It's All Connected: How Your Mental Health Impacts Your Body

Yvette Cabrera, Librarian, International Languages Department,
Illustration of person with eyes close and hands out in a connected mind and body posture

Have you ever received some bad news and suddenly felt a headache coming on? Or did you ever experience a very stressful situation and found your stomach becoming upset? This is an example of how your mind is always in communication with your body. Our thoughts and emotions have an impact on our physical health and vice versa, and the study of this phenomenon is called Mind-Body Medicine.

Mind-Body medicine looks at how the mind influences the body. When we are overwhelmed with stress or have prolonged feelings of depression or anxiety, our mind communicates this information to the body by releasing hormones throughout the body and the body replies with heightened alertness. Over time, this heightened state of mind and body can contribute to the onset of chronic conditions, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, and certain types of cancer, that can be difficult to manage if mental health is not addressed.

“Our thoughts and feelings can literally make us physically ill. Our mental health has an enormous impact on our physical well-being,” states Dr. Desmonette Hazly. “Understanding how the mind interacts with the body and providing methods to acknowledge and constructively manage feelings and emotions gives people more control of their overall health and wellness. We can design our own strategies to prevent and manage health issues that are connected to our mental health.”

Dr. Hazly, an integrative health specialist, provides integrative health education and services for healthcare facilities, government agencies, and community organizations throughout southern California. She currently develops and coordinates specialized services for cancer patients and oncology staff as the Chair of Integrative Health and Education for the Greet the Day oncology program at medical facilities such as UC Irvine and UCLA medical centers, Hoag Hospital and Long Beach Memorial and Children's Hospitals.

Having received her Lifestyle and Mind-Body Medicine training from Harvard Medical School, Dr. Hazly has also developed culturally inclusive and trauma-informed integrative health programs for agencies like the Los Angeles Public Library, Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health, Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs, Los Angeles Regional Food Bank, Cal Ripken Foundation, Eastmont Community Center, the Garment Worker Center, and the Wellnest at White Memorial Medical Center.

Mind-Body Medicine also provides tools that anyone can use to make simple changes to improve their quality of life and better manage their health. These tools, which are also a part of Lifestyle Medicine, can include stress management, exercise, social support development, meditation, and art and music therapies. Identifying and including some of these practices can greatly enhance your mental and physical well-being and provide life-long skills that will help you feel your best inside and out.

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