Shifting thinking on health, wellness, and happiness
You are a body. 🤯
You are many things, and no doubt have many ways you label yourself.
But I’d be curious to know how much you identify with being your body as opposed to having your body.
Let’s go a little deeper with that.
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Most of us have been raised with the idea of mind and body as separate; and often that the mind is controlling the body. The body is the work horse and the mind is driving it around. This partitioning is the way most people think about and relate to their bodies. Except…
Mind/Body Dualism is a Myth
Going back to at least the 17th Century, the framework that you “are” a mind that “has” a body is largely false. Here are a few examples I can point to:
Most of your serotonin (“happy hormone”) is produced in your digestive tract
Your sensitivity to that serotonin and speed of production are both increased by exercise/physical activity
Both of the above are ways that physical activity affect mood and our sensitivity to positive emotional experiences. But wait! There’s more!
Dopamine (a hormone of focus) can be boosted through physical activity
You can use both breathing techniques and vision manipulation to calm the nervous systems when agitated
All 4 examples are times when the state of the body can be manipulated to directly change the experience of the mind. Another perfect example: being hangry. Happens to me all the time and the moment I get food in my body my mind is calm and clear again.
What does this have to do with happiness?
Positive Psychology, the scientific study of human wellbeing and flourishing, was largely started by cognitive psychologists and data analysts looking to use their gifts to better the world. Which is lovely in many ways.
The foundations of traditional psychology was also largely started by men of affluence in academia looking for solutions to human mental suffering. Both disciplines have largely focused on the mental processes of what it means to be a human being and used those tools - talking, writing, reading, and thinking our way through our problems.
As much as I adore and admire Martin Seligman, his original ideas on Positive Psychology leave out an important factor: you have a body.
Taking that one step farther: your relationship with and the condition of that body will have a direct impact on your experience of your mind.
One last little bit: everything you’ll ever do in your life happens through a body - so that bodies state of being directly impacts your meaning, purpose, fulfillment, and every thing you will ever do.
All Wellbeing is Embodied
Fortunately, some practitioners know all of this all too well.
In the recent documentary Stutz, Jonah Hill sits down with his own therapist to talk about his life, their work together, and The Tools. The first thing Stutz recommends to most of his patients: take care of your body.
It was the first time I’d heard a mental health practitioner start from embodiment and I think my heart exploded.
Our disposition, relationship to one another, thoughts, dreams, emotional awareness - everything about the human experience happens through and with our bodies. Meaning every opportunity for joy, connection, love, contribution, presence, purpose, clear thought, inspiration, and insight can all be effected by our physical state.
I recently had Stefan Underwood as a guest on the Better Than Fine podcast and he shared a vision for readiness: that we care for our physical state so we can be ready to show up fully in the moment’s that matter most.
What’s that really look like?
And how to grow it for yourself?
Inputs & Outputs
To me, embodied wellbeing is a recognition not only that you’re a holistic, integrated human being, but also that the state of your body directly impacts what you’re here to accomplish in your life. Whatever sense of mission, purpose, or meaning you have is limited or emboldened by the relationship with and state of your physical body.
Want to connect more richly?
Want to create more easily?
Want to feel more vital?
Want to be more positive or optimistic?
Want more purpose? Joy? Passion?
All of those can be more readily accessible depending on your state.
Your state of mind can be influenced by your state of embodiment.
The above are outputs, and are influenced by your inputs:
Movement, both routine and specific to the moment
Sleep hygiene and habit
Regulating your nervous system through movement, breathing, cold exposure, and vision cues
Nutrition, including food timing, meal makeup, and your unique hormonal states
Soft tissue work - foam rolling, massage, acupuncture, cupping, etc
Interoception - your relationship, connection, and ability to interpret feedback from your body
Working on one of these areas?
Want some help and support?
Here’s a list of all the free 101 guides on this Substack.
I am a firm believer that each of us has a unique set of gifts, skills, strengths, and insights to contribute to the world. (You can call me a dreamer or an idealist. I’m okay with that.) I also firmly believe that in order for human potential to be truly unlocked we must make it possible for each of us to meet our foundational needs, connect with our aligned self, and then have the ability to express that contribution and purpose.
Many of those foundational needs start in our embodiment - our physical self.
Learning how to consistently meet those needs, first on a foundational level then learning more completely about ourselves, changes our ability to show up fully in the world. To realize our potentials. To contribute to what matters most to you.
To be fully embodied, and then to thrive.