Books Can Connect You To Your Body

In recent years, research being done in PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) has enhanced the knowledge of the connection between your body and your brain. This research is being translated into relevant information for extreme athletes and other mere mortals.

But the connection between the body and brain has long been discussed. William James, (1842-1910) physician, psychologist, philosopher, brother of Henry James and widely considered one of the most influential thinkers ever, often wrote about the powerful connection between the body and the brain.

In his March 1907 article, The Energies of Men that appeared in the journal, Science William James wrote,

“We are making use of only a small part of our possible mental and physical resources.”

With each passing year, I’m increasingly sensitive to the connection between what I do with my body and the impact upon my cognitive skills, my emotions and my energy.  I’m also increasingly fascinated with what happens when I push my body beyond what I tell myself I can do; the impact this extra push has on my thoughts, emotions and energy.

For example, I hit the treadmill with the ‘plan’ to run 5 miles but then decide to pull “a Goggins”.   (Learn about David Goggins on the Rich Roll Podcast here).  In the middle of the treadmill run I decide that come hell or high water, I’m going to do 7 miles — just to see what happens.   How do I feel physically?  How do I feel mentally? How does it impact my day?

Here is what I found:

I feel great physically when I’m done.  In a few hours I might ache,  but I tell myself its awesome to feel my muscles. 

Mentally the benefits are huge. For hours after the exercise, I’m better able to focus and tackle another task.  I WANT to sit down and write.

— Without a doubt, my mental output is better quality and increased quantity in a reduced time period.

So what are my takeaways?

— If I want to get to my next chapter, I have to work out. On designated days, I have to go beyond; beyond what I plan or think I can do.

Find some physical exercise you like to do (walking, treadmill, yoga, biking), get a buddy if you need to — but get moving; preferably every day.

— If you don’t want the world to pass you by, you have to work out. Pushing yourself physically will push you mentally. 

Please understand these are just my opinions.  I am not a doctor — of anything.  So don’t take my opinions as professional advice.  It’s not.  I’m just telling you what I do to keep my 60+ year old person going and how it works for me.

What can you do? 

Plenty of people won’t agree with me.  I’m ok with that.  But there’s irrefutable evidence that working out fires up your brain, calms your emotions and can slow the aging process.

I’ve got a lot more to say on this topic.  In the meantime,  below are a few BookBundles and other resources that might motivate you to move your body and motivate your brain.

Questions to Consider:

  • Is there some physical activity you could start today that would help you tomorrow?
  • Do you keep track of your physical regime and what works?
  • Would an accountability partner or buddy help you be more active?
  • What books have inspired you to be more mindfully active?
  • Is there something you can do today that would connect you to the physical world?  Put your hands in the dirt and get it under your fingernails? Go to a park, take your shoes off and walk on the grass?


Book Published 2008
Book Published 1992
Image: Adrian Arleo


Ten years ago when John Raty published his groundbreaking, Spark there was little scientific, clinical research cementing the positive connection between exercise and the brain.  Raty was one of the pioneers leading the movement.

Raty wrote that exercise provided significant benefits for better living and a better brain.   Exercise he said:

  • alleviated anxiety and depression
  • improved focus
  • helped people with addictions manage them better
  • helped people do a better job of self-regulation with bad habits like overeating or smoking
  • helped us build stronger social connections
  • helped counter the process of aging

The importance of exercise for body and brain health is now widely accepted (though less indulged given the rising obesity rates in the U.S.).  This book will definitely provide you fuel to improve your body.


BookRiot said of The Brothers K:

This is a near-perfect literary novel, and at its core: baseball. The story itself is about the fortunes of the Chase family as they navigate the 20th century.

BuzzFeed said The Brothers K ‘was the great American novel you haven’t read yet.’ 

With an homage to Dostoyevsky’s classic The Brothers Karamazov and K, the symbol for a strikeout when scoring a baseball game (I used to score baseball games at Wrigley Field), Duncan has written a saga of the Chance family that spans the decades between the Korean War and the Vietnam conflict.

When asked by an interviewer, what’s been the best professional day of your life to date, Duncan replied:

To me, it’s a great day every time I receive a letter from somebody who climbed inside one of my books, inhabited it for a while, learned a little something, and emerged grateful. In this sense, I have honestly had thousands of great days.


Book Published 2007
Image: Wikipedia by wakarimasita
Book Published 2001


“Most runners run not because they want to live longer, but because they want to live life to the fullest. If you’re going to while away the years, it’s far better to live them with clear goals and fully alive then in a fog, and I believe running helps you to do that. Exerting yourself to the fullest within your individual limits: that’s the essence of running, and a metaphor for life — and for me, for writing as whole. ”   — Haruki Murakami

This 2007 book by the Japanese, literary phenomena, Haruki Murakami is part memoir, part running manual.  If you are a runner (even a treadmill runner, as I am) you will be enthralled.  The language is precise and thoughtful.  It will spark your mind and make you want to lace up your sneakers.

For Murakami, running is at once a metaphor for the act of writing and a tool he uses to get the writing done.  Both are activities he says he just decided to take up — one day he just decides to act.  He begins to write a novel.   He starts to run.

In 2012, Roland Kelts did a thoughtful profile of this complicated man for The New Yorker.


Most of us privileged to live in a first world country have never experienced the physical-ness of daily living.  We no longer put our hands in the soil to grow our food, touch a cow to get our milk, chop the tree to cook our meals, walk to the stream to wash our cloths, or see, smell or hear the screams of life arriving in birth or life departing in death.

Geraldine Brook’s novel Year of Wonders is a reminder.  Her story is based upon real life people and events that occurred in the village of Eyam, Derbyshire in 1666 when the plague visited the village.  In a unique and selfless act, the villagers agree to quarantine themselves so as not to spread the disease.  Brooks tells this story through the eyes of a housemaid, Anna Frith.

By all accounts, Brooks has thoroughly researched her facts.  And, as a former war correspondent who saw assignments in Bosnia, Gaza and Somalia,  she is well schooled at giving the reader graphic detail.  She does not shy away.  It’s a rapid read reminding us on almost every page how disconnected we in the first world have become from blood, guts and pestilence. The novel serves to remind that the harsh physical world of our not too distant ancestors still exits in many parts of the world.

Here is a brief video (20 min) from The Solitary Rambler about the history of the plagues visit to Eyam.

Additional Resources

In his New York Times bestselling book, The Body Keeps the Score Dr. Bessel van der Kolk explores the connection between trauma, the body and the brain.   His groundbreaking research now confirms that trauma changes the brain. This is not a comfortable or easy subject to tackle for most of us but the research being done will likely lead to wider implications about the connections between the body and the brain.  We need to get beyond being uncomfortable about these topics.  Dr. van der Kolk says it best,

“The brain-disease model overlooks four fundamental truths: (1) our capacity to destroy one another is matched by our capacity to heal one another. Restoring relationships and community is central to restoring well-being; (2) language gives us the power to change ourselves and others by communicating our experiences, helping us to define what we know, and finding a common sense of meaning; (3) we have the ability to regulate our own physiology, including some of the so-called involuntary functions of the body and brain, through such basic activities as breathing, moving, and touching; and (4) we can change social conditions to create environments in which children and adults can feel safe and where they can thrive.”

In this  short video, it is worth noting Dr. van der Kolk’s reference to decades old trauma research found in the library and Charles Darwin’s 1872 work, The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals.    Yet another example of the power of books and the knowledge to be found within. You might also enjoy his podcast interview with Krista Tippett from On Being.