August 15, 2018
Our mind-body connection is far more powerful than we realize. Our thoughts influence our emotions by the way we experience the world around us. Even when we imagine future situations or visualize potential outcomes, our bodies physically respond to our thoughts.
Think of how you react when someone cuts you off in traffic and nearly causes an accident. The incident may only last a moment, and, at that instant, your body immediately prepares for the potential outcome, triggering a surge of adrenaline, which is the body’s hormonal response to a fight or flight situation. This sort of physical reaction isn’t limited to a release of adrenaline. Our thoughts can trigger our bodies to experience all types of physiological responses from changes in blood pressure and heart rate to chemical alterations in the brain. These changes can be harmless, or, over time, they can be detrimental to your health.
In 2013, a study was conducted on 270 patients looking to alleviate severe arm pain. Half of the subjects received acupuncture treatments, and the other half received pain-reducing pills. Some side-effects experienced in both groups, included an increase in pain, sluggishness, swelling, and redness. Both groups found relief with treatment, but those who received acupuncture reported feeling even better than the group that did not receive this treatment. However, the study was not designed to measure the effectiveness of acupuncture versus pain pills - the needles had retractable shafts and never pierced the skin, and the painkillers were made of cornstarch - it measured the power of placebos.
Imagine! Even without any actual treatment, the body still reacted according to what each patient expected. Of course, you cannot think yourself better to remove a tumour or cure a virus, but researchers have found that the power of the mind can have a physical impact when it comes to pain, depression, anxiety, fatigue, and even some symptoms of Parkinson’s.
In another study conducted at the University of Turin Medical School, 100 students went on a trip to the Italian Alps with the researcher Fabrizio Benedetti. Shortly before the trip, Benedetti told one individual in the group that the thin air may cause migraines. A few days passed, giving the rumour time to make the rounds to one-quarter of the travellers – all of whom experienced horrible headaches. Saliva tests on the “socially-infected” individuals also revealed low oxygen conditions beyond what was expected.
Now, apply that study to our everyday lives and how gossip and social media snark can poison our minds. What happens when family and friends fuel your negative expectations, worries, and doubts? It feels horrible, doesn’t it? And what about the opposite – what happens when you’re loved ones surround you with warmth and encouragement? It feels amazing and makes life’s challenges feel more achievable.
Play along for a moment and allow yourself to take in a long conscious breath.
Feel how the air moves through your body as you inhale and exhale.
Now take another full deep breath.
How do you feel? Did time slow down a little? Did you enjoy a brief moment of peace? Or did you not play along at all, anxious to move on to the next thing?
If only we lived breath by breath instead of task-by-task. Our to-do lists will never be empty, so we must schedule time in our day to reconnect with ourselves. We act like finding time to meditate is beyond our control. It isn’t. And the results are worth it!
Meditation deepens your self-connection on a physical, mental and spiritual level.
Meditation helps to release suppressed emotions by giving you space to reset.
Meditation enhances our overall health and wellbeing by increasing positive emotions and improving immune function.
Studies have also shown that when we work on our emotional awareness and self-compassion, we can experience a healthier response to rejection, improve eating behaviours, and effectively manage weight loss.
A few key points to remember…
Stress is not inherently negative – it all depends on how you look at things. If you perceive something as a threat, then your health will deteriorate. However, if you simply change your mindset from threat to challenge, then you enhance your health! So, ask yourself -- are you running away from a lion or are you embracing the beast?
Emotions are only energy in motion. Instead of thinking of your emotions as a hindrance, consider them the currency required for the motivation to change. Unresolved feelings don’t atrophy or disappear – their dammed-up energies accumulate. Like an untreated health condition, if your emotions are allowed to fester inwardly, they will eventually cause physical conditions and behavioural issues.
Both negative and positive emotions left unresolved will deplete the body’s immune system. Acknowledge your feelings and learn how to manage them effectively. Managing emotions leads to homeostasis in the body, centeredness of mind, and spiritual connection. Remember, if there are no peaks or valleys, you’re flatlining!
Dr. Susan Slipacoff, ND and the KIH Clinic Team