Our Mental Health Initiative will consist of three separate modules. The first one is the Mind/Body Connection. In addition to our weekly group runs, we will have a meditation challenge, a free group-yoga session, and an in-person discussion guided by RUNegades' leader and therapist, Amon Gibson!
MIND/BODY CONNECTION: Module 1
September 12 - December 15, 2022
Pay attention to your body’s signals.
Develop your mind/body feedback loop.
Our minds--thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and attitudes--can positively or negatively affect the health of our physical bodies! So it follows that what we do with our bodies (what we eat, how much we exercise, how we stand) can and does impact our mental health, positively or negatively. The feedback loop.
Let’s talk about stress.
Fight, flight, or freeze are biological responses we experience when we encounter stressful situations. You approach a threat (flight), you avoid it (flight)., or you stop in your tracks (freeze). Okay, that’s a simplified explanation. The stress response triggered in fight, flight, or freeze is a complex mix of physical, mental, and emotional reactions.
Think of a time you had to give a big presentation—or another challenging situation. You remember exactly how you felt. Your heart was pounding, you were breathing quickly, your stomach had butterflies and your palms were sweaty. This mind/body stress response helps you perform well. Acute stress. A one-time response to challenge that quickly goes away. Once the challenge is underway, those feelings will most likely go away quickly.
Sometimes, the stress response is triggered by everyday experiences. A disagreement at home. A flat tire. An added work project. This chronic stress can take a real toll on your emotional and physical health. Worried that chronic stress is interfering with your wellbeing? Here are some of the signs:
- Anxious or depressed feelings
- Angry feelings
- Not sleeping well or tired
- Irritable or unfocused feelings
Stress could be working overtime.
Creating a positive mind-body connection
You can develop your mind-body connection by reducing stress to reduce some of its harmful effects on your body. With mind-body exercises like yoga, you can help better control difficult feelings, boost your energy and mood, and help you find more happiness and compassion that will improve the overall quality of your life.
Some mind-body practices include:
- Gentle movement and meditation, such as yoga and tai chi.
- Progressive relaxation, where you concentrate on tightening, then relaxing various muscle groups. This can be combined with other meditative and breathing exercises for a deep sense of physical and mental relaxation.
- Running, spinning and weight training involve a mind/body connection with a bit more exertion involved, but with the same chemical results that induce a relaxed state—when you are finished!
Look for an experienced guide, or professional to begin or expand these practices. There are also great resources to pursue this on your own or in a community of mindfulness practice.
Meditation is something you can do when you have time and space. Close your eyes, pay attention to your breath, and focus on present thoughts. When your attention wanders, return to the present. Mindfulness can bring help you focus, tune out distractions and find a little calm in the moment — and over time, help your mind and body feel better.
Let’s talk about the feedback loop.
The way that you feel affects the way that you think and vice versa. Your thoughts and feelings communication via the mind-body connection.
All your feelings have bodily sensations that define them. You may think that your feelings exist in your mind, but “feeling” implies a physical sensation. Your feelings are a physical experience.
How about that “gut” feeling? Your heart rate rises. Your posture shifts from open to closed as you attempt to protect yourself (fight, flight, freeze). You are feeling nervous.
When you feel confident, you might feel relaxed, standing up tall and proud. Your breath and heart rate are slow and even. You might feel calm and strong. Your thoughts then follow how you feel.
Quality sleep, nutrition, exercise/movement and the mind-body connection support your overall health and well-being. The mind-body connection also plays an important role in the treatment of mental health and substance use disorders.
Your thoughts and beliefs influence your behaviors. When you can change your thoughts from negative/harmful to positive/helpful, you can change behaviors.
Yoga and meditation impact the brain and body by calming the central nervous system.
Yoga is the practice of controlling your body. Yoga positions require you to use proper posture and tolerate stress as you hold the pose. Learning to be comfortable with discomfort is critical to dealing with stress.
Meditation is the practice of being mindful of your thoughts in a nonjudgmental way. Instead of trying to control your thoughts, you learn to accept them and realize that you do not need to hang onto them. Both yoga and meditation focus on what you can control.
Stress and anxiety are often about feeling a lack of control. While you can’t control all your thoughts and feelings, you can destress by controlling how you respond to irrational beliefs.
Mindfulness encourages being “in the moment.” Anxiety and stress are often caused by a preoccupation with past mistakes or threats in the future. When you practice mindfulness, you “get out of your head” and back to the present moment.
Pay attention to your body’s signals.
Develop your mind/body feedback loop.
American Psychological Association. Mind/body health: heart disease.
Doyle, C and Hutton, J. (2013) King’s College Hospital. Understanding the mind-body link. [p 3-4]
National Institutes in Health (2012) News in Health Mindfulness Matters.
National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Relaxation techniques for health.
CONNECTION TO A LARGER FEEDBACK LOOP:
We want you to thrive.
Thrive with connection.
Connect with others as you seek ways to develop your mind/body connection.
Connect with RUNegades and Creative Health.
Creative Health Services is Pottstown's community behavioral health center helping more than 6000 children, adults and families improve their lives every year. Staff meets with people at our many campuses, in schools, homes and community settings. Services are designed to help people overcome the adverse experiences that impact their lives.
Creative Health offers some of the following services: Counseling/Mental Health Outpatient Program; Drug & Alcohol Services; Montgomery County Case Management for Children and Adults; Family Services; Integrated Health Initiative including Specialized Intensive Treatments for Adults with Serious Mental Illness; Career Services Center; Peer Support; Tobacco Cessation; Police Liaison & Family and Community Justice; Enhanced Long Term Structured Residence; and more including comprehensive opiate addiction treatment, including Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) for OUD. Visit our website to learn more about our connection to care options.
The RUNegades: A community-based running club out of Phoenixville, PA, the RUNegades host weekly group runs and wellness events throughout the year. We welcome ALL paces and faces. From beginning run/walkers to experienced speedsters, you WILL find friends and support with us. You can get more information here on our website or join our Facebook Group for free BY CLICKING HERE.
--Kirsten Freitag Murray, Director of Development at Creative Health Services 9.2022