Have you ever noticed a physical reaction in your body when you experience intense emotions? Maybe you’re happy about seeing an old friend, or you passed an important test, or you discovered a five-dollar bill on the dresser that you thought you’d lost—whatever the reason, such experiences generate an elation that expresses as an actual sensation in your body. That’s why we refer to a rush of excitement, a flutter of joy.
The same thing happens when you’re sad, but the sensations aren’t as pleasant. You might feel tired and apathetic, and in the case of an extreme sadness—such as grief due to a loss or a natural disaster—you might even experience tightness in your chest or develop a stomach ache.
These physical reactions are real. It’s well known that certain emotions generate specific chemical reactions, and your body responds to the way you think, feel, and act. It’s a veritable “mind/body connection.”
Our Garland Chiropractic Clinic is invested in helping you find the mind/body balance you need to achieve good health. Let’s take a look at the issue.
First, an interesting history
More than a millennia ago, ancient Greeks, Romans, and East Indian physicians intuitively recognized that there was a link between illness and emotion. They embraced the theory that an imbalance in the four ‘humors’ (secretions) of blood, yellow bile, black bile, and phlegm caused diseases, and that the imbalance was caused by emotions.
This connection is so important we even derived some of our words from it. Melancholy comes from melan, the Latin word for “black,” and choler, the Latin word for “bitter bile.” A gloomy or embittered person is melancholic. And a phlegmatic person is considered languid and lethargic. We even developed the term “feeling sick” as a collective description that includes our sensory symptoms, such as nausea, fever, and exhaustion with how we feel psychologically, such as sad or apathetic.
The mind/body connection and how it works
The effects your mind has on your physical body are profound. A different chemical is released each time we experience an emotion, whether it’s happiness or sadness, joy or depression. Each chemical literally creates a different environment inside our bodies. Considering our wide array of emotions, it’s no wonder our bodies suffer such a range of reactions!
Let’s think about negative reactions. Cortisol and adrenaline levels increase in your bloodstream when you’re stressed. They’re actually called stress hormones. These hormones work to redirect the blood supply from your deep organs into areas where it’s needed to allow your instinctive “flight-or-flight response,” preparing you to run as fast as you can. Your body believes that’s your best chance to escape whatever is causing the stress. It doesn’t matter if you’re stressed because you’re in real physical danger—like being stalked by a hungry tiger!—or if it’s caused by grief, sadness, or depression. Nature developed a very efficient and cool arrangement for us, utilizing our human emotions to initiate our survival instinct.
On the other end of the spectrum, when you feel happy, the body releases dopamine, oxytocin, or serotonin. Those hormones make you feel good.
- Dopamine is a motivator, encouraging the action and persistence you need to meet your needs and goals.
- Oxytocin is often referred as a “cuddle neurochemical” because it’s released by skin-to-skin contact.
- Serotonin is the “confidence molecule,” coming into play when you feel important or significant. Low levels of serotonin can result in loneliness and depression.
It’s quite fascinating how the interplay of these hormones manifests in your physical responses. It’s been noted that love and happiness are “felt strongly all over our bodies, while depression causes us to lose sensation in every limb.” Pride creates a huge increase in the body’s internal activity, but it focuses in the upper body. Shame only burns your cheeks, while fear is felt in your chest and disgust—like phlegm—fills your throat.
Physical health impacts of the mind/body connection
What happens if you think negatively all the time?
- Long term stress can cause an ulcer.
- Anxiety can increase the heartrate and blood pressure, cause shortness of breath, and could result in chest pains.
- Depression causes tiredness and fatigue.
- The immune system can be weakened.
- Physical health is impacted when stress, anxiety, and depression interfere with a person taking care of themselves.
Additional issues may include: poor appetite, dry mouth, back pain, constipation or diarrhea, insomnia, sweating, stiff neck, headaches, weight loss or gain, and just general aches and pains.
Controlling your own health
If negative thoughts can hurt you, positive thoughts can help you.
Optimism alone seems to reduce cortisol levels and inflammation that’s caused by stress. It might well decrease a person’s potential to be impacted by diseases because it suppresses activity of the sympathetic nervous system while stimulating the “rest-and-digest” response of the parasympathetic nervous system. Positive people can lower their cardiovascular responses to stress.
Good emotional health means being aware of your own thoughts, feelings, and reactions. There are always stress and problems in life and you have to learn to deal with them in a manner that helps you stay healthy.
Here are some helpful tips for taking charge of your mind/body connection:
- Don’t keep your feelings inside if it makes you feel worse. Express yourself, and do it in a positive way. Tell people how you feel. Turn to a doctor, counselor or pastor if you need emotional support.
- Keep your life balanced. Try not to obsess about the things in your daily life that bother you. You have to deal with them, but bring in positive feelings and activities to lessen that burden. Focus on a positive outlook.
- Learn resilience so you can cope. Find social support, accept change, and keep the issues in perspective.
- Work to calm yourself mentally and physically. Try yoga, meditation, music, a good book or a movie you love. If an intimate group of friends helps, invite them over for a talk fest!
- It’s important to take care of yourself. If you’re emotionally healthy, work on body health. If your body is healthy, work on your emotional strength. Eat right, sleep enough, and exercise to throw off tension. Avoid alcohol and drugs.
- Contact Texas Spine & Wellness and let our trained professionals set up a program that will help you reach an optimal level of physical health.
Remember, the power to take on and overcome what life throws at you lies within yourself. Remember, too, these words said by Hippocrates:
“If someone wishes for good health, one must first ask oneself if he is ready to do away with the reasons for his illness. Only then is it possible to help him.”