Sometimes, the truth is so obvious that we can’t see it. After all, who else has seen Back to The Future more than once and never realized that “Hill Valley” is a paradoxical bit of nomenclature? How can a “Hill” also be a “Valley?” As long as it took me to spot that joke, it took me even longer to realize that treating my mind as something separate from my body is as silly as a Hill Valley.
It’s normal for someone to say “I have a body.” You might have uttered the sentence yourself once or twice yourself. But “have” connotes possession – something external, that you happen to own…that is separate from you. Like a car, or a piece of clothing. Yet I realized sometime recently. I do not really have a body.
I am a body.
Think about it. If my body were like a piece of clothing, I could disown it. I could discard it. I could abuse it, change it or sell it. In short, I could live without it.
Clearly, I cannot live without my body.
Which means that my life, or the essence of me (whatever someone thinks that is) is inseparable from my body. Without delving into the realm of philosophy or spirituality, consider this:
Even if I viewed myself as a consciousness germinating only from my mind – some phenomenon arising from my brain functions – well, the mind/brain cannot function without the body. I would cease to live without a working heart, healthy lungs and organs that make my brain tick.
This may sound so obvious that it’s like pointing out that a Hill Valley cannot possibly exist. (For a fun head-scratcher…what is the average altitude in Hill Valley?) Yet it is an inescapable truth: I am a body.
What happens when my body stops working? Well, I die. That’s fairly clear. I’d argue that the synonymity is even stronger than that.
- According to the CDC, heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. Heart disease can be caused be
- what you put in your body (food or drugs)
- what you do with your body (functional efficiency from exercise, lifestyle) or
- what finds its way inside your body (bacteria, viruses, parasites).
- Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States. Similarly, cancer is caused by
- what you put in your body
- what you do with your body
- what finds it way inside your body
- Even non-essential parts like limbs are part of you. You still feel the pain when your finger is broken. It’s not detachable and separate like your tee-shirt. That nerve that is communicating “ouch, we broke a finger” back into the brain is still you.
Taking care of your body is taking care of yourself.
What’s the point of this? Well, if you want to be successful in life, you need to care for your physical body. Neglecting your body is a form of neglecting yourself. Your everyday state of mind is affected by your body and what you do with it.
- When you break your finger, you won’t be in much of a mood for stock analysis.
- When you drink alcohol, the decrease in testosterone may suddenly have you thinking about an old lover or even worse, questioning your self-worth.
- If you’re lungs don’t function well, your decision-making may be altered after a quick sprint.
- When your cortisol levels increase from what you just ate (or didn’t eat), stress may dominate the moment you are living in.
Existentialism aside, in this moment very moment, you are a body. Which means that mental health has a lot more to do with physical health than advertised, and vice versa.