This debate/divide is as valid and stark as the one about being a morning person or a night person, a tea enthusiast or a coffee aficionado, a cat person or a dog lover. There was a phase when I believed it was maybe even a generational thing, with our parents pushing us to work on our mind, meditate, practise yoga and thereby over time cultivate the mind, while the younger bunch retaliated with the argument of rather eating lesser oil, ghee & sweets, exercising instead and playing more, to keep the body fit and thereby positively impact the state of mind.
Approaching the topic head on, it would be better to dig deep from both perspectives separately and discuss the direct and indirect impacts of one on the other as there is no clear winner in this regard. While you can call it subjective, or a generational thing, you can be indifferent to it or lay emphasis on both equally or in some self-determined proportion, it cannot be escaped as both form part of the 4 sets that one must pay heed to, to have a well-balanced and high quality life, namely – Healthset, Mindset, Heartset and Soulset. While Soulset leans towards spirituality and the enrichment of the soul and heartset has a lot to do with emotions, deep laid feelings and can form the core discussion for another day, today we join hands and explore Healthset, other external reinforcements and Mindset!
Starting with ‘Body over Mind’ – this is one of those reverse psychology techniques wherein, whether by getting your body in great shape, either by exercising, or having a healthy and balanced lifestyle and diet, or putting in the work to look and feel healthy, be it a lean, muscular or athletic build or by external reinforcements, reengineers the mind to feel good about not just these positive things but also about other aspects of life and see the world through an entirely different frame of reference and gaze. The body being a tangible, visible component of our being, has the ability to also take help from external cues in the form of better grooming in the form of clothes, accessories or cosmetics and take it a notch higher with bigger, better brands that tend to have an uplifting effect on not just one’s status or perception but also the mood at times and thereby a happier, more relaxed and content mind.
From personal experience, there have been several times when no matter how prepared I am for a certain test at school, an important interview or excited for an outing or a special occasion, but not being dressed well or having the clothes of choice have dampened the mood and further gone on to destroy the self-confidence to a large degree. Not to be mixed/confused with the more recent quest for validation, driving teens to focus highly on visual cues, this was entirely about feeling right, feeling fit and suited for the job or for the occasion and not out of place. Right from evading people, to not managing to maintain eye-contact, shrugging off that day’s choice of clothing as someone else’s choice or blaming it on some last-minute hassle or accident to feel a little less out of place, been there, done all of that and more. To the point of sulking in the corner for the entire duration and barely showing my face, looking for opportune moments to sprint away from sight and get into the car or even getting people to cover for my absence. For some it is to do with the clothes and multiple aspects in it too (quality, brand, condition), while for others it is far deeper and has to do with many dimensions attached to the body – the colour of the skin, the size of the hips, arms, bust or cheeks, the skinniness that makes them hard to notice or the extra flab that weighs them down. Another major one being the self-esteem linked issues associated with hair problems.
As evident above, the ‘body over mind’, isn’t an inconsequential debate and is only gaining more spotlight over time, with advancement in tools and techniques to trick your mind by having a customised, curated exterior, whether naturally or using catalysts such as cosmetics, plastic surgeries, treatments, steroids, inking the body, wearing accessories to hide or accentuate natural features and a lot more that exceeds my knowledge in the topic too!
Switching to the other end of the spectrum – ‘Mind over body’, this is the trickier one of the two. Being the most complex part of our being, something we have failed to understand, barely scraped the surface of and even the smartest people only use a tiny fraction of, the power, magic and mystique of the mind is exemplary. Not just because it can make you remember things you have seen, heard, felt or learnt, in a jiffy, but also help you visualize and feel things that have no existence yet, are figments of your imagination or are just mythical concepts. An example being – teleportation, which is not yet a reality, but seamless power of the mind can take you anywhere you choose in an instant, whether to your favourite tourist spot, to your loved one or outer space.
Your mind can be your best friend or your worst enemy
When it comes to the mind, we immediately jump to the usual suspects that are normally associated with it – peace, positivity, breathwork, meditation or yoga, among others, which have a soothing, relaxing effect on our mind, enhance our productivity, foster positivity, make us happier and in turn, that shows on our body too - with the skin glowing, eyes glistening and a wider, curve on our faces that needs no flattening. However, there’s something much more profound, powerful and impactful, deep laid into our mindset, which is the power of will. Something that exceeds and supersedes every boundary or logically reasoned limits of our capabilities. It goes beyond the limitations of physical capacities, resources, training or skills and fuels its own fire within to push boundaries and achieve the unthinkable. It is just this asset which either inborne or cultivated over time or due to life-experiences and setbacks that makes people go above and beyond their own set benchmarks. Right from athletes lacking a limb, having lost their eyesight or suffering from an illness, to over-achievers coming out of poverty and achieving insurmountable heights. From child prodigies who break all conventional logic and makes records to the world’s eldest leaving us awestruck by some insane feat they achieve against all odds. From stretching the human bounds of gluttony to going without food and water for days on end. None of these things are possible by simply taking external aids or conditioning the body without first stemming from the mind.
The biggest asset in the world is your mindset. Period. What the choicest of brands, layers of make-up, wardrobes full of accessories cannot achieve, sometimes just a good night’s sleep and a relaxed mind can do to you, your psyche and your overall performance. Similarly, on the flipside, what no amount of misery and suffering around you, whether natural calamities, alarming crime rates, disharmony in the immediate surrounding cannot do to put you down, your mind can do to you in the blink of an eye. From having the time of your life to being sucked into a free fall straight to the dungeons filled with darkness and monsters that gnaw at your soul, this is also something your mind is capable of.
While I hope that most of you reading this have not and do not ever experience this dark, devious side of the mind or ever discover what this feels like, because it is to say the least intolerable, unbearable and killing. Even as I write this, I do my best to hold back a tear from its own free fall over the lockdown induced, puffed up cheeks! From a pocketful of sunshine to bucket loads of gloom, for the largest to the smallest of triggers, at the drop of a hat. Just like the compounded effect of positive reinforcement to the mind on the body in terms of its appearance, agility, fitness, performance and overall well-being, similarly the catastrophic implications of negative thoughts, feedback, experiences or just self-talk which only opens the doors to a downward spiral into the rabbit hole with no end in sight or absolute rock bottom and certainly no bouncing board to jump on and be restored to default settings.
All in all, the mind is incredibly powerful and smart, whether you let it outsmart you or use it smartly to navigate your life and impact your physicality and externalities is the real task. While the debate clearly leans towards the mind having a greater grip on the body and acts as the control room for the entire system, the aspect of body over mind is also a handy one every once in a while to fool your mind into believing what you want it to believe – that you’re happy, you’re confident, it is morning when it is night or that its not warm enough while its sweltering hot in the summer. You get the drift.
Thereby, keeping with our habit of drawing conclusions and morals in everything, it is essential to draw one here too –
Mind over body for the long-term results, happiness and better functioning.
Body over Mind for the short-term, small wins when all else fails and you really need it.
(Actually, to be honest, doesn’t harm to be well-dressed at all times, does it?
Body over Mind always, FTW!)