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Women Living Well: Mind/Body Connection - 2002
Student Papers
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The Mind-Body Connection

Jennifer Vaughan

I have always prided myself on my mental abilities. For as long as I can remember, my ambition has been to earn a PhD and become a college professor. For many years, developing my mind was my sole priority, and any activities to do with my body seemed to be a waste of effort.

That all changed in Grade 6, when I began studying martial arts. After only a few months, the improvements to both my body and my mind were remarkable. Not only was I stronger and more confident, but I was also more focused, and better able to concentrate. I continued my studies through elementary and high school, stopping only when I left for college. Living away from home eight months of the year prevents me from actively training at my school anymore, but I have found other activities that require less of a time commitment, and I will never again make the mistake of neglecting the physical aspect of my life.

During these past six weeks, we have seen many different instances in which mind and body influence each other. Activities that are beneficial to one are beneficial to the other, and activities that are detrimental to one are detrimental to the other. This means that none of our actions can be thought of in isolation. Any choice we make with regard to our lifestyle will influence every aspect of our life to some degree. We therefore have to be careful to keep our mental and physical activities in balance.

Of course, balance is rarely easy. Here at Bryn Mawr, we are constantly under pressure to learn more, and work harder. The temptation is very strong to make schoolwork the primary consideration. People often forgo exercise, deprive themselves of sleep, and subsist on coffee for days or weeks at a time, for the sake of getting more work done. Then, when the weekend comes, people often choose to escape the pressure by abusing their bodies in different ways, like excessive drinking. Somehow, through all of this abuse, such people still expect their minds to remain unaffected.

As this seminar has demonstrated, this is a completely unreasonable expectation. While it may be more productive in the short term, mistreating one's body will, sooner or later, begin to interfere with one's ability to think and learn effectively. Like any other student, there have been times when I chose to stay up for long periods of time working; I got done everything I had to do, but it was much more difficult to function the next day. If I made sleep deprivation a habit, I would certainly lose out in the end. Similarly, there are times when I sit at my desk all day instead of getting some exercise, but this is a last resort, not a habit or a lifestyle.

The interplay between mind and body is an important issue for everyone, and this seminar has provided many interesting and informative insights. Hopefully, understanding the mind-body connection will help us all make smarter, healthier choices in the future.

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