You might not be the type of person who talks to yourself out loud, but your mind and body are talking to each other continuously. The two are inextricably bound by a host of chemicals, hormones, and neurotransmitters that are in constant flux, working to keep your whole health in balance.
The good news is if you understand the mind-body connection, you can use it to your advantage.
What is the Mind-Body Connection?
Perhaps the best way to understand the mind-body connection is to know that whatever positive steps you take to improve your physical health translates into a more positive state of mind, and whatever you do to keep a positive state of mind will translate into better physical health.
Sadly, though, the reverse is also true. A poor state of health can translate into a negative mindset or mental health issues, while a positive and peaceful state of mind can be physically balancing and healing.
What are Positive Ways to Impact the Mind-Body Connection?
When you are feeling stressed, blue, or anxious, there are physical things you can do that release a cascade of positive neurotransmitters and chemicals.
- Moderate physical exercise reduces inflammation, depression, and anxiety. It promotes neural growth and releases endorphins that make you feel good. Even a 15-minute walk can boost your mental state.
- The physical act of smiling releases neuropeptides from your brain that fight stress. This works regardless if you are smiling naturally or simply making yourself smile. So yes, smile! Even if you are alone.
- The physical impact of laughter stimulates your heart, lungs, and muscles, reducing stress and tension by releasing endorphins. So if you’re binge-watching movies because you feel out of sorts, choose a comedy.
- Slow, deep, abdominal breathing automatically reduces anxiety and can induce a feeling of calm, focus, and centeredness by activating the relaxation response of the parasympathetic nervous system. It’s a free, simple hack that you can use anytime, anywhere.
How the Mind-Body Connection Affects Skin Health
Many who suffer from skin conditions such as acne, eczema, TSW, and psoriasis can vouch for the fact that stress (whether physical, emotional, or mental) can trigger a flare-up. That’s why many dermatology patients find that keeping their lives calmer and engaging in stress-reducing activities like meditation, walks outdoors, yoga, or talking with a good friend or counselor helps keep their skin calm too.
And, conversely, a flare-up can bring on severe psychological and emotional stress as well as more serious mental health symptoms. With severe skin conditions, the debilitation, the discomfort, the agony and frustration, the social isolation, can all contribute to depression, anxiety, rage, or other mental anguish. (If your skin condition has you struggling with hopelessness and despair, please read this article and reach out for professional help. You are not alone!)
Same Root Cause
The relationship between the state of your skin and your mind may not always be so simple. It may be very possible that both your skin and brain are responding to a third factor – the same imbalance in your internal health, or an outside trigger, is sending both your mind and skin out of whack.
For example, research now proves that many cases of depression are accompanied or caused by inflammation of the brain. It’s no surprise that the main symptom of many skin diseases is also inflammation. So it is very possible that in some cases, the brain and body could be inflamed by the same trigger. When you heal the underlying imbalance, or remove the offending trigger, often the inflammation goes down in both the brain and skin, resulting in less depression and a simultaneous reduction in skin symptoms.
That’s why in TCM dermatology, we often find that as skin symptoms improve, a patient’s underlying depression, insomnia, mood swings, and other symptoms unrelated to their skin condition also get better. Sure, it may be that their mindset is improved when they look in the mirror and see healthier skin. But it may also be that we’ve addressed the underlying cause that’s been wreaking havoc on their brain and many other systems in their body, not just their skin.
The mind-body connection is just more evidence that the entire health of our body is connected. One part can affect every other part. That’s why treating the whole health of each person is so important, not just treating symptoms. When we help ourselves heal as whole, complete people – meaning healing our spirit, emotions, mind, and body – every part of us can thrive.
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About the Author
Olivia Hsu Friedman, LAc, Dipl.OM, DACM, Cert. TCMDerm, is the owner of Amethyst Holistic Skin Solutions and treats Acne, Eczema, Psoriasis, and TSW. Olivia treats patients via video conferencing using only herbal medicine. Olivia is Chair of the Board of Directors of the American Society of Acupuncturists, serves on the Advisory Board of LearnSkin, and is a faculty member of the Chicago Integrative Eczema Group sponsored by the National Eczema Association.