Is everyone ok out there? Things are a bit crazy right now. I don’t know about you, but I find solace in the fact that Scripture tells us nothing is new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9). Everything we’re experiencing today – all the strife, disease, turmoil, strained relationships, fear, future unknowns, economic uncertainties, stress, joblessness, political drama, unrest, overall effects of sin…nothing is new. For thousands of years, these same issues have plagued humanity.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not making light of the reality we’re all affected by daily circumstances. But what I want to do is draw attention as to why this matters for our embodied reality.
As a quick refresher, embodiment is the natural form of humanity. We are body and soul beings, where both aspects are integral parts of our existence. (For more information on these, check out my previous posts, embodiment or body and soul.)
I want to throw out a new word that communicates another aspect of our embodied reality: psychosomatic. Psycho dealing with the mind. Somatic dealing with the body. In other words, the mind impacts the body, and the body affects the mind. God created men and women as psychosomatic beings. For instance…
Have you ever gotten nervous and felt butterflies in your stomach? Or maybe you’ve gotten mad and felt your heart rate increase? What about tension headaches from stress? Perhaps you’ve worried yourself sick? These are examples of the mind and body relationship.
In the medical field, there is a growing push towards a greater understanding of mind and body interrelatedness.
In mind-body medicine, the mind and body are not seen as separately functioning entities, but as one functioning unit. The mind and emotions are viewed as influencing the body, as the body, in turn, influences the mind and emotions. (Selhub 2007)
Studies are being done to find holistic solutions for people rather than only focusing on presenting symptoms.
There are different approaches to understanding mind-body integration. Some researchers argue that body-mind integration is crucial in the medical field, since patients don’t feel an obvious division between their bodies and their minds. Thus, physicians shouldn’t make diagnoses that separate the mind from the body (Davidsen et al., 2016).
The importance of the mind-body connection may be a growing psychological phenomenon. But Scripture reveals this is not a novel concept. God purposely designed the mind and body to share an intimate connection. Listen to some of the ways the Bible articulates this interaction.
From these verses, it is clear that emotions find expression through the body. Stress and grief cause the body to waste away. The body internalizes shame and sadness over personal sin. Anxiety isn’t limited to the mind but is felt by the body as well. Scripture shows what we think bears on how we feel.
I entitled this post, mind your body. By that, I mean pay attention to the way emotions impact your physical wellbeing. And shocker, like most of my posts, I have personal experience with this. Over the years, I have not minded my body well. I’ve written about some of those times previously, but I wanted to share another instance. Years ago, I was in a job that I loved that also created a lot of stress for me. I didn’t cope with it well and internalized most of it. Over time, my body responded. I had constant headaches, neck pain, high blood pressure, and occasionally broke out in hives.
While getting treatment for tension headaches, I was told to pay attention to what my body did throughout the day. I noticed two major coping mechanisms. The first came whenever I felt stressed. I would press my tongue onto the roof of my mouth as a release for the emotions I experienced. The second manifested at other times when I wasn’t directly feeling stressed. In those times, I would contract and elevate my left shoulder. These two little stress expressions caused body aches for years. I’m still on guard against them today.
So, how are you minding your body? Take a minute to assess yourself with the following questions. Perhaps, you’ll realize some ways in which your emotions are causing problems for your body.
Is your body tense?
How is your breathing?
What is your body alignment?
Is your body telling you to eat or drink?
Alternatively, the mind and body can positively impact one another. Scripture speaks to this truth as well.
Trusting the Lord and obeying him can lessen the bodily burdens experienced by living in sin and shame. Physical health reflects soul health. When we’re thriving emotionally, spiritually, and mentally, our bodies generally reap the benefits.
God lovingly created the interconnection between mind and body. Meant to enhance our human experience, it is an interaction fundamental to who we are as embodied image-bearers. Inevitably, we will feel our feelings. So in these challenging times, I encourage you to glorify him in your body (1 Corinthians 6:20) by cultivating an awareness of the interplay between mind and body.