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How your brain affects your body

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“The mind and the body are like parallel universes. Anything that happens in the mental universe must leave tracks in the physical one.” – Deepak Chopra

Photo by madison lavern on Unsplash

When I try to visualize the mind/body connection, and how the body works in accordance with the brain, a certain image always comes to mind.

It’s that little icon of a person on google maps. If you ever used this little icon to “drop” onto a section of the map in order to explore it by street view, you know that as you move it along, the body kind of drags behind the head. It’s like the body is completely asleep.

Now I’m not saying that the body is completely at the will of the brain, that’s not the case, but the brain and mind (the mind is the brain in action) have a profound influence over the body. The brain creates the thoughts that trigger emotion that floods the body and creates action.

How the Dominos fall

It’s very simple to see how exactly the brain controls the body. 

Our senses pick up on something happening (this can be externally or internally). The brain immediately thinks thoughts to give meaning to the sensory information coming in. The thoughts trigger the pituitary gland to release chemicals, which we feel as an emotion. The emotion moves our body into action. That action will be either outward moving or inward moving (like hiding), but there is always some sort of action.

 

Working in reverse

The incredible thing about this process is that the cells of our body develop receptors for the emotions we feel most often. For example, if you commonly feel shame, your cells have developed lots of receptors for the chemical cocktail that feels like “shame” in your body.

Because your cells are used to receiving these chemicals, they will actually remind the brain that they want the chemicals, because they utilize the chemicals in their processes, and so a feedback loop is created.

Not only does your brain produce the chemical because of thought, but it will also product the chemical to satisfy your cells. 

Because this feedback loop is happening, your brain is looking for ways to make you feel shame, so your cells can get their fix. And then through shame, your body is moved into whatever actions shame creates for you. (For example, if shame makes you want to binge on Netflix and eat a pint of ice cream, that’s what you will feel the urge to do.)

 

Breaking the cycle

No wonder it’s so hard to truly change our thinking. This is why we can’t just quit believing something, or start believing something new at the drop of a hat. We have to be convinced. From an evolutionary perspective this makes sense. Order allows for organized survival. 

If your body has a strong feedback loop for a certain emotion(s), when you want to start thinking new thoughts and leave old ones behind, you’re literally asking the chemistry of your body to change. And the human body LOVES homeostasis, or a defined set-point that it remains at.

But guess what? You CAN change it. I know this because I have done it, and continue to do so. Understanding that this is part of the functioning, the machinery of your body, can allow you to be aware of WHY your body does what it does. Of why it’s so hard to get it to do a certain task. Of why it’s so hard to stick to change. And with this knowledge you can prepare yourself to stay engaged and present through the process of change, so you can coach your mind and body to obtain truly lasting change.

 

Work with me

Have you desired change in your life, but keep getting stuck? It’s related to the process above. I can help you define the unproductive thoughts you are having that start the dominos falling, and help you put a new head domino in place.

Click here to schedule a free coaching session with me.