Last week I shared my article on the mind-body connection is and how meditation can strengthen it. You can read it here if you missed it. But do you know how and why meditation works? If not, this post is for you.
To explain how meditation works I need to get scientific. Hang in there though, as I will keep my explanations as simple as possible.
Our brains aren’t static. The brain you were born with is not the same brain that you have today. It has been adapting and changing over the years. New pathways are created in response to our changing thoughts, feelings and experiences. This means we can train our brain to change by the way we think and mindful practices that we adopt.
To understand how meditation works you need to have a basic understanding of four key areas in the brain. These four areas are:
The Medial Pre-Frontal Cortex: This area of the brain processes information related to self. It’s the part of the brain that ‘is all about you’. It causes you to over-analyse yourself, your relationship to others and your everyday life. It worrys, relives experiences and creates stories. It is also the area that causes you to take things too personally. In essence it is your subjective self.
The Lateral Pre-Frontal Cortex: This area is rational, logical and balanced. It assures you that your fears aren’t real and it helps you to not take things so personally. It is your objective self.
The Insula: This area monitors your body sensations. It is where you experience gut feelings from. It acts as a guide to how you react to what you sense in your body. If your Insula is on overdrive you are more likely to go into a panic if you wake with tingling in your arm. You think you are having a heart attack. If modulated you realise you just slept on it funny and the tingling will resolve in a minute or two.
The Amygdala: This area is responsible for fear and for the fight-or-fight response. When you hang out in Fear Town you hang out here. It is the part of your brain that initiates how you respond to stressors in your life.
Now we know what these four areas do, lets talk about what is going on in the brain of a person who doesn’t meditate. Strong pathways run between the Medial Pre-Frontal Cortex, the Insula and Amygdala. This means you are more likely to stress, worry, panic or overthink it. Or keep thinking about it!
For example, your boss leaves you a message on your phone asking you to call him on your day off. If the connections between these areas of you brain are strong you start creating a story about why. You might start panicking that you are going to get fired or that he is going to cut your hours.
It also means that the drunken monkeys who spend all day chattering away in your head tend to be louder. They tell you that you aren’t pretty enough or funny enough because that guy hasn’t text you.
Now lets talk about the pathways in the brain of someone who meditates daily (even if it’s just for 10 minutes).
What happens is simple. The strong connection between the Medial Pre-Frontal Cortex, Insula and Amygdala breaks down. The connection between the Lateral Pre-Fontal Cortex, the Insula and Amygdala then strengthens. It has also been proven that the Amygdala itself (or Fear Town) begins to shrink.
This is why people describe feeling less stressed, anxious and emotional when they meditate. The logical and rational brain modulates the areas of the brain setting off signals of fear.
Instead of thinking you will get fired when your boss calls, you return the call. You realise there is no point worrying about something that hasn’t happened yet. You stop looking at your phone because you know that guy is at work and he said he’d call you in the evening.
In a nutshell you think and act calmer. Your mind is clearer and more focused. You concentrate better and you don’t feel so much like a crazy person!
For these changes to happen though you need to be meditating regularly. Just like any other skill you want to require you have to set aside time, be committed and practice. It’s just like learning to play the piano or speak a new language. You have to turn up, do the work and be patient.
Now have a greater understanding of how mediation works it is up to you to make a commitment. A commitment to becoming calmer and more rational. If you don’t think you have ten minutes in your day to meditate then I have a challenge for you. Track how much time you spend each day on social media. And if it’s more than ten minutes I won’t you to ask yourself the question, ‘What is going to make me feel better’?
If you have enjoyed this article please feel free to sign up to my weekly letter. Here I provide more tips and advice on how to feel better physically, decrease stress and prevent burnout so you have more time and energy to create a business and life you love. It’s easy to sign up. Just click here and fill in your details. You will also receive my free eBook, ‘Breathe, Feel and Ask’ as my way of saying thank you.
Yours in Healing and Health,
PS. If you know anyone who you think would enjoy reading this post please share it with them. It may just be what they need to read right now.
Do you suffer from headaches or tight shoulders? Do you often feel anxious or suffer from digestive issues? Science is beginning to prove that there is a strong relationship between our mind and body. And that it’s the loss of connection between the two that may be the cause of our common physical symptoms.
Today I’m going to be talking to you about what the mind-body connection is. In today’s busy world many of us have lost the ability to understand the link between what we think and what we feel. I am also going to share with you one simple practice to help you begin to strengthen this connection again.
To get started I want you to take a moment to think about how your body feels in the following scenarios:
You’re about to go on a first date with the guy you thought was out of your league.
You are about to have an interview for a job you would love to get.
You are waiting for your meal at a restaurant you’ve heard nothing but rave reviews about.
You are about to submit a contract on your dream home.
You may experience butterflies in your stomach, a tight chest or sweaty palms. But these physical reactions tend to be transient. Once the situation is over your body goes back to it’s more relaxed state.
Now what if the scenarios were a little different? Take another moment to ask yourself how your body would feel in these situations:
Your in-laws are coming for dinner tonight. The kids are playing up, it’s 5pm, your husband is late home and the house looks like a disaster zone.
You are about to walk into a presentation for work. Your computer crashed late last night. You lost your whole presentation and you’ve only had two hours sleep because you had to rewrite it.
Life is busy. You have kids to get to school, a house to clean, meals to cook and a dog to walk. On top of that you have a part time job and you just volunteered to bake three items for the upcoming school fair. You found yourself saying yes to being on the PTA, your husband works late each night and you’re tired.
In these scenarios you are likely to be experiencing headaches and tight shoulders. Maybe digestive problems, fatigue or eczema.
When these symptoms are present in our body for a prolonged period of time they cause the most problems. But they are also the symptoms we have become disconnected from. Instead of making changes in our lives to eradicate them we pop a pill or keep pushing through.
These physical symptoms are important. They are our body’s way of sending us a message that something in our life is out of balance or not working. If you ignore them they will keep screaming at you louder and louder. Your body won’t stop until you either seek help or that niggle turns into chronic pain or illness.
So how can we begin to tune in and reconnect to the mind-body relationship? There are many different ways to do this, but I’m going to give you just one thing to do right now. Why? Because I don’t believe we can overhaul our lives all at once. It just causes more stress. I believe we need to try just one thing at a time. Commit to this practice and see if it works. If it does keep doing it. If it doesn’t, discard it and try the next thing.
This week I want you to meditate daily. Now, I can already hear you saying you don’t have time. This was an excuse I made for a long time as well. But it is only your ego’s way of trying to keep you stuck where you are. We can all find ten minutes in our day. It’s just ten minutes. That’s it. You just have to make the commitment to do it daily with no excuses.
So why mediation? There are two reasons I’m asking you to commit to this practice.
It will help you quiet your overactive mind. It will provide you with space to detach from your thoughts and just rest and relax. Imagine how nice that would feel, even for ten minutes a day.
It will help re-establish the connection between your mind and body. As you let go of the thoughts in your head you will begin to notice how your body feels. Your breathing may be shallow. Your shoulders may be up around your ears. Or you may realise that you are holding your body tight.
As you become aware of these signs in your body you can then let them go. Take deeper breaths. Relax your shoulders. Sink into your body.
This is the starting point of regaining a sense of balance. Of becoming more aware of what is working in your life and what isn’t. Of becoming conscious of what changes you need to make.
Now, if you are anything like me and my clients you may have tried meditation and found it hard to stick to. Often this is because our minds are always so busy. We find it hard to sit in silence without hundreds of thoughts popping in and out.
One of the ways I have been able to commit to a mediation practice is by using guided meditations. I have found that by having something to listen to it’s harder for my mind to jump all over the place. So I would recommend you start the same way.
At the moment I am using the ‘Breathe & Receive Meditation Album’ by Cassie Mendoza Jones. This album has seven chakra-inspired guided meditations to heal, balance and align. If you are interested in purchasing your own copy of this album you can do so by clicking on the picture below.
I would also recommend experimenting with meditating at different times of the day . I like to meditate first thing in the morning just before I head off to work. This may not work for you. You may find it easier to meditate after dropping the kids off to school. Or before you go to bed at night. When you find a time that suits your routine stick to it.
And if you have kids at home during the day? Great … get them involved as well. Create a mediation corner in your home. Turn it into a game. And if they jump all over you and make a bit of noise it doesn’t matter. There is not right or wrong way to meditate. I believe that mediation is an important life skill we can teach our children to do early on in their lives.
Over the next few weeks I am going to be talking more about how to establish a greater mind-body connection. I will also be teaching you how to make small but effective changes in your life that stick. If you are keen on following along the best thing to do is sign up to my weekly letters so you don’t miss a post. It’s easy to sign up. All you need to do is click here and fill in your details.
When you do you will also receive my eBook, ‘Breathe, Feel & Ask’. This is another great resource for beginning to strengthen your mind-body connection.
It’s now up to you. Are you going to commit to start healing your body? To learn how to quiet your mind and begin living a healthier, happier life? I hope you say yes!
I would also love to know what your favourite guided meditation is. So please let me know by posting in the comments below. And if you have loved this post please feel free to share it with your friends and family.
Yours in Healing & Health,
PS. I am an affiliate for Cassie’s mediation album. But only because I use it daily and am experiencing the benefits of it. I would never promote a product that I don’t use or fully believe in myself.
Kate Callaghan is a holistic nutritionist, personal trainer and lifestyle coach who also happens to live in one of my favourite places in the world – Wanaka, New Zealand. Kate specialises in hormone healing and it was her own journey from healing a body that was infertile (due to hypothalamic amenorrhea) that lead her to doing the amazing work she does today.
Kate helps women heal from hormone imbalances so that they can thrive, not just survive. She has also just published her first book and she tells us a little more about it in this interview. I know you will enjoy both Kate’s story and her message for you all.
For my readers who may not know you I’d love for you to start by telling us who you are, what you do and how you are making a big impact in the world right now.
I am an Australian holistic nutritionist, dietitian and personal trainer currently living in beautiful Wanaka, New Zealand, with my husband, daughter and cat (yes, I’m a crazy cat lady. I’d love a dog but we’re currently renting. Boo!). I specialise in women’s hormonal health – I help women optimise their wellbeing through food, movement, stress management and self-love for lifelong health, happiness and hotness!
I know that several years ago you were in a completely different space health wise than you are now. You describe yourself as having been a little ball of muscle with the ‘ideal’ body, but while you looked the part on the outside there was chaos inside. Can you tell us a little more about what was going on for you at this time, how you felt physically and emotionally, and how it was impacting your life?
Ahh yes – COMPLETELY different space! I was a group fitness instructor – exercising was what I did for a living, but I took it to the extreme and did not fuel my body appropriately (pretty hard to do when you’re doing up to 16 hours of hard-core exercise a week!). Basically my body fat was too low (that’s how I had a very definite six-pack for abs), I was under-eating, over-exercising and taking on too much psychological stress, which culminated in my reproductive system shutting up shop. I was diagnosed with hypothalamic amenorrhea which, in very simple terms, means my brain decided that is was not an ideal time for reproduction (as it sensed I was in a “famine” of sorts), so it shut off communication to my ovaries – my period stopped and I became infertile.
How did I FEEL? Well, despite having the “ideal” body, I felt like crap. I had low energy, no libido, I was moody – it wasn’t pretty. Emotionally I was a wreck. We wanted to start a family; however the doctors were saying that this would not be possible to do without medication….all because of how I had treated my body over the years.
This was obviously the catalyst for a huge change in lifestyle for you. Can you tell us about the healing journey you went through and how it has influenced the work that you do now?
Absolutely a huge kick in the rear-end! In order to heal from hypothalamic amenorrhea and restore my period I had to eat more, exercise less and manage my stress, which seems easy in theory, but in reality it was much harder. My body had, in a sense, become my identity. I was known as “abs” to some people. I had women coming up to me everyday asking how they could look like me.
Mentally, it was a huge hurdle to get over. However, my reasons for doing so were pretty significant – I was infertile, wanted to have a baby (at the age of 27), my bone density was not great and I didn’t want to find myself in a wheelchair with osteoporosis by the time I was 40.
So I made the changes – slowly, but surely. I cut down my exercise, I increased my food intake, and I incorporated daily stress management techniques. However the most important change I made, that made all of the other changes possible, was treating myself with love and respect – every single minute of every single day.
You have also just written a book, which is very exciting! Can you tell us about the book, whom you have written it for and how it is going to change the lives of those that read it?
YES! My book “Holistic Nutrition: Eat Well, Train Smart and Be Kind to Your Body” is all about how to get your hormones in their happy place by adopting simple strategies around food, movement, stress management and self-love for long-term health and happiness!
In my book you will discover that, whatever you particular goal might be – from boosting fertility, losing body fat, gaining some muscle, reducing bloating, sleeping better, increasing energy or not worrying all the time about what you are eating – you will need to understand and get control over your hormones.
Why? Because your hormones control pretty much everything in your body and brain – from how you look (including your ability to maintain a healthy weight), to how you feel, to how easily you fall pregnant. They can even play a role in whether you cruise or struggle through menopause. Hormones are the thing. You need to keep them happy if you want to be happy!
Who is it for? Women! All women! Seriously – there is not a single woman who has come into my practice (or even that I have met on the street) who has their hormone health sorted. There is a lot of misinformation out there and I want to help dispel it and provide realistic and sustainable alternatives (which means no more deprivation and no more self-hate).
What do you believe the ‘key’ to healing is?
Ooh – I think looking at things from a holistic point of view and nourishing yourself on all levels is really key. So that means nutrient-dense foods, biologically appropriate movement, daily stress management, good quality sleep and loads and loads of self-love and kindness.
Also realising that there is no “one-size-fits-all” – what works for Susie next door won’t necessarily work for you. And what works for Johnny down the road DEFINITELY won’t work for you (I talk about in my book how what works for men often does not work for women and what to do instead). It is also important to acknowledge that what works for you now might not necessarily work for you in the future. You need to be adaptable – listen to your body and don’t be afraid to change paths if your current one isn’t cutting the mustard.
If you could give my readers, who may be just starting out on their own healing journey, one piece of advice what would it be?
Start with self-love. Once you love and respect yourself everything else falls into place. If you do not love yourself you are not likely to nourish yourself with good food, kind thoughts, appropriate exercise and regular R&R. Start with self-love, people.
What truly inspires you in both your life and your work?
So much! I am inspired by the incredible journeys of my clients and the women who email me on a daily basis to tell me how happy (or pregnant) they have become as a result of treating their body better.
I am inspired by other women working in the same field as me.
I am inspired by my friends.
I am inspired by my daughter, Olivia – her complete and utter innocence, with so much potential. She inspires me every day to do better and to be better.
And if my readers would love to connect with you and support you in the work you do, where is the best place for them to start?
I would love that! I can be found here:
Facebook: The Holistic Nutritionist (@KateCallaghanNutritionist)
Thanks Nicola! Xx
Kate is a holistic nutritionist, dietitian, international speaker, personal trainer and mother of one, living in Wanaka, New Zealand. Kate is the author of “Holistic Nutrition: Eat Well, Train Smart & Be Kind to Your Body”. Having experienced hormonal chaos and infertility, and managing to heal herself naturally, Kate is passionate about healing women’s hormones and fast-tracking them to health, happiness and hotness through nutrient-dense foods, rejuvenating movement, unconditional self-love, and mindful and sustainable practices. You can find Kate through her website www.theholisticnutritionist.com, or via her social media:
Massage therapy is the manual manipulation of the soft tissues of the body. It helps heal and prevent pain, promote health and enhance well-being. I am a big advocate of massage therapy and always encourage my clients to make it an important part of their self-healing journey.
Not only is massage beneficial in helping heal the body, but also in preventing pain. In today’s busy and stressful world it is not uncommon to experience tight muscles, aches or pains. Often we only seek the help of a massage therapist when this tightness or pain becomes too much to handle. But regular massage therapy input is also incredibly beneficial for preventing these symptoms occurring in the first place.
There are many types of massage therapy including (but not limited to):
Swedish Massage: One of the primary goals of Swedish massage is to relax the body. It is one of the more gentle forms of massage and uses long strokes in the direction of the blood flow returning to the heart.
Deep Tissue Massage: This is similar to a Swedish Massage but deeper pressure is used. This deeper pressure is beneficial in releasing chronic muscle tension by focusing on the deepest layers of the muscle tissue, tendons and fascia.
Trigger Point Massage: A trigger point is an area of tightness (or a knot) within muscle tissue that causes pain to be felt in another part of the body. For example, a common place to have a trigger point is in the muscle that runs between your neck and shoulder. Two common symptoms that this trigger point can cause is neck pain and tension headaches. You may have also heard this called referred pain.
Hot Stone Massage: This massage promotes deep muscle relaxation by placing smooth, water-heated stones at key points on the body. The deep heat of the stones also helps relax muscles, reduce tension and increase circulation and metabolism.
My advice would be to experiment with these different types to see which gives you the greatest benefit. It is also important that you find a massage therapist you like, trust and who has your best interests at heart. If you aren’t happy with a massage experience you are fully within your right to shop around until you find a therapist, and style of massage therapy, that makes you feel good.
So what are the benefits of massage therapy? Again these are numerous and I have just listed the ones associated with the healing and prevention of physical pain. These include:
- Increased relaxation by stimulating the release of serotonin and dopamine.
- Decreased stress by dampening the production of cortisol (the stress hormone).
- Accelerated healing by increasing blood flow, releasing the hormones that help us repair and increasing nutrition to our injured cells and tissues.
- Assisting with pain relief by triggering the body’s release of our natural painkillers (endorphins).
- Improving circulation which nourishes our cells and improves waste elimination from our muscles and skin.
- Providing relief for tight muscles and increases their flexibility.
- Alleviating general stiffness.
- Interrupting the pain cycle by stimulating the large pressure nerves that over-ride the smaller pain nerves.
- Releasing nerve compression.
- Decreasing swelling (or oedema).
- Improving sleep which is essential for restoring, rejuvenating and repairing our body.
- Increasing energy and a sense of well-being.
If you are someone who experiences stiffness, tight muscles or general aches and pains then I would really encourage you to invest in yourself by seeing a massage therapist regularly. And even if you don’t have any niggles right now, please keep in mind that massage therapy can help prevent these occurring in the future.
It is up to you now to make a commitment to begin looking after your body in the best way possible. I would also love to hear what your favourite type of massage therapy is, so please feel free to share with me in the comments below. And if you have a massage therapist that you highly recommend I would love for you to give them a shout out, as I am always looking for people to refer my coaching clients to.
Yours in Healing & Health,
PS. If you’d love to receive blog posts like this one straight to your inbox just click here and share your email details with me. You will also receive a copy of my eBook, ‘Breathe, Feel & Ask’, for free.
When I first came across Carly Hicks and read about the journey she has been on I reached out immediately to see if I could interview her. Carly’s story about self-healing from chronic illness is exactly what I love to share with you all.
I hope you find her story as inspirational as I do and that it encourages you to continue on your own journey of self-healing. Carly and I both hope that you enjoy this interview as much as we have loved sharing it with you.
For my readers who may not know you I’d love for you to tell us who you are, what you do and how you are making a big impact in the world right now?
My name is Carly Hicks, or you may know me as Holistic Life.
I created my website Holistic Life in 2014 after I was diagnosed with Autoimmune Gastritis two years prior. It was a space for me to share my journey with chronic illness and I hoped to inspire others to look after their body through food and lifestyle changes. I never thought I would be connecting with people all over the world, sharing their stories with chronic illness and having a space where others could feel supported in such a dark time in their life.
Chronic illness can be hard and I wanted my space to help others to not go through the journey alone. Together we can support each other and help each other rise up above chronic illness.
Can you tell us how your Autoimmune Disorder made you feel physically and emotionally, as well as how it impacted your life?
I lost my grandmother who was the light of my life a week before my 24th birthday and exactly a month later my body shut down. I started experiencing memory loss, was unable to gain weight, extreme chronic fatigue, paralysis to my right side, light sensitivity, and I was only about to digest 4-6 foods without my symptoms intensifying, or being in extreme pain in my stomach. I was bounced around from so many doctors and specialists, all of whom really had no clue what was going on until I finally found an amazing Naturopath who put me through for an endoscopy where they picked up Autoimmune Gastritis, Helico Bactor and B12 deficiency. I was also tested for MTHFR which came back positive, as well as Pyrolle disorder. It was a lot to take in at the time and I really had no clue what it all meant, but I was grateful I had an amazing Naturopath who I worked with to slowly get my health back on track.
I was only 24 at the time and not having the energy to do anything, whilst my friends and partner were leading the life I used to live was hard. I just had to take it day by day. I found that gradually each day would get better and it allowed me to look at my life from a different angle. I was able to become more aligned with myself and let go of certain situations and people who didn’t have my best interest at heart.
The last four years have given me the biggest gift … my self worth. It was a long slow process with regaining my health, but one I wouldn’t trade for a second. My disease brought me closer to myself and I’m forever grateful for that.
You talk a lot about how you were able to heal the damage done to your mind and spirit, and that you were able to halt the symptoms of your Autoimmune Disorder through natural remedies, healthy eating and a lot of self love and self care. Can you tell us a little bit more about what this journey looked like for you?
To start off with it was a low salicylate diet which was only 4-6 foods for approx 12 months. From there I slowly introduced certain herbs to help heal and seal my gut, as well as a lot of vitamin supplementation because I was so deficient in practically everything. Once my body slowly started to allow more foods into my diet I transferred over to the Autoimmune Paleo portocol, and from there I discovered I had a love of cooking and creating new dishes. I found being in the kitchen helped me lower the anxiety and stress associated with my illness, plus my creative side kicked in and I found I had such a passion for it that my passion became my purpose.
I then started to incorporate daily meditation and more time in nature. These then allowed me to practice more mindfulness in my life. It’s amazing once we start to quiet the mind, and come back to ourselves, how much our life starts to flow and we stop resisting what we really desire.
I know that you followed the Autoimmune Protocol Diet during this time. I’d love for you to share more about what this is and how it made a big impact on your health.
I first started on a low salicylate diet for the first 12months of my healing because my gut was so damaged, and my nervous system was reacting to everything. From there I incorporated my healing protocol to the AIP and found that I was making leaps and bounds, because the AIP protocol allows the body to basically reset itself.
The AIP protocol is amazing for anyone with chronic illness, Autoimmune Disorders, Allergies or any form of inflammation in the body.
I’ve had such success with the AIP that I’m in the process of creating my own AIP cookbook and meal plan. It’s in the works as we speak!
What do you believe the ‘key’ to healing is?
The number one tip that worked for me is to always follow your intuition. You know deep down what is going on and the more space you give yourself to tap into that, the quicker you will get to the root cause of the issue and treat it. Our body knows exactly what it needs to heal and the quicker we allow ourselves time to listen, then the quicker we start to heal.
Always listen to that inner voice, your intuition will never steer you wrong.
If you could give those starting out on their own healing journey one piece of advice what would it be?
It’s hard to give just one!
I would say to always follow what lights you up, because when your soul is happy your life will flow with ease and grace.
Never be ashamed to do what makes you feel good no matter what others think. We only have one life to live so live this life for you, and only you.
What truly inspires you in both your life and your work?
I light up when I talk about health, and that’s why I decided to study a Bachelor of Health Science to become a qualified Naturopath. My passion is teaching children and parents the importance of nourishing our bodies from within with quality food, so that future generations won’t have to suffer through the growing rise of chronic illness.
I get a lot of inspiration from my nieces and nephews. They truly teach me that the importance of life is to laugh and not take things so seriously. We can learn a lot from the way children view the world.
And if my readers would love to connect with you and support you in the work you do, where is the best place for them to start?
To follow me on my journey with healing chronic illness you can find me over at http://www.myholisticlife.com.au/
I also share recipes catered to food intolerance, as well including gluten free, dairy free, and grain free meals.
You can also find me over on my Facebook page called Carly Hicks-Holistic Life where I share daily inspiration, facebook live videos and cooking demos, as well as on my Instagram page.
Being diagnosed with an Autoimmune Disorder at 24 helped Carly find her passion for creating healthy recipes, her love of natural remedies to heal the body, and how the importance of living a healthy lifestyle has allowed to heal from within. She’s a Naturopath in the making and now on a mission to help show others how to take control of their health through healthy food choices and lifestyle changes. If you suffer from food intolerance’s, looking to get that spark back in your life, or just looking for some tasty nourishing meals, then Carly has you covered.