In the intro, I mention that the subheading of this podcast is restoration of mind, body, and spirit after brokenness. I’d like to talk a little bit about the connection of these three today…the mind, the body, and the spirit. This is called the “tripartite” nature of man. Much like the divine Trinity, the three parts of a human make one being. Though distinct, the three parts of a person work together to live, exist, and interact with God and creation.
We can think of these elements - mind, body, and spirit - as the foundation of a three-legged stool. And as I said in the last episode (Episode #1 to be exact) if any one of these three are unhealthy or unattended, then there is an imbalance that will play out through one of the others. So what does that mean, and what does that look like?
Well, when psychologists talk about “psychosomatic” issues, they’re generally referring to the effects that the “psyche” (the mind) has on the “soma” (the body). Can I stop here a second and throw in a disclaimer? I am not a psychiatrist or psychologist. The information I’m going to be sharing with you today is from my own study, and just trying to understand how pain, grief, and trauma affects the brain by neuroplasticity. I will include some books that have impacted me deeply in the show notes.
So what is neuroplasticity? I’m so glad you asked. I think it’s fascinating! Neuroplasticity is defined as “the ability of neural networks in the brain to change their connections and behavior through reorganization in response to experience, new information, sensory stimulation, development, damage, or dysfunction.” Psychology Today adds, “Scientists sometimes refer to the process of neuroplasticity as “structural remodeling of the brain - the brain is wiring and rewiring itself constantly.” The article goes on to say, “The importance of neuroplasticity can’t be overstated: It means that it is possible to change dysfunctional patterns of thinking and behaving and to develop new mindsets, new memories, new skills, and new abilities.” Wow! This is why we are able to bounce back from an adversity or a traumatic event – it’s called resiliency. If this is true, and I believe it is, then the opposite must be true – The disruption of neuroplasticity (that ability to correct dysfunctional patterns of thinking and behaving) this disruption where there is quite literally a loss of synapses…of neural connection…caused by severe stress or adversity or trauma is characteristic of such conditions as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. In those disorders, people get stuck in neural ruts of negative thinking/feeling/behaving or fear-based memories.
Can you see now how important it is to attend to your mind – to what you’re thinking and believing? They are suggesting that such stress can turn off the synapses, get you stuck in neural ruts without the ability to change the way you’re thinking or feeling. It is crucial that you understand that the things that you believe (truth or not) affects how you think. And what you think influences how you feel..which influences how you act or don’t act…providing you with results that you like or maybe don’t like. But it all starts with what you believe. And if you’re believing lies, lie-based beliefs, then you’re stuck in a rut. Because the results you get from your actions will validate what you believed to be true, thus reinforcing your thoughts…to actions…to results. And the cycle starts all over again. You can see how you’d be digging a rut if you’re constantly operating out of negative beliefs...or lies. This is when it’s super important to get to a good psychotherapist to help you get out of the rut. And, let me put a plug in right here for an amazing therapy called EMDR – Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. It quite literally turns on the neuroplasticity to reorganize how your brain processes a past or present event that causes you stress...especially with regards to PTSD or trauma. I cannot recommend this therapy enough, friends. It has been a life-safer for me.
Ok, now imagine if how you’re thinking – what you believe to be true – affects your body - since there is a constant interaction between mind and body…one affecting the other…do you think your body would respond to / get in line with / what you’re believing?
I got an up-close look at the power of the mind over the body - how the will to live dictated how the body responded. I witnessed this first-hand as my dad was dying from metastatic prostate cancer. Maybe I’ll share that incredible story in another podcast one day, but suffices it to say, the will to live, that power within the mind, is a strong thing.
I’m also very well acquainted with the ugly truth that chronic bodily pain will wear you down, challenge your will to live, and question everything. The stress of it all can make the mind seem foggy, keep you from thinking straight. There are significant negative effects on the mind when told by doctors, “Your pain is all in your head.” Or “There’s nothing more we can do to help you.” There has to be a balance; some way to keep hopelessness from setting in from chronic pain. Again, a therapist is vitally important to help sort out truth from lies; to strengthen the mind.
But speaking of the body specifically, it is important to attend to what the body needs to function well. You know these. You’ve heard them most of your life: Good nutrition, deep, restful sleep, and exercise. One of the most powerful ways to encourage “plasticity” in the brain is physical activity. Aerobic exercise helps the brain as much as the heart. In the brain, it stimulates growth of new synaptic connections and bolsters the strength of signals transmitted from neuron to neuron. So say walking 45 minutes a day, 4 or 5 days a week will help your brain immensely. Exercise is proven to help alleviate stress. And let me tell you something I know a little bit about, personally. Stress, when unattended, will manifest itself in the body. It’s your “whole self” telling you “Help! We have a problem here!” For me, the 5 years leading up to my husband’s death was filled with stress, anxiety, and worry.
Here’s what happened in a general over-sweeping view: In 2012, Brian began to suffer from debilitating lower back pain that radiated down his buttocks and into his legs. After months of physical therapy, he had a fusion of several discs. We were told it would take about 6 months of healing before we knew for sure if the surgery was a success and relieved him of the pain. So we waited, holding our breath. Then, realizing the surgery didn’t fix his pain, and in some cases just exacerbated it, we’d spend the next 6 months trying to figure out what to do next. Unfortunately, we’d fall into this grueling pattern five times – five major surgeries! and each time the surgery was more extensive. In the meantime, my hair began to fall out, and I had severe episodes of my heart racing, along with an irregular heartbeat. After an echocardiogram, I was diagnosed with Mitral Valve Prolapse – a heart condition many people have but may not know about it until it rears its ugly head due to stress. I sure didn’t. But stress awoke the sleeping giant. Some people experience hives, other skin rashes, or even onset shingles due to stress. Stress can also manifest itself as pain in the body. Can you see now how cyclical the problem can be when you have pain – whether that’s physical or emotional – and your brain and body are trying to get your attention to act..and act quickly?…yet you’re not attending to it – giving it what it needs to heal – so it just keeps acting out. Like a toddler screaming for momma’s attention when she’s on the phone. Some of us know what that’s like, right. That’s exactly what your body is doing. So, it seems to me, that if there’s pain in the body, we should take an assessment of how our mind is doing, too. Is there a correlation between timing of bodily pain and stress? I’m not suggesting all pain is due to the mind trying to get your attention. But I have personal experience to tell you that it can and it does if you ignore it and refuse to attend to it. There’s a book I highly recommend. It’s called The Body Keeps The Score by Dr. Bessel Van Der Kolk. I’ve put the information to his book in the notes.
Ok. Oh, I wish I could see your hands when I ask this next question. Raise your hand if you have trouble falling asleep, or staying asleep, or waking feeling rested? Or all of the above? Well, we know that sleep is a master regulator of health. Research reveals that losing even just an hour of sleep a night increases risk of cancer, heart attack, stroke and type 2 diabetes. According to an article written by Pamela Weintraub, she quotes Dr. David Gozal, a sleep researcher from the Univeristy of Chicago, who says, “sleep deficit or disruption can create a wide-range of havoc, compromising our immune system, causing inflammation, and damaging our genes. Lack of sleep can also lead to memory loss, negatively affect people’s reflexes and decision-making skills, cause hearing loss and psychiatric disease. Everything from our health to our relationships to our sense of wonder gets diminished.” End quote. It sounds like to me, the amount of sleep and the quality of that sleep is something we need to pay attention to. I don’t think we realize just how much sleep affects our overall health. I’ve put a link to the article in the show notes that I encourage you to read.
I’d also encourage you to look into CBD oils. I’ve just gotten off a 3-year addiction (and yes, I was addicted) to Ambien, and I did it by taking CBD oils that are specific for sleep. Now, I wake up and I feel different, like I’ve just awoke from a sleep chamber. That’s the only way I know how to describe the feeling. But I know that I’ve slept deeply! I wake up now before my alarm even goes off, and I feel refreshed. No brain fog or sluggishness like I’d have for the first few hours waking up after taking Ambien. I know that I’ve had restorative sleep. And it feels good. If you’re interested in more information about CBD oils, I’ve added a link in the show notes. I highly recommend them, too!
And now, here we are at the third leg of the stool: the spirit.
The spirit is the element in humanity that gives us the ability to have an intimate relationship with God. It refers to the immaterial part of us that “connects” with God, who Himself is spirit (John 4:24). It is the human spirit that gives us a consciousness of self. It includes our intellect, emotions, fears, passions, and creativity. It is this spirit that provides us the unique ability to comprehend and understand through its own set of “senses ” - things like faith, hope, and prayer. (Job 32:8, 18). So, just as we need to feed our mind and feed our body to be well, we need to feed our spirit. We do this by engaging in activities that help us connect with God. These things include, but are not limited to, prayer, worship, and being in fellowship with other believers –- and most importantly, reading the Bible. Do you know, the Bible is the only book you’ll read where the author is always present with you when you read it. And, I love the acronym for the Bible: B.I.B.L.E - Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth. Reading the Bible daily helps to set your mind in the right frame, gives you strength to face the various trials and obstacles of the day, and gives you instructions on how to handle…well, just about everything this world could throw at you. Your spirit craves a connection with its Creator. And the more you are connected with Him, the more free you are to be exactly who He created you to be on this earth. All of our intellect, emotions, passions, and creativity becomes purposeful when we can understand our place in this world as we’re connected to God. Things begin to make sense. And in this connection is where we find direction & foundation to those “beliefs that form our thoughts that create our feelings, which dictates our actions.” It’s here, in this connection with God, that we can identify any lie-based beliefs and allow Him to change our hearts and minds. This is crucial! You were born with a spirit that has a sole purpose of connecting with your Creator. Real life is found here. Real hope. Real satisfaction and fulfillment are found in connection with God.
So there you go. Mind, Body, and Spirit…the tripartite nature of man. You were made with three distinct elements of your being that deserve your attention and, if I may say it, your affection. Restoration of mind, body, and spirit after brokenness will require us to attend to those areas that are holding us back as we embark on this journey to healing and wholeness.
Article by Pamela Weintraub
CBD Oil Information:
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Books to read:
The Body Keeps The Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel Van Der Kolk, M.D.
Anatomy of the Soul: Surprising connections between neuroscience and spiritual practices that can transform your life and relationships by Curt Thompson, M.D.
Getting Past Your Past: Techniques of EMDR therapy by Francine Shapiro, PhD
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