The embodied and relational nature of the mind: implications for clinical interventions in aging individuals and populations
W Jack Rejeski,1 Lise Gauvin2
1Department of Health and Exercise Science and Department of Geriatric Medicine, Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, NC, USA; 2Research Center of the University of Montréal Hospital Center, Department of Social and Preventive Medicine, Université de Montréal, Montréal, QC, Canada
Abstract: Considerable research over the past decade has garnered support for the notion that the mind is both embodied and relational. Jointly, these terms imply that the brain, physical attributes of the self, and features of our interpersonal relationships and of the environments in which we live jointly regulate energy and information flow; they codetermine how we think, feel, and behave both individually and collectively. In addition to direct experience, evidence supports the view that stimuli embedded within past memories trigger multimodal simulations throughout the body and brain to literally recreate lived experience. In this paper, we review empirical support for the concept of an embodied and relational mind and then reflect on the implications of this perspective for clinical interventions in aging individuals and populations. Data suggest that environmental influences literally “get under the skin” with aging; that musculoskeletal and visceral sensations become more prominent in activities of the mind due to aging biological systems and chronic disease. We argue that conceiving the mind as embodied and relational will grow scientific inquiry in aging, transform how we think about the self-system and well-being, and lead us to rethink health promotion interventions aimed at aging individuals and populations.
Keywords: behavior change, gerontology, disablement, well-being, embodiment
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