I was invited to hear social psychologist Professor Amy Cuddy at a Harvard Business School talk last week at the Cafe Royal. I had heard Amy's very successful Ted Talk in 2012 about the very same subject so I was interested to hear more of her latest work. Amy argues that not only do our non-verbal communications govern how others think and feel about us, they also have a significant effect on how we feel about ourselves, i.e. 'your body language shapes who you are.' She links our body language to our feelings, physiology and behaviour. So if you act powerfully - even for as little as 2 minutes - you begin to think powerfully - and this will also change your body's testosterone and cortisol levels and more ultimately, it could change your life! How powerful is that?! Why is this not being taught in more schools? After all, we all teach what we need to learn!
I have believed for as long as I can remember that our non-verbals count for a lot. We are more than our bodies. When our physical, emotional, mental and spiritual forces are in alignment we are balanced and perform better in our lives. The physical affects the mental, emotional and spiritual and vice versa. You cannot separate any of these as they are all integrated and affected by each other. That's why a healthy body is balanced by a healthy mind and vice-versa. I know I love to exercise in nature more for my mind than my physical body - it is an essential part of my day - but I also know my body likes to feel fit and streamlined too - and so do my clothes - it makes for a better life. Exercise will diffuse tension and have a tonic effect on your whole body too. Simple to understand and simple to teach and oh-so life enhancing!
You can try an experiment right now - if you are worried or concerned about anything at present - just smile and look up - don't things feel better already?
We all look better when we smile anyway - but the pure physiology of smiling and looking up allows the endorphins to kick in and just that simple physical change can make you feel better! Yah.
Here are 10 ideas that help me with the Mind/Body connection - I hope you find them helpful too:
1.) Your emotions affect your health so be aware of your thoughts, feelings and behaviours. Your body responds to the way you think, feel and act - that's the mind/body connection. Poor emotional health can weaken your body's immune system making you more likely to get colds and flu and other infections during emotionally difficult times - especially at this time of year! Taking care of yourself physically helps you emotionally. Exercising to relieve tension, eating healthy food and getting enough sleep all help your physical and emotional health. However, I so believe in meditation to bring your emotions into balance by guided thought which ultimately calms your mind and body.
2.) Mind/body therapies can be helpful in managing arthritis and other chronic pain conditions. Just 15 minutes of meditation a day can help with anxiety and depression and help you stay centred and calm throughout the day. Relaxation and visual imagery can help develop resilience. Focus on what you would like to happen and believe you can have it - it really is a mind game. Intelligence is an inner form of beauty.
Some people find the tapping solution works for them which is a physiological technique. Others enjoy a yoga power pose and others affirmations. All of these things work at some level. I often sing or dance around the kitchen if I get stuck - it can take the drudgery out of what you are doing and lighten the whole procedure! Have fun! If animals find music calming, so do we!
3.) Food affects both our bodies and minds - we are what we eat. The food we eat affects our brains therefore our minds. Eat nutritious primal foods daily - they have a high vibrational count which is good for the spirit too. Overeating is a symptom of not properly quenching our needs - when you eat simply but well you are satiated and you can throw away the diet books! Also, hunger can be just a sign of de-hydration - so drink water and see how much energy flows into your body - the cells in your body thrive on water for cleansing and energy.
4.) Regular sleep is a must for mind and body to maintain healthy serotonin levels - it is important to keep up a consistent sleeping pattern in order to keep the mind and body healthy, otherwise lack of sleep stresses our bodies and eats away at our health.
5.) We need to teach in schools how to use our minds to help us with the most important survival skills - staying happy and healthy. It's all about personal growth and enjoying the process of self-discovery. If you can spend a little time each day clearing your thoughts and becoming aware of your inner self, you will accelerate your spiritual development. My meditation is 30 minutes in the park amongst nature, fresh air and peace. Hug a tree or walk on the grass barefoot which will connect you to the earth and can be spiritually enriching. We need to teach ourselves and our children how to calm ourselves so we are not in a permanent state of alarm. By changing your body - you can change your mind. Play in nature, watch a sunset, play with animals!
6.) Be gentle - for that shows great strength. I truly believe humanity is going through a massive shift at the moment into a whole new energy and level of consciousness - we are coming into a much more feminine energy era - where that hard nosed male, old fashioned, city aggressiveness will not work - there is a better, gentler way to connect with people in business and personal life. I do think a female USA President will help this new era come into fruition - Hillary Clinton will make Donald Trump's blusterings look like yesterday's news!
7.) Walk your talk with honesty and integrity - people will feel when you are not, by your non-aligned body language. We cannot teach what we don't feel but when you connect with people on a heart level by making them feel a little better - that's where the magic happens!
8.) Everything is connected. We are one holistic system and we need to understand the ecology of our bodies because a healthy mind affects our body and a healthy body affects our mind! Our mental world is where we live, the place we cannot leave, where all our experiences exist. The subconscious mind is a million times more powerful than the conscious mind - so it's worth getting to know how it works and understanding that past experiences stored in the subconscious can still be affecting our minds today! If you change your beliefs and attitudes you can change your life. The most powerful medicine you can have in the world is between your ears!
9.) In Buddhism the thing that they call me is in fact our mind and Buddhists can, with training, greatly reduce even physical pain by controlling the actions of one's mind. How empowering is that? Our mental environment is up to us. The most powerful medicine you can have is between your ears - so learn how to use it. I also know that all we send out into the world, will in some way, shape or form, return and this process takes some interval of time and is called karma. Worth remembering with your mind power hat on.
10.) Keep a gratitude journal of all the things in your life you are grateful for and keep adding to it. Make time for the things you enjoy.
I truly believe we are in a very empowering time and our mind is key - it is always creating and affecting our world and ourselves, our present and our future. We need to understand how our mind works and how we can bring this into the education of all children. I also truly believe that if you enjoy life and are happy the rest will follow!
If all else fails try reading Norman Cousins book on how he cured himself of a fatal disease with laughter! I have always chosen people I work with who make me laugh. Laughter and a sense of humour are essential to life and make it easier to let go of stress or conflict in personal and/or business life.
Laughter can cure you - so remember to surround yourself with like-minded people and have those comedy movies to hand too...
PS My Leadership Speech is worth a read if you enjoyed this - would love to hear if you did!
PPS I am delighted that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have put their considerable spotlight power to the launch of YoungMindsMatter in unison with the Huffington Post - to celebrate the amazing work being done to improve and understand the mental and emotional health of young children - and in the process becoming guest editors of the Huffington Post last week.
'We are so accustomed to disguise ourselves to others, that in the end we become disguised to ourselves.' - Francois de la Rochefoucauld
'An unquestioned mind is a world of suffering.' - Byron Katie