Viewing entries tagged
brain health

The need for connection

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Purpose…how many times have you contemplated your life’s purpose? 

This is something that is becoming more commonly talked about and a question we are more openly contemplating.  What is purpose and why is it so important – emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually?  Neuropsychologist Dr. Patricia Boyle describes purpose as this;

“Purpose is the psychological tendency to derive meaning from life’s experiences and to possess a sense of intentionality and goal directedness that guides behaviour”.

For many people, their sense of purpose is driven by connection – connecting with others on a deep level, giving back and serving others in some way. As humans, we are social, emotional beings driven by a fundamental need to connect.  For those of us who have experienced the feeling of loneliness, isolation and depression, we know only too well how debilitating it can be.  Loneliness is associated with more than double the risk of developing dementia. When we feel rejected socially, it hurts – literally!  Feeling excluded or as though we are not liked or part of a social network are generally considered to be some of the most ‘painful’ experiences that we endure. This is because the brain circuitry underlying physical and social pain are shared and this is also why loss is so painful.

We are living in an increasingly disconnected world and we can feel it.  Now you might think, hang on a minute Lisa, we are more connected than ever!  You’d be right – technologically we’ve never been more connected.  Emotionally, I would say we are the most disconnected we have been.  On a human to human, heart to heart level, we seem to be losing the ability to connect.  We communicate via written text, interact via screens and barely even acknowledge people walking down the street.  We don’t know our neighbours like we used to, our sense of community is not as it was and even seeing friends and family needs to be ‘scheduled’ to fit in to our busy lives. 

Why is social connection so important?  Because it’s the perception that we are cared for, that we are part of a supportive social network and have others that can help us when needed. 

From a neurological point of view, it is also really important for our brain health.  Neuroscience research shows that being socially connected protects the brain against the risk of developing dementia and improves mental health and wellbeing.  The reason for this is because social interaction involves many cognitive functions such as thinking, feeling, reasoning and intuition that build brain resilience and promote the formation of new connections between brain cells.

Other benefits of finding meaning and connection in life are lower risk of cognitive decline, mental health issues and dementia.  Purpose in life is linked to positive health outcomes including happiness, satisfaction, self-acceptance, better sleep, and longevity.

We all need meaning in our lives to have a sense of wellbeing - accomplishment or achievement is also important and contributes to our sense of purpose. 

What matters to you the most? How do you connect with people? Maybe you enjoy catching up with loved ones over coffee and cake, going dancing or being out in nature.  The great thing about connecting is that we can do this in many ways on many levels, sometimes just a smile makes a world of difference 😊

Mind-Body Connection

Now this is a concept that seems so obvious to me, but for many, they still treat their brains and bodies as two separate entities.  When I was unwell, I would often feel frustrated with the medical profession for treating me as individual parts rather than a whole.  After overcoming my health challenges, I now absolutely know that our minds, brains and bodies are connected.  Our brains are the driving centre connected to our bodies through our autonomic nervous system.  Thousands of messages and signals are sent between our brains and bodies daily and we have the incredible power of our minds to change how we feel, behave and respond to stress and illness.  I strongly believe in a holistic approach to health looking after our brain health first and foremost so we can improve our emotional, physically and mental health.  This is not just about healthy eating, exercise and nutrition, it’s also about well-being, stress management and having a healthy mind as well.  Science understands that our health is heavily affected by our emotions and thoughts and vice versa. Just as we know that stress has a physical effect on our bodies and can live in our nervous system, we also know that our minds can make us well.  Think about the placebo effect for example. This powerful phenomenon happens when patients think and truly believe that the tablet is a cure (although it’s not) and this results in them feeling better, such is the power of our thoughts and beliefs.  Leading Doctors, Psychologists and Neuroscientists are speaking more about the mind body connection and the amazing things that can be achieved.  Neuroscientist Dr Sarah Mackay says  “Therapies directed toward addressing functional links between mind/brain and body can be effective in treating the range of symptoms associated with many chronic diseases.  In the context of health neuroscience, the brain is both the mediator and the target of mind/body medicine.”  “The latest research supports the notion that we have a natural ability to change the brain and body by thought alone…Because you can make thought more real than anything else.”  Joe Dispenza, Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself: How to Lose Your Mind and Create a New One  “Your thoughts are incredibly powerful. Choose yours wisely.”  Joe Dispenza, You Are the Placebo: Making Your Mind Matter  So, what is my point?  Understanding the mind body connection is one thing but what do we do about creating healthier thoughts, beliefs and behaviours.  Just think new thoughts?  That sounds simple, right?  On the one hand, it really is that simple, but on the other, it requires effort and consistency to change our thoughts and beliefs.  As much as our minds effect our physical health, our physical health also effects our minds.  The good news is that there are many practices we can do that re-train both our minds and our bodies!    This can be done by meditation, deep breathing, mindfulness, spontaneous movement and dance, yoga, listening to soothing music, spending time in nature, running, or hiking all of which allow our minds and bodies to connect and releases feel good endorphins.  Or simply receiving a hug from a loved one, which releases oxytocin, a natural hormone produced by the pituitary gland that promotes bonding and connection.  All of these practices change our physiology and affect our mood promoting healthier relationships between our brains and bodies.  Ultimately, we need to look after our brains first.  What do you do to look after yours?  The answer might be nothing right now, and that’s ok.  I encourage you all to start taking time out to look after yourself whether physically, mentally or emotionally so you can keep moving towards optimum health and well-being.

Now this is a concept that seems so obvious to me, but for many, they still treat their brains and bodies as two separate entities.  When I was unwell, I would often feel frustrated with the medical profession for treating me as individual parts rather than a whole.  After overcoming my health challenges, I now absolutely know that our minds, brains and bodies are connected.  Our brains are the driving centre connected to our bodies through our autonomic nervous system.  Thousands of messages and signals are sent between our brains and bodies daily and we have the incredible power of our minds to change how we feel, behave and respond to stress and illness.

I strongly believe in a holistic approach to health looking after our brain health first and foremost so we can improve our emotional, physically and mental health.  This is not just about healthy eating, exercise and nutrition, it’s also about well-being, stress management and having a healthy mind as well.

Science understands that our health is heavily affected by our emotions and thoughts and vice versa. Just as we know that stress has a physical effect on our bodies and can live in our nervous system, we also know that our minds can make us well.  Think about the placebo effect for example. This powerful phenomenon happens when patients think and truly believe that the tablet is a cure (although it’s not) and this results in them feeling better, such is the power of our thoughts and beliefs.

Leading Doctors, Psychologists and Neuroscientists are speaking more about the mind body connection and the amazing things that can be achieved.  Neuroscientist Dr Sarah Mackay says

“Therapies directed toward addressing functional links between mind/brain and body can be effective in treating the range of symptoms associated with many chronic diseases.  In the context of health neuroscience, the brain is both the mediator and the target of mind/body medicine.”

“The latest research supports the notion that we have a natural ability to change the brain and body by thought alone…Because you can make thought more real than anything else.”  Joe Dispenza, Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself: How to Lose Your Mind and Create a New One

“Your thoughts are incredibly powerful. Choose yours wisely.”  Joe Dispenza, You Are the Placebo: Making Your Mind Matter

So, what is my point?  Understanding the mind body connection is one thing but what do we do about creating healthier thoughts, beliefs and behaviours.  Just think new thoughts?  That sounds simple, right?  On the one hand, it really is that simple, but on the other, it requires effort and consistency to change our thoughts and beliefs.  As much as our minds effect our physical health, our physical health also effects our minds.  The good news is that there are many practices we can do that re-train both our minds and our bodies!  

This can be done by meditation, deep breathing, mindfulness, spontaneous movement and dance, yoga, listening to soothing music, spending time in nature, running, or hiking all of which allow our minds and bodies to connect and releases feel good endorphins.  Or simply receiving a hug from a loved one, which releases oxytocin, a natural hormone produced by the pituitary gland that promotes bonding and connection.  All of these practices change our physiology and affect our mood promoting healthier relationships between our brains and bodies.

Ultimately, we need to look after our brains first.  What do you do to look after yours?  The answer might be nothing right now, and that’s ok.  I encourage you all to start taking time out to look after yourself whether physically, mentally or emotionally so you can keep moving towards optimum health and well-being.