The Mind Body Connection

The most commonly held view is to consider the mind as something distinct and separate from the body, however a growing body of research is showing that in fact your entire body is used in the thinking process.

The sensations and experiences generated from your body have a wide range of emotional and psychological effects; from shaping your sense of self, through influencing your willpower and degree of conformity, to your thinking about topics as abstract as mathematics or language.

Put simply the brain does not act independently of the body, and by learning to tune into and take advantage of this partnership between your mind and body you can improve your creativity, enhance your memory, and develop your self control.

Studies on Mind Body Research

Research published in the PLoS One Journal earlier this year by Henrik Ehrsson gives a striking example of how the mind body relationship can affect our thinking. By placing plastic bodies in front of volunteers, and simultaneously stroking a brush over both the plastic bodies arm and the volunteers own arm, which was positioned out of their view, they were able to trick their minds into believing that the plastic body was their own.

By repeating this set up with plastic bodies of different sizes, the researcher team were able to compare the volunteers perceptions of the size of objects in their immediate environment. When Ehrsson sat behind a volunteer whose mind had been tricked into believing it inhabited a body only 30 cm tall, they reported “they had the sense that a giant body was nearby." This suggests that our awareness of our body affects how we interpret the visual information provided by our eyes.

Another study conducted by Manos Tsakiris at Royal Holloway, University of London, discovered that by stroking someone's face in a synchronised pace with the image of a random face being stroked on a computer screen, the volunteer will feel the image is actually their own reflection.

The processes at work behind this clever illusion may be the reason why the ‘mirror and matching’ rapport techniques used in many communication courses such as Neuro-Linguistic Programming are so effective

How about a really simple example you can test at home?

Most people believe that you smile because you feel happy, but in fact the reverse is also true. Try it out for yourself spend just 10-20 seconds smiling and you’ll notice that you actually feel happier as a result!

Now influencing emotions and perceptions is one thing, but what about Mathematics or Language? How can thinking about these be shaped by the sensations from our body?

Our mathematical thoughts seem to be linked to our sensations of movement of our body, for example if you ask someone to think of a random number while looking down and to the left it is much more likely to be smaller, and if you get them to look upwards and right the numbers will be bigger! As a little ‘mind control’ tip you can use this to influence someone choice by gesturing in one of these directions while asking them to think of a number!

Even more powerful than this, is the link between language and the meanings that words represent. Whenever we hear a word, the region of the brain assocaited with that action activates. For example when we hear the word "running", the brain fires up the same neural regions that trigger our muscles when we are actually running.

Research based on this idea has found that young children learn much quicker, when they act out what they are reading. Their minds seem to link the words and the physical actions making them easier to recall.

See how to put the mind body association to good use by improving your creativity and willpower.


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