Exploring the mind-body connection 

It’s that time again when we greet a fresh, new year. For many, this brings inspiration to set goals to enhance our health and wellbeing. With that in mind, we thought the January edition of Healthy UBC would be the perfect time to explore the mind-body connection—what better way to connect our intentions for emotional and physical wellbeing with some of that new year energy?  

What exactly is the mind-body connection?  

If anyone reading this said “the neck” we appreciate the parent-joke, but the mind-body connection is a bit more involved—it is the link between a person’s thoughts, attitudes, and behaviours and their physical health. Put another way, it is the interconnectedness of our minds and bodies through various communication networks between our brain and the neurological, endocrine, and immune systems of our body [1] … yes, that includes the neck as well. 

Our brains interpret and perceive stressors and then signal a range of physiological responses. This is commonly referred to as the autonomic stress response or Fight-Flight-Freeze. But these same mind-body systems can also help us to calm, relax and manage our stress and emotional wellbeing. Research is showing that there are certain mind-body practices that have psychological benefits that also have cognitive and physical health benefits [2]. The research identifies practices like: 

  • Mindfulness 
  • Meditation 
  • Yoga 
  • Deep breathing exercises 
  • Progressive muscle relaxation 

What makes these practices effective is that they can have the effect of overriding the stress response by resetting the sympathetic nervous system, helping us to manage everyday stress. The combination of slow and deep breathing along with training our brains to focus on the present moment is one part of the mind-body connection. Moving our bodies is also a powerful way that we can improve our mood and even reduce pain. Engaging in physical activity releases endorphins, “feel good” chemicals and reduced hormones related to stress [3].  

Let’s get physical 

At UBC, we have access to some incredible facilities and opportunities to participate in some great activities. And coming up in February is the annual Move UBC campaign! Move UBC is a university-wide month-long, initiative that starts on February 1, with an aim to increase physical activity and reduce the time students, faculty, staff, and the UBC community spend being sedentary. Move UBC invites us all to explore ways to move that feel empowering, comfortable, and motivating. Here are a couple of upcoming events to help you get the body part of the mind-body connection started on a positive path in 2023. 

  • UBCV: Move UBC Recess, Feb 1, 12-2 pm @ MacInnes Field 
  • UBCO: Glow Run/Walk with Rec, Feb 1, 6 pm @ outside the Hangar Fitness Centre (register in advance) 
  • Host a virtual 5-minute stretch break during your class or meeting 
  • Request a live movement break with the Move U Crew at UBCV or at UBCO to break up your class or meeting 

Don’t stop there, the Move UBC Events Calendar has more great events and opportunities to get involved. 

Amanda Swoboda, Wellbeing Specialist, Human Resources, UBCO 


  1. Wolinsky, H. (2006). Mind-body research moves towards the mainstream. EMBO Reports, 7(4), 354–358. https://doi.org/10.1038/sj.embor.7400670 

  1. Link, J. S., Barker, T., Serpa, S., Pinjala, M., Oswald, T., & Lashley, L. K. (2016). Mild Traumatic Brain Injury and Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction: A Review. Archives of Assessment Psychology, 6(1), 7–32. 

  1. Harvard Health Publishing (2020). Exercising to relax. Retrieved from: https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/exercising-to-relax



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