Updated: 5 days ago
What is mind-body disconnection? Mind-body disconnection is a situation where the body’s voice and feedback is not heard by the mind. The mind dominates in the determining of bodily care responses.
What are the reasons we eat? People eat for all sorts of reasons and often they have nothing to do with hunger or nutrition.
What happens if we eat for the wrong reasons? We eat the inappropriate food and we usually eat too much or too little of it. The body lands up not getting its nutritional needs met and the mind discovers and learns ways to soothe itself that are both ineffective and harmful.
How do you treat mind-body disconnection? It all starts with awareness. Once you can feel and see what is happening you can tune back in to the voice of the body. This is a mindfulness practice.
How do we change the reasons we eat? We start by recognizing what we are doing and what is driving our eating behaviour. Then we consciously experiment with changing this. This may require help and coaching.
Imagine what would happen if people ate when they were hungry, exactly the amount that their body wanted and not the amount their mind considered to be appropriate? Would weight be less of an issue in the world? Imagine what would happen to people’s bodies if they took the time to eat in a reverent and dignified way, slowly, appreciating each mouthful and enjoying the taste instead of shovelling the food in as fast as possible? Would they be able to ‘hear’ the body say “enough!” when enough had been consumed?
Many people eat on the run or in front of TV and only ‘hear’ the “enough” signal long after it has come… when they have already overeaten and are now uncomfortably full. Many people eat because it is lunch time and not because they are hungry. Some skip lunch, because they are too busy to eat and then when their sugar levels are well below normal, rush for a ‘quick fix’: something sugary and ‘uplifting’ and then feel good for a while until they get crashed down when the body has responded to the sugar spike by releasing insulin to remove the sugar from the blood. After the insulin release, all the sugar is up taken from the blood and the tiredness of the sugar low returns. How would it be if on the first call for nourishment, people responded with a yummy, healthy salad or sandwich, which they ate slowly and enjoyed?
I think this would mean they were respecting their body’s needs as priorities. Seeing them as being as important as any other primary responsibility in their lives. Could the cycle be avoided, and better health created and maintained instead of it being undermined?
Many people eat because they are tired, sad, bored, fearful, or lonely, among other reasons. This is an ineffective way to treat any one of these feelings. Eating cannot possibly sustainably assist, and so satiation will never be found. If food is being used to provide for needs other than hunger, then satisfaction cannot be achieved, except in the very short term.
It is possible that this inappropriate response to the sensing of needs adds to the disconnection of the mind and the body. It may lead to ill health, imbalance, obesity, depression, and other expressions of the pain attached to the unfulfilled need or overpowering emotion. Could it be that more people should strive to reconnect with their needs and emotions and consciously satisfy them in a meaningful way, rather than allowing the subconscious to attempt to meet the need? A subconscious meeting of needs leads to disconnection from feelings, a disconnection between mind and body. It leads to an inability to make conscious choices. It may lead to physical expression of emotional needs in the form of pain or ill health. For example, many people have unresolved anger and conflict which they have shoved into the back of their minds, far from the public eye and from their own view of themselves. This anger may be associated with a sense of being unsupported. This anger may show its presence in the form of back ache or butt pain. This pain may become chronic back pain if the underlying issue remains un-dealt with. It may resolve even if only temporarily as the slow down enforced by the acute pain forces some quiet contemplation, and possibly some breakdown of defence mechanisms or some reception of the needed support. If the core issue remains unsolved then possibly the pain may remain or recur.
This does not mean that the pain is psychologic, there might be definite physical pathology to explain the pain. There is however no explanation for why the immune system and the healing capacity of the body is unable to heal this specific injury. Injury and healing is an ongoing cycle in the human body. The immune system is able to heal almost anything. Its function can be disabled or disturbed by emotional stress and restrictions.
So could it be of value to try to become more in touch with your feelings and emotional and physical needs so that you can resolve pain and stress before it damages your body? Could you try to respond to the stimuli from your body, appropriately? See what happens if when you are hungry, you eat slowly and reverently. When you are thirsty you drink cool, sweet, cleansing water. When you are tired, you sleep. When you are lonely you acknowledge how you feel, understand why and call someone or reach out to someone you trust, to meet your need for human comfort. See what happens if when you are bored, you get stuck into something that is fun or that challenges you… just start! When you are hurt, allow yourself to experience the pain, acknowledge it and do not shy away from it. See how it would feel to cry so that the tears pour out the pain, really get it out of your body. Notice what other behaviour change seems to relieve the pain. Maybe move more or sit less, maybe rest more or sleep longer. Notice what happens to your anger if you allow it to exist and express it, punching something, screaming, shaking something, stamping, running, talking about it, expressing it exactly as it feels, just getting it out of your body. If it is available for you, try to retune the microphone so your body has a voice and a language you can hear and speak.
Trust in the infinite wisdom of every cell of your entire body and try to stop undermining something that is made to work perfectly.
Reach out if you're needing help!
Written by Sue Fuller-Good (MSc Physio WITS) Physiotherapist with a special interest in the mind-body connection.