The brain is part of the body – no discussion there. Scientists, philosophers and religious leaders debate if ‘the body and mind’ are separate entities, or connected. Does one influence the other – or – are they independent? Why does this matter when we talk about lifestyle changes? If you have a bad day, you are likely to toss and turn and sleep doesn’t come easy. You wake up feeling depleted of energy and reach for a coffee to get going. Instinctively the body and mind question doesn’t seem so hard to understand. You feel bad, you don’t sleep well, and energy levels are low as a result. The feeling is the mind, and the sleeping part the body, right?
Body and Mind – Separate or Connected?
The mind is about mental processes, thought and consciousness. The body is about the physical aspects of the brain-neurons and how the brain is structured. The mind-body problem is about how these two interact. One of the central questions in psychology (and philosophy) concerns the mind/body problem: is the mind part of the body, or the body part of the mind? If they are distinct, then how do they interact? And which of the two is in charge?
Dualism and Monism – two schools of thought
In simplistic terms, there are two overriding schools of thought that have influenced religion, philosophy, physiology and also lifestyle change arguments. Dualism: meaning ‘two’ or separate. Body and mind are independent of each other – and in this sense that the world can be divided into two entities – mind and matter. It is also the view that we are ruled by opposing forces of ‘good’ and ‘evil’, and that humans have two basic needs the physical and the spiritual. Most western thoughts are based on the dualism principles. We can see that from the thought process whereby there are differences – distinctions where people are separated from each other, from nature, and from divinity. Competing systems, right or wrong, ‘mind over matter’. Social grouping (class system), Cold war (countries), North – South divide (development/aid). Dualism from a lifestyle perspective means that body and mind are two separate entities, and not connected or interdependent. A famous ‘dualist’ was Rene Descartes who said:
I think; therefore I am. Rene Descartes
Monism: meaning ‘one’ or whole. Body and mind are dependant of one another – and is parts of a whole. The body and mind are one unity. The world is a system in need of balance, and the journey to get there an ongoing one. One is dependant on the other to make it one whole system in balance. The thought processes are not of opposing, or competing – they are a unit. Most eastern or pre-christian thought schools have a basis in monism, and examples are: Yin and Yang, Buddhism, Native American, Nordic mythology, idealism and ‘new age’ thinking. Reaching of the goal is not a goal, but striving for balance in an ongoing journey to reach a higher plateau of existence. Monism from a lifestyle perspective would imply that if your ‘mental’ state is not well, your body will also be affected – and that you can positively change how you ‘feel’ by making changes to how you treat you body and you mind – and both will reap the rewards as a result. Bertrand Russell belonged to the Monist school of thought, and said:
The time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time. Bertrand Russell
What approach do you take – Diet pill or Lifestyle change?
The Human Body Systems and the central nervous system, the brain are part of the body – and are in this sense the physical side. What many consider is that the body is separate from the mind – and as long as ‘I think, therefore I am‘ – I exist, and as such feel good. You say to yourself ‘Never mind’ – as the mind has nothing to do with how you’re feeling – take an aspirin, and continue with your task!
Many now consider body and mind as part of a unit – and that one can not feel well without the other? Why is it important to look at these schools of thought when we are talking about lifestyle change? Actually – Just look at what makes our bodies work, function and flow ,the Human Body Systems, and compare that with what we read in magazines daily. ‘
The Best Diet Pill!’ versus ‘Health for Body and Mind’ – which ones do you believe speaks to you? Did you ever try a diet, but did not address exercise? Or did you go into a Fitness drive, but did not change how you ate? Or – have you ever felt low – and tackled that with a drink and bag of crisps? How long did the diet, fitness fad take – and how long did it last? And – did the drink fix your bad day?
Body, Mind and Spirit
In the above concepts the question of ‘the spirit’ comes in to question too. The word ‘Spirit’ comes from Latin and means ‘breath’. It has many different meanings and connotations. Spirit is often used to describe ‘consciousness’ or ‘personality’. The word is also used when talking about soul, as a contrast with a living body.
Today the concept of body, mind and soul are often spoken about as dynamically inter related – and that changes that are introduced at one level has a ripple effect throughout the whole unity – body, mind and spirit. The result is a balanced healthy life.
Finally – and most importantly perhaps – spirit is directly linked to faith. Faith can mean that you follow a religious belief, but it can also simple mean that you believe. You trust that you will get reach a set goal, that the journey there might be hard – but because you have faith you will get there.
“Where there is evidence, no one speaks of ‘faith’. We do not speak of faith that two and two are four or that the earth is round. We only speak of faith when we wish to substitute emotion for evidence.”Bertrand Russell
Both thinkers above are juxtaposing faith or belief, with evidence. Do we need evidence to believe? The Human Body Systems and their scientific connections is evidence. The new research which shows how the mind and moods improve from a change in lifestyle is also clear evidence.
From a lifestyle change perspective – do you believe that a diet is going to really work this time? Or – do you have faith that changing your lifestyle in all its interconnected parts (body, mind and spirit) – will trigger permanent changes that becomes habits that lasts?
- Mind/Body Problem (nataliebitter.wordpress.com)
- The Soul – Keith Ward (bloggingtheology.wordpress.com)
- Mind, Brain, Consciousness and Quantum Physics (socyberty.com)