The Mind Body Connection of Emotions

Apr 13, 2015

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Have you ever felt “a shiver down your spine” when you got excited or “butterflies in your stomach” when you were nervous? Well, you may not have been too far off.

A recent study by a team of scientists in Finland has found that “emotional states are associated with topographically distinct and culturally universal bodily sensations.”

Basically, we don’t just experience emotions in our minds; we also FEEL them in very specific places in our bodies. This demonstrates that emotions are not just something created by the brain, but they have an important effect on our physical health.

Twitter_logo_blue icon Instant Tweet: We don’t just experience emotions in our minds; we also FEEL them in very specific places in our bodies.

The researchers conducted five experiments on more than 700 participants, who used a topographical self-reported method to show where on their bodies they felt different emotions, and published the findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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This research is another great example of the connection between the mind and the body, and the power of the brain to impact other aspects of our physical being. Our brain sends signals to the body as we deal with certain situations, causing certain physiological changes; and in turn, these sensations in our bodies could also be helping the mind to recognize what emotions we are having.

So, this type of research could help explain why we can take certain actions to influence how our brains react to different scenarios. Here are some ways these can apply to your daily life:

  • Get happy – By making an effort to smile, your facial muscles cue your brain to experience a positive emotion, because your brain cannot tell the difference between a genuine or posed smile. So, the physical action of smiling can actually improve your mood and  make you feel more “happy,” as mentioned in a previous post.
  • Understand others – Having this information allows us to comprehend how our actions and words also have an impact on others physically, not just causing emotional pain. With this in mind we can develop empathy towards others and create a more positive environment.
  • Just breathe – I have written about the power of breathing mindfully, and this research further shows how our mind and body are connected. So, when you are feeling overwhelmed, anxious or just need a break, you can have a tremendous change in your physiology by just taking a few minutes and breathing deeply. (Stay tuned for an upcoming blog post focused on breathing and stress relief!)

Thus, our brain and body are constantly giving us important information about our current “status,” so to speak. If we are more mindful by paying more attention to what we are experiencing moment to moment, we gain a greater understanding about ourselves and others to better deal with different situations.

Image credits: NChantre via Flickr and Figure 2 from PNAS

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