Photo courtesy of Smth Criminal29
In my youth, anytime I scraped my knee or found myself sick in bed with the flu, my grandmother would very assertively tell me, ”It’s mind over matter, girl! Keep your head on straight and you’ll be just fine.” As a child, I was more interested in receiving pity instead of advice about how to be mindful, but now that I’m an adult, I look back at that time and am quite impressed with my grandma’s forward thinking. I also count myself very lucky to have been the recipient of such meaningful advice at such a young age.
Indeed, she was right – the power of the mind is nothing short of extraordinary. It has even been credited with saving lives. In fact, it has been said that the mind is a wonder-drug that can be used to treat a variety of medical conditions. The best thing about this particular medicine is that it’s free and easily accessible.
Studies show that practicing meditation and being mindful in general can help patients prepare for and recover better from some risky procedures, including quadruplebypass surgery! By gaining control over your mind, you learn how to keep your body relaxed, which in turn lowers your blood pressure and the amount of cortisol in your body. Cortisol is a chemical caused by stress that can lead to inflammation, impaired healing and an increased response to pain.
Another positive effect of living mindfully and meditating is an increased endorphin level. Much like a ‘runner’s high’ – you can experience the same pleasant feelings when you stay in the now and focus on controlling your brain’s responses. Along with more endorphins, you can also look forward to an increased level of GABA (Gamma aminobutyric acid) – a very important neurotransmitter that is responsible for keeping your moods regulated. Without enough GABA, you’ll end up experiencing anxiety, insomnia, bad moods, and in rare cases, epilepsy.
Some people simply don’t ‘buy in’ to the idea that we have the ability to control our minds to such extreme extents. Those people are usually the ones shown to have much higher levels of anxiety and chronic pain. To make matters even more interesting, one study divided participants into two groups – those who mindfully meditated regularly, and those who didn’t meditate at all. All participants were hooked up to fMRI brain scanners and then asked to put their hands into extremely hot water. The amazing thing is that the group of people who reported living mindfully showed up to 50% less activity in the areas of the brain associated with pain responses.
The concept of ‘mind over matter’ usually refers to the act of gaining control over our mind’s response to pain or illness. Another phenomenon that some people feel is a matter of mind over matter is superior athletic ability. Is it nature, nurture, or a combination of both? Is it possible that all it takes is the right mindset in order to become an Olympic gold medalist?
While the jury’s still out on that one, there’s definitely enough proof to show that by living mindfully, meditating regularly, and being closely in touch with your body and mind, you have the potential to live a much happier, healthier, and longer life. If you ask me, that sounds like a pretty sweet deal.