Anxiety: Mind-Body

Get to know your mind-body

Slogans such as ‘mind over matter’ or ‘mind over body’ can be misleading. Your mind and body interact – there is a continuous flow of information between them with the result that they are continually affecting/influencing one-another.

Each affects the other

Every thought you entertain affects your body and your emotions. For example thinking about your favourite food, especially if you feel hungry, will cause your mouth to water.

Every physical action affects your mood and your thinking. Walk around, very slowly so that you are almost dragging your feet, with your spine slumped forwards and with your head hanging down and a notice how this affects your mood.  It’s pretty likely that it will drag you down emotionally.

You’ve no doubt recognised that when you feel physically tired or less-than-well this affects your mood. It’s very difficult, for example, to be cheerful and humorous when you’re exhausted.

Similarly your thinking affects your physical state. If you spend a while going around silently telling yourself that you can’t cope or that you’re a failure or that ‘it’s all too much’ then this will undoubtedly cause you to feel tense, demoralised, and physically tired.

What to do about it

How do we make use of this mind-body relationship? Well, for a start, the traditional method of repeating affirmations is unlikely to help very much – or, at least, not for very long. Unless you really believe in them and repeat them with lots of emotion affirmations have little effect.

However you can make a difference simply by observing how the mind-body connection works -since this awareness alerts you to the need to manage how they affect one another.

Needless to say, it would be unrealistic to expect to do this all day everyday. Begin by becoming aware of your thoughts on an on-going basis for a few minutes, a few times a day. stop and ask yourself:

How have I been talking to myself over the last hour or two?  Have I been talking to myself angrily, or in a miserable complaining manner, or in a quietly self-encouraging way?

What mental images have I been dwelling on?  Have I been picturing all the things that have been going wrong in my life recently (or, worse still, in the past)? Have had been imagining all the unpleasant things that ‘could’ happen now are in the future?  Or have I been dwelling upon the things that are going well in my life, right now?

And as you do this remain aware that it’s not the great new start that you are going to make tomorrow, or next week, or next month that is going to make you happy — it’s how you are managing your thinking, and how you use your body, from hour to hour and from day-to-day,

What you think about

As you stop and pay attention about every now and then, to how you are thinking you could additionally consider:

  • What negative topics do you typically tend to dwell upon?
  • Which positive ones do you not dwell upon?
  • Which positive or negative ones do you try to avoid thinking about?
  • Are the topics which you think about mainly concerning the future or mainly concerning the past?
  • Are they about what’s going on around you or about what’s going on inside you.
  • How much of your thinking is ‘positive’ and uplifting?
  • How much of it is ‘negative’ and undermining?

How you think

It is not just what you think about but also how, exactly, you do this thinking.  And each of us is unique and we each have our own ways of thinking. so, for example:

  • Is your thinking mainly in mental images?
  • Or mainly in self-talk?
  • Or a mixture of both?
  • Are your mental images bright and colourful?
  • Are they dull and monochrome?
  • Do you have a steady stream of images on a wide range of subjects
  • Or do you tend to dwell on one or two topics.
  • And then how about your self-talk – the constant chatter that goes on inside your head.
  • Is your self-talk ‘loud’ or quiet?
  • Is it fast of slow?
  • Is it critical or supportive?
  • Is it angry or calm?

Using this awareness of your own thinking

It’s a good idea to spend a few weeks familiarising yourself with your own particular ways of thinking. Once you have become aware of your thinking patterns you can begin to change your thoughts so that the feelings they produce are more to your liking.

Check here for ideas on how to manage your self talk.


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