Mind Body Medicine - Building Body Wisdom
Naturopathy is founded on some major principles:
Do no harm
Nature as medicine (and Nature as teacher)
Treat the cause of disease, not just the symptoms
Treat the individual, encompassing understanding of mind, body & spirit
Teach the principles of healthy living and preventative care
Now I’d like to bring your attention to point number 4:
Treat the individual, encompassing understanding of mind, body & spirit.
This is a principle that I think is often overlooked by the clinical Naturopath.
So often, we tell our patients, we are so much more than flesh and blood, and it is these other parts of us that are often discarded or forgotten about in the holistic treatment process.
Is it truly holistic healing if we are not also encouraging a deeper understanding of your innate body wisdom?
I don’t think so!
If you have been to our clinic before, you will know that Wendy & I have a healthy understanding that physical healing is ideally complimented by mental and emotional healing.
After all, so much of the cycles that our body has on repeat, and the pathways that our body has learned to favour as dominant (like stress pathways, and depression pathways, for example) are actually activated not by the physical, but by the mental and emotional bodies.
Stress is a classic example. The experience of stress is a mental, emotional and physical one. The physical experience of stress is often triggered by a mental or emotional situation - or even just a thought itself, like thinking you’ve forgotten an important date or that you won’t do well in overcoming X problem.
We can help the physical body to adapt to stress, and reduce the damage that long-term exposure to stress has on the body… but are we truly treating the cause if we aren’t paying attention to the thoughts and feelings that are triggering this response to start with?
The point is that our physical bodies are constantly responding to what is happening in our emotional and mental states, yet we so often only seek help for the physical problem, denying or forgetting the role that the mind and emotions play in that physical problem.
Let’s take depression as another example - something I have suffered with for many years of my life!
I used to treat depression as just a physical problem; a lack of serotonin creating a physical response in my body of depression, decreased appetite, increased fatigue and lowered immunity.
As I started to understand more about my body and the role of the mind and emotions in physical dis-ease, through my studies as a Naturopath, I realised that by treating the physical problem of serotonin deficiency wouldn’t work when there was such strong implications of my mind and emotions driving the whole problem!
As I say to my patients now who suffer with depression, I can give you all of the ingredients your body needs to make serotonin, but if you are constantly and automatically thinking horrible thoughts about yourself and your future, then those neural pathways need to be addressed because they will trigger off the whole cascade of biological events to deplete your serotonin; and so we end up like a dog chasing its tail.
The mind & emotions are incredibly powerful. We know that even just from placebo trials… where people literally cure themselves from major problems with the power of their mind and the belief that they will be cured!
Mind body medicine is about the integration of mental and emotional health in the physical experience.
It’s about looking at the holy Naturopathic trinity - the mind, body & spirit.
Rather than just looking at the body alone.
Mind body medicine is about the relationship and pattern between emotions, thoughts and illness.
By understanding the triggers (which are often mental/emotional - coming from thoughts or feelings) to these patterns, we can retrain the way that the physical body responds to these mental/emotional triggers… and we can actually learn techniques to rid ourselves of mental/emotional triggers.
In our opinion, this deeper understanding of how to train and adapt our mental and emotional bodies is as much a part of the holistic healing process as helping the physical body with supplements, herbs, exercise and sleep.
Confronting uncomfortable (and often recurring) thoughts, emotions and even memories is a part of building that innate body wisdom, which is the key to caring for oneself at deeper levels in the long term.
Our absolute favourite tool to do this is Kinesiology.
Kinesiology helps to build a deeper connection to our physical, mental and emotional bodies.
When we start to integrate understanding of our emotional and mental bodies, we can look at our physical symptoms in a broader and deeper way as well.
This is where we look at the metaphysical understanding or meaning behind physical problems and look at what the body is trying to tell you.
Our Kinesiologist, Fran, says:
What came first, the chicken or the egg?
What came first, the emotion or the dis-ease?
Using mind body medicine is allowing us to look at a physical problem from an emotional level.
Looking at this type of approach to wellbeing allows us to uncover and perhaps recognise issues or problems before the become engrained. Once problems are engrained, we can feel powerless to them, and are often unaware of the emotional and mental connection.
Mind body medicine is a paradigm shift in being able to explore other options and thought processes within the conscious mind.
It is not a blame game; it is an awareness game.
A favourite saying of mine is; nothing is right or wrong, it just is. Accepting this, however, may be slightly harder.
So, let me give you a simple example of a physical problem and the emotional connections.
Shoulder pain. The shoulders are often reflective of the emotion of responsibility.
It is common to feel we have the “world on our shoulders”.
And, so, with shoulder pain we look at re-evaluating the responsibility in your life, and where you feel you are not able to reach the expectations yourself or others have put on you. We look at why one cannot carry responsibility joyfully.
This is a very basic example, as the exact part of the shoulder, and the physical sensation all play a part in what emotion is connected, and what is needed to shift in order to fasten healing, and stop the cyclical nature of the physical problem.”
I know it can sound a bit woo-woo, but at the end of the day, our physical bodies are influenced in a huge way by our thoughts and feelings.
It sounds crazy to me to think that healing would end with attention paid only to the physical.
The notion of treating the person as a whole, in mind, body & spirit is a founding principle of Naturopathy.
And I think that the clinical mindset of looking only at the body is not helping to break cycles and achieve long-term healing and vitality, because, once again, we are so much more than flesh and blood.
So, next time you notice a physical problem… remember that, and start to question what the emotional connection could be.
We have a lot of reference books in the clinic library that can assist in understanding the underlying emotional issues to physical problems.
Or, to explore even more deeply the uniqueness that is you, check out Kinesiology and all the wonders it can do for the mind and emotions.
Emily (Naturopath & Herbalist)