Mental health week began being observed in Canada in 1951. Since then, with our society becoming more complex, especially in interrelating, mental health challenges have grown. Our understanding of mental health has grown as well.
Evolutionary biologists have posited that the human brain developed over thousands of years into the complex organ that it is today.
And the mind has evolved over the same time but not isolated within our skulls but in social interaction. Dan Siegel states that the human mind exists not in the brain but within and between people.
This is why something like lockdowns are so detrimental to our mental and physical health.
You can’t solve a problem from the same level of thinking that created it. And yet we seem to be doing just that, colonizing the earth for its limited resources of lithium for batteries, dredging the bottoms of oceans for sand to make microchips and creating cities in deserts. All of these approaches strive to solve a problem but they end up creating new problems such as drought, destruction of ecosystems and climate change.
But I digress:)
Mental health can not be helped by using just our minds. The human mind is a vast step forward and at the same time has become our biggest detriment. The reason being is that we think so much that we don’t even notice anymore when we are thinking. It’s so second nature that it has become primal nature, overriding the primal nature of breathing, sleeping and digesting.
I’ve had many people tell me over the years “I forget to breath” or “I can’t turn my mind off at night and I don’t sleep well”. This is basic health 101. If you’re not breathing, your brain cells and heart cells and kidney cells etc. are not getting enough Oxygen and you’re not ridding the body of Carbon dioxide. And you wonder why you don’t have more energy? It must be because you’re getting older:). If you can’t “turn your mind off” and can’t sleep well, your body’s ability to recover and restore after a stressful day is negatively impacted. It’s going to catch up to you sooner or later.
The Problem and the Solution is that we disconnect from our bodies. We become disembodied. We become like a head that just happens to have a body attached to it.
The solution to improving mental health is to use our bodies in conjunction with our minds. Our basic survival tools such as breathing, turning stores of energy into useable fuel, movement and what we choose to put our attention on don’t just help us survive. They can be used to embody our thoughts, feeling and emotions more, creating a whole experience.
Embody rather than “process”
Lately the word “process” is being used increasingly to describe the act of feeling, thinking and emoting after a stressful event. “I just need some time to process this before I can look at anything else”. I really don’t like the word “process”. Computers have processors, they process bits of information. We embody our experiences both digitally and holographically. The Mind works digitally and the body works holographically. Together, they create an embodied experience where all the information (thoughts, feelings and emotions) are experienced together. The brain can take all of this synchronized information and learn and adapt.
If someone is using their mind only and is not connected to their body, they will have an incomplete experience and will continue having unresolved thoughts, feelings and emotions from the past. This I believe is the basis of PTSD and our current challenges in mental health.
How can you be more embodied?
There are so many ways of becoming more embodied. The care that we provide at the Happy Spine is one of many ways: others include meditation, yoga, chi gong and tai chi, somatic experiencing, somatic breathing and ecstatic dance. All of these activities are designed to have you pay attention to your breath, movement, energy and focus. They help to exercise and stimulate the brain through the body.
The fact is that anything that we do in a day can become a more embodied experience, from eating breakfast to having a bowel movement, making love to going for a walk. Engaging with our bodies is the key. Increasingly we live in a society that competes for our attention. Companies now have the ability to reach us in our most intimate and private spaces such as the bathroom.
Mental health challenges will only start to improve when we put away the watches and the phones and we start to live a more embodied life.