Healing the Mind Through the Body
After having worked as a Registered Nurse for 8 years, I decided to become a counselling therapist so that I could help people heal more than the physical alone. Having gone through my own healing journey, I discovered that while talk therapy alone is very helpful, it had limitations. This led me to learn Heart Centered Hypnotherapy, Holy Fire Reiki, Somatic Experiencing, Breathwork and Intuitive Readings, so that I could combine the mind, body and spirit to healing.
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Healing the Mind Through the Body
Whether you are aware of it or not, most of our experience happens in the body on a daily basis. When we go through our day, our body will experience all sorts of sensations that our brain interprets and translates to us. For example, when you are hungry, you will experience something like a rumbling or slightly uncomfortable sensation in the stomach that the brain interprets and translate to us as hunger. The same is true when we experience anxiety or any other emotion. Something like tightness, pressure, a pull, a temperature, etc. will occur in the body, and the mind will interpret the sensation as an emotion. This is why convincing yourself to be calm when your body is experiencing something completely different can be hard. While we can learn to override our body, it will constantly continue to communicate through our senses.
Our experiences are also shaped by our body. If you think about a day that you feel lighter, you most likely see yourself in a more compassionate way, you might have more flexibility and tolerance towards your relationships and you may feel more connected with the world. However, when you feel heaviness in your body for example, the way you see the world, yourself and others will be affected. That is why working with the body can in turn change our perception, because we are not fighting against our experience to convince ourselves of something that we are not feeling. Instead, when we work to settle and bring calm to our experience in our body, the way we perceive the world, ourselves and our relationships follow. It requires a lot of energy to override the body and convince ourselves to think differently than we feel. Therefore, working with the way that we feel, releasing emotions, providing comfort to our body will in turn ripple into our thinking rather than trying to change our thinking to feel differently.
In fact, have you ever struggled to calm yourself down in moments of anxiety without success? What happens is that when you are feeling stressed, anxious, angry, or frozen in fear, the part of the brain that is responsible for your survival is being activated. When this occurs, the part of the brain that is responsible for the logical, rational and thinking is getting shut down, as you do not need much rational thinking when your body feels in danger. That is why when you try to tell yourself to calm down; you might not get much result from it as you are working with the part of your brain that is already being shut down. If you think about it, it’s actually very useful in a moment of danger to not think logically, because if you are getting attacked by a bear for example, you don’t want to be thinking about what you want to do for dinner; your body will react the way it needs to instinctively, to either get you to move, fight or freeze. This is an automatic response and your body is wired to do that to assure safety.
While we are no longer constantly under active bear attack threats, the same principle applies when feeling emotional activation towards a job, relationship, activity or finances, etc. What happens is that even though the threat might not be imminent death, the mind does not know real from imagine. And sometimes, we may not even know what we feel anxious about, yet there is the anxiety. The way to manage that is to speak the language of the amygdale (the part of the brain responsible for safety). Instead of telling yourself to calm down, you need to show your body through experience that it can relax. This can be done by finding a place in your body that feels anchored, calm, present, grounded or supported. For some, that might be the chair underneath them, their feet on the ground, the shoulders, or hands. Whatever feels present at the time. Once you find that place, focus on the sensations that are present in that place in your body so that the body can start to experience it and feel calm rather than being told to calm down. By using this technique, the body gets to experience something other than the threat, and experience the sensations of calm.
Something else that might be useful is to use your senses to bring whatever you can find around you that feels present, calming, grounding or anchoring. If you use you visual senses for example, you might notice something like a tree that feels solid in the ground, moves with the wind, and try to really take in the color, shape, textures, etc. Spend some time feeling the energy of the object that you are looking at, and then you can bring your attention to your body to notice what sensation in your body is telling you that the tree feels calming. By working with physical senses, you get to come back with what is in front of you in the present and then speak the language of the amygdale, by feeling that in this moment, you are safe, calm or grounded. You can also try the same with sound, touch or taste. Your favorite song can evoke the same experience. The body, when experiencing through the felt sense, will shift on its own. There is no need to push it. Nonetheless, sometimes being able to settle the body's state might require somatic therapy to heal wounds from the past, release traumatic memories stored in the body and release energy from the nervous system.