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The Mind-Body Connection: Body Before Mind

mind-body connection

As I think about the mind-body connection, I remember a friend of mine that told me about the advice he got when he first entered therapy. After filling out the usual forms, the doctor turned to him and asked, “How may I help you?” My friend replied, “I don’t know where to begin.” And the doctor wisely said, “Pull any loose thread—it’s all one knot.”

The mind-body connection started as a survival tool. And as his doctor suggested, you can use it today in your work. Your personal life. Your relationships. Not just to survive, but to thrive.

There is a real mind-body connection. And it happens in that order. Body sensations come first. Then our minds follow. Humans have had thousands of generations to get it right. Is that shadow in the bushes a threat? Think first and your late great-great-great-uncle probably became a saber-toothed tiger’s lunch. Our ancestors learned to “run first, think second.”

Our mind-body connection continues today. But we forget the body part of the relationship. Seven hours of classroom learning a day. Five days a week. Just 45 minutes of gym twice a week. No wonder we’ve forgotten there is a mind-body connection. So here is my tip: Are you confused, upset, distressed, annoyed, or any of a hundred different emotions? Tune into your body. What are you feeling and where are you feeling it?

Is there a knot in your stomach? Do not avoid the sensation. Focus on it. What does that knot look like? Where is it located? Is it deep in your gut—or closer to your heart? Talk to it. (Seriously.) Ask it why it is there. You will be surprised how often an answer will pop into your head.

Can you breathe into it? Take a deep breath and picture the air you inhale going right to the knot. Notice the knot loosen. And notice your mind calm down as well. Most of us who work in an office have spent our lives training our brains…and have ignored the role our bodies play in the process. If you start to tune into that body-mind connection, you will change the way you think and feel.

The Fight-or-Flight Response

You’ve heard many people talk about the “fight or flight response.” We are hard-wired to look for danger and threats. Anything that sets off an alarm in our lizard brain will trigger a physical reaction. And given the body-mind connection, it will trigger an emotional reaction, as well. Except for monks, none of us works in a monastery. We see the emotional reactions of people around us all the time. We probably notice our own emotional reactions, as well. Even if we don’t like to admit it.

There is nothing to be ashamed or afraid of. It is all part of being human. But the people we most admire have the ability to manage the emotions and physical sensations at the moment. We can frequently get lost in the flood of negativity that takes us down a nasty spiral. When we spiral, not only do we feel bad about ourselves, we also get further away from our goals.

One of my pleasures is working with top athletes on the mental side of their game. I love helping them defeat the hardest opponent they meet: Themselves. Time and again I have seen top athletes sabotage themselves with their own thoughts and doubts. But the very elite performers have one indispensable skill: They have learned how to let it go.

Do world-class athletes lose their tempers? All the time. In every sport. Whether it’s a tennis racquet smashed on the net or a baseball bat was thrown in disgust, we have all witnessed the best players lose their cool. But by the next point or their next at-bat, it’s as if it never happened. The best performers learn how to let it go in the moment.


There is more to the body-mind connection. It includes the spirit, as well. I do not mean that in a “California woo-woo” sense. I mean your mood. Your attitude. The way you relate to and treat other people. Think about people you know who are successful and accomplished. Think about people who are loved and respected by their peers and their teammates. One thing you will notice about them is they have nurtured all three aspects of their well-being. Their minds. Their bodies. And their moods (or spirit).

There is nothing new in what I’m telling you. It is interesting to note how different “experts” or “masters” come at the body-mind connection from different directions. Yoga instructors tell you to work on the body in order to heal the mind and the spirit. Some therapists will tell you to work on your mind to heal your body and your spirits. Religious leaders say caring for your spirit will heal your body and mind. If you go to a spiritual healer, chances are their practice focuses on one of those three doors to your entire well-being.

When you put it all together, I am talking about your personal road map to becoming the best person you can be. In every aspect of your life. You can be a better manager. You can be a better teammate—at work and at sports. And it can make you a better parent or spouse. The “it” is your own ability to manage your own body-mind connection. So what are you waiting for?

How is your mastery under pressure? Take the QUIZ to find out now…

Tina Greenbaum
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