Surprising Ways Your Mind & Body Interact
Thomas G. Plante
When it comes to health and wellness, belief matters and matters big time!
Biopsychosocial factors all integrate to determine health and wellness. Scores of quality research studies have highlighted this point of view, contradicting the old mind-body split that dominated medical science and practice for centuries. Rene Descartes may have been a wonderful French philosopher, but he got the whole mind-body thing wrong.
Here are just a few thought-provoking examples from my research lab at SCU and from some of my colleagues associated with our SCU Spirituality and Health Institute:
- Perception of fitness is a more important predictor of exercise benefit (in terms of mood, stress, and other psychological outcomes) than actual physical fitness. [read more]
- Volunteerism reduces all-cause mortality by 40 percent. Add attending religious services regularly and it lowers your all-cause mortality rate even more. The overall mortality risk reduction effects of volunteerism and religious engagement are greater than quitting smoking! [read more]
- HIV patients who have an image of a compassionate, loving God have better immune functioning than those who have a judgmental and punitive image of God. Changes in God image over time also change helpful t-cells in randomized trials. [read more]
And the list goes on . . .
This makes good sense from a variety of perspectives. The mind and body are constantly interacting, which results in both positive and negative health outcomes. This shouldn’t be a surprise, but often it is for many people, including doctors.
Think about it. How many times have you taken a pill – such as an aspirin – and feel better even before the pill has had a chance to dissolve? How many times have you been “wired” from coffee only to learn later that you were served decaf? Focus on a relaxing scene and your heart rate and blood pressure lower. Focus an exciting or scary scene and your heart rate and blood pressure increase.
To illustrate this point with a very simple (and fun) exercise take a bolt and tie it to the end of a string that is about a foot in length. Hold the string with the bolt in a comfortable position away from your body at waist level. Now keep your hand as still as possible. Stare at the bolt and imagine or visualize the bolt moving in a clockwise direction. Again, keep your hand as still as possible and just imagine the bolt moving in a clockwise direction. Give it a few minutes. See what happens. When you are done, try it again imagining it moving in a counter clockwise direction. Again, see what happens.
It isn’t magic and it isn’t mind completely over matter either. If you want to maximize your health and wellness you need to pay attention to your mind as well as to your body.