Healthy Mind In A Healthy Body: Creating Overall Wellbeing

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Abstract

The mind-body debate has been going on for centuries, and it is still ongoing today. Many philosophers have tried to answer the mind-body problem, and whether or not they are related or interconnected. Till today, the question has opened up the platform for many ideas and theories to discuss this question. . The mind is a concept used to characterize thoughts, feelings, self-awareness and subjective states (GoodTherapy, 2015). The body talks about the physiological dimension and is a more tangible abstract, such as the brain. Given the amount of support on both sides of the mind-body problem, this then leads us to ask, are the mind and body one, interconnected and influencing each other? Or are they, as Rene Descartes say, distinct from one another? This essay aims to find out whether the mind and body are connected, and does a healthy body lead to a healthy mind. This essay has broken down the mind-body problem into few theories that either supported or did not support the healthy body, healthy mind debate. From here, we can see that Descartes’ Dualism and Bandura’s Self-efficacy theory were against the healthy body, healthy mind debate, as both theories suggested the mind being at the centre of the issue, and that exercise (physical aspect) does not simply affect these two theories. However, Monism and Behaviourism are two theories which lend their support toward healthy body, healthy mind debate, as both theories identify the mind as being a part of the body, or a functionality of the body. At the end of the day, it is difficult to say who is right, as there is inconclusive evidence toward whether the mind and body are related and whether they are truly related. Hence the mind-body problem is a debate in which there will never be a conclusion.

Healthy Body, Healthy Mind: Are the Mind and Body One?

The mind-body debate has been going on for centuries, and it is still ongoing today. Many philosophers have tried to answer the mind-body problem, and whether or not they are related or interconnected. Till today, the question has opened up the platform for many ideas and theories to discuss this question.

Philosophers like Rene Descartes, argued that the mind and body are distinct from one another with the mind being able to create ideas and thoughts, whereas Aristotle claimed that the mind and body are one, and both were functional and relied on each other. This led to many other theories and arguments that opened up the field of psychology, with people like William James supporting his claims about the mind, while Behaviourists like Ivan Pavlov and B.F. Skinner saw the mind as non-existent in a world where the body responded the way it did only because it was stimulated from external sources.

Given the amount of support on both sides of the mind-body problem, this then leads us to ask, are the mind and body one, interconnected and influencing each other? Or are they, as Rene Descartes say, distinct from one another? This essay aims to find out whether the mind and body are connected, and does a healthy body lead to a healthy mind.

Healthy body, healthy mind

Before diving into the essay, we must first understand what constitutes the mind and the body. The mind is a concept used to characterize thoughts, feelings, self-awareness and subjective states (GoodTherapy, 2015). It is an intangible, abstract concept that has been said to stem from the physiological brain. In short, the mind can include everything in your consciousness (betterhelp, 2018). The body talks about the physiological dimension and is a more tangible abstract, such as the brain. It is a physical, biological object that can be measured because it produces objective results when tested. In other words, the body produces visible reactions, whereas the mind produces a more hidden reaction which cannot be measured in other methods other than through the physiological reactions that occur.

Dualism

Rene Descartes came up with the notion that our mind and body are distinct from each other, also known as Dualism (Crane & Patterson, 2001). He believed that the mind could exist apart from the body and the body cannot ideate at all. Descartes concluded that both the mind and body must exist, given that the mind is defined as a thinking and spatially non-extended substance and the body is non-thinking and spatially extended, and are very closely joined, hence the mind and body even though distinct, they are closely working together, although the mind can exist apart from the body (Descartes, 1984). The mind controlled the body by receiving information from the surrounding through the senses, and governed it through the brain (Buckworth et al., 2013). In a study conducted on Intrinsic Motivation and Exercise Adherence, the results showed that people were more likely to exercise because their motives focused on enjoyment, competence and social interactions, defined as more intrinsic motivation. Hence, people were said to be more intrinsically motivated (Richard et al., 1997). This then supports Descartes’ theory, as it shows that the mind is indeed the centre of the mind-body connection, and it influences the body to action. Hence, this does not support the healthy body, healthy mind debate.

Self-efficacy theory

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Albert Bandura’s Self-efficacy theory was one of the social cognitive theories that supported this point of view. Bandura (1994) believed that the self-efficacy beliefs are cognitions (mental processes) that instigated and decided changes in behaviours regardless of hurdles that one might face. He believed that through our thoughts, experiences and senses, we were able to perform beyond what we believed. According to this theory (Bandura, 1986), he believed that our self-efficacy was derived from our past accomplishments, persuasion from others, physiological and affective states, or through second-hand learning. One study which supported this was the case of Crum & Langer (2007), where they studied the Placebo effect on 84 female room attendants with regards to exercise. The subjects were split into 2 groups, where the informed group was told about how their work was exercise and the benefits of exercise through posters that reminded them how much exercise they were getting through the day, while the control group was not, leading to doubling the amount of reports of the informed group exercising regularly, and the average amount of exercise that they believed they were receiving were more than 20%. Crum & Langer (2007), concluded that these reported changes were not due to actual increases in their exercise, but the mind-set (or perceived idea) toward the information given to them in the study. Hence, this shows us that even though no additional exercise was done, the mind was powerful enough to convince the body that they had been doing more exercise, and it reduced their weight (by about 2 pounds), and were significantly healthier (Crum & Langer, 2007). Therefore, in this case, the informed group’s self-efficacy was increased, due to the encouragement given through the posters, however, it did not do anything to affect the body, just changing the perception of the patients’ mind. Hence, this shows and supports that the healthy body does not lead to a healthy mind.

Monism

However, another theory popped up around the same time as Dualism. Monism was developing at around the same time as dualism, and it supported the view that the mind was made up of the body and its interaction with the environment (Crane & Patterson, 2001). Aristotle saw it as the mind being a part of the body, and when the body dies, the mind dies with it. Monism branched into materialism and phenomenalism. Materialism means that nothing exists apart from the material world (physical matter), and the mind is the function of the brain. Humans, are fundamentally complex physiological organisms that can be purely associated as a being with physical processes only (McLeod, 2018). Phenomenalism believes that ultimately, only the mind exists, and that our bodies are a perception of the mind. This was supported by stroke victims (with damaged right hemispheres of their brain) who believed that they could move both their hands equally well, despite the evidence that contradicted what they had said. (Fotopoulou et al., 2008).

Supporting the materialism aspect is a meta-analysis done on the effects of acute exercise on cognitive performance, which showed that a one round of exercise has a small positive effect on cognition, regardless on whether the cognitive tasks were carried out of not (Chang et al., 2012). From this meta-analysis, it shows that the mind is influenced by the changes in the body, and that these interactions with the environment, has caused the mind to produce changes that provide positive effects on the mind. Another study conducted by Spirduso (1975), has found that older racquet sportsmen were much faster on simple, choice and movement response times than older people who do not exercise, thus showing the potential benefits of exercise on the mind and its processes. Hence, this theory supports the fact that the healthy body leads to a healthy mind.

Behaviorism

Behaviourism took this approach (materialistic monism), believing in the observable actions (stimulus and response). Behaviourism is the approach that psychology is all about the behaviour and that mental processes should not be considered (Buckworth et al., 2013). Behaviourists such as B.F Skinner, Ivan Pavlov, viewed that thought processes could not be studied scientifically and objectively (as it was not observable), and therefore ignored it. They looked at processes as they were a product of responses to stimuli in the environment around them (Skinner, 1976). Hence, they defined personality as the “sum of a person’s observed response to the external world” (Buckworth et al., 2013). Skinner contributed largely to behaviourism through his work in operant conditioning. His work was largely based on Thorndike’s (1898) principle that behaviour which was followed by rewards were more likely to be repeated, and behaviours followed by punishment were less likely to be repeated, also known as the Law of Effect. Skinner added Reinforcement to this principle, and in 1948, published a study on operant conditioning by conducting experiments using animals, identifying three types of responses, neutral operants (responses from external environment that does not increase or decrease the chance of a behaviour being repeated), reinforcers (responses from environment which increases chance of behaviour being repeated), and punishers (responses from external environment which decrease chance of behaviour being repeated)(Skinner, 1948). For example, if you tried smoking in school and were rewarded with the satisfaction of becoming part of the in-crowd in school that you wanted to be a part of, you would most likely repeat the smoking behaviour. However, if you were instead punished for it by being suspended from school, you would mostly likely not continue the behaviour as much as before (McLeod, 2018a). Reinforcement was split into two categories: Positive and Negative. Positive reinforcement is when a behaviour is strengthened because the individual finds the behaviour rewarding, while negative reinforcement is when a behaviour is strengthened because the individual finds that the behaviour stops or removes and unpleasant experience. In a study done by Smith et al. (2008) to find out whether aerobic exercise could reduce the effects of the positive reinforcement of cocaine on the body. The results indicated that exercise was able to decrease the positive reinforcing effects of cocaine (using negative reinforcement), decreasing the propensity and drive to engage in or seek out the drugs, and has supported the use of exercise in drug rehabilitation programmes. Hence, this theory also supports the fact that a healthy body does lead to a healthy mind set.

Conclusion

This essay has broken down the mind-body problem into few theories that either supported or did not support the healthy body, healthy mind debate. From here, we can see that Descartes’ Dualism and Bandura’s Self-efficacy theory were against the healthy body, healthy mind debate, as both theories suggested the mind being at the centre of the issue, and that exercise (physical aspect) does not simply affect these two theories. These theories are more cognitive in nature, and have shown that the body does not influence the mind, even though there is a connection between the two. However, Monism and Behaviourism are two theories which lend their support toward healthy body, healthy mind debate, as both theories identify the mind as being a part of the body, or a functionality of the body. Hence, both theories are more materialistic, and focus on the physiological aspect toward psychology, and show that the body’s response to the environment creates our mind and what we perceive of it. This supports the healthy body, healthy mind debate.

At the end of the day, it is difficult to say who is right, as there is inconclusive evidence toward whether the mind and body are related and whether they are truly related. Hence the mind-body problem is a debate in which there will never be a conclusion. For the longest time, this debate has been going on, and just like it is impossible to tell whether the chicken came first or the egg, it will be extremely difficult to tell whether it is the mind or the body which is the leader of the organism. It will take a lot more research and scientific evidence to understand the true relationship between the mind and the body, and even so, it might take a genius to understand the true value between this connection.

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