You might not realize this, but our emotional and physical health are connected. Whatever the emotion is, our bodies respond physically to our thoughts and how we feel and act. Positive emotions such as gratitude have been scientifically linked to a number of beneficial health effects. Stress and negative emotions can cause havoc.
Since forever, doctors have tried to find the connection between mental and physical health. Recently, science has begun to recognize the powerful connections of emotional, spiritual and behavioral factors that can directly affect our health.
Researchers at the department of psychology at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Penn. say “Psychological factors might influence immunity and immune system ‘mediated disease.’” Also, the study found “substantial evidence that factors such as stress, negative affect [emotions], clinical depression, social support, and repression/denial can influence both cellular and humoral [lymphatic fluid] indicators of immune status and function.”
So, you can see that negative emotions play a major role in the immune system of our bodies. There is convincing evidence that links stress and negative emotions and disease onset and its progression. So if you are in a bad mood, feeling down, mad or stressed, you have a greater chance of getting sick. The beliefs you hold about yourself, your emotions and your habits can all contribute to the development of disease. If you do not deal with painful emotions, they can physically disrupt the body’s natural healing ability.
Our brain produces substances that can actually improve health. These include endorphins, which act as natural painkillers and gamma globulin, which strengthen our immune system. But what our brain produces partially depends on our thoughts, expectations or feelings according to research. In instances where people who are sick but truly believe that they will get better, their brains are likely to produce chemicals that will boost their body’s healing power. On the flip side, negative thoughts or emotions can keep your brain from producing those same healing chemicals, thus keeping us in a cycle of being unhealthy or sick.
A research paper published in the journal Psychological Bulletin found that people who hold strong negative feelings or emotions about their health and view it as more serious than it actually is are more likely to be in denial and experience depression or anxiety — and are less likely to get better. But people who viewed their illnesses in a more positive light felt more in control of their situation, were less stressed, and were able to adopt a positive coping strategy and experience better outcomes.
More and more research suggests that negative thoughts or habits could be setting us up for more serious health problems in the future. For example, a 2014 study that was published in the journal Neurology linked high levels of cynicism to a greater risk of dementia compared to those who were more trusting. Cynicism may also have adverse effects on your heart. A 2009 study published in the journal Circulation looked at data from about 100,000 women and found that the most cynical participants were more likely to have heart disease than the least cynical folks.
A 2014 study published in the journal Stroke found that people who scored higher on measures of unfriendliness, as well as those with chronic stress and depressive symptoms, had a higher risk of stroke than the friendlier, kinder participants.
As you can see, our emotion and thoughts can lead to some serious health concerns. I often see this in my office — positive people get better, negative ones usually don’t. Next week’s article will look at some of the things you can do to help with negative emotions.
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Dr. Wayne M. Fichter Jr. is a chiropractor at Natural Spine Solutions. The business is located at 3913 Schreiber Way in Coeur d’Alene, 208-966-4425.