Monday, November 15, 2010

Are You “Thinking” Yourself Sick?

An Australian study in the late 1970s showed that when one spouse dies, the other experiences a weakened immune system. Your immune system is key. This helps explain why grieving spouses have more diseases and a higher death rate than others of similar age. Other studies have shown that heart patients who are depressed have more heart problems than happier heart patients; depression was a better predictor of problems than physical measurements were.

Cancer is more common in people who suffer a major emotional loss, repress anger and feel helpless. Cancer patients who express their emotions rather than denying them seem to recover more often. The link between emotion and cancer is so strong that some psychological tests have been found to be better predictors of cancer than physical exams at times. This does not mean that everyone who has cancer or some other disease has simply thought it upon himself. That’s not what I’m saying. There are many factors involved in disease; even the best attitude is not going to prevent ill effects from some chemical and biological hazards. A new study shows physical proof how one of those aspects – a strong and happy marriage – can be a boon to your health. According to the study, physical wounds take much longer to heal in marriages marred by hostility and conflict than those in which couples build a more pleasurable home life.

A study at UCLA in the early 1990s was conducted where 14 professional actors were recruited to study the effects of emotion on the immune system. During the study, the actors were told which mood state they would be experiencing.

They then read the appropriate scenario, which was only 100 words long, and were told to create and experience a realistic mood by developing the scene and act it out while seated. Actors were encouraged to use their own personal memories to intensify the experience if possible. Once the actors were in a particular emotional state, the researchers drew their blood to measure any physical changes that may be associated with particular emotional states. What they found surprised everyone. Simply by shifting from one emotional state to another, the actors could stimulate or suppress their immune function. Subsequent studies have measured all kinds of physical changes that result from emotional states, such as changes in hormone levels, brain chemistry, blood sugar levels, even the ability to heal properly. In fact, the mind-body connection is so strong that an entire field of science has emerged called psycho-neuro-immunology.

More and more scientific studies are published on a daily basis proving the idea that thoughts and emotions have a powerful influence on your physical health. This is one of the reasons why people are much more likely to get sick during job changes, holidays and other stressful times; or why people who are depressed have a much higher risk of developing cancer. How can emotions affect our immunity or resistance to disease? Research shows that your brain can release hormones and other chemicals that affect your white blood cells and other parts of your immune system

Though the chemicals also have other functions, they are a link between our thoughts and our ability to resist diseases. For example, when people react to stresses with fear, their brains send a “danger” message to the body. Here’s what happens. Hormones are released to raise blood pressure and prepare muscles for quick action, as if to fight or flee from danger. The stress hormones also depress the disease-resistance system, and over time, can damage your brain, heart and digestive tract.

Your thoughts can cause physical abnormalities such as ulcers, indigestion, nervousness and high blood pressure. Your thoughts can also depress your immune system, which leads to a wide variety of diseases. Whether a person experiences poor health, depends on the person’s heredity, environment, diet, their thoughts, and even their behavior.

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