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

Being Kind to Your Body is Healing to the Mind

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. Updated: Apr 20th 2012

bodyWhen we're struggling with stress, anxiety, depression, or chronic 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 (actually includes above the neck line too). Yes, for many of us the body is a huge untapped resource that serves as a barometer for how we’re feeling and when we treat it right can have substantial effects on our mental health. 

There 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. 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.

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.

Try this 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.

Note: This is the time where the brain may jump in with some automatic judgments about whether this is something that will “work” for you or not. See if you can notice those, set them aside and then give this a shot; allowing your experience to be your best teacher. 

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 share your thoughts, questions and stories below. Your interaction creates 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.

    Reader Comments
    Discuss this issue below or in our forums.

    Observe yourself - yedidarajesh - Apr 21st 2012

    What you said is so true. I am writing this from India. I am 32. I lost my closest friend two months back. I was in deep grief then lots of things slowed down for me. Actually its not the things that changed, its my perception. During that period I started being more mindful about everything be it eating,reading,talking, .....With that mindfulness I automatically started being kind to my body and self and it is helping me to prioritise things accordingly. I am feeling calmer and peacful.

    Regards

    Rajesh Yedida

     

     

     

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