The Mind-Body-Soul Connection: What Is Your Symptom Trying to Tell You?

 “The human body is the best picture of the human soul.”
— Ludwig Wittgenstein, philosopher.

As I listen to people struggling with their illnesses or physical discomforts, I continue to be amazed that most do not make the connection between how they live their lives and their physical health. It seems so obvious to me that dealing with a physical ailment is a great opportunity for self-reflection and life-affirming changes.

Treatment approaches by conventional doctors separate the physical body from the mind, emotions, spirit and lifestyle. Scientific studies and integrative healthcare providers support the perspective that the body reflects our state of mind, emotions and lifestyle—our nutrition, relationships, physical environment, work and money, and spirituality. Using a “whole picture” approach, holistic providers assess what might be contributing to a symptom or sabotaging a healing.

With a commitment to listen to the body, we can learn from our symptoms. The body has wisdom to share with us if we are willing to look at a symptom in a broader context. Symptoms offer insight into whether we are out of harmony with our deepest values and out of touch with our emotions. According to Calvin Banyan, author of The Secret Language of Feelings, emotions play a crucial role in ensuring that our needs are met. If feelings are ignored, our subconscious mind finds another way to get its message across.

If you have chronic headaches (body symptom), your body may be trying to tell you it’s time to manage your stress better or face an unpleasant truth. This does not mean that you cause illness. The mind-body-soul connection is complex. But, when disease or physical and emotional discomfort happen, you have an opportunity to ask questions and discover more about yourself and your life.

While most doctors do not have the time to look into the broader context of a symptom or disease, you do. As a result of having a conscious conversation with your body, you may be able to discover the deeper emotions and issues trying to get your attention.

Turn a symptom into a signal:

Listening to the body takes commitment and awareness; and asking the right questions. These are some of my favorites:

  • What is my symptom trying to tell me? (For example, headaches may be associated with toxic self-talk, resistance, or work stress.)
  • What unexpressed or unresolved emotion is trying to get my attention? (Repressed anger can lead to high blood pressure, headaches or digestive disorders.)
  • What stressor needs to be addressed and resolved? (A challenging relationship, loss of job or a financial setback are a few highly stressful situations.)
  • What food or beverage is harming my body? (Soda and sugary drinks compromise the immune system and lead to obesity.)
  • What belief, attitude or assumption is making me sick? (“I have to do everything” needs to be replaced with “I can delegate more often.”)
  • What environmental toxic chemicals may be comprising my health? (Your home, workplace, community and food may be filled with toxic chemicals. Detoxify your body or eliminate exposure to these chemicals.)
  • What am I doing that is sabotaging my health? (Smoking, resisting what is, working too hard, avoiding a situation, and more–all work against healing and longevity.)

Books, blogs, workshops, the Internet and health care providers like myself are available to help you. A few books by world renowned experts on the mind-body-soul connection are listed below:

  • Your Body Speaks Your Mind: Decoding the Emotional, Psychological, and Spiritual Messages that Underlie Illness by Deb Shapiro;
  • Peace, Love and Healing: Bodymind Communication & the Path to Self-Healing by Bernie S. Siegel, MD;
  • You Can Heal Your Life and Heal Your Body by Louse Hay;
  • Magical Mind, Magical Body: Mastering the Mind/Body Connection for Perfect Health and Total Well-Being, by Deepak Chopra, MD.

Your physical health reflects your thoughts, emotions and lifestyle. A symptom may be an opportunity to get in touch with what you really want and inspire you to take action to have it. The more you are willing to turn a physical symptom into a message about yourself and your life, the easier it will be to live an authentic life, one filled with personal satisfaction and optimal health.

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