The body and the mind

Increasingly research is showing how the mind plays a significant part in how our body feels. This is of interest to us who are working with stress. It also helps us understand how mediatation, simply sitting and observing the mind, can be an effective way of working with difficult emotions and events.

For example, research has shown that the body responds to abstract thoughts as if they were real. Work done at the University of Aberdeen found that when participants were asked to recall the past or imagine the future, their bodies acted out the metaphors contained in the words. So when asked to remember, they leaned slightly backward; when imagining the future, their bodies moved forwards. Though these shifts amounted to just a few millimeters, the results were consistent enough for researchers to conclude that they could ‘take an abstract concept such as time and show that it was manifested in body movements.’

Nils B. Jostmann of the University of Amsterdam observes: “How we process information is related not just to our brains but to our entire body. We use every system available to us to come to a conclusion and make sense of what’s going on.” This is consistent with the way stress manifests itself in the body as headaches or heart conditions. It can also be seen when we have had a difficult encounter and we go around with a knot in the stomach. It supports the approach of Mindfulness meditation in its focus on the mind as a part of a whole body response to life’s stresses.

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