I’ve been thinking about writing this blog for a while. I wanted to explore the issue of how the mind and body are connected, or rather, as for many people, how they are disconnected. If the mind is the sum total of our emotions, memories, ideas, thoughts, values, beliefs and opinions, the component parts that make up our personalities, then for most people this is what makes us ‘Us’. It is our mind that defines the person we are, and when we die, even though the body remains, we consider the person to have departed.
We often take our bodies for granted, expecting them to cope with the neglect and strains we put them through: too much food, not enough exercise, excessive alcohol consumption, smoking, the ingestion of numerous other drugs, insufficient water, too much stress…the list goes on.
Personally, I embarked upon a punishing relationship with my own body during my mid-teens. Partly down to me being a bit of a perfectionist, partly as a result of the external pressures from the media on women to look a particular way (i.e. thin) in order to be attractive, I set myself very strict boundaries in terms of what I could and could not eat. Simultaneously, I started drinking rather a lot of alcohol. So, it’s fair to say that I didn’t exactly treat my body kindly. In fact, I hurled abuse at it with a fairly consistent intensity until I reached my mid-thirties.
A couple of years ago I noticed a hip flask on sale in the shop, Urban Outfitters, emblazoned with the slogan ‘Fuck My Liver’. And sentiments not dissimilar to this are routinely posted on Facebook and Twitter each weekend as vast numbers of drinkers publicly declare their intentions to get smashed.
But I wonder where this separation of the mind and the body originates, why so many people wind up regarding their physical and mental selves in such a dislocated manner? I know that I often considered my body almost with contempt; ‘You will take this!’ it seemed as though I was saying. Keep on abusing, keep on punishing, keep on expecting to get away with it…
But ever since I stopped drinking, my relationship with my body has totally changed. Now, I really value it. I would even go as far as saying that I love my body, in that it serves me and enables me to do all the things I love in life. It allows me to run, fast and for a long time, up into the hills where the skies are big and the air is clear and fresh. It carries me wherever I want to go with my children, to enjoy playing with the little one in the park, or going for a coffee with my eldest. And the more I value it, the better I want to treat it.
And, what I have realised, is that when we treat our bodies right, we feel positive and content in our minds. There is a state of balance that we achieve when we act how nature wants us to act. When we don’t poison our bodies with alcohol, and when we get sufficient sleep, and when we eat nutritional food and drink enough water, we feel good. We function correctly. Our whole selves, mental and physical.
It goes without saying that the opposite is true when we abuse our bodies by not eating properly or drinking too much. We feel jittery and depressed, lethargic and filled with self-loathing.
I don’t know when it happened, but somewhere along the journey of living without alcohol, I started to love my body and respect it. Like we all should. And I have never felt happier and more balanced mentally as a result.