Happiness And The Mind/Body Connection
“It is the mind itself that builds the body” ~ Joseph Pilates
Joseph Pilates developed a “mindfulness” approach to exercise many decades before research supported his beliefs.
The landmark study that first reshaped how we think about the connection between exercise and well-being (Blumenthal et al. 1999) found that a group program of aerobic exercise 3X per week was just as effective at treating depression as was Zoloft, or even a combination of exercise and Zoloft. Even 6 months later, participants who recovered were less likely to relapse into depression if they had been in the exercise group (Babyak et al. 2000).
In Spark: The Revolutionary New Science Of Exercise and the Brain (Little Brown 2008), authors John Rately, MD, and Eric Hagerman summarize research that shows the powerful impact of exercise on everything from mood and stress to learning, attention deficit disorder, addiction, aging and hormonal changes. Physical activity can actually change the infrastructure of the brain and so play an indispensable role in the happiness-health equation.
In Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience Of Happiness, Love, And Wisdom (New Harbinger 2009) author Rick Hanson, PhD, explains that “Exercise is extremely important for the brain, promoting brain health through neurogenesis (neuron regrowth). And we know that mental activity also creates new neural structures. For example, meditation and mindfulness are ways that you can use your mind to change your brain for the better. This means--remarkably--that what you pay attention to, what you think and feel and want, and how you react to things all sculpt your brain in multiple ways...
There are two kinds of happiness. A surface happiness based on conditions, where you walk outside and it’s a gorgeous day and you’re happy. But conditions come and go. The more important happiness is deep or abiding happiness that is not conditional. With mindfulness, or the skillful use of attention to both your inner and outer worlds, we practice observing and accepting life, rather than identifying with it. Mindfulness acts as a shock absorber or buffer for the brain...
Mindfulness helps you appreciate that things come and go, and every minute of mindfulness deepens its neural roots, so you have more of a centeredness to help you develop that capacity for abiding, unconditional happiness.”