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Elisa Goldstein, Ph.D.Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.
A blog about mindfulness, stress-reduction, psychotherapy and mental health.

The Missing Link to Mental Health: Your Body

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. Updated: Feb 16th 2009

the bodyThere is a funny quote from James Joyce's book The Dubliners which said, "Mr. Duffy lives a short distance from his body." We can all feel that way at times walking around like talking heads without any awareness of our bodies. When we're struggling with stress, anxiety, depression, or illness, we're often so up in our heads that we miss out on the potential for healing that lays just beneath the neck line. Yes, the body makes up a huge part of our mental health and it's screaming for some love and attention.

In a recent blog, Santa Monica Chiropractor Dr. Lynn Kerew said, "Is our body something that just carts us around? Do we value its powers behind the scenes as we sleep, breathe, eat, digest, think, exercise? I think not." She's absolutely right. She works with people day in and day out with their bodies and nervous systems and sees dramatic differences in their physical and mental health. Just think for a moment, how do you treat your body? Are you feeding it foods that make it happy or sick? Are you helping it feel happy by doing exercise that makes the blood flow or keeping it stagnant? Are you allowing it to get proper rest (or at least close to it) or burning the candles at both ends?

If we are treating our bodies well, we can take it a step further by acknowledging it. There's a difference between just getting caught in a routine of eating healthy or exercising and actually acknowledging and thanking yourself for being kind to your body. This mindful acknowledgment helps stamp into your mind that you care about yourself. This is good mental nutrition for wellness and resiliency in the face of stress. If you're depressed, the next time the mind drifts to self judgment on how worthless you are, the past acknowledgment will make it easier to remember that you really care about yourself and help stave off self-judgments and make room for more compassion.

Dr. Kerew says, "The power of the human body is so fantastic." She knows that working with theo body and nervous system promotes innate healing. When you are kind to your body, you support your immune system, which supports the nervous system. In doing this, you are better able to handle stressful situations that would usually tip you off balance.

So today:

Give yourself a little hand or arm massage. Go on a walk, even if it's for just 5-10 minutes on your lunch break. Do some light stretching reminding yourself that you are being kind to your muscles and helping with circulation of the body.  Go to bed earlier; don't watch that final show on television.

As the 17th century quote goes, the proof of the pudding is in the eating" or as its shortened version "The proof is in the pudding." Try being kinder to your body and acknowledging it when you do so. If there is a recurring issue, seek out support with a physician, chiropractor, or acupuncturist. Then notice if there is a shift in how you feel.

As always, please post your comments or questions below. Your additions here allow for a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.  

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice in West Los Angeles and is author of the upcoming book The Now Effect, co-author of A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook, Foreword by Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of the Mindful Solutions audio series, and the Mindfulness at Work program currently being adopted in multiple multinational corporations.

Check out Dr. Goldstein's acclaimed CD's on Mindful Solutions for Stress, Anxiety, and Depression, Mindful Solutions for Addiction and RelapsePrevention, and Mindful Solutions for Success and Stress Reduction at Work. -- "They are so relevant, I have marked them as one of my favorites on a handout I give to all new clients" ~ Psychiatrist.

If you're wanting to integrate more mindfulness into your daily life, sign up for his Mindful Living Twitter Feed. Dr. Goldstein is also available for private psychotherapy.

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