Thinking is not just a matter of the mind. Learning, thinking, and remembering do occur in the brain, but it also occurs throughout the whole body. Every cell in the human body is intelligent, and contributes to the whole mind-body system. The chemical interactions between the body’s cells and the mind plays a critical role in connecting the two systems into one. Understanding the mind-body connection in thinking, learning, and emotion is essential to improve our thinking and learning.
Every single cell in our body is intelligent. Every cell in our body thinks, not just our brains. According to Conner (2004), “Scientists now can show that all matter in the human body has a built in intelligence, as well as the ability to think and learn” (p. 59). This means that every cell in your finger has it’s own intelligence, deciding when to divide, how to use its energy, and even when to die. Cells can no longer be characterized with only the brain or the body, they all work together, just as Dreher (2004) states, “Cells and substances can no longer be associated with just mind or just body” (p. 5).
Unlike the traditional western view of the brain and body as separate entities, the brain and body actually work together as a system. According to Lucas (2010), “We think with our minds, but also with our bodies.” The brain talks to the body, but the body also talks to the brain, giving it sensory information. Our brains are incredible organs and are capable of many complex processes. The cerebral cortex, which is an integral part of the brain, is responsible for thinking, deciding, memory, and many other functions. Although this is an important part of the brain, it is only a piece of the entire thinking/learning process.
The brain is filled with neurons, which are tiny nerve cells. These nerve cells connect to each other forming a giant web like structure within the brain. These nerve connections are modified constantly based on new experiences, thoughts, and emotions. The more you feel or think a certain way, the more solid those connections become.
The hypothalamus makes chemicals that match the emotions we have. These chemicals are known as peptides, which is a type of neurotransmitter. Once you have a feeling, the hypothalamus will make the peptide and send it into the body where it can get to the cells receptors. Every cell has receptors, and the more you experience a certain feeling, the more the cell will make those receptors available (Bruce, 2005). According to Dreher (2004), Our bodies “Are literally flooded by our cognitions and emotions” (p. 4). Additionally Dreher (2004) states , “Emotions are therefore a veritable bridge between mind and body” (p. 5). These receptors can change the cell, based on the different peptides that it receives. The body adjusts to what the brain is thinking and feeling (Bruce, 2005).
Our bodies receive sensory information from the environment through our senses. Once it is received through our nerve endings, the message is sent throughout the entire body. Our senses are very beneficial for learning, as Dreher (2004) states, “Stimulating multiple senses more fully engages the brain—a more fully engaged brain is more likely to comprehend and retain the presented information” (p. 3). When the brain receives the chemical signal, it processes it. This in turn will affect your neurons. As you can see, the mind body connection is an interrelated system which includes your brain, body, and environment. The environment plays a crucial role in thinking, learning, and how we feel. If it is too hot, your body gets uncomfortable and makes learning more difficult.
The heart is a key component to the mind-body system. Bruce Cryer states that “The heart literally influences brain function in profound ways that have implications on decision making, mental clarity, communication skills, and overall effectiveness and productivity” (Palombo, 2001). If you are scared or angry, your heart may speed up, which affects brain activity and could possibly cause more issues like fits of rage or outbursts.
The body has an intelligence, like all cells do, that can be very beneficial in everyday situations that involve decision making. Getting in touch with your body is necessary to improve this mind body connection. Going with your gut is something that most people have felt and done before, but it has a biological basis as Dreher (2004), explains in mind-body unity, “The entire gastrointestinal tract, from the esophagus to the large intestine, is lined with cells that contain neuropeptides and their receptors. The phrase gut feeling, referring to instinct or intuition, is much more than a metaphor; it describes a biological reality” (p. 7). This biological reality is a talent that can be cultivated with practice. This is the practice of simply listening to your body. These body based cells are influential, As Conner (2004), states, “Researchers estimate that signals from these cells, which register as intuition, outweigh your conscious thinking on an order exceeding 10 million to one” (p. 63). This is the feeling of knowing something without knowing why or how you know it.
Thinking and intuition are happening all the time throughout the entire body, not just the brain. The idea that only our brains are intelligent is outdated and needs correcting. Every cell that makes up our body has its own innate intelligence for self preservation and functioning to sustain the whole organism. Learning, thinking, and feeling can only be successful if the whole body and mind are working together as one.
Bruce, A. (2005). Beyond the bleep: The definitive unauthorized guide to what the bleep do we know!?. The Disinformation Company.
Conner, M.L. (2004). Learn more now: Ten steps to learning better, smarter & faster. Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Dreher, H. (2004). Mind-body unity: A new vision for mind-body science and medicine. The John Hopkins University Press.
Goldblatt, P. F. (2004). The symbolic dramatic play-literacy connection: Whole brain, whole body, whole learning. Educational Studies. 94(25), 85-87.
Lucas, B. (2008). Engage your brain for learning: Training Basics. Info Line, 25(0808).
Lucas, B. & Claxton, G. (2010). It is time to question ‘mind over matter’. The Times Educational Supplement. 4902, 31.
Palombo, R. (2001). The mind-body connection in learning. http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m4467/is_9_55/ai_78873711/?tag=untagged
Vallega-Neu, D. (2005). The bodily dimension in thinking. Albany State: University of New York Press.
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