Throughout many cultures there is a prevailing belief that the mind is separate from the body – this is called “mind-body dualism.”
Many people still wish to believe this today, even with increasing research on how our biology and brain is directly connected to our psychology and mental health.
Perhaps one major reason people want to believe in dualism is that they want to believe their minds still exist even once their bodies have died.
There is a great comfort in believing that we are permanent and that there is an “after life” waiting for us. We want to exist forever – so we begin to see our bodies as a “shell” that we will eventually move out of.
However, a recent study published in Psychological Science found that this belief in mind-body dualism is linked with less healthy choices in our everyday life.
If you view your body as separate from yourself, then there is less of an incentive to take care of it and make healthier decisions. You see your body as a rented car, so you don’t treat as well because its not really yours and your just going to get rid of it at the end of the day.
But if you instead view your body as directly connected with your mind, you realize it’s a part of you that needs to be taken care of and treated right. It’s not something that can be easily neglected, ignored, or discarded – it’s a part of what makes you who you are.
Before this study, I already had an educated hunch that dualism could lead to an unhealthier lifestyle, which is why I wrote a section in The Science of Self Improvement specifically titled “The Connection Between Physical and Mental Health.”
I believe there are a lot of toxic myths that exist in our culture that lead people to live unhealthy and unhappy lives. The number one way to avoid these myths is to keep ourselves educated about why these myths aren’t true, and how often times believing them can have negative consequences.