Counseling Austin Blog

Why Does my Body Ache?

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Emotions and physical pain

The best way I have heard the connection between the mind and body is that emotions are the physical manifestation of thoughts. For example, a person can have a stressful thought like, “I have to do my taxes,” and then the muscles in their back and shoulders become tense. The tension spreads up the neck, and around the head, creating a tension headache. The stressful thoughts are physically experienced as tension, typically in the back, shoulders, neck, and head.

When we think about feeling anxious, many people report feeling slightly queasy in and around their stomach. Now, consider this: the brain is a huge bundle of neurons swimming in neurotransmitters. Likewise, the gut is also full of neurons and neurotransmitters. The gut is often referred to as the “second brain” and is considered as the seat of intuition. This is where the saying “Trust your gut” comes from. Believe it or not, the gut is the second most innervated part of the body.

So, some of the most common emotions are experienced in and around the brain and the second brain (the gut). The chest is another area associated with emotions like tension and anxiety.

It’s not just uncomfortable emotions that we feel

Now imagine joy, love, excitement, compassion, etc. See if you can identify where you feel it in your body. Notice where people put their hands when they feel certain emotions. The “aawww, how cute!” experience is regularly accompanied by hand(s) over the heart. People cover their mouths and ‘hug’ themselves in response to shock and concern (like seeing a bad car accident).

We are all unique

We all experience our emotions differently, so there is no problem if you feel love in your face and anxiety in your shoulders. The point is that we hurt when our feelings are hurt. The pain may be dull and subtle, or sharp and obvious. Using these physical experiences as focal points is an exercise in mindfulness.

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