There is a deep and inextricable link between the mind, emotions, and the body, and it's vital to understand their connection in order to continue on your path to wellness. After seeing thousands of people struggling with chronic illness, it's become obvious that until they commit to healing both their bodies and their minds fully, they will never experience true wellness.
After all, if you've been suffering from depression, from a lack of libido or motivation, or from crippling anxiety that makes it difficult for you to make choices and move forward in your life, there's no amount of physical wellness that will make your life feel okay.
As the days pass, perhaps you feel like you've forgotten what it felt like to feel lively and connected to your purpose, experience lightheartedness and joy, or even desire something strongly. When a depressive mindset takes over, it can be difficult to feel motivated to do anything, and our thoughts can become overwhelmed by the reasons why our lives are meaningless and our future outlook is incredibly bleak.
Or, if anxiety and stress are what have taken over, you can feel like you are constantly on edge, with everything balancing ever so slightly.
Ultimately when we descend into these very difficult moods, they can permeate through every aspect of our lives. In a way, we begin to see everything around us through the "glasses" of depression or anxiety, and in doing so, we can lose touch with that is true in our lives.
Not to mention, anxiety and depression can make it difficult to maintain our close relationships and perform well at work, because we're constantly battling the thoughts in our mind, separating us from the world around us.
Ultimately, we can become accustomed to these dark and heavy emotions, and come to believe that they will never go away. When these emotions are combined with difficult physical symptoms, which they often are, the combination can be truly toxic and take years to recover from.
Perhaps the most frustrating thing that an individual who has been suffering from chronic illness can hear from a doctor is that their condition is "all in their head". At EquiLife, we know that your symptoms are real and that more likely than not there are physical reasons why you're having such a tough time emotionally, reasons that we'll go into more detail about below.
At the same time, the scientific evidence is clear that there is a strong mind-body connection that can not be ignored when you are trying to become fully well. The way we think and feel about our lives, ourselves, our bodies, and our futures can have a profound effect on how our bodies function.
As always, we take a holistic view, understanding that you must address your condition from a physical and a mental perspective. This means taking the physical steps necessary to bring balance back into your body and undertaking a full mindset shift.
Many patients believe that once they lose weight, or finally get a good night's sleep, or are able to eat foods without feeling ill, the symptoms of depression, overwhelm, and anxiety they are feeling, and the negative self-talk that they experience will simply go away.
The reality is we must tackle every aspect of our well being in our journey to get well—and in some ways changing our mindset and thought patterns is one area of our experience that we have the most power to control. Unlike all of the toxins in our external environment or all the difficult choices we face trying to eat truly healthy foods, our thoughts are entirely sourced by us. Our conscious minds have the ability to decide which thoughts we are going to pay attention to and linger on and which thoughts we will choose to ignore.
Of course, many of us are not well practiced at paying attention to our thoughts and being careful about which thoughts we give weight to and which thoughts we reject. But with dedication and practice, you can become quite skilled at sharpening your awareness and shifting your mindset.
For anyone who is seeking to improve their health, the most important mindset shift to make is to truly believe that you will be able to feel fully well. When you have been traveling from doctor to doctor and nothing seems to be working, it can be difficult to keep up the belief that ultimately you will get better.
Sometimes people can become fixated on the idea that there is a magic pill or specific treatment that will suddenly change their body's condition and cure all that ails them. But from the integrative medicine perspective, everything in the body is connected to everything else. If you are experiencing a wide range of symptoms over a long time, that probably means you are dealing with some serious imbalances that will take time and attention to heal.
At EquiLife, we encourage people to take on the mindset of patience and incremental progress. If we try to be perfect or put too much pressure on ourselves as we are changing our habits, we can set ourselves up to fail. Instead, believe fully that if you take the next right step every day, you will be on the path to full health.
One of the ways that Dr. Cabral knows that a patient in his private wellness practice is on the path to wellness is when they call or write to him complaining that they felt "off" one day when otherwise they were feeling so much better.
This indicates that a patient is getting well because they are back to experiencing the normal ups and downs of our moods. It is totally normal to have fluctuations in emotions that change without warning or signal. When a person is not feeling well, they typically experience the same mood or emotional state day after day.
This indicates that a patient is stuck on a particular feeling or mindset and it is making it difficult for them to feel the full spectrum of emotions that gives life color. If you think that you may have a 'flat affect', or you simply feel somewhat numb when you know you should be feeling joy, excitement, or motivation, there's a good chance that there are some difficult emotions that you subconsciously repressing.
When we've had difficult emotions or situations in our past, our bodies can protect us from the challenging feelings by literally shutting down our capacity to feel. In order to break through this shell and understand ourselves better, we have to be willing to face even the most challenging emotions head-on.
Patients who face feelings like anger, guilt, shame, sadness, and bitterness learn why they had those feelings in the first place and how they can replace the looping thoughts that accompany them with gentle compassion for themselves and their experience.
A transformation like that is not easy to accomplish, but there is a wide variety of tools that you can use, from simple breath-focused meditation practice to using mantras, to help you in the process. The important thing is to remember that your mental health is as important as your physical health, and often we need to address both to feel fully healthy again.
Just as our mindset can prevent us from feeling well, our bodies can make it very difficult for us to feel well also. There are many potential systems in your body that could be malfunctioning in ways that contribute to your low mood, depression, overwhelm, or anxiety.
One of the first places we encourage patients to investigate when they have not been feeling well emotionally is their gut. This is because our gut is responsible for the production of 90% of our serotonin, which is a neurotransmitter in the brain that is said to dictate positive emotions.
If our gut is not functioning well, that probably means that our serotonin levels are down, which can have powerful effects on our overall experience of life.
Our endocrine system functioning is another place where patients who are experiencing high levels of anxiety or overwhelm often have trouble. This is because when the endocrine system is over-producing cortisol, we feel a sense of urgency, tension in the body, and a feeling of being on edge.
This overproduction of cortisol can also lead to a low mood in another way: by throwing our ratio of estrogen to progesterone off balance. Progesterone is used by the body to produce cortisol, so when we have too much cortisol, our progesterone levels go down.
This imbalance is known as estrogen dominance and has been known to lead to depression, brain fog, and other emotional and mental symptoms.
Another hormonal way that we can experience emotional symptoms is when we have lower levels of DHEA and testosterone in the blood. If these levels are depressed, we can end up feeling unmotivated, lacking in desire, or even like we don't have a purpose in life.
Hormone and neurotransmitter productions aren't the only way that our bodies can make it very difficult for us to feel good on a daily basis. Food sensitivities and environmental toxins, particularly heavy metal toxicity, could be contributing greatly to an individual's challenges with their mood and overall well being.
When someone is ingesting food that their body has difficulty digesting, it can cause large inflammation that can build up over time. Even if you don't feel physically sick, this stress on the body can lead to other emotional symptoms.
Toxicities work similarly—if we have high levels of a particular heavy metal or other toxins, we can end up throwing all of our systems out of whack, ultimately leading to emotional and mental symptoms. At Equilibrium Nutrition, we encourage patients to gather as much information about their bodies as possible, including food sensitivities and toxicity levels so they can have a full understanding of what is going on in their bodies and how they can move forward.
Because the gut plays such a vital role in our overall health, the first thing we recommend for low mood is a comprehensive at-home lab test test for the gut and provides you with all the information needed to understand how your gut is functioning.
Another vital test is one that helps in understanding your endocrine system's function. The results of this test will help you pinpoint the hormonal factors you may be wrestling with on your path to wellness.
When Cathy came to EquiLife, she had already visited over 15 doctors trying to heal her gut issues. She had been suffering from some form of digestive issues for years and had given up hope that she would ever feel well.
One of the first things her health coach asked her was the basic question— "Are you taking care of yourself, eating the right foods, exercising, getting to bed on time, and/or working to improve your mindset?". This simple question had a profound effect on Cathy, as she realized that in her quest to heal her gut, she had let some of the other basic self-care practices, like getting to bed on time and exercising fall to the wayside.
Cathy was definitely dealing with some serious imbalances in her gut and she started the right combination of supplements and diet adjustments to start feeling well. But the thing that made the most difference was when she finally got serious about changing her mindset. She started repeating the mantra, which was created by Emile Coue "Every day in every way, I'm getting better."
She finally started to believe that she could actually heal her digestive issues and dramatically improve her life because of it. Once she truly believed this was possible, then she was willing to put everything she had into it. Today, she considers her gut issues almost completely gone, and she has a new lease on life.
Your mind and your body work together and influence one another in ways that are both obvious and deeply mysterious. We don't quite understand why the placebo effect works so well—but we know that it does.
When we are boxed into thinking of illness in a mainstream way, we can become fixated on the idea that there is a single cause for our disease, and once it is discovered and eliminated, everything will be okay.
But when we understand medicine from the functional perspective, we come to see that all of our physical symptoms can create mental and emotional experiences, just as our mental and emotional experiences can prompt physical symptoms.
The more willing we are to take ownership of our thoughts and truly dedicate ourselves to replacing negative thought patterns with a positive mindset, we will see enormous shifts and changes in our experience.
And when that is done in combination with full information about our physical functioning, we can truly begin to see the health results we've been wanting for years.