We’ve known that the mind and body are linked. Research now tells us that the link is far deeper than we imagined. Here’s how to become healthier through that mind-body connection.
Your Gut Feeling Might Be Right.
Ever had a gut feeling about something? We now know that the gut produces 80% of the body’s serotonin, a chemical believed to improve our mood. We’ve also found that the heart releases norepinephrine and dopamine, both brain chemicals. Even our white blood cells produce stress hormones. The brain and the body are so strongly connected that the health of one depends on the other.
How We’re Different From Gazelles.
When a gazelle runs away from a lion, its body kicks into high-stress mode. Its heart rate, blood pressure, and blood sugar go up. Sugar and fat are released. Its digestion and the immune systems shut down.
Our bodies respond the same way to stress. However, we experience not the acute, short-term stress of a fleeing gazelle but chronic stress that endures for weeks, or even months or years. Our functions essential for long-term health, shut down. Over long periods, the stress response wears down our bodies and promotes all the chronic diseases so common these days — diabetes, heart disease, strokes, and chronic pain.
The Science-based Approach to Reducing Stress
Meditation and breathing will make you healthier.
Harvard’s Herbert Benson was astonished when he studied Tibetan monks who lower their blood pressure and heart rate just by meditating. He even realized that, as a cardiologist, he could sometimes provide better care to his patients by teaching Tibetan Buddhist meditation techniques than by more drastic cardiac interventions. Calm minds lead to healthy bodies.
How to Breathe For Stress Reduction
Here’s a breathing technique I recommend to my patients.
Sit upright in a comfortable position. You will use your right thumb and ring finger to close your nostrils alternately. Put your right ring finger on your left nostril to close the air passage. Breathe in through your right nostril. Pause at the end of a deep inhalation. When you are ready to breathe out, release your index finger and close your right nostril with your thumb. Breathe out fully through your left nostril. Pause. Inhale through your left nostril. Press your left nostril closed with your ring finger and release your thumb and breathe out through your right nostril. Continue for as many minutes as you can spare. Each exhale should be about twice as long as the inhale. You might find that this yogic breathing practice calms you, clears your mind, and gives you energy.
Chew on this
Try breathing deeply when you’re waiting at the bus stop or for the kids to get in the car. At the end of the day, write down five things you’re grateful for. Be prepared to be happier.