5 Best Books on the Mind-Body Connection
We’ve had a fabulous week of meeting with like-minded people in the Hoi-An Community, whether in person or online! Having enjoyed a thoroughly geeky conversation about the polyvagal theory, somatic healing and gratitude as a practice (not an attitude!), we’d like to share with you our ‘top picks’ of books we will keep in our wellness library at the villa that explain the body-mind connection
1. The Body Keeps the Score: Mind Brain and Body in the Transformation of Trauma – Bessel van der Kolk, MD
The Body Keeps the Score is a fascinating must-read for anyone seeking to understand how the body stores trauma.
A psychiatrist and trauma expert of over thirty years, Bessel Van der Kolk insightfully describes his emerging understanding of the body-mind connection and move away from standard ‘talk and drug therapy’ to one that focuses on bringing safety and integrative healing to body, brain and mind.
Through exploration of neuroscience, survival, attachment, memory and anatomy, this powerful book concludes with paths to recovery that incorporate alternative modalities such as yoga, neurofeedback, EMDR and drama-therapy.
2. The Pocket Guide to the Polyvagal Theory: The Transformative Power of Feeling Safe – Dr. Stephen Porges
Never heard of the polyvagal theory? Before reading this book, watch Seth Porges eloquently and humorously describe the autonomic nervous system, why the widely accepted understanding of the flight or fight response is, well, just wrong, and the fundamental reason why breath is the key to regulation.
If you’re interested to find out more about how safety and danger are biologically encoded in our autonomic nervous system (the part of the peripheral nervous system that regulates physical responses such as heart rate, pupil dilation, digestion etc.) read Stephen Porges’ Pocket Guide.
Through transcriptions of talks and lectures, he accessibly describes how the vagus directly affects health, and impacts on issues relating to social engagement, emotional regulation and response, sensory sensitivities and ability to focus. He also explores symptoms such as depression, anxiety and other mental health issues, whilst explaining why safety is crucial to healing at a fundamental level.
(N.B. Unless you are a neuroscientist, avoid the ‘Polyvagal Theory: Physiological Foundations of Emotions, Attachment, Communication and Self-Regulation’)
3. Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma – The Innate Capacity to Transform Overwhelming Experiences – Peter A. Levine, PhD
An expert in stress, trauma and somatic healing, Peter Levine has written several books that explore memory processing, the mind-body connection and the human instinct to heal.
Through a guided series of body-focused exercises, interspersed with insightful chapters that explore the human response to overwhelming events, ‘Waking the Tiger’ describes how it is possible to heal trauma through awareness of the human organism.
4. The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science – Norman Doidge
In this incredible book, author, psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, Norman Doidge blows apart the concept of the adult brain as a hardwired machine. Through engaging real-life stories of recovery, he explores the science of neuroplasticity (the ability of the brain to reorganise and heal).
With chapters on improving memory, love, stroke victims, obsession and compulsion, pain and thought, he provides evidence to support the power of positive thinking on body and mind, and conversely, how negative thoughts can lead to becoming stuck in more rigid habits and behaviours.
5. Why Love Matters: how affection shapes a baby’s brain – Dr. Sue Gerhardt
‘Why Love Matters’ is an incredibly powerful book that compassionately and eloquently explains the importance of loving relationships in early childhood.
This comprehensive and accessible book by psychoanalytic psychotherapist Sue Gerhardt presents cutting-edge research on pre-natal brain development, genetics and the shaping of childrens’ nervous systems, immunity and physiology.
Through drawing together scientific understanding of human infancy from many disciplines, she describes the impact of early stress on the development of the ‘social brain’ and biological systems involved in emotional regulation in a way that just makes sense!
Braving the Wilderness: The quest for true belonging and the courage to stand alone – Brené Brown, PhD
Whilst not technically about the mind-body connection, this light-hearted yet deeply moving narrative by research professor of courage, vulnerability, shame and empathy, naturally compliments the books listed above for anyone wishing to find healing and ‘show up as themselves’.
In ‘Braving the Wilderness’, Brené Brown uses her years of research in human experience and fabulous sense of humour to address the topics of ‘belonging and courage’, with four practices you can build into your life to become happier with yourself and your interactions with others.
She is also a phenomenal speaker, and we have included some of her amazing talks in our recommended links here incase you don’t have time to get to her books!
We hope you enjoy this amazing list of books, all of which have extensive references to other relevant reads.
With gratitude and love,
“The mind and the body are like parallel universes. Anything that happens in the mental universe must leave tracks in the physical one.” Deepak Chopra
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