Mindfulness matters. According to journalist and filmmaker Shannon Harvey, minding your brain and body is the surefire way to improve your overall health. That means less stress, increased energy, improved relationships and more. Sounds good to us!
We sat down with the woman behind the wildly successful documentary, The Connection, to learn about the inspiration and health and wellness research that went into the film. Like the Vi Community, Shannon embodies a holistic view of health that puts mind and body wellness at the forefront of balanced living. You’re sure to walk away from her story a changed person.
ViSalus: Tell us about what led you to develop The Connection. What were you seeking to accomplish with this film?
Shannon Harvey: I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease when I was a 24-year-old journalist at the beginning of my dream career. Over a number of years I tried everything from medication to alternative therapy. Thirty thousand dollars later I was still sick. I noticed that when I was going through stressful times, my illness worsened.
I began investigating the connection between mind and body when it came to health. I discovered the work of leading scientists from Harvard and Stanford, and began applying their research findings to my own life. My health started to improve.
I felt compelled to share my findings and invested the profit from my production company into a film. The result of three years of work was The Connection. It’s been nearly a year since we released the film and I’m happy to say it’s now done a sold out global tour and been seen by thousands of people, some of whom have written to me to tell me how their lives have been changed.
Vi: How did your journalism background feed into the making of this film?
SH: As a journalist I was always taught to go to the original source when researching a story. It’s not good enough to trust what someone says someone else says. That’s why all the experts who appear in The Connection are the scientists and academics who are doing the research—rather than other experts who might be interpreting the science.
The integrity of the experts who appear in the film was paramount. I think that’s one of the reasons the medical community has responded to the film so positively. We’ve got doctors showing the film in their waiting rooms and CEOs of health care groups hosting screenings for their staff. That was an unexpected result, but very welcome.
What was the light bulb, or ‘aha’ moment in your research that cemented your belief in the mind-body connection?
SH: I came across a document written for medical students by Dr. Craig Hassed, who would end up being one of the experts in the film. The document is a summary of important research demonstrating that the state of a person’s mind can significantly impact the course of their illness. For me, this was an incredible find because it showed there was far more I could be doing for my health than relying solely on medication.
Dr. Hassed is a fascinating person and the single most knowledgeable expert I’ve met when it comes to the latest research being done on the interactions among mind, body and health. He has been rolling out mindfulness to medical students as an examinable subject at a leading Australian university.
New research shows that what we believe to be true can have physiological effects on the body. Shifting your mindset is not about blind faith. It’s about adopting a belief system that impacts positive decision making.
How have your lifestyle and health changed as a result of your research?
My health has changed dramatically. From less stress and strong relationships to new health habits and a more balanced diet, shifting my mindset has helped shape positive life experiences. I now meditate and practice yoga regularly and prioritize my health above all else.
It’s a very exciting time for people with chronic illnesses because we now have evidence based proof that our minds are linked to our health—and that gives us the means to make the changes that will improve our quality of life.
Shannon’s Whole Health Tips
#1—Reduce chronic stress and balance emotions.
Whether it’s deep breathing, meditation or yoga, find ways to take time out and quiet your mind on a daily basis. You’ll be surprised how much just five to fifteen minutes a day makes when it comes to training your brain to respond calmly and mindfully to stress rather than reactively.
#2—Move your body.
Also a daily practice. Even if it’s just to stretch when you wake or take the stairs instead of the elevator, movement is key to brain and body health. According to the Mayo Clinic, regular exercise helps control weight, boost energy and improve your mood.
#3—Nourish positive relationships.
Humans are inherently relational. We thrive on connecting with others. That means our emotional health relies on positive interactions and relationships. Visit family members and make new memories, send a note to a close friend, compliment a stranger at your local coffee shop—you’ll feel good and reinforce a positive practice.
For more about the remarkable link among mind, body and health, check out Shannon’s BLOG or sign up for The Connection newsletter. While you’re at it grab some Vi Bites®, watch the official trailer HERE and get inspired to transform your life. Then get a move on! Hosting or participating in Challenge Groups is one of the best ways we’ve found to release stress, get physical and connect with others. Your mind and body will thank you.