“Please unleash the demon that has taken up residence in my neck. I’m desperate,” I begged the stranger sitting in front of me, in between grimaces.

The stranger, Brendan Sweetman – a well-respected therapist in the field of bodywork – was referred to me by a trusted healthcare provider. I had been experiencing intermittent episodes of painful muscular tightness for several years. On that day, my discomfort level was so bothersome, I was unable to focus on fast-approaching deadlines.

Sweetman assessed my posture while inquiring about my history of injuries and activities. Then he proceeded to ask more personal questions – ones of my childhood, personal failures and relationships. I considered the second leg of questioning to be odd, but pacified his inquisitiveness with a vague string of answers before shifting to the therapy table for relief.

He began working on my areas of complaint – applying pressure both light and intense – as though he were trying to unravel a pile of tangled electrical cords. “Your hands are hurting my feelings,” I joked.

The moment those words departed from my mouth, I shocked myself with the realization of how much truth they contained.

In the areas of tightness, emotions were surfacing as if to say, “Oh, hello. Had you assumed your mastery of ‘toughening up’ meant your body had forgotten?”

It was perplexing because I had to concentrate on my inner reactions in order to distinguish between emotions and physical sensations. Suddenly, their lines of separation blurred into a sludge pile of oneness.

The emotions then began dragging the moldy old thoughts to the fore, asking that they join. There were the shameful ones of self-doubt and fear, like those skeletons we stash in the back of our closets and cover with layers of whatever we can find – until we’ve convinced ourselves they disappeared. It was as though someone was trampling around inside of a showroom housing my most private memories and self-limiting beliefs.

But, I had not charmed him with any details of my failures, insecurities or personal traumas. He was merely following the patterns of restriction, tightness and imbalance in my body. By doing so, my body was telling me things I needed to know.

For the first time in my life, I understood in a way I had never quite understood before: My mind, body and spirit are inextricable parts of a complete whole – facets of the same diamond.

The revelations made on the therapy table that day infused me with fascination. I decided to make it my mission to better understand this – to understand the complete picture of who I am. Of what it means to be healthy – beyond the cliche´ or what my blood work could reveal to me.

I embarked on a quest – devouring books on subjects ranging from the energetics of food to how our choice of thought affects the chemicals released by our brains. I began connecting with my body through movement, practicing meditation, addressing nutritional deficiencies and making a vigilant effort to exterminate the negative influences from my life.

I became a supportive host of my mind, body and spirit connection – giving them each a voice. And, as I did, my life burst into bloom. Poisonous relationships began to dissipate. Career opportunities which had once seemed far-fetched became credentials on my resume. Each day brought with it being pregnant with new ideas and an eagerness to birth them. I wondered if I had stepped into a magical realm of fortune and blessing, but – in reality – those tools had been available to me all along. I just had not been healthy enough to be aligned with them.

The following is an invitation – containing expert opinions and research-supported suggestions – for you, reader, to do the same. The purpose for it is quite simple: In order to reach your highest potential, your mind, body and spirit must be properly heard, nourished and aligned. By doing so, every aspect of our life – including your personal aspirations and most ambitious endeavors – are given the opportunity to thrive.

Body Work is Emotional Work: A Conversation with Brendan Sweetman, Structural Integration Therapist

Brendan Sweetman, Founder of Structural Integration of Nashville in Nashville, Tenn. offers healing bodywork which focuses on the connection between the mind, body and spirit. A faithful devotee of meditation, mindfulness and yoga, he believes that if balance, function and strength are restored to one’s body, it will then spread to all areas of the person’s life – from emotional agility to organ function.

“We have to accept the reality that we are an energy life force separate from our physical bodies. And, because we are made up of energy, we create and hold energetic patterns in response to our experiences,” says Sweetman. “These patterns affect our emotions, mindset and health. This is why when I work with people physically, burdens and limitations of every kind are lifted from them.“

Sweetman has witnessed dozens of clients depart from unfulfilling careers, untangle from damaging relationships, release weight, regain a sense of organization within their lives and realize their highest potential, oftentimes after years of being “stuck” in cycles and patterns of dysfunction.

“Negative self-perceptions show up in our physical bodies. When these burdens are addressed and released, the client becomes lighter in their being,” says Sweetman. “This sometimes shows up on the scale, but most of all allows the truth of who they are to become clear.”

Sweetman is convinced that no issue in our lives is a mystery. “Every ailment or problem – from chronic headaches to relational issues – contains a root and an answer, lying within our field and waiting to be seen,” he says.

An Acupuncturist’s Perspective On Harmonizing the Body: Mark Shprintz

Pain is the catalyst for the majority of clients who seek the services of Mark Shprintz, Licensed Acupuncturist, Certified Practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Founder of Nashville Healing Arts, though they often receive a lot more than relief from it.

According to Shprintz, the goal of acupuncture – a 2,000 year-old healing practice, is “to harmonize the body’s energy circulation.”

Throughout his years of practice, clients of all ages, backgrounds and varying ailments have proven to him that emotional and mental stress is inevitably reflected in the person’s body – whether it manifests in the form of chronic headaches, digestive dysfunction, a stiff neck, tight shoulders or a slouched posture. “I work with the crossing point – the nexus – between emotional and mental stress and physical pain,” he says.

Sprintz once had a client seek his help after experiencing strange and unpleasant fluttering sensations in his chest. The individual had unsuccessfully exhausted all standard medical treatments.

“He said the sensations were like bats flying out of chimney. He had been evaluated by a cardiologist, and was then diagnosed with panic attacks. He refused to take the prescribed anxiety medicine, so a colleague referred him to me,” says Sprintz.

This led to the realization that the client’s stressful job was likely contributing to the disturbing physical sensations he was experiencing.

“I explained how emotional energy can be trapped in the body and erupt chaotically. Acupuncture gently and strategically releases this pressure. The client described waves of energy rippling throughout his body as I worked on the tension areas. He told me that ‘the bats stopped flying around’ after our first session,” says Sprintz.

Spritz believes that, once the energy is permitted to flow through the body as designed, limitations of every nature – emotional, mental and physical – often begin to vanish. This clearing away of energetic blocks – whether caused by dietary or environmental toxins, or negative emotional patterns – permits the way for health to be restored.

How to Begin Your Quest for Total Mind, Body & Spirit Wellness

We have established the value of properly attuning your mind, body and spirit in order to achieve your highest potential. You may be wondering where to begin, however.

The truth is: It begins right where you are – right now, in the choices you make in the seemingly insignificant moments you spend stuck in your patterns. It begins with not only what you eat for breakfast, but the thoughts you carry with you into the shower. It begins with making the next right decision – including your internal dialogue when you stand before a mirror. It begins with your mindset.

A recent study from Duke University Medical Center revealed that heart patients who had an optimistic mindset about their approaching treatments absolutely lived longer than those who were more pessimistic about them. So replace that negative thought with a positive one. Skip that extra Netflix episode and go for a hike surrounded by beautiful scenery. Stretch out your body at the end of every day, bidding farewell to the tension it is tired of holding onto. Surround your workspace with positivity – from gifts given to you by those who love you to affirmative reminders of why your health and fitness goals are not only attainable, but how worthy you are of achieving them.

How we feel creates a projection of how we view the world. If we do not love ourselves, we cannot love the world we live in. And if we cannot love the world we live in, we will never love living in it. Your healthiest version starts right where you are. So begin.

This article is featured in The Connect magazine’s Holiday 2017/2018 issue. To enjoy the full issue, including exclusive interviews with Hollywood power player Kiki Ayers and legendary branding guru Louis Upkins, expert tips for becoming your healthiest version in the New Year, as well as a peek at the 6,000-year-old goldmines resting inside of the Asian Art Museum, order here. Download the digital version here.