Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Guest Post! Lydia Kang on Mind-Body Connection

A special treat today--Lydia Kang, who has one of my favorite blogs ever, is guest posting! Lydia is a physician and recently-agented writer, repped by Eric Myers of the Spieler Agency. She also happens to be one of the nicest people I've come to know in the blogosphere.

Sarah invited me to do a guest post today. What fun! Look at this place. Hey, Sarah, why is there a painting of an incontinent T-rex on the wall?

Oh. It’s a Rorschach blot? Okay, please don’t analyze what I just said.

Anyway. Since I tackle a lot of medical stuff on my blog and Sarah handles the psychological ones, it made sense to discuss the Mind-Body connection.

I see evidence of the mind-body connection all the time. Here’s a smattering of real-life examples.

  • Stress causing headaches and elevated blood pressure
  • Laughter lowering blood pressure, increasing infection-fighting cytokines in the blood, and lowering cortisol (a stress hormone)
  • Depression as a risk factor for heart attacks
  • Broken-heart syndrome (Takasubo’s cardiomyopathy) 
As a writer, why does this matter? Because you have to consider how a stressful situation might make your character feel and what it might do to his/her body. If they have multiple sclerosis, their disease might flare. If they lose a spouse, they’d be at higher risk of dying within that same year. If they have a new diagnosis of a chronic illness, depression may rear its head.

As a writer, you should also consider this—fiction is one thing; YOU are another. I know that snacking and sedentary habits often go hand-in-hand with a writer’s lifestyle. I rarely get on my doctor’s soapbox to lecture, but in this case, I shall for the benefit of my many writer friends out in the blogosphere.

In order to have a healthy mind to produce those amazing, brilliant pieces of writing you produce, a healthy body truly does help. Exercise can do wonders for writer’s block, and healthy eating can do wonders for a writer’s end.

Yes, I’m talking both THE END and the REAR END.

*jumps off soapbox*

Sarah, thanks for having me. I hope that T-Rex practices her Kegel exercises.

And readers, remember to make an effort to stay healthy and always consider the mind-body connection for your characters!

*looks up from scribbling down theories of Dr. Kang's deepest unconscious urges* Thanks, Lydia! I have to admit I sorely neglect my poor body, so this is a great reminder to take better care of it.

Don't forget to visit Laura's blog today, where she answers this month's Sisterhood of the Traveling Blog question: "How do your pets/kids/plants (something you take care of) influence your writing?  Do they help you, or distract you?  Do you include them in your stories?"

Now--what's your mind-body connection? Do you try to ignore it, like me (and then realize you can't actually get away with it)? Or do you find exercise and eating right is an essential part of your writing routine? What about the mind-body connection in your characters?


  1. What a fun post! Reminds me, I need to go for a jog today :).

  2. Thanks, Lydia! And I am SO bad at getting exercise! After a day of teaching 5th grade, I just want to flop down on the couch with my laptop. But you're right. I'd feel less exhausted if I went out into the fresh air and took a walk or rode a bike.

  3. You forgot to mention telekinesis, and laser-vision.

  4. Can Lydia draw the picture for my post? :D

    For me, writing and running go hand-in-hand. When I get stuck, running seems to help solve my plotting problems. I even went running one day with a pen and wrote on my leg the answers to my plot problems (I knew there would be a lot to remember, hence the pen). It took two days to scrub the writing off my legs. Perfect timing for shorts season. ;)

  5. While running doesn't help me with writing per se, it gives me enough energy that I can get done what I need to do and have time to write.

    Plus, I avoid writer's butt.

  6. Oh, dear, I need to watch what I eat.

    In college, I took this performance class, thinking it would help with my stage fright, but I ended up learning more about relaxation and how stress weakens the immune system. It was an interesting class.

  7. Thanks for having me over Sarah!

    Isis--Go for it!

    Dianne--I'm so bad at it too! But when I remember, I'm always glad afterwards.

    Matthew, I knew I forgot something! But I discussed this with you via my telethoughts. Don't your remember?

    Stina--I'd love to illustrate for your blog. Just ask!

    Connie--I agree. Exercising doesn't help me figure out plot problems, but I feel less guilty when I sit down and write, ha ha.

  8. Great reminder! I feel like I think better when I make exercise is a regular part of my day. :)

  9. Me? Snack? (*shoves away bag of Goldfish*) All right, all right. Since you're on the soapbox and all. :-)

    Thanks for the post! Thinking of the mind-body connection could make for some very interesting character conflicts.

  10. Hello Lydia, hello Sarah! I say mind, body and pet connection!! Pets are proven to lower stress and blood pressure. That's my contribution to this post! Yay! Take care

  11. Ha! It all makes sense to me as I sit here in my slothdom, feet up, fingers tapping. I have an excuse--minor soft-tissue tear in leg from. . . wait for it. . .exercising, grrr, that has sidelined me for weeks. You never appreciate how important that oxygen flowing through your body to your brain is until it's not so accessible!

  12. Hi Lydia and Sarah! I know I don't exercise as much as I should. Worse, I always feel and think better on the days I *do* exercise.

    Hm. It's nice out this morning. Time for a long walk!

  13. That is a great point.
    Off for a jog! (Ok, a walk. Whatever.)

  14. Angela--it is fascinating, isn't it?

    Karen--me too!

    LC, sorry for the lecture! But you're right about the writing part. :)

    Old Kitty--so true! That needs a dedicated post by itself!

    Linda--so true!

    Deb--enjoy your walk!

    Kristen--walk or run, either way it's all good. :)

  15. Fun post, with a some great points made. Since I resemble the End/Rear-end remark, I'll make more of an effort to get out of my chair and onto my feet. And I guess I better stay out of the Halloween candy, too. :)

  16. Love this post. Exercise really does make a huge, positive difference in my writing life. Sometimes it's a challenge to make the time for that exercise, but in the end (whether that be The End or ye ol' booty), making the time is a wise move. P.S. Yoga is great for getting those writing kinks out of the body. Just sayin'.

  17. Argh! I'm busted! I haven't been to the gym lately 'cause I've been sprinting (does this count?) to finish my WIP by this week.

    Sorry, Dr. Lydia. Will run tomorrow. :DDDD

    Sarah, I've got an award for you 'cause you are brilliant, my dear!

  18. Great post! I went for a walk this morning and solved my problem with chapter three.

  19. Writing or not, I still work out four days a week!

  20. Great points, Lydia! Time for me to go mindlessly work through a cardio routine while I plot. ;)

  21. Oh dear, I didn't know you were going to make me think of MY booty (the ever-spreading variety). Guess I'll go take a walk now.

  22. Well, you've given me another push to get myself out walking more...and I always write better when I return!

  23. I actually do my best brainstorming when I'm running. Although I've been known to come up with some great stuff fueled by Oreos, too. But the running is better for me.

  24. I love Lydia and her blog! I do make a real effort to exercise regularly, my body just feels blah if I don't. I need to work harder on the healthy eating, though.

  25. Love it! The mind and body are constantly interacting.

  26. LOL! Dr. K, you so craaazy. :D I'm looking up that broken heart syndrome now, I hope you're happy. And then I'm going for a jog... ;p <3

  27. I’m still trying to get passed the image of an incontinent T-rex

  28. Lisa--Halloween candy is so evil, isn't it?

    Cynthia--so good to hear how positive exercise is in your life!

    Cherie, ha ha, I guess you are busted! Have a great jog!

    Carolyn: So glad that worked!

    Rebecca: So true!

    Julie: running definitely works better than Oreos. Usually. ;)

    Susan, I know it's hard to do both, right?

    Liza, I hope it works!

    LD--ha ha, the ever spreading variety. I think that's the most common kind.

    Carrie--plot away! Hope it works!

    Alex, you're my hero!

    LTM: Hope you like that post, and enjoy your jog!

    Elizabeth--You're welcome!

    Nick--sorry to have put that image in your brain today. ;P

  29. Fascinating stuff. I teach, and we had a discussion the other day about how many teacher's are suffering from stress related ailments they didn't have before all the heat was turned up on standardized test scores.

  30. This is a very important talk for all writers, because the lifestyle of a writer is often stressful, depressing at times, sedentary, etc.

    I've recently started cross-training and love the fresh take it is giving my little brain cells.

    Excellent guest, Sarah!

  31. Lydia is awesome! But... *looks away* I might not be very good at taking care of myself. I mean to do more, but life gets in the way! Okay, no more excuses. I'll work on it.

  32. Great advice for life and writing. More laughter--what could be wrong with that?

  33. Good post! I write best when I'm well rested and have been eating well, though I don't always do that. Speaking of healthy...for some reason I also write best late at night when I'm a little tired LOL. Maybe it's because that's the only time that our house is quiet though!

  34. This is amazing!!! What an awesome piece. I adore Lydia... always so insightful and sweet!!!

    I'm with Lindsay, well rested and eating makes me feel a lot more imaginative! If only I could get that every day!!!

  35. Wow, thank you Lydia and Sarah, both! And wow, I never realized that broken-heart syndrome was a true medical diagnosis. So interesting!