This Column Will Change Your Life: The Mind-Body Connection

Their hunch was that dualists, deep down, think of their bodies as husks – containers for their “real” selves – and thus treat them with less respect than physicalists, who think of their bodies as themselves. Sure enough, people primed to think in a dualist way (by reading a short text making the case for dualism) proved significantly less keen to endorse statements such as “I limit the amount of fat I eat” and “I regularly go to the gym” than those primed for physicalism. Asked to pick a cookbook as a reward for participating, dualists were more likely to choose one on desserts or barbecue than vegetarian or organic food. It worked in reverse, too: making people think about health foods made them less dualist.

…Much of our thinking on happiness, actually, relies on a hidden dualism. Faced with some problem of the mind – depression, anxiety – the “natural-born dualists” assume the solution must lie on the level of the mind, too. Exercise might give them a boost, but they tend to assume it can’t be a real solution to such woes; that has to come from therapy, meditation, or other “psychological” work. Yet who says so? Talk of the “mind-body connection” is often dismissed as new-age quackery, but if physicalism’s right, mind and body are more than just connected: they’re essentially the same thing. If I were a dictator, page one of every self-help book would read, in bold, inch-high capitals: “FIRST, GO FOR A SWIM.”

by Oliver Burkeman at The Guardian

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