10/19/2008 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Bodymind: How Your Thoughts Affect You Physically

Did you ever wonder how the power of your thoughts can affect your body? Dr. Bernie Siegel, the author of Love, Medicine and Miracles, was giving a talk to a room full of skeptical doctors when he brought out a copy of Lady Chatterly's Lover and proceeded to read the most erotic part. As he put the book down he said, "Just as reading a book can stir our sexuality, so you can see how our thoughts and feelings can affect us physically." The doctors were immediately convinced!

There is now a whole new science called pschonueroimmunology exploring just that: the relationship between the psyche or mind, the nervous system and the immune system.

This exercise helps you understand how your own mind and body work together. Over the next week, practice watching the physical effects in your body of different situations, thoughts or feelings. Observe yourself, your reactions and your body. As you do this, you will begin to see how closely all the different parts of your being, both physical and psycho/emotional, are interwoven.

Be aware of when you are irritated or frustrated
Where are you experiencing those feelings in your body? If you are stuck in a traffic jam, a client is late for an appointment, or the children keep interrupting your conversation, what happens to your breathing, or your shoulders or stomach muscles? Does your breathing get short and shallow? Do the muscles tighten?

Observe anxiety reactions
What happens in your body when you are worried or anxious about something, perhaps a child who is late coming home, or a presentation you have to give, or the results of your partner's blood test? Where do you hold the anxiety? What physical effect does it have? Do fears about the future create a pain in your stomach? Or do your legs ache or feel tired?

Watch how you react when someone is angry with you
If your boss or your partner shouts at you, what happens to your heart, your head, your insides? What do you do with angry feelings? Do you express them, or is there somewhere you put them? Is your headache because you have built up unexpressed anger? Do you swallow hard, get a sore throat, clench your muscles, or get constipated?

Observe how memories affect you
What happens if you recall past memories? Do you feel warm and relaxed, or do you break out in a sweat and feel nervous? Pay particular attention to what happens when you recall unhappy memories, perhaps when a parent hit you or you were bullied at school. As you follow these memories, watch where in your body there is a reaction, a tightening or nervousnes.

Analyze illnesses and injuries
Think back to past illnesses or times when you were hurt. Note the parts of your body that were involved. Have you always held your stomach muscles in tight, have you always had recurring headaches, have you always hurt the same side of your body?

This is just one way of seeing how your thoughts and feelings affect you physically. Understanding how you hold issues or feelings in your body will enable you to focus on their release. For instance, if you tighten your stomach muscles as a way of holding your feelings back, then you can acknowledge those feelings as you also consciously relax your belly.

It is like taking blinders off and seeing for yourself what is going on with you. If you feel as if your body is a stranger this is a way to make friends with yourself. It is an invaluable opportunity to see what you can do to make a difference in your own healing.


Deb Shapiro is the bestselling author of Your Body Speaks Your Mind. Read more at