Our bodies are not only alive – they are lived! As a GP joining the Zest team to do psychotherapy, I have chosen to explain how my work fits in to the team by introducing some ground-breaking science that is changing both medicine and psychology!
Caring for the whole person has been my passion – so I have undertaken training in grief and loss and trauma to balance the biomedical training I had as an undergraduate. Science made a monumental historical mistake when it separated the mind and the body for study. Professions have grown up around that artificial divide.
In fact, the mind and body are not separate. They are amazingly interwoven in the dynamic experience of our lived bodies. These interconnections help us to adapt to our life stories and the world around us. They also help us to soothe and calm ourselves with both our mind and our body. Both words, poetry, music and meditation as well as comforting touch, walks by the sea, breaths of fresh air, warm bowls of soup and even dancing can help!
There is growing research into the impact of our life experience on our bodies – through changes in our immune system, our nervous system’s capacity to rest, and our stress system’s impact on cortisol, sugar management, and inflammatory processes. These impacts also affect the expression of our genes and the next generation – so stress and overwhelming experiences as well as relaxation and playful fun make a difference to our health.
There is also longstanding attachment research that confirms the importance to our body of the attuned presence and kind connection of other people in our lives. We are social mammals, and safe people help our whole system (mind and body) to settle, restore, heal and rest. A renowned psychophysiologist Stephen Porges says “the goal of civilisation is to be safe in someone else’s arms”, to feel safe when we are at rest. Our relationships and memories of connection also matter.
These amazing processes of connected soothing that happen when we are friendly towards our whole body, and self, in safe connected relationship with others can heal past pain and stress as well as help us in our day to day lives. An Australian psychiatrist Russell Meares says that our attitude to ourselves should be “tender reflective attention”.
So – my questions to you are
‘What kind rest are you going to offer yourself today?’ and
‘Who in your world is safe enough for you to reach out to for connection this week?’
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