The power of the mind, body and soul connection
1. Diet – eating nutritionally dense foods that nourish your body. No one silver bullet diet worked across all the case studies as our bodies are all unique. What became apparent was “the inherent intelligence of the body and its innate ability to heal”. However, it is, therefore, our responsibility to find out what type of food supports our body to heal and work optimally. An overall broad stroke recommendation, which also lines up with research, was that of eating mainly fresh food, plant-based, whole foods, and no refined sugars, flour, artificial or any processed food. He highlighted that:
“Change is about love and respect for your body. It’s also about understanding your community…When making deep nutritional changes, we should aim to do so in a way that increases the amount of life and love in our lives, from a place of opportunity rather just fear.”
Reflection question: How is what I’m eating improving the quality of my life and treating my body with love?
2. Immune system – a healthy functioning immune system is vital for health. Chronic inflammation severely impacts our immune system. According to Dr Jeff Rediger, chronic inflammation comes from how we think, feel and live. The anxious thoughts and feelings that are released, when not managed during chronic stress, are internal inflammation triggers that literally drip stress hormones into your bloodstream. This then wears down the immune system over time, the same way a constant drip of water wears down a rock. There are various practical steps you can take to a more anti-inflammatory lifestyle such as exercise, yoga, Rolfing, eating healthy (refined sugar is a big inflammatory trigger), re-structuring your workdays, and identifying triggers that are toxic in your environment and removing that. Some of which will be possible to do and others may not be given the reality of your life. However, the first step that you can do no matter your circumstances is to open the lines of communication with your body by becoming more aware of what it communicates to you during the day.
Reflection question: How can I become more intentional about changing the relationship with my body?
3. Stress responses – Teaching yourself to shift out of the “fight and flight” mode (the sympathetic nervous system is active) which is activated when stressed into a more relaxed state sometimes called the “rest and digest” or healing- mode (the parasympathetic nervous system is active). The main ways to do that include:
a. Manage your stress – such as incorporating relaxing techniques, regular movement, or exercise (20 min a day)
b. Eliminate your stress – remove the triggers that cause toxic stress if possible. Research has shown that “stress and trauma can literally rewrite your DNA, recoding your body to be more susceptible to disease and even allowing that illness-prone code to be passed on to your children”.
c. Changing how you perceive stress – as either a threat or a challenge. He shares that we:
“need to recognise that stress and anxiety can be a gift, letting you know that something urgently needs to be addressed. Instead of trying to turn off stress or medicate away anxiety, we sometimes need to move through it, see it as an opportunity to learn, and listen to it so we can grow, change, and live an authentic life”
d. Love and Connection – which gets activated through the vagus nerve as it is literally the link between the mind and the body. It runs from your brain right through your heart to your gut and passes on information both upstream and down. After the brain and the gut, the heart has 40 000 neurons more than any other part of the body. This is why we refer to the gut and heart as brains in themselves that also hold the wisdom to heal. Practical ways to activate the nerve includes – deep abdominal breathing, small moments of positive/meaningful micro-connection in person (not virtual and it can even be with strangers or a Barista at your favourite coffee shop), loving-kindness meditation, self-compassion, positive feelings in general. Healing the soul can also heal the mind-body connection.
What I always believed intuitively but what is now scientifically proven according to Dr Jeff Rediger is that:
“ from what you eat, to how you think about stress, to how you interact with others, can change the biology of your body right down to those telomeres inside your cells.”
The mind, body and soul are deeply interconnected.
Reflection question: How can listening to my heart enable me to find my way toward the life I truly yearn for – filled with authenticity, fulfilment and even healing?
4. Healing your identity – the process of increased self-awareness (of thoughts, emotions, sensations), self-reflection and understanding yourself in a completely new light can help to make other changes or pathways to healing possible. In ancient theological teachings, the “body is thought to be a metaphor for something that the deeper mind is trying to learn.” Isn’t that a beautiful way to look at our bodies? Yet, most of us are not conditioned in that way. We tend to mainly rely on thought patterns to live our lives. The default mode network (DMN) is a collection of loosely connected areas of the brain that activates when we turn into a more introspective mode. “It yearns for narrative, helping us compose the story of whom we are by linking our past with the present and what we consider possible or likely for our futures.” Over time these repeated ways of thinking form the blueprint of what you’ve been conditioned to think of as your life, your sense of self, your identity, your story and what you decide is true about your life. The good news is that you can change that. You can form new neural pathways in the brain. A first step to do that is new experiences – if you do something outside of your routine, you get out of your DMN and can start to override existing ways of thinking that are not serving you anymore. However,
“Finding ways to get out of your default mode network can lead to shifts not only in the way you think but also in the way your body functions on a chemical or even molecular level. So, while we can’t literally rewrite the past, what we can do is change how we experience it and change what becomes part of our default mode going forward.”
There are many other ways of changing your DMN some of which are meditation, yoga, travel, education and changing the way you think. Coaching itself can be a valuable tool I believe.
- What is the limiting story I’ve told myself about who I am and what is possible?
- How can I change my perception of myself, my life, and my potential?
- How will the body of this new me feel and see the world?
When you fundamentally change the identity, you hold about yourself it may feel like a figurative “death”. Sometimes referred to in certain Psychological or Spiritual teachings as the death of the “false self” or “ego”. People with terminal illnesses are forced to face their death. Yet, what they found was that it was at times exactly that, which opened the door into life. The life of their authentic “true self” free from trying to please others or living up to unrealistic expectations. We don’t have to wait until we get diagnosed with a severe illness before we start to set ourselves free.
What is important to note there is no one size fits all and it is not guaranteed that if you do the above you will heal from severe illness. As human beings we are complex, and our circumstances differ severely. All of us can’t bring about radical changes due to various factors such as financial constraints to name one. Change can be tremendously difficult and reading all this information may even make you feel overwhelmed. If you don’t feel up to fundamental changes that are okay and important that you treat yourself with compassion. However, what I do feel is key is to see that even changing one small thing (like taking three deep conscious belly breaths a few times a day or doing something new every day) can bring about big change as everything is interconnected.
Reflection question: What is your body’s invitation to you at this moment to change?
May you live a life that makes you feel alive – body, mind and soul.
If this blog resonates with you, I highly recommend that you read the book as I only shared broadly what Dr Jeff Rediger goes into depth. There are so many others that can also play a role such as spirituality and faith.
This article is also available on my LinkedIn page.