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The Mind-body disconnect

Updated: Jan 2

Are you more of a 'head' person or a 'body' person? And if that question does not seem odd to you, then you'll already be aware of the mind-body disconnect.

I'm sat at my keyboard with a bit of a headache through lack of hydration, I should have taken an iron pill and there are anti-biotics unused in the pack.

I'm not properly looking after myself. I'm definitely more of a 'head' person.

The obvious strangeness is this: I love being alive and I need a body to live so surely I should be prioritizing the body over all else? I need a body to do the things I like doing.

Part of this I suspect is that I haven’t yet had reason to really appreciate my health. I’ve taken it for granted because, for the most part, my health has been invisibly there. I don’t know what it’s like to always feel fatigued, or have recurring migraines, or arthritis in my hands.

Sometimes I get a glimpse – recovering from flu, for example. It felt so wretched that emerging into health felt almost like a miraculous new beginning. Unfortunately, the memory fades and I’ve not held on to this life lesson.

So, although I cognitively know I need to take care of myself, I don’t really know it.

I think there’s a mind-body dualism at play. I occupy my mind. I live up there, in my ideas, feelings and thoughts. I don’t live in my body, although my body is what gives me life. I look down at my arm and feel strangely neutral about it, until I pinch it and feel pain. It doesn’t interest me a great deal.

Some people, I think, live much more successfully in their bodies. They are alert to the connection between mind and matter. They might, for example, go to the gym and 'run off' stress. They’ll observe the connection between the food they ingest and the mood they experience. They enjoy the sensations of the body more – of strength, power and suppleness.

I know I’m a problem.

So what must I tell myself?

Here's a self-coach for overcoming the mind-body disconnect:

- I am not just mind, I am body. Though they may feel separate, they are intrinsically, intimately, unerringly connected. When my body is poorly, my mental state is weak. When my body feels great, my thoughts are sunnier. The holistic view of mind and body really is the only way to treat the self.

- I love to be alive. For that I need a body that works reasonably well, for as long as possible. Death is inevitable but I have a say on the quality of my physical life in this moment.

- I am grateful for my health.

- My body is amazing. If I peeled back the layers of the skin, I’d be enthralled at my pumping heart, the gooey reams of my intestines, my womb that somehow – incredibly – supported another's life, my liver, kidneys, muscles and bones. And all the glorious bloody rest of it.

Maybe that’s what I need most of all: every day a peep into the the awesome workings on my marvellous human body.

Here's what I propose for our scientists (take note, all of you!): develop a microscopic internal camera that sends a 10 second clip of our own beating heart to our phones.

Imagine how differently we might perceive all the goings-on below the head!

We'd think twice about reaching for a cigarette, beer or extra serving once we saw our fragile piece of machinery stoically - unthankingly - giving us life.

We'd nurture it as we might have done our Tamagotchis, mesmerizsed at how it pounds excitedly after spurts of exercise.

Imagine the decline in ill-health once we truly knew our bodies.

Simple practice:

Put your hand on your heart, put all of your attention there.

Feel it beat, listen to it’s rhythm.

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