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The Mind-Body Connect and Positive Psychological Health

Positive psychological health has both physical and mental benefits

Bhavin Jankharia
5 min read
The Mind-Body Connect and Positive Psychological Health
Positive psychological health has both physical and mental benefits

Modern medicine, is largely founded on the Cartesian concept of duality of the mind and body [1], which says that the mind and body are two distinct unconnected entities. While this theory propounded by Rene Descartes was useful in the 17th century to fight religious dogma, it helped lay the path for the scientific and technological revolution that characterizes allopathy, which in turn has also led to a situation where the diagnosis and treatment of disease are disassociated from the individual suffering from that disease [2]. The focus of allopathy is and has been on the disease and the organ rather than the individual as a whole, which is in contrast to the philosophical basis and practice of Ayurveda, traditional Chinese medicine, homeopathy and many other forms of medicine that treat the person holistically rather than as a set of discrete organs and diseases.

For those interested in the art of war and battle, the way allopathic medicine has pretty much decimated most other traditional forms of medicine, is a classic example of a successful conquest, without overt bloodshed.

Having said that, if I were to get into an accident and have a fracture of the femoral neck that requires emergency treatment with surgery, then the singular focus on the hip and the surgical method for fixing the fracture to the exclusion of everything else, will help the doctor and the patient achieve the optimal technical surgical outcome - this is where modern medicine with its “Arjuna” like focus on the individual body part and disease process works best. But prevention of that fracture, rehabilitation after the fracture and getting back to normal life, all need the mind and the body to work in sync. It is not just the mind and body that are connected [3]…there is now clear evidence of a gut-mind-body connection too [4], which we will explore in a subsequent article(s).

Hippocrates is considered the “Father of Medicine”, but Hippocratic medicine [5] was holistic, treating the individual as a whole, rather than a set of body parts. This is also true of Ayurveda (and yoga), which derive from ancient Indian philosophies that are based on concepts of mind-matter or consciousness-matter dualism that consider the person as a whole [6].

Even Freud in his later days, talked of two forms of instincts, the Life Instinct (Eros) focussed on preservation of the life of the individual and the species and the Death Instinct (Thanatos) where people adopt behavioral patterns that hasten sickness and death [7].

Hence, when we fall sick, especially acutely, modern medicine with its focus on specific body parts and pathology works brilliantly. However, when it comes to healthfulness, the mind and body need to work as one to ensure that we lead a long and healthy life. For e.g. I mentioned in my piece on “moving” that the only known intervention that has been shown to reduce cognitive decline is physical exercise.

Vice versa, how our mind works, can significantly affect our health, including our cardiovascular health [3].

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