How Our Bodies Secretly Make Decisions For Us
By Chris Brown
We all know our thoughts influence the processes of our bodies. For example, the fearful thoughts from a scary movie elicits rapid heartbeats and releases of adrenaline. However, a recent review of two studies by the Mount Sinai School of Medicine found that the reverse may also be true: The physical reactions inside our bodies can hijack the way we think and make decisions. It is even so strong as to highjack the decision-making process at times, taking the power of free will away from our conscious selves.
The Brainwashed Rats of Mount Sinai
The Mount Sinai School of Medicine studied the body's influence on one's decisions by studying the effects of arousal when emotional and mental interference was removed. In the study, rats had the emotional centers of their brains surgically turned off. They then studied the brain neurons and decision-making process when they raised the rats' heart rate (one of the physical manifestations of anxiety) without the mental or emotional elements. What the study found was that the physical stimuli similarly hindered the rats' decision-making process, as if the rats were experiencing an anxious emotional state. The faster the rats' hearts beat, the less neurons fired in the decision-making area of their brains, slowing their ability to decide between two rewards. Therefore, the physical state alone rewired the decision-making process and, ultimately, changed the rats' reward choice. This suggests that we may be more slaves to our bodily processes than we know.
What Does the Body's Mind-Altering Power Mean?
The body's ability to influence the mind goes well beyond the rats at Mount Sinai. The body has constant sway upon our reasoning. The Augusta Pain Center shows how chronic pain actually causes physical changes in the brain which impact cognitive function and mood. These findings suggest scary consequences as to how our physical states impact our lives. But it also means that, with the right bodily tweaks, you can use this body's power over the mind to your mental advantage.
How to Use Body-Mind Rewiring to Your Advantage
In the Mount Sinai study, rats were chemically made into a state of increased non-emotional, physical arousal. Without the emotional element, the rats had the same decision-making side effects of anxiety. Knowing this, you can impact your thoughts and decisions by intentionally changing your physical states. For example, some arousal can be beneficial for focus, such as what is obtained from drinking a cup of coffee. However, too much physical arousal can actually induce anxiety and over-thinking. So, if you over-consume, limiting your daily coffee intake may counterintuitively make you clearer with your decisions. Similarly, other improvements upon your physical can lead to higher mental states. Listening to music, for instance, has been shown to create alpha brain relaxation that focuses the brain according to neuroscientists. Additionally, giving your body a conscious break with meditation can strengthen neural connections in the prefrontal cortex, allowing you to make better, more future-oriented choices. Being aware of the connection between bodily states and mental thoughts can influence decisions about your physical self and allow you to retake control over your mind and push it to even greater performance and a happier overall life.
To learn more about your health, wellness and fitness, see your local chiropractor at The Joint Chiropractic in Taylorsville, Utah.