An Article Series Exploring the Quantum Science Behind the Mind-body Connection
It’s a question people have been asking for thousands of years. How — if at all — do our thoughts affect our everyday reality?
Over the past couple of decades, attention to topics such as the law of attraction and the mind-body connection has exploded. Yet while the methods that supposedly teach us how to manifest our dream life are countless, the scientific data that explores this field is relatively scarce.
Every personal development book out there reiterates the importance of mindset. But have you ever wondered WHY exactly mindset so important — from a biological standpoint? How do our thoughts and feelings affect our behaviors, perceptions, and daily reality? Why is it that people who radiate joy, peace, and compassion seem to also be the happiest? What is the main body of scientific evidence that explains how our minds affect whether we’re full of energy or barely getting through our days?
In this series of articles, I am going to be exploring these questions from the most fundamental standpoint of science — the quantum level.
In order to solve any problem, we must first identify the root cause. Otherwise, we just end up putting a band-aid over a symptom. We often do this when it comes to our well-being, not fully realizing that the root cause of all of our troubles stems from within.
THE MIND-BODY CONNECTION THROUGH THE LENS OF SCIENCE
There are numerous benefits to understanding ourselves and the mind-body connection from a quantum level. Here’s how these insights can help move humanity — and you — closer to a happier world:
They provide us not only with the hope that we CAN change from the inside out but also a practical means to doing so. By understanding how our minds affect our bodies through the processes of sensory perception, we can change our mental and physical states to realign them with our intentions and goals.
These insights can encourage further research in the fields of mental health to identify ways to prevent and treat some of the most common mental ailments such as stress, anxiety, and depression. By addressing the root causes of these rather than their symptoms, we come one step closer to decreasing their prevalence and frequency.
These insights can encourage further research in all fields of science to bring us closer to finding a unified theory that marries the classical and quantum worlds to describe how all forces of nature interact at a fundamental level. Findings from such research can have implications across all areas of our daily lives ranging from technology to healthcare, to relationships and emotional well-being.
MERGING BIOLOGY AND QUANTUM PHYSICS
This article series is based on the book “Life on the Edge: The Coming of Age of Quantum Biology” by physicist Jim Al-Khalili and molecular genetics scientist Johnjoe McFadden of the University of Surrey. There are countless books that touch on many of the concepts that will be presented throughout this series. Some of my favorites are listed in the Sources section at the end of this article.
Yet the reason I am choosing to use this article series to summarize the book “Life on the Edge,” is that the authors of this book appear to doubt the mind-body connection and the possibility of extrasensory phenomena.
In my view, their findings actually serve to further underscore the evidence of the mind-body connection. They also point to a possible explanation of how our own thoughts and feelings affect our health, our interactions with others, and the overall quality of our daily lives.
INTRO TO THIS ARTICLE SERIES
This article series follows the structure of “Life on the Edge” chapter by chapter. While there are 10 chapters in the book, the series may be broken up into even smaller bites.
*This article series may tend to get technical in some parts.* If you have no interest in science, then you may perhaps find it too dry…but if the quantum world and the idea of finally getting to the root of the reason behind the mind-body connection fascinates you, then you’re in for an exciting ride! I have included links to Wikipedia summaries of certain scientific concepts for further explanation.
I encourage comments that help point out potential flaws in my reasoning. I can then piece them together as I continue my personal pursuit of studying the science behind the mind-body connection — even though it’s just a hobby at this point.
As I wrote in a previous article series, understanding the science behind our mindset can change the world for the better: How Science Can Transform Worry and Stress into Happiness and Peace Science Confirms We’ve Always Had the Power to Make our Dreams a Reality — Do We Dare to Use It? Now onto the fun stuff — the quantum world of turning thoughts to things!
HOW DO BIRDS KNOW WHICH WAY IS SOUTH?
In “Life on the Edge,” Al-Khalili starts off by exploring the question of how migrating birds know where to go when they head south for the winter. What is it inside their bodies that senses the earth’s magnetic field and helps them navigate to warm, tropical climates? There’s historically been one big challenge with addressing this question from a purely classical standpoint: the amount of energy radiating from the earth’s magnetic field is less than a billionth of the energy needed to cause a change within the bird’s body at the biomolecular level.
If our understanding of classical physics doesn’t allow us to explain how electromagnetic energy can affect living organisms at the molecular level, then what field of science can help us further our understanding?
Enter the spooky yet enchanting world of quantum physics. This is where the answer to the question of birds being able to navigate to the tropics lies — at the quantum intersection of particles, molecules, and electromagnetism.
GETTING DOWN…TO THE QUANTUM LEVEL To gain a deeper appreciation for the role that quantum physics plays in every thought we think or move we make, it helps to look at how it permeates our daily existence. Look at your hand. What is it made of?
If you were to zoom in far enough, you would see cells. What are cells made of? Complex proteins, DNA, and other organic structures. What are these made of? Molecules. What are all molecules made of? Atoms. What are atoms made of? Protons, neutrons, electrons.
At one point, atoms were thought to be indivisible and were thus termed “elementary particles.” With further advances in technology, scientists have been able to keep diving deeper. Electrons and quarks (the stuff that protons and neutrons are made of) seem to be the most widely-understood “elementary particles” among the general public at this point.
Physicists, however, can peer even deeper into the world of bosons, leptons, gluons, gravitons and other beauties. The smaller the scale, the more we see how these subatomic particles interact with the forces of electromagnetism, gravity, and the weak and strong nuclear forces.
“Atoms or elementary particles themselves are not real; they form a world of potentialities or possibilities rather than one of things or facts.” ― Werner Heisenberg (Nobel-Prize winning physicist; pioneer of quantum mechanics)
NO OBJECTIVE REALITY TO DESCRIBE
This is where I interject to note that every time we identify another “elementary” particle, we are still the ones who are describing it. As humans, we are limited by our sensory perceptions and our technologies which always have at least one foot in the classical world of matter.
We are the ones who label and name these particles as we find the mathematical evidence that shows their prevalence. This does not mean that further ways to split the subatomic particles don’t exist, it simply means that we have not yet discovered the math that would allow us to understand them from our current levels of perception.
Whatever we call these subatomic particles, the bottom line is that YOU are made of them. These particles interact with each other at the quantum level.
“As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain, and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality.” — Albert Einstein
FUSING ATOMS & ELECTROMAGNETISM
Al-Khalili provides a great example of how subatomic particles can end up being released as electromagnetic energy through a brief explanation of how sunlight works.
When the nuclei of hydrogen atoms in the sun fuse together, the energy released is what we know as electromagnetic radiation (the light and warmth that we perceive).
Now, how do the protons in the hydrogen atoms get close enough together to fuse? Via quantum tunneling. While the science behind quantum tunneling is beyond the scope of this article (but briefly touched on in the book), it is only one of the many “weird” phenomena of quantum physics, powered by another powerful yet counterintuitive concept — quantum superposition.
As Al-Khalili explains, quantum superposition explains how “particles can do two — or a hundred, or a million — things at once.”
This means that particles can change form. They in fact do so on a regular basis. If an atom’s nucleus has too many protons or neutrons, it balances itself out by transforming the excess particles from protons to neutrons or vice-versa. This is also known as the process of beta-decay.
At this point, feel free to cue the twilight zone music. And when you do, think of the implications this has on all of us as we go about our days. If elementary particles can transform from one state to another and can exist in multiple states at once — and if we are made of these elementary particles — what does this hint about our ability to shape our reality?
“Everything we call real is made of things that cannot be regarded as real. If quantum mechanics hasn’t profoundly shocked you, you haven’t understood it yet.” ― Niels Bohr (Nobel-Prize winning physicist and also a pioneer in quantum theory)
FOREVER ENTANGLED IN THE WEB OF LIFE
And just in case you’re not hooked on the amazing wonder of quantum physics yet, let me introduce another concept that will be essential throughout our discussion in this series. It’s a feature of the quantum world that allows particles to move faster than the speed of light. Meet quantum entanglement — the phenomenon that allows for particles that were once combined to instantaneously influence one another, regardless of the distance between them.
And for those of us who subscribe to the idea of the big bang theory — if everything in the universe was at one point a giant cloud of primordial elements — then that means that literally everything in this world is forever connected through quantum entanglement. Yes, that means you and I. You and your loved ones. You and your enemies. You and your pets. You and every single tree, flower, or object you’ve ever laid eyes on.
Quantum entanglement proves the interconnectedness and mutual interdependence of all organisms in the universe. It also reveals that nothing can be separate from anything else — including our thoughts about life and their energetic footprint.
So before we move onto the next part in this series, let’s summarize:
If everything in the universe is made up of subatomic particles, including us, then quantum laws must operate at all levels.
This means that whether we are working in science under the labels of biology, chemistry, epigenetics, neuroscience, or astronomy, at the fundamental level, we are still dealing with the laws of physics. And along with models of the world presented by classical physics, in order to truly understand ourselves and Life, we must also understand the quantum world that governs the functions of subatomic particles.
Biologists have doubted whether quantum laws can affect living organisms at our normal “everyday” level of functioning. But finally, quantum phenomena have been detected in biological occurrence ranging from photosynthesis to the way our cells make biomolecules. How could we be different and apart from the very stuff and processes that we are made of?
At the quantum level, particles can exist in multiple states at once. Everything in the universe is forever connected. Particles can affect each other instantaneously, even without traversing the fields of time and space.
In the next part of this series, we will take a deeper look at how quantum physics applies to living organisms even despite the biggest challenge that scientists have so far had with this idea. Stay tuned!
SOURCES: “Life on the Edge: The Coming of Age of Quantum Biology” by Johnjoe McFadden and Jim Al-Khalili, 2016, Broadway Books https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elementary_particle https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beta_decay https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Classical_physics
RECOMMENDED READING if you’re interested in the science behind the mind-body connection: The Dancing Wu Li Masters — Gary Zukav The Tao of Physics — Fritjof Capra Evolve Your Brain — Dr. Joe Dispenza Breaking The Habit of Being Yourself — Dr. Joe Dispenza The Biology of Belief — Bruce Lipton Buddha’s Brain — Rick Hanson, Ph. D The Universe in a Single Atom — Dalai Lama The Divine Matrix — Gregg Bradden Finding Flow — Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi The Physics of God — Joseph Selbie No Self No Problem — Chris Niebauer, Ph.D