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The Mind-Body Connection

MindBody

Andrea’s phone vibrates, the screen lights up and she is instantly compelled to open it. There it is, another announcement on social media; another conception story — and another reminder of where she wishes to be. Andrea “likes” the post, adds a congratulations with a smiley emoji to the comments page and cries. A little at first and then the tears come in buckets. She wonders if she will ever stop. Her mind races, her heart beats out of her chest, and she wonders if she will ever get to experience that moment.  

Over the next few hours and days, she reaches for comfort food, pours a glass of wine to take the edge off, and cancels her plans to catch up with her girlfriends. She is consumed with thoughts about the future and feels anxious all the time. She snaps at her work colleagues, gets frustrated over little things, and gets angry at herself for not trying sooner. Andrea’s story might sound very familiar.  

It’s a powerful example of the mind-body connection and how our thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and assumptions impact our biological functioning. Stated more simply, our minds and our bodies influence each other. What we think, we feel — and what we feel, we think. 

It’s therefore unsurprising that the quality of our thoughts and attitudes are a powerful tool in shaping how our bodies function. This biofeedback mechanism is a rich and complex communication system that functions best when we give it ingredients that help it to thrive.  

We’ve come a long way in our understanding of how good nutrition, sleep, and exercise affect our physical health. When we fuel our bodies with high-calorie, low-nutrient foods, we notice the impact in terms of low energy, weight gain, and an overall decline in our vitality.  

The same is true for the fuel required to power our minds. Negativity drains our energy and contributes to a downward spiral that can lead to a range of emotional and psychological side effects including depression and anxiety. But under the fuel of positive emotions, we notice a different feedback loop. Our minds expand, our world opens up, and our bodies stand tall. Laughter flows and vitality’s restored. Just like a sunflower, we turn out toward the sun and embrace the moment and the day. 

Our mind and our body require fuel to function at an optimal level, and wellbeing science is all about helping you explore the quality of your supply and how to feed your whole self with the right kinds of ingredients to support your fertility journey. It might come as a surprise to you to learn that wellbeing and mental health are not just something you have or don’t have. In fact, a vibrant and continuing program of research from the field of Positive Psychology has provided an abundance of research into the ways we can build states of wellbeing through everyday ordinary habits and behaviors. 

Dr. Sonia Lyubomirsky in her book The How of Happiness – A Practical Guide to Getting the Life You Want, has found that people have a strong capacity to determine their own happiness. In fact, her research suggests that happiness is a state of mind and that intention matters. What might surprise you is that changing our circumstances accounts for only 10% of our overall happiness, with 50% of our happiness predetermined by our genetics, and 40% of our happiness shaped by our own behaviors. This means that happiness and wellbeing are within our reach. Our happiness is a product of the stimuli that we provide our mind and body. This means that we all have the capacity to create a negative or positive advantage. 

The How of Happiness

Researchers have proposed numerous theories of what wellbeing is. The founder of the Positive Psychology movement, Professor Martin Seligman, suggests that wellbeing and happiness emerge when people live in accordance with their values, use their strengths, create meaning in their lives, and engage in actions and behaviors that contribute to achievement and accomplishment. Together he suggests that there are 5 pillars to wellbeing which individually and collectively are the building blocks for a flourishing life.

While the truth is that there is no one strategy or technique to help every person become happy, tuning into your unique resources, interests, and needs helps to unlock which happiness strategies fit better than others. As you try these strategies, give yourself some reflective space to see how they experience was for you., If an activity really isn’t your thing, give yourself a pat on the back for trying it and simply move on until you find what works for you. 

Your Best Possible Self 

Take a moment to consider you at your best. Think of a time in your life when you felt fully engaged and alive. Bring this memory to the forefront of your mind.  

  • What were you doing? 
  • What strengths were you using?  
  • What values and goals were you serving? 

For the next 15 minutes, write about this moment. Recall all the positive elements that contributed to you flourishing. 

Now consider this, if you were to bring your best possible self to your fertility journey: 

  • What actions, behaviors, thoughts, and values will you be engaging to help you navigate this time?  
  • What strengths will you be using?  
  • What values will you be serving?  
  • How will you measure your success and the progress you have made?  
  • How will you be kind and compassionate to yourself when things don’t go according to plan? 

Write and record your responses. 

Now, consider a time in your life when you have faced roadblocks or unexpected hurdles.  

  • What did you do to get through them?  
  • How did you combat the inner critic and your fear of failure?  
  • What kept you going?  
  • What skills and attitudes helped to propel you forward?  

Write and record your responses. 

  • What roadblocks or hurdles do you anticipate along this journey?  
  • What might trip you up or get in the way of you achieving this goal?  
  • What strategies can you employ to help you keep going and to stay focused on your end goal?  

Write and record your results. 

And here’s the fun bit, consider:

  • How will you make the journey enjoyable?
  • Who will encourage you? 
  • How will you celebrate small wins along the way? 
  • What words of encouragement and kindness will you use on yourself to support your effort? 

You have now started to map out a strategy to support your journey and to help your mind and body work together. Every day you will be taking a step toward your future, and everyday you have a choice about the fuel that you give yourself. Choose wisely!

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