Over recent years, many mainstream medical practitioners as well as alternative therapists have been endorsing the theory that negative thoughts and emotions adversely affect our health. We read more and more articles showing a connection between emotions and physical illness, the mind-body connection. Does the terminology, jargon or hype of many articles leave the average person confused? What does it mean to you?
During many conversations with friends and family, it became clear that many of them are struggling with the concept. They find it hard to believe that stress or negative emotions influence some part of their body to produce chronic pain or that it can cause illness. What do you think?
Let’s just experiment for a moment, let’s put it to the test. It will be interesting what you may notice when you close your eyes and let yourself think about a juicy lemon. Now let yourself get involved with the idea and think about slicing the lemon in half. Lemon juice dripping. Now bite into the lemon…. At the thought of biting into the lemon, how did you feel? Most people say they feel saliva increase in their mouth and a shudder or a grimace on their face.
Watching a movie can have a similar effect. We all know that movies are imaginary, they are not real. Why is it that we cry, scream, or even laugh at the movies? The answer is that what we see, hear or think is constantly interpreted within our minds and produces a physical effect. A gripping action movie or thriller causes many sweaty palms and hearts pounding. So, if a movie can produce a physical reaction, why should some of our own thoughts act differently, in particular the unpleasant or negative thoughts? The fact is that the body reacts no differently to real or imaginary scenarios, it responds to a real threat or an imaginary threat in the same way.
Most of us have no problems recognising our mind-body connection when we hit our thumb with a hammer, we know immediately that the physical pain will bring on a strong emotional response. Yet, when it comes to recognising the opposite, we are reluctant to accept that pain or illness may be influenced by our emotions. Some people refuse to believe that their emotions play a part in serious illness. Those that have been told that their illness has an unknown cause (autoimmune diseases, chronic fatigue syndrome, gastrointestinal problems etc.) somehow assume that it just happened and fate has dealt a nasty blow. Perhaps it’s the pollution they say, or it’s the diet, or maybe it’s hereditary, etc. That may be partly so, although we have to allow for the possibility that many health problems can also be caused by emotions.
It is about time that we all realise that the mind and body are connected and inseparable. No longer should there be a stigma attached to health problems that are initiated in our minds. Emotions such as stress, anxiety, fear and constant worry, create tension and can cause an imbalance in the chemistry of our nervous system. This in turn lowers our immune resistance and we become more susceptible to a host of invaders compromising our health and wellbeing. Our thoughts and emotions can impact on our physiology.
We should all give more consideration to what our thoughts are really doing. Because while we are re-living gloomy thoughts from the past or fearing and stressing about something in the future, our physiology is producing a response in our body as though it is happening now. It stimulates our nervous system to produce adrenalin, flooding our cells, while the endorphins (the feel-good chemicals) get depleted. We all know too much of any chemical is not good for our health; it is no different with natural chemicals in our body. If you have to work hard at anything, then work hard at being your own best friend and think thoughts that are helpful to you, not working against you.
It is useful to remember the old saying “heal the mind – heal the body”.
Written by Katherine Ferris and Colin Ifield.
This article is intended to be informative and interactive. Readers are invited to participate, by writing to us with their thoughts or comments and to request topics of interest, relating to health issues.