The body and mind are inextricably connected – use that to your advantage.
You’ve probably heard of the mind-body connection countless of times. What goes on in the mind—what you’re thinking and feeling—affects your body. Negative thoughts and feelings can lead to pain and disease. Positive thoughts and feelings can lead to health and physical well-being.
- If you’re constantly worrying about your finances, this can lead to headaches and stomach problems.
- If you’re going through a stressful time at work, this can cause muscle pain and high blood pressure.
- Optimism can help people avoid or healthfully manage diseases such as heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, and depression.
The body-mind connection is the reverse of this. Your physical state, your posture, gestures, facial expressions, and your movements can affect your mind, your mental well-being, and your brain’s health. In this post you’ll discover how to use your body to heal, center, and strengthen the mind.
Below you’ll discover ten ways to use the body-mind connection to your advantage.
1. Stand Like Wonder Woman. You can use your body to create the mental state of confidence by standing in a power pose. As I explain in my post, Seven Ways Your Body Language Can Positively Influence Your Life, there are certain levels of hormones that are associated with success. Here’s the winning combination of hormones:
- Successful people have high levels of testosterone–which makes them confident and assertive.
- Successful people have low levels of cortisol — which means they’re better able to deal with stressful situations.
In turn, your body language–your stance, gestures, and movements–has an impact on your hormones. If you want to achieve the ideal combination of testosterone and cortisol, stand like Wonder Woman — this applies to both women and men. To stand like Wonder Woman, stand tall with your chest out and your hands on your hips.
The next time you feel your confidence taking a nose dive, use your body to replicate the hormonal balance of someone who’s in a confident state of mind by striking a Wonder Woman pose.
2. Clench Your Muscles. You can use your body to give yourself a willpower boost by clenching your muscles. Willpower is your mind’s ability to make the choices that are best for you, and that are aligned with your goals, regardless of impulses to the contrary. So, how can clenching your muscles help your mind make good decisions?
Just as your body takes cues from your mind, your mind takes cues from your body. We associate flexed muscles with endurance and striving for goals. Studies show that when your mind notices that the your muscles are flexed it takes this as an instruction to stay strong and make the right choice.
By clenching your fists the next time that you’re about to reach for a brownie instead of an apple, you’ll increase the chances that you’ll stop yourself and grab the apple.
3. Put Your Awareness On Your Body. You can use your body to become more mindful by putting your awareness on your body. As I write in my post, 13 Ways to Bring More Mindfulness Into Your Life, your mind is usually busy time traveling. Look at the following:
- Every time you remember something from the past, your mind time travels to the past.
- Every time you think of something in the future, your mind time travels to the future.
All that mind time travel is not conducive to mindfulness. After all, mindfulness is being fully in the present.
However, regardless of where your mind might be at any given moment, your body is always in the present. When you feel your mind going on one of its time travel expeditions, pull it back to the present by focusing on your body. Here’s the process to follow:
- Focus on your feet and notice any sensations that are there.
- Focus on your ankles and notice any sensations that are there.
- Focus on your calves and notice any sensations that are there.
Continue in this way slowly moving up your body until you reach the top of your head. Keep your mind in the now by focusing on your body.
4. Pinch Your Nostrils. You can use your body to de-stress by pinching your nostrils. That is, do a few minutes of alternate nostril breathing. Here’s how to do it:
- Block your left nostril with your finger and inhale through your right nostril.
- Then close the right nostril and exhale through the left.
- Inhale through the left, then close the left and exhale through the right.
- Continue following this sequence for 1 to 3 minutes.
Alternate nostril breathing will help to calm an agitated mind. If you’re under a lot of stress and you feel like there’s a barrel of monkeys screeching in your head, tame your monkey mind by inhaling through one nostril and then exhaling through the other.
5. Go for a Run. You can use your body to learn to ignore the little voice in your head telling that you can’t—you can’t become a writer, you can’t start your own business, you can’t travel alone, and so on—by running. When you go for a run, the little voice in your head will begin to complain almost immediately. Here’s what it sounds like:
- I’m so tired. Why don’t we just skip the run today?
- Slow down; I can’t do this anymore. My lungs are going to burst! (The little voice in your head is very melodramatic.)
- Is this really necessary? Why can’t we just walk really fast?
You may want to quit. But, you’re a runner. By running you’ve trained yourself to ignore the little voice in your head. So you ignore the little voice and you keep going, until you’ve reached your running goal for the day.
Then, you apply this lesson to other areas of your life:
- You keep writing your business plan even when the little voice in your head tells you that you’ll fail.
- You keep practicing your French even when the little voice in your head makes fun of your accent and mocks you when you make a mistake.
And you can do this because–by running–your body taught you how to ignore the little voice in your head.
6. Hold a Warrior Pose. You can use your body to increase your mind’s ability to focus with yoga. Yoga is great for the body – it can help you lose weight and keep you toned. But it also has many benefits for the mind.
Certain yoga poses–or asanas–produce different mental states, including patience, mental clarity, increased confidence, and courage.
In addition, a study from the University of Illinois conducted a couple of years back showed that practicing yoga for 20 minutes can improve brain function. Researchers said that after practicing yoga, “the participants were better able to focus their mental resources, process information quickly, more accurately and also learn, hold and update pieces of information.”
The next time you need help focusing the mind, sit on the floor with your legs extended straight out in front of you, and fold forward from the hips. By holding a yoga pose your body can help your mind to focus and perform better at cognitive tasks.
7. Turn Up the Corners of Your Mouth. You can use your body to give yourself a mood boost by turning your mouth up at the corners – otherwise known as smiling. If you think of something funny or pleasant, you smile. But the opposite is also true. If you smile you’ll affect your thoughts, in a positive way.
When you’re feeling down, use your body to give yourself a pick-me up by smiling. This works even if you have to hold a pencil horizontally between your teeth to force yourself to smile.
8. Move Like a White Crane Spreads its Wings. You can use your body to improve your memory and thinking by moving like a white crane spreading its wings. That is, by doing Tai Chi. In its simplified version, the mind-body practice of Tai Chi contains 24 postures, and one of these is White Crane Spreading its Wings.
Tai Chi has been shown to boost brain volume. A 2012 study revealed that it makes your brain bigger and can improve memory and thinking. When you need a mind boost, take out a Tai Chi DVD, open your arms like the wings of a white crane, and shift your weight over to one leg.
9. Go For a Hike. You can use your body to allow your mind to frame success by going for a hike. Do the following:
- Plan a hike to the top of a small hill.
- Start at the bottom, plan your ascent, and get going.
- Once you’ve reached the top, you’ve succeeded. Allow yourself to savor your success.
You can then take this success frame of mind and apply it to your other life goals. By achieving physical goals, your body can teach your mind how to succeed in any life area.
10. Knead Your Feet. You can use your body to reduce anxiety and increase feelings of mental well-being by giving yourself a self-massage. Self-massage releases serotonin and dopamine into your system, which are also known as the feel-good hormones. These feel-good hormones will help to calm and anxious mind.
You can give yourself a head massage, a face and ear massage, a neck massage, a foot massage, and so on.
Then, once you’re loaded up with dopamine and serotonin, your head will be in the right place to write the next great American novel, compose that film score, or launch your next product.
The next time you’re working on something important and you start to feel anxious, calm yourself down by giving yourself a massage.
The body can influence the mind. Live your best life by using the body-mind connection to your advantage. Start with the ten ways explained above.
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