While many are aware that the mind can affect the body—as when feelings of stress stimulate the “fight or flight” response—a growing amount of research is revealing that the body also affects the mind.
For example, studies reported in this column have discussed how creating a smiling expression by holding a pencil within your teeth can lift your mood and how treadmill walking in an upright posture with energetic arm swings can make you feel happier than you’d feel when walking in a slouched position with less arm movement.
Sian Beilock, PhD, professor of psychology at the University of Chicago, in Chicago, has written a book about the many factors affecting our body that also influence our mind, feelings, thoughts and decision making. “If we can understand the science behind how the body affects the brain, we will be in a great position to ensure that we’re always putting our best foot forward when it matters most,” said Beilock in a University of Chicago news release.
Beilock offers the following tips based on research related to the body-mind connection.
- Take active breaks to improve problem solving. Physically walking away from a problem for a few minutes may help you solve it.
- Use your posture and facial expressions to influence your mood. For example, stand tall to give yourself confidence. Smile to feel happier.
- Spend time in nature whenever possible. A walk in the woods rejuvenates our minds and improves our ability to pay attention and focus.
To learn more about the body-mind connection, check out Beilock’s book, How the Body Knows Its Mind (2015 Atria).