It is estimated that 90% of the neurotransmitter serotonin, which is a key player in depression and mood, is made in the gut (Stoller-Conrad, 2015).
When we have a strong connection between mind and body, we have access to both of these information powerhouses. Logic and intuition combine to create decisions aligned with our personal and professional integrity (May, n.d.).
We have our values (Meckler, 2017) and the CPC to guide us in reasoning, but what can we do to bolster our intuition? I have two tips to help you strengthen your mind-body connection.
Feed your good bugs
Have you ever responded to feedback in a way you regretted, because you were “having a bad day”? How we interpret and react to stimuli is heavily dependent on our mood and state of mind. Neurotransmitters are responsible for delivering these messages within our bodies, but they are not solely produced by our bodies. In fact, they are largely produced by bacteria, helpful microbes that populate our intestines and send important messages to the brain (Stollard-Conrad, 2015). These microbes need particular conditions to flourish, and often our American diet provides anything but.
According to Dr. Ruairi Robertson, in order to create a healthy, happy gut microbiome, try incorporating these habits into your daily routine:
- Eat a varied diet, rich in vegetables
- Eat fermented foods like kimchi and sauerkraut
- Avoid artificial sweeteners
- Get more polyphenols, found in green tea, blueberries, and red wine
- Take a probiotic supplement
As you improve your gut health, some side benefits you may experience include (Dix, 2018):
- Strengthened immune system
- Reduced risk of cardiovascular disease
- Reduced experience of ‘brain fog’
- Reduction of stress hormones in the body
- Improved mood
- Better sleep
These improvements in mood, energy and overall health can make a drastic difference in our ability to reason and act with integrity.
Move Your Body
Breathing occurs both with and without our conscious awareness, making a powerful bridge between the mind and body, and strongly affecting the gut-brain axis. Our breath equips us with more decision-making power and helps to eliminate distractions from our important daily work.
We know that exercise has long been prescribed for everything from weight loss to heart health (Semeco, 2017), but I’m offering it here for a different reason. Many of us were raised to be disconnected from our bodies. We may have absorbed a mentality of “suck it up,” “look good at all costs,” “get a prescription for whatever’s bothering you,” and been taught to follow schedules and procedures dictated by others rather than heeding the cues our bodies give. We have been raised with minds largely divorced from bodies.
When setting out to re-open the lines of communication between head, heart, and gut, movement can be a powerful practice. Breathing deeply and sweating helps to re-engage our senses and sync up our body rhythms. Through conscious movement practice like yoga, walking, running, or dancing, we can learn to understand the messages from our body again, and to befriend its wisdom.
Whatever type of movement you prefer to do, consider these ideas:
- Aim to maintain a connection with your breath throughout your exercise
- Stay aware of the sensations in your body and how you feel about them
- Try to set aside at least five minutes a day to move and connect with your body
- Thank your body and mind for engaging in this practice at the end of each session
As you rekindle this relationship with your gut and reacquaint your mind and body, remember that every part of you has wisdom to contribute to your decision-making process, and that ethical integrity can draw on every aspect of your being. Have fun exploring your innermost thoughts, feelings, and sensations, and please reach out to me if you’d benefit from support along this journey!
Dix, Megan. (2018, July 2). What’s an Unhealthy Gut? How Gut Health Affects You. Healthline website, https://www.healthline.com/health/gut-health
Friends of the National Library of Medicine. (2008). Emotions and Health: The Mind-Body Connection. NIH Medline Plus. (Volume 3, Number 1, Page 4). https://medlineplus.gov/magazine/issues/winter08/articles/winter08pg4.html
May, Douglas R. (n.d.). Steps of the Ethical Decision-Making Process. International Center for Ethics in Business. Retrieved January 18th, 2019 from, https://research.ku.edu/sites/research.ku.edu/files/docs/EESE_EthicalDecisionmakingFramework.pdf
Meckler, Amy. (2014, June 17). Beyond Ethics: Rules Versus Values for Sign Language Interpreters. Street Leverage website, https://streetleverage.com/2014/06/beyond-ethics-rules-versus-values-for-sign-language-interpreters/
RID Code of Professional Conduct. (n.d.). Retrieved January 16th, 2019 from RID website, https://rid.org/ethics/code-of-professional-conduct/
Robertson, Ruairi. (2016, November 18). 10 Ways to Improve Your Gut Bacteria, Based on Science. Healthline website, https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/improve-gut-bacteria
Semeco, Arlene. (2017, February 10). The Top 10 Benefits of Regular Exercise. Healthline website, https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/10-benefits-of-exercise
Sonnenburg, J. & Sonnenburg, E. (2015, May 1). Gut Feelings – the “Second Brain” in Our Gastrointestinal Systems. Scientific American website, https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/gut-feelings-the-second-brain-in-our-gastrointestinal-systems-excerpt/
Stoller-Conrad, Jessica. (2015, April 9). Microbes Help Produce Serotonin in Gut. Caltech website, http://www.caltech.edu/news/microbes-help-produce-serotonin-gut-46495