • Think of a time you felt stressed. What was your body’s response? Most likely you will realize that your heart was pounding, your sweat glands became more active, your appetite diminished, or you felt nauseous.
  • Now think about a time you experienced a joyful or exciting event. You may have felt butterflies in your stomach, felt a grin on your face, or felt energetic. Your emotional state triggered a physical response.

In the same way, your body affects your mind. If you experience chronic pain, or have a serious health condition, your mind and emotions are affected, and you may become anxious,stressed, or depressed.

If you can observe yourself carefully and honestly, it becomes obvious that there’s a real connection between your physical body and the more subtle realm of your thoughts and emotions. Even if you’re not aware of it, this unseen realm is influencing your physical well-being in a very tangible way.

When you don’t pay any attention to your psychological state, recurring negative thought patterns and emotions can become the main cause of a disease or illness.

Repressed emotions, or feelings you bury below the level of your consciousness, can create underlying tensions in the body.

For example, these underlying emotions or disturbing thoughts can cause headaches, vertigo, nausea, dizziness, or migraines. You may not comprehend the exact connection, but you cannot deny the fact of its existence in some way, shape, or form.

everything-is-connected

The connection between mind and body is undeniable, but not completely understood. Scientific research has always had its own limitations, and this connection should not be proven by research. The fact of the body-mind connection should be observed in yourself and others.

When you observe this connection in yourself, don’t sweep the observation under the rug as lacking proof. You are doing yourself a great disservice by rejecting a very important part of yourself. Your mind and mental state certainly contribute to your physical issues and imbalances, but also can help your body feel joy and vitality.

The root cause of your physical symptoms could be an anxious or depressed mental state, or repressed anger and resentment. But instead of recognizing this root cause, you may spend your precious time looking for a physical cause of your symptoms, and overlook an integral part of the whole picture.

If you really want to get better, you need to develop greater awareness of your head space and gradually take responsibility for your thoughts and feelings.

Communication Between the Mind and Body

Throughout history, medical practitioners and healers have understood the connection between our bodies and our minds. Ancient philosophers and medieval anatomists realized that the nervous system, which connects the body and the mind,created harmony and balance between the organs and the brain.

Traditional healing incorporates psychological, social, and spiritual components with healing practices. They often emphasize the mind-body connection and have a holistic approach to healing. In Ayurvedic medicine, illness is seen as a disruption of the physical and emotional unity of the body and mind. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, illness stems from a blockage of energy in the body. Healing methods are holistic and include both physical and mental aspects.

During the 17th century, scientific approaches to medicine severed the connection between the mind and the body, treating them as two different entities that needed to be approached separately.While this did allow for incredible advances in surgery and medication, it stopped modern medicine from exploring the mind-body connection and failed to recognize each person’s unique capability to heal themselves.

Only in the past few years has science begun to catch up with the wisdom of ancient healers and recognize the connection between the body and the mind. Scientists are once again looking at the mind-body connection.

The connection between your body and your mind is both chemical and physical. Your thoughts and emotions cause neural activity in the brain, and set into motion a chemical release of neurotransmitters and hormones. These chemicals affect your nervous system,your immune system, and your endocrine system. Your cardiovascular system, your digestive tract, and your muscles all respond to your thoughts and emotions.  

How Stress Affects Your Body

When you feel stress, your body responds by activating the fight or flight response. Your heart rate increases,your breathing becomes more rapid and shallow, and highly oxygenated blood is sent to the muscles to prepare for action. This is an adaptive response and can save your life if you encounter an immediate threat to your safety.

However, if you feel stress on a daily basis, this chronic activation of the stress response has a negative effect on your body. Hormones and other chemicals released into the bloodstream, such as cortisol and adrenaline, can play a role in experiences like dizziness, headaches, or migraines. Without a doubt, the feeling of stress affects your body, and you might not even be aware of it.

The Mind-Gut Connection

The mind and gut are also closely linked. Your emotions and thoughts have an effect on your gut and your digestive system. When you feel stressed, or have to make a tough decision, you’ve probably experienced the feeling of having your stomach in knots. The digestive system is regulated by the enteric nervous system, which is often called the brain of the gut.

The enteric nervous system is sensitive to emotions. Serotonin, dopamine, and glutamate,chemicals connected to your emotional state, are found in the enteric nervous system in the gut. These chemicals can disrupt digestion. Prolonged stress and negative thought patterns can induce nausea or dizziness, slow your digestion, cause inflammation, or lead to digestive disorders. Likewise, gut health can affect your mind by influencing your thoughts, and plays a role in your emotional equilibrium.

Negative Thoughts Harm Your Body

Our minds often triggers physical symptoms, but we don’t pay attention to this connection. Most of us don’t even truly believe that this link is real. In fact, we tend to suppress negative thoughts and emotions. Even though we don’t notice or acknowledge our thoughts and reactions, our tendency is to suppress what doesn’t feel good or what we disagree with, and this certainly harms our physical bodies.

Negative attitudes can create chronic stress, increase cortisol levels, and cause an imbalance in the body.This imbalance often manifests through headaches, migraines, dizziness, and high blood pressure.

Depression and anxiety can cause chronic migraines, and emotional suppression and chronic stress have been linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and a shorter lifespan. We are often not aware of our thoughts and feelings, but they have a major impact on our bodies.

The Process of Change

“Healing is a process, not a magical event.” - Dr. Donald Epstein.

When you become aware of the impact of your thoughts and beliefs on your overall health and wellbeing, you can begin to make changes in your life.

This won’t happen overnight, and you’ll need to be patient with yourself as you become more aware of your feelings and attitudes.

  • Frank was suffering from stomach pains, and couldn’t find a physical cause for this pain. He’d been dreaming about purchasing a new car for years, and he was very upset he couldn’t afford the car. He felt anxiety, anger, and sadness when he realized he would never own that car. However, Frank wasn’t paying attention to his feelings or emotions, which he repressed rather than observing.
  • It was only after he started working through his emotions that he realized his stomach pain was coming from his emotional response. As he worked through his feelings, his stomach pain faded. He gave himself permission to feel anger and sadness over the car, and as he experienced his emotions and released them from his body, his body got better.
  • Jose was diagnosed with cancer a few years ago. It started in the pancreas, then spread to his liver. His doctor didn’t believe there was any hope of recovery, and recommended surgery to give Jose a few more years to live. Instead, Jose decided to adopt a more holistic approach. He went to live in the countryside and started listening to his body. With psychological work, along with natural medicines, he used his understanding of the mind-body approach to make lifestyle changes, manage pain, and start healing.
  • Through his journey, he got to know himself better, and understand his thought patterns and beliefs. He changed his attitude, behaviors, and beliefs, and these psychological changes affected his physical health.
  • When he returned to the doctor a few months later, he was cancer free. Holistic healing, through an understanding of the mind-body connection, healed Jose’s body.

Cultivate Awareness and a Positive Attitude

As you start on this path of gradual change, learn to cultivate awareness. You will come to accept and appreciate your mind, and the connection between your mind and body. When you become aware of your emotions, thoughts, feelings, and tendencies, you can allow yourself to experience these emotions. Rather than repressing the emotions, or letting them control you, you can experience them safely and completely.

It’s not a quick and easy fix, but through cultivating awareness, you can get to the root of your pain, headaches, migraines, or dizziness, and start the journey of self-healing.

Negative thoughts inhibit your body, weaken the immune system, and make it harder for you to get better. As you develop a positive attitude, your mind will begin to affect your body. When you have a positive outlook, the body stops producing cortisol, the stress hormone that is affecting your heart, your digestion, and your headaches.

A positive attitude will make it easier to manage pain and reduce your experience of discomfort. When you’re in a positive state of mind, and allow yourself to fully process your emotions, you’ll feel less stressed. A positive outlook triggers the body to release endorphins, your body’s natural pain killers. A positive mindset will increase serotonin levels and reduce cortisol in the body. This can increase your energy levels and boost your immune system. When you think positively, your brain releases chemicals to actually help you get better.

Your thoughts are powerful, and learning how to cultivate awareness will bring you to the root cause of your physical experiences. Whether you have headaches, dizzy spells, or frequent nausea, your thoughts, emotions, and beliefs have the power to heal your body.

How to Heal the Body

body-mind-healing

It’s time to start your healing journey. The mind and body are closely linked, and we’ve seen that there’s a connection between your thoughts and your physiological experiences.

Healing starts with cultivating awareness and allowing yourself to recognize and feel your emotions. When you’re aware of your attitudes, you can change these beliefs or tendencies before they have an impact on your body.

Awareness will also let you observe your body’s biological processes, and you can notice your heart rate and your breath. Learning to change your perceptions, and not focusing so much on outcomes can change your mental state, and prevent headaches, dizziness, and vertigo.

Acknowledge the Emotions You’re Feeling

When you don’t recognize your emotions and let them slip deeply into your unconscious mind, they may manifest as physiological experiences such as stress, anxiety, pain, headaches, migraines or any other symptoms you’ve been experiencing.

Start by acknowledging the emotions you’re feeling. Look closely at your emotions and identify the strongest emotion. Perhaps it is anger or frustration. You can allow yourself to feel that anger, then see what else is underneath. You may also be experiencing grief, or even fear. Identify the emotion, and ask yourself why you’re feeling that way.

Learn How to Express Your Feelings

Are your thoughts, beliefs, or emotions causing physical problems in your body? Keeping these feelings pent up inside will make the physiological experiences worse, so find a way to express your feelings. Pay attention to your mental state, and choose how you will react to these feelings.

You can share your feelings with a close friend, speak to an advisor, or find a counselor to support you as you learn healthy ways of expressing your emotions. Another way to express your feelings is through journaling. Write down the thoughts you have, and how these thoughts feel in your body.

Move Your Body

As you explore the mind-body connection, an easy way to calm your mind and mitigate the physical effects of stress is through movement. Moderate exercise gives all that built up energy and stress an outlet, and moving can lower cortisol levels in your body and release the tension from your neck, back, and shoulders. Exercise will also release endorphins, further improving your mood and helping you cultivate awareness.

Healthy Eating

Since the body and mind are connected, how you treat your body will also affect your mood, thoughts, and emotions. Make sure you’re eating a balanced diet that includes all the vitamins and minerals you need. Dehydration can have a negative impact on your body and your mind, so make sure you drink several glasses of water per day.

Deep Breathing

Have you noticed that when you feel stressed your breathing becomes shallow? If you notice your breathing is short and shallow, take a few deep breaths. Deep breathing exercises will bring a sense of calmness to your mind and activate the parasympathetic nervous system. This is the opposite of the fight or flight response that caused your breathing to become shallow. By consciously taking a few deep breaths, your thoughts and behaviors can have an immediate effect on your body.

Calm Your Mind

To develop more awareness of your mental and physical state, you need to calm your mind and your body. You can get the benefits of this practice by doing anything that makes you feel more relaxed. This could betaking a warm bath, going for a walk, listening to music, or practicing yoga.

Meditation and mindfulness can help you calm your mind and bring awareness to both your mind and your body. You can focus on your breath, feeling the rise and fall of your abdomen. You can also follow a guided meditation or mindfulness practice, use visualizations, or focus on physical sensations in your body to calm your mind.

A regular meditation practice helps you develop awareness, and halt stressful thought patterns before they affect your body. You can decrease cortisol levels and prevent pain, headaches, anxiety, or nausea by meditating or practicing mindfulness for a few minutes every day.

As you start on your journey to health, you can use these mind-body techniques to bring your awareness to your psychological and emotional state, and develop a state of mind that creates a healthy environment for your body.

Why nothing seems to work?

Because probably you, like myself, experience symptoms on the intersection of several conditions such as ON, CGH, Migraine, Tension headaches, and more.

Since we are dealing with the mix symptoms (research is not yet clear on how it all manifests), targeting one symptom in isolation is a painful (and costly) waste of time.

We need to address underlying processes on a more global scale that sometimes means getting results which are not immediate but sustainable (assuming you are not fainting right at this moment because of unbearable pain; call emergency now if that's the case).

The idea is:  Let's deal with the pain and distress so we can have energy, motivation, and mental clarity for a more radical treatment.

The time to fix the roof is when the sun is shining.’

We're going to prepare ourselves (help the sun to come out) in order for the true healing process to even begin (fixing the roof).

Physical pain and emotional frustration (resulting from not understanding what's happening and how to deal with it) is what turns our lives into a miserable existence. Generally, we experience a lack of will to do anything until this continuous confusion goes away.

You can learn here why your emotional and mental states can literally generate physical pain.

We need to clear the fog, so to speak, in order to breath freely for a moment so we can gather energy and realize that there's a way out of all this.

Let's do it.

I've created a simple, easy-to-follow model for self-healing. It's simple. It's universal. It's free.

Here are some of the references used for this article:

  1. Berry,J. and Drummond, P. Psychological Generators of Stress-Headaches. (2018) link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10865-017-9872-9
  2. Chapman, B. et al. Emotion Suppression and Mortality RiskOver a 12-Year Follow-up. (2014). ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3939772/
  3. Gomez-Pinilla, F. The Influences of Diet and Exercise onMental Health Through Hormesis. (2007). ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3225189/
  4. Kalaivani, S. et al. Laughter is The Best medicine forStress Relief. (2017). indianjournals.com/ijor.aspx?target=ijor:ijanm&volume=5&issue=3&article=016
  5. Leistad, R. et al. Noradrenaline and Cortisol Changes in Responseto Low-grade Cognitive Stress Differ in Migraine and Tension-type Headache. (2007).thejournalofheadacheandpain.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1007/s10194-007-0384-9
  6. Lichtenstein, A. et al. Definitions of Healing and Healing InterventionsAcross Different Cultures. (2017). apm.amegroups.com/article/view/15401/15649
  7. Mayer, E. The Evolving Neurobiology of Gut Feelings. (2000).pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10737059/
  8. Suresh, A. et al. Prediction of Fight of Flight ResponseUsing Artificial Neural Networks. (2014). citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.822.9101&rep=rep1&type=pdf
  9. Seng, E. et al. Psychological Factors Associated withChronic Migraine and Severe Migraine‐Related Disability: An Observational Studyin a Tertiary Headache Center(2017). headachejournal.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/epdf/10.1111/head.13021
  10. Walach, H. et al. Mind-Body Practices in IntegrativeMedicine. (2012). mdpi.com/2077-1444/3/1/50/htm
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