Does The Mind Tell The Body What To Do?


… does the Body have a mind of its own?

We are not talking about instinct here but about direct relationships between thoughts and actions. Deliberate stuff. If I accidentally put my hand on a hot stove element, as soon as the body tells the mind, this is hot, hot, hot, the mind instructs us to move the hand. Such mind body connections are in the family along with flight or fight reactions that are connected to survival, instinct and are very near automatic.

I have learned of another path of the mind/body connection. In the same way that the hot stove top generates thought which generate actions, we can, in many ways, increase our level of happiness (a mind state) by changing something in our actions. We can go the other way.

It seems that when we are walking, that if we lengthen our stride, we feel a tiny bit happier. When I first heard this I was a doubter. But I have tried it and wow, it seems to be at least a little bit true. The body adjusts to a more positive posture, achieves a bit more (goes faster, farther), increases blood flow. Tah dahhhh, happier. Yes, of course the mind started the sequence by deciding to tell the body to increase stride length. But the payback is the body convincing the mind to feel happier.

Imagine yourself walking along. Now notice how you feel as you just walk. Stay with the feeling a moment longer. Now, imagine that you lengthen your stride. Go ahead, do that. Notice the reaction of your mind to this idea as you imagine doing it. Yup, it even works when we just imagine lengthening our stride. Cool

When we are feeling grouchy, somehow, starting to laugh, even if we get someone to tickle us, changes our mind to a happier state. Body changes what it is doing and mind follows, becomes more able to, in this case, move toward happiness. Oh, and if getting the folks near your cubicle to tickle you seems too over the top, just smile (and if you have to fake the smile to get it started, that is just fine). Imagine your boss being chased by the Chihuahua  from hell.

When we feel threatened, the tendency is to tighten muscles, lean forward, prepare for fight or flight. If we change the physical to include simply counting the length of our inhale and exhale, don’t change either, just count how long each is, we almost immediately calm and often go quickly to a smile. By getting the mind to notice the body, time seems to slow some. The intensity of the threat can be reassessed, seen more realistically, defanged if you will. What is being defanged is the story being carried in the mind. The body action does not match the fear manufactured in the mind and the mind moves toward more calm. It is not a thought that changes things. It is a change in thinking because of a change in the body that causes it all. Maybe the body does have a mind of its own?

Joseph Seiler MCC