I want you to take a moment and think of a time you were super stressed out. Perhaps it was a job interview, the first time walking into the gym, having to speak in front of a large audience, being worried about a sick family member, a financial situation, or maybe something completely different.
Have you experienced any of these physical symptoms accompanied by your stress:
- Inability to sleep
- Loss of appetite
- Emotional eating
- Feeling physically exhausted
- Headache or migraine
- Aches or pains
- Tense muscles
- Upset stomach
- Chest pain
Chances are, you have felt the physical effects of stress and anxiety in one way or another. This is due to the mind-body connection.
How Our Mind and Body Are Connected
You know the feeling of butterflies in your stomach when you’re nervous — that’s the mind-body connection!
How about sweaty pits, a lump in your throat, or your heart pounding out of your chest when you’re anxious? Also, the mind-body connection!
The mind-body connection is how your mental state (things like your thoughts, emotions, and beliefs) positively or negatively affects your biological functioning. Simply stated, our minds can affect the health of our bodies and vice-versa.
I know I have mainly mentioned negative emotions like stress and anxiety. The good news is, the mind-body connection works with positive emotions, too! It’s true, moving your body makes you feel good. Your brain triggers the release of endorphins, which are chemicals that trigger a positive feeling in the body.
When I have Personal Results Coaching clients who are struggling with finding their positive mindset, I encourage them to get their bodies moving and help them fuel their mind with positivity. Fortunately, for many, mind-body fitness is a game-changer!
Some Common Mind-Body Practices
Mind-body exercises are a combination of controlled breathing, mental focus, and body movement. Some great examples are:
- Tai Chi
Other mind-body interventions consist of things like:
- Guided imagery
Ways to Incorporate Mind-Body Connection with Your Workout
You may be wondering how to include these things in your exercise regimen; I’m here to provide you some tips!
1 Inhale – Exhale
Focusing on your breathing during exercise may sound elementary, but this is a really great time to practice deep breathing. Taking deep breaths may decrease your blood pressure and increase relaxation.
I remember in junior high, we had this heavy metal curl bar at our house. To be honest, I’m not really sure who was using it or where it came from. Nevertheless, I decided I would try it out. I put two ten pound weights on each end of the bar (which was WAY too heavy), and screwed on the weight collars. When I stood up, I took a deep breath in as I tried to (improperly) curl the bar from thighs to my shoulders. I imagine my face turned about as red as a British double-decker bus. By the time I put the weight down and exhaled, I was seeing stars. And I thought I was going to pass out.
I did a lot of silly things when I was younger, but not breathing properly when lifting weights wasn’t one I was aware of until I learned how to properly use weight equipment. Needless to say, there is a way to breathe while lifting weights to keep from passing out. Beyond avoiding unnecessary stargazing, proper breathing during exercise can help with stress relief too!
While strength training, you’ll want to exhale on exertion. In simplest terms, exhale during the hard part.
Let’s use my infamous bicep curl as an example. This is how you would breathe:
Inhale before the movement.
Exhale as you lift the weight from starting position to shoulders.
Inhale as you lower the weight back to starting position.
2 Cool Down – Calm Down
Including a cool down after your workout is important to help gradually decrease your heart rate and breathing. This can be a really great time to calm your mind too!
I have many clients who love to add a meditation track during the stretching piece of their cool down. This helps to get the mind relaxed and centered as the body progressively eases back to a normal state.
If you’re not quite into meditation or mindfulness yet, you could build a playlist of relaxing music to switch on when you’re beginning your cool down.
I have personally experienced how powerful meditation is. Guided meditation is included in our LadyBossⓇ Pocket Personal Trainer, if you want to give it a try for free.
3 Visualize – Exercise
Have you ever heard the saying, if you dream it, you can achieve it? This is how I think of visualization. It’s basically a way to use imagery to influence your mind by using the body’s senses. Research has shown a strong correlation between visualization and performance success.
Here’s an example of visualization you could use if you were preparing for your first 5K race:
Close your eyes, and allow your body to get comfortable… take 3 deep cleansing breaths, in through your nose and out through your mouth.
Now, imagine yourself waking up from a very good night’s rest. The sun peeks through the window blinds and you feel the warmth of the morning light on your eyelids. You flutter your eyes open to invite in the new day. This is a very exciting morning, as you committed to your very first 5K race and it’s finally here. You walk over to your closet and pull on the perfectly-fitting tank top and fancy running shorts you picked out specifically for this special event. With excitement, you grab your running shoes, lace them up and you head off to your first 5K.
When you arrive at the event, you see a big blue inflated START sign to designate the starting line. You find the check-in station and wait in line as you watch other participants jogging, stretching and warming up around you. You get checked in and receive a bib with your lucky number accompanied by four safety pins. After attaching your bib to your tank top, you begin to make your way to the starting line at a nice slow jog to help warm up those muscles. Doing your favorite pre-run stretching, you take in the chatter as the announcer tells everyone to find their starting position.
3-2-1 GO… and you are striding over the start line, you feel the cool breeze in your hair and across your face as you cruise with the other runners by your side. Focusing on your breathing and your form, you take in the beautiful trees, the green grass, and the fresh air. Before you know it, you see the giant finish line arch. A big smile surfaces your face as you have trained for this very moment, crossing that finish line. You push yourself to the endpoint with all you have left in the tank.
With a sense of pride, you successfully completed your first 5K race. You are given a finisher medal, and you wear it along with an accomplished smile.
Visualization is so personal, and can be used for just about any instance or goal you want to achieve!
Our minds and bodies work in tandem. We can improve one, by improving the other. Which is why it’s so important to ensure we are doing our best to take care of both! Mind-body connection exercises are extremely beneficial to help with body mindfulness, healing, and overall health.