I hear this question a lot. Being a somatic therapist, I believe in the connection between the mind and body, and use that connection to help people heal. But how does the nervous system influence mental health? Here are the basics:
1. There are two “sides” to the nervous system.
Our bodies feature a complex nervous system with two “modes” or “sides:” the sympathetic and the parasympathetic. The sympathetic nervous system is the helper. It is sympathetic to your plight - if there is a threat, you’ll need to run away. The sympathetic nervous system will ramp up your heart rate, increase blood flow and dump adrenaline into your system. Imagine yourself giving a speech in front of a large crowd - do your palms get sweaty? Is your heart racing? That is the sympathetic nervous system getting you ready to run for your life. Crowds are scary!
The parasympathetic nervous system is the opposite. Envision a “para” chute (punny, I know...) slowly guiding you down to earth. The parasympathetic nervous system is for resting and digesting. It’s a slow heart rate, it’s your ability to sleep, and to eat without discomfort and with appetite, it’s having enough presence for play and sex (important!) - it’s part of what we need to connect with others.
It's that time of year again! Holidays, company gifts and traveling. However you celebrate the season, gifts are typically exchanged with fervor and abundance. If you're like me this year and have procrastinated, I've got a few suggestions for gifts: meaningful gifts that are sure to make your loved ones feel, well, loved.
Contrary to what the peaceful photo above suggests, I am not feeling super pumped about this writing thing right now. I used to blog, rather prolifically. That was about seven years ago. I've had blogging on my "list" of things to do for my business and practice for the last two years. TWO YEARS. And I still haven't. So here I am, sitting in the midst of my own resistance, wondering why I (and the collective "we") refuse to do things that we know are good for us.
"I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass, how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields, which is what I have been doing all day. Tell me, what else should I have done? Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
With your one wild and precious life?"
- Mary Oliver
Aleya Littleton: Therapist, Climbing Guide, Teacher.