Body and Mind- a two way mirror

Woman sitting on a stool reflected many times in a series of mirrors
The relationship between mind & body is like a two way mirror. They both affect each other

Your posture in stillness and motion communicates to you and others all the time. The way you hold yourself is conveying to you how you feel and what is going on inside your body mentally, emotionally and physically. Your state of mind influences how you hold and use your body. Therefore, the body is a mirror to the mind.

A Mirror to the Mind

How does your body feel when your mind is focused? Perhaps it feels energised, calm, efficient, powerful, fluid, at ease or fast. Think of a word, group of words or phrases that describe the sensation. How does your body feels when your mind is distracted or confused by comparison? May be it feels agitated, uncomfortable, irritable, tense, unsettled or sluggish? Again, please think of appropriate words or phrases. Hopefully, this makes it clear that the mood of the mind affects the way the body feels and by extension the way it holds itself and moves.

Be careful to ensure you notice how your body feels, not how your mind is thinking when doing this exercise. Thought and feeling are very different. One comes from the mind the other from the body. It is a question of where you place your attention. Most people place their attention on the mind. This has its place. It is also of benefit to pay attention to what the body expresses- it is much more receptive to what is happening in the moment.

The Hips Don’t Lie

When I teach martial arts, I can tell whether someone is focused or distracted simply by the way they move. As you get to know someone you are able to discern how that person is feeling simply by looking at their body. When someone moves slower than normal or seems to look less vital than usual, it might illicit a question from you asking if they are OK? If their lips are pinched or their brow furrowed you might ask if they are worried or agitated about something. This type of awareness is familiar to most of us. When someone does not recognise the signs that another person is upset and interacts with them without regard for their feelings, you might be surprised or incredulous at their apparent insensitivity. Perhaps instead it is simply a lack of awareness of these cues that might require some training and practice.

A Two- Way Mirror

This mirror between mind and body is actually two- way. The actions of the body can be used to affect the mind. We know how much better we feel in our mind after some light exercise. Just the way you hold yourself can affect your mood. Research with MBA students showed that interviewees performed better when they sat straight (perhaps having a conversation with another person or doing some mindfulness activity) or moved around (standing, walking or using “power poses”) before the interview compared to sitting slouched (such as looking at their mobile phone or “weak poses”).

Martial arts students always say they feel more focused, confident and positive after the session, even one that is not very physical, just for some light movement and holding themselves in a more upright and confident way. This is not unique to martial arts. This is something we feel after a walk in the country or taking the dog out, a trip to the gym or a swim in a lake. It is the feedback the body is sending the brain that makes the mind feel more calm, focused, revitalised and confident.

Ways in which the body affects the mind

It is with this knowledge that we can use the body to purposefully affect the mind so that we have a mindset of focus, confidence and relaxation. Here are some ideas:

  1. Regular exercise

    Physical activity relaxes and focuses the system of the body so that we can be more productive and creative personally and professionally.

  2. Reduce artificial stimulation

    When we feel tired and lethargic we often reach for the high caffeine drinks and the high sugar and fat foods to get us through the day. This momentarily stimulates the body and mind but quickly leads to a crash. Being more organised about food through the day means you can take snacks that better fuel the body in a healthy way. For more information go here.

  3. Rest more

    Mind and body do not want to be stimulated all day, every day. They need rest to recharge. When your body is telling you it is tired, please listen and schedule some R & R into your week. Rather than struggle on regardless, take some time as appropriate and rest up. Have you noticed how you get ill after a long bout of late nights and early mornings? Your body battles through for you but the lack of rest and continued stress lowers your immune system and you become unwell. Ignore this long term and it may become more severe.

  4. Avoid continual stress

    Short- term stress is an essential part of our lives and our bodies respond well to it. However, continued stress without much let up has all kinds of negative effects on mind and body, including inattention, health issues, lack of productivity and effectiveness etc.

  5. Being aware of how you stand and hold your posture can have a huge affect on how you feel

    Long hours spent still and slouched over a computer, TV, books and meals leave the muscles tight, the breathing shallow and the body generally operating below par. This often leads to feeling lethargic, being unmotivated and reducing productivity and engagement or unnatural stimulation. Regular movement and better posture throughout the day lead to more energy, greater motivation, productivity and engagement because the body and mind are more active as a consequence of this two- way mirror.

How the body controls the mind

It is to this final point that I would like to focus lastly. Use this two- way mirror to control your mood. A confident posture creates a confident mindset and so you are able to portray a confident demeanor. Exciting the body through fast movement excites the mind as well, conveying a vitality that is attractive and engaging. Sitting still with strong posture makes the mind calm, making you more receptive to what is going on around you.

What do you need to convey to make this meeting go well or get the results you want from an interaction? Do the people around you need you to be confident, a leader, a listener, a joker or a guide? What does a situation require of you? Once you know that, then you can use your body to help you achieve the correct mindset. Communicate this to yourself through your body and your mind will follow suit. Not only that, the people around you will also feel what you are trying to convey and that can be invaluable in the many roles you play in your life.

This is one of many tools I use with clients to help with confidence, awareness and relaxation. I also cover this and many more during my Moving Meditation Courses. Please e- mail me at david@potentialitycoaching.co.uk to learn about future courses.  We can also discuss how we can work together to build your confidence from the inside out. Click here to find out about and book tickets for the next Moving Meditation Course running in June and July 2017.

Over to You

What do you notice about your breathing when you are relaxed and stressed? Do you find you experience shortness of breath? How do you control your mind and body when you’re in a stressful situation? I’d love to hear from you and learn about how you use your breath.

Pass it On

Think this article or the Moving Meditation Course might be useful for someone you know? Why not send them a link to the blog or forward them the details of the course. I’d really appreciate you spreading the word.

The Power of Breath

The breath is a powerful force. Not only does it keep you alive, it also helps you manage your mood and state of being

When was the last time you considered your breath? You take breathing for granted. As long as it is working so that you can work, rest and play you do not give it a second thought. From the moment you are born this essential process happens subconsciously, fuelling the body, feeding the cells the oxygen they need to perform their essential tasks to keep you alive and in good health and getting rid of the carbon dioxide that would otherwise build up to toxic levels in your system. On average, you take about 960 breaths an hour (that’s over twenty three thousand breaths a day). Until that moment when this process stops and your thoughts, emotions, feelings and awareness are no more.

The Power of Breath

The power of my breath was brought home to me most strongly when I as a teenager learning to SCUBA dive. Part of the training process is to learn drills should something happen underwater and you have to safely get back to the surface. One such drill is buddy- breathing. You always dive in pairs and if one of you runs out of air or your equipment malfunctions the other one can share their air while you both make a safe ascent. On one such practice dive, I was sharing my air with my buddy. As my buddy passed the mouth- piece to me so that I could take my 2 breaths, the instructor, unknown to me, turned off my air.

The feeling of trying to draw air and getting nothing in return sent me into panic. In fear I broke for the surface, which can be fatal for a diver, as the air is pressurised and expands as you rise. The instructor grabbed me before I got too far and got me to think about what I had to do to be safe. As I shared his air gratefully I felt the panic subside and clarity of thought return.

Needless to say, it was a dramatic lesson in how we are wired to take that next life- sustaining breath. I was also intrigued about how to control my thoughts, feelings and emotions in such a situation. Knowledge, practice, awareness and experience are all essential ingredients to success during an otherwise potentially stressful event. There are practical steps you can take to ensure you respond with confidence, calm, effectiveness and creativity.

The Relaxation Response

There are two strands to the way you respond to situations. There is either the relaxation response or the stress response. We are most familiar with the stress response: fight, flight or freeze. The relaxation response is less well known and is coined “rest and digest”. These two strands activate completely different parts of the nervous system.

When you are stressed and in the fight, flight or freeze response your sympathetic nervous system is engaged, driving your heart rate up, quickening your breath and dilating your blood vessels and muscles for action. This stress response is really important and useful in small doses. When your system is exposed to this long term, it can harmful affects on your mind and body, suppressing your immune system, making you irritable and aggressive, reducing effectiveness and creativity and much more.

Conversely, when you are relaxed, your parasympathetic nervous system is active, your heart slows, your breath slows and deepens and your blood vessels and muscles relax. You are meant to be relaxed for the majority of the time, promoting a strong immune system, a calm and relaxed demeanor, giving you resilience during stressful situations because generally your body and mind are not worn out by the excessive effects of long term stress.

The Power of Awareness

When you find yourself in stressful situations for much of the time, you can learn to engage the parasympathetic nervous system.  This promotes relaxation. You can learn to relax your muscles and calm and deepen your breathing so that you remain calm, attentive and aware throughout the day. The first stage to this is awareness. You have to realise that your body is reacting in a stressful way. Awareness exercises practiced regularly allow you to become more mindful of your state of mind and body so that you can recognise your state of being and consciously act to alter your state. They have the additional advantage of regularly relaxing your body system, keeping it calm for more of the time so that you enjoy better health and well- being. You will also interact with people better as a result and give off a feeling of calm and confidence.

Deep breathing in meditation and pranayama (yoga) practice is used to access spiritual connection, calming the body and allowing the mind’s brain waves to change to a beta state and even lower giving deeper rest, relaxation, awareness and realisation.

Controlling the breath

The breath is a powerful force. Not only does it keep you alive, it also helps you manage your mood and state of being. People tend to breath one of two ways, either by moving the chest or stomach. Chest breathing tends to be more shallow and is reminiscent of the stress response. Breathing from the stomach is much deeper and calmer. You are not literally breathing with your stomach. You are moving your stomach out, leaving room for your diaphragm to contract down, drawing more air into your lungs. This is much more healthy, calming and relaxing for the whole body. This is how you control your mood and response. Practice breathing deeply using the stomach and you can use this to activate the relaxation response during more stressful situations.

Moving Meditation Course

This is one of many methods I use with clients to help with confidence, awareness and relaxation. I cover this and many more during my Moving Meditation Courses. Please e- mail david@potentialitycoaching.co.uk to learn about future events.  We can also discuss  how we can work together to build your confidence from the inside out.  Click here to find out about the next Moving Meditation Course running in June and July 2017.

Over to You

What do you notice about your breathing when you are relaxed and stressed? Do you find you experience shortness of breath? How do you control your mind and body when you’re in a stressful situation? I’d love to hear from you and learn about how you use your breath.

Pass it on

Is this article or the Moving Meditation Course useful for someone that you know?  If so, please send them a link to the blog or forward the details of the course. I’d really appreciate you spreading the word.

How can centring lead to greater relaxation and confidence?

Find the point of balance and relax into the calm experience of the present

Is relaxation a stranger to you?  Do you find yourself getting irritated at the drop of a hat?  Is long- lasting contentment something that eludes you?  Do you struggle to experience true peace in your life?

Does your body feel tense most of the time?  How is your posture and do you experience aches and pains in your body regularly?  Do you find it challenging to adapt to change?

If your response to these questions is “yes”, then you might be struggling with remaining centred.  Centring affects all four of your states of being- the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual.  When you lose centre you give away your power physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally.

Off- Centre

In martial arts we speak about being centred. This means keeping your posture well balanced and strong, moving from that place of strength and continuing to move from that place of strength, regardless of the situation you are in. 

This is a metaphor for all life situations. When you are off centre you do not feel strong. You feel doubtful, unsure, lacking confidence, strength and power. 

In a physical context, being off- centre means you do not move well and you lack strength. Emotionally, when you are off centre you react poorly to situations. You might over- react or give an inappropriate response. You may shut down and struggle to express your true emotions. Mentally, you might be rigid in your mindset and so find it hard to adapt to changing conditions. Spiritually, you may find yourself guided by your conscious, logical mind consistently, rather than by your intuitive, relational, creative subconscious when it would better serve you.

Balance and Centre

When you find your centre all of that changes. To do that you need to bring your awareness to your body, mind, emotions and spiritual energy, find the point of balance and relax into the calm experience of the present. That is at least how I experience it.

Once you find your centre you are physically more confident. You stand taller, stronger and more present. Adaptability, versatility and spontaneity are more easily achieved. You are less likely to injure yourself, eat poorly, remain inactive too long or over do yourself physically.

Emotionally, you are better equipped to experience your emotions and express them in an appropriate way.

Mentally your mindset is more fluid and at the same time you are more confident to argue your case without being defensive and aggressive.

Spiritually, you realise your life experience is not a solo venture. It is a co- creation with all the many facets of your life and existence. You are not a lone wolf, you are part of an indivisible whole.  And you are on your unique journey that contributes to that whole that only you can do. Therefore, it serves you and everyone else for you to be centred for then you can share your unique gifts with the world.

Awareness and Relaxation

Keeping centre is a matter of awareness, balance and relaxation. Tension takes you off- centre. Walking through life asleep keeps you off- centre. You remain out of balance when unaware and so sustained centring is impossible to achieve. You might stumble upon it by chance, only to lose it moments later.

Practice centring throughout your life. It is an essential ingredient of confidence. Make it a life- long study in all 4 areas of your being- physical, mental, emotional and spiritual- and see your confidence soar.

Over to you

What is your experience of being centred? Has it been easy? Do you find it a struggle? How does it affect your well- being?  When centred, do you find relaxation and balance easier to sustain?  Please share your successes and challenges in the comments section below and help bring the world to centre. 

Pass it on

If you know anyone who struggles with confidence or centring please think of sending this blog to their e- mail inbox. If you’d like to know more about centring and work with me on building your confidence from the inside out please get in touch.  Alternatively, you can sign up to the Potentiality Coaching monthly newsletter and receive a free e- course on confidence here.

Self- Growth, Realising your Potential and Building Confidence

Like all life you start your existence as a seed in fertile soil, full of potential that may, or may not, be realised

How do you know what you are capable of? What qualities do you possess that lie within you unnoticed and unfulfilled? How are you going to discover these hidden talents? How will these talents manifest in your life? What difference will they make to your quality of life?  How will they affect your confidence?

Seeds of Confidence

Like all life you start your existence as a seed in fertile soil, full of potential that may, or may not, be realised. It is only through life situations that you discover your talents and so grow in confidence. Some you are placed in by chance and others by design. That design can be your own or others.

By chance or design these situations shape you, drawing out skills, qualities and talents that drive you forward, see you grow and make a contribution to the world. Both play an important role in ensuring your growth and improving your confidence.

Growth by Design

It is in design that you take control of your growth. By placing yourself in the path of mentors, teachers and guides you are introduced to new things, made aware of previously unseen skills and encouraged and inspired to step out of your comfort zone and grow as an individual.

I am constantly seeking support from people who can teach me to grow my business, show me new skills to cultivate myself and ways in which to help others. Life is a never- ending classroom that can lead to on- going growth and development of that seed into something magnificent.

There is also self- directed growth. Learning does not need only come from outside of you. It can also come from within. Through exploring a subject you can get beyond text books, courses and external teaching and begin the process of innovation, integration and development. Your unique journey gives you a unique view on all of life. Will you bring that unique vision to life and share it with the world, your community or family? Would you walk the path less travelled and forge a way forward that creates something new for you as well as the world around you?  Can you purposefully step into the unknown and discover what lies in the void?

Growth by Chance

In amongst all of this design there is the chaos of chance. New and unexpected events, opportunities and learnings will come your way that contribute to your growth. Some of it will be painful, much of it exciting and inspiring. This is the nature of growth. Only by putting yourself in the charge of guides and stepping out and creating your place in the world will you grow and open yourself up to chance and chaos and the opportunity for growth, on- going development and fulfilment.

How will you know which direction to go? You can take the advice of other people who have experience in the areas you wish to develop.  You can also follow your Intuition.  What are you drawn to?  What do you get the sense you are inspired to do?  For years I have had a sense that I am drawn to help people discover their life- purpose.  At one time that looked like running a martial arts business.  I helped people with their self- confidence and trust in their own ability and intuition.  That has developed to include life coaching.

I never expected my previous career in science to come in any use once I walked away from biochemistry and neuroscience.  Now I am drawn to using that expertise in helping people with finding their life- purpose as well.  I am currently exploring meditation and seeing how that can be incorporated into movement.  Together they help combat stress, tension and encourage relaxation, self- expression and creativity.  These are all key elements in living your life- purpose.  The journey unfolds one step at a time and help and support comes in many guises, both internal and external.

Now, many of my clients are taking the steps towards living with greater fulfilment. By a combination of trusting their own intuition, creativity and resourcefulness they become empowered to follow their life- purpose and reach out for whatever help and support will get them there.  By living in- line with your life- purpose you ensure continual growth and fulfilment.  See yourself flourish and thrive in such a positive and empowering environment and grow from a seed into a beautiful, healthy and vibrant plant: strong in its foundations; fruitful in its creativity and; unique in its shape and expression.

Over to you

What is your experience of growth? How do you live your life- purpose?  How do you continue to grow?  I’d love to hear your comments and offer inspiration for people who are travelling a similar road.

Pass it on

If you know someone who would enjoy this blog and find it useful why not send them the link? I’d really appreciate it.  May be they will as well?  If you’d like to receive a direct link to the Potentiality Coaching monthly blog into your in- box, why not sign up here and receive a free e- course on Confidence as well?