Muscular imbalances, tension and a lack of physical exercise.
“Intelligence is present everywhere in our bodies . . . our own inner intelligence is far superior to any we can try to substitute from the outside.” Deepak Chopra
There is a tendency in the modern age to break the whole into different parts.
The bee and the flower, the paint and the canvas, the table and the chair. Everything is separate; we do not see that the bee and the nectar are actually the same thing.
This is the vital for the study of science, which could not have developed into the force it is today without the close examination of different elements.
This is true for psychology. Modern psychology bases its foundation on the ideas of Rene Descartes, a Seventeenth century French philosopher and mathematician.
He is most known for his theory called dualism, which works upon the idea that the mind and the body are separate. This model has become widely influential as it aligns perfectly with the West’s inclination to separate things into parts.
We believe consciousness to be from our brain, we think that what we are is just what is inside our mind. The body, as Descartes leads us to believe, is just a vehicle, a carriage that runs after the engine. We give so little attention to the body that more than half of adults in Britain are overweight and less than five percentage exercise each day.
As a result, people have become stuck in their own heads, never allowing themselves to listen to their own body. The mind’s thoughts are a sense, just as taste and smell are a sense. Too much weight has been given to our thoughts and we have instead chosen to ignore the intelligence of our body. The skin breathes, the heart thinks, the muscles tense and the organs feel emotions. But, many of us have yet to recognise this because we are all too concerned with the analysis of our mind. Heart rate, blood pressure, body tension, facial expressions; the physical state and actions of the body are being shown to have a direct impact on how we think, feel, and even behave.
Psychologists examine the brain and inform the public about the best treatments for depression, anxiety or any other mental illness, which are often drugs or therapy practice. Immense strides have been made and many lives have been changed.
But, it seems the problems are only becoming more widespread and deeper for we have only been treating one side of the octagon.
The sedentary lifestyle many of us lead, sitting behind a desk, our shoulders rolled forward and heads slumped in the chair, is wholly unnatural. Days of inactivity in this position causes gradual but enormous tension in the shoulders and the neck. The muscles in these areas become so tight that the head and shoulders will begin to curl forward, imitating the posture you have when thrown over the desk at work.
Now, notice what happens when you become anxious or stressed. The response of the body is to tighten the muscles in the neck, the back and the shoulders.
However, because of our sedentary lifestyle, the muscles in these areas are already tense, causing our posture to deteriorate. This means many people suffer from anxiousness and have depressed moods as the pressure in their body causes heightened feelings of fear and inferiority.
Tightness in the neck also makes it difficult to breathe properly. Most people take short stabs of breath throughout the day, but this is not healthy. A shortness of breath is another response to the disturbance of the stable state. This breathing pattern means many people are walking around constantly on the brink of an anxiety response. Depression is also tied to breathing since the restriction of the natural breathing pattern causes the entire body to ‘depress’. That is to say, the body is not being allowed to express itself in the way that it wants.
Tension must be relieved by opening up the body, by expressing the forces we have repressed for so long. Physical exercise, stretching, especially the neck, shoulders, solar plexus and hips, yoga and active meditation are powerful tools to reconnect with the body and become aware of its pulse.
Bioenergetics is an interesting trend, one that I have yet to discover, but is apparently well thought of.
Daily stretching and body weight exercises are a good place to start. You should be able to feel which muscles are tight by the degree of pain. For tight muscles, hold the stretch for longer than usual, minimum around one minute.
Actively engaging in any exercise will relieve tension in the body. Even the act of breathing heavily after a run or a walk will relax tightness in the jaw and the muscles around the face.
The point here is if you relieve the stiffness and rigidity in your muscles, your state of the mind will also improve. The mind is the body; anything you do with your body will affect the mind. The same is true for diet, which I will write about another time.
Thank you for reading!
Harry J. Stead
Relieving Tension In The Body To Improve The State Of Mind was originally published in Personal Growth on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.