The mind is so powerful that it can exert influence over your physical state. In recent years we’ve seen the literature on the relationship between mind and body open wide, understanding that they’re much more closely related than we ever imagined.
Everyone has been sick at one time or another and had the feeling that their physical ailment corresponded with a mental statement of incapacitation or imprisonment.
Maybe you felt more tired or clumsy than normal, unable to process even small stimuli or your own thoughts.
On the flip side, recent research has shown that a state of mental well-being is associated with better physical condition – both your actual bodily health as well as the perception you have of it.
It would seem that positive thoughts and ideas can, through the function of your nervous system, help you become more physically fit.
Similarly, however, if your mind isn’t at peace you become more prone to disease. In other words, suffering from mental illnesses like anxiety and depression can cause unwanted physical symptoms to appear. Keep reading to learn how thoughts become disease.
What is this process of transformation?
Reflect for a moment on the times when you’ve felt anxious. Your heart begins to beat harder and faster than normal, your hands might begin to tremble, and you notice you’ve started to sweat.
All of those symptoms appear because your mind is triggering a physical response in your body, shifting the balance just like when you start any kind of exercise.
But there’s a big difference between this response and that of exercise: you’re not exercising. Your body doesn’t have an outlet for all the extra energy it’s begun to produce and that causes a tremendous strain on your nervous system.
The veins and arteries that supply your muscles with blood fail to dilate, but your heart is pushing a lot more blood through your system.
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What happens next?
Imagine a busy highway during rush hour when everything is running smoothly, yet suddenly you come to an accident and all that traffic has to be diverted to a much smaller secondary road. Without a doubt, the system will collapse.
The same happens in your body.
Your heart is pumping out cars and more cars while the rest of your body isn’t able to absorb all that traffic. If the situation continues for only a short time or it’s not too intense, the jam isn’t a big deal.
But if it goes on for a long time or is very acute, extensive damage can occur.Similarly, one of the more obvious mind-body connections is between your cognitive function and the strength of your immune system.
When your mind isn’t working as it should, it’s normal for the body to turn on itself, making it vulnerable to any kind of attack from the outside.
In this sense, your mind is like a computer and your immune system is your antivirus protection software. If the computer malfunctions, it disables the antivirus, putting you at risk of any Trojan Horse that means you harm.
Furthermore, the breakdown of your defenses usually doesn’t occur during the time you’re stressed, but rather when it disappears.
What role does the brain play?
Let’s not forget that behind your every thought and idea is a chemical connection in your biological system. One fundamental region of study for this is the hypothalamus, which plays a very important role in the regulation of your hormones.
This small and interesting component of your brain is extremely responsive to your thoughts, whether in the form of memories, interpretation of present stimuli, or the anticipation of future events.
This means that your hypothalamus can “wake up,” preparing you to respond more quickly, give way to sleep, or enhance feelings of pleasure.
What does your behavior influence?
So far we’ve only talked about how the mind can impose a direct influence on your body, but we can’t omit another aspect that’s no less important, which has to do with your behavior. Here’s an example:
We all go through stages in our lives that aren’t particularly happy or motivating. In fact, even if you’ve never experienced clinical depression, some of the things you feel during these times may be similar to those experienced by people who have this disorder, albeit perhaps not as intense or prolonged.
In such times you might begin to neglect certain aspects of your appearance or personal care. Specifically, one of the first things that’s usually affected is your diet.
You turn away from foods you don’t enjoy as much, which are usually the healthiest options, and instead turn to the foods that provide you with more pleasure.
Why does this happen? It’s a question of balance. You seek the pleasure that you’ve lost in other aspects of your life through the food you eat.
Sadly, the image that always appears in TV and movies of a girl sitting alone on a couch while binge eating ice cream after a breakup is real.This is a damaging way to force your hypothalamus to create a feeling of well-being that you’ve lost somehow. The behavioral pattern you’ve chosen to avoid negative emotions has become counter productive to the health of your body.
But that loss of balance isn’t the only reason people begin to neglect their diet. Another important aspect to consider is the sadness and the lack of motivation that usually appear alongside depression.
The reasons (thoughts) that once compelled you to take care of yourself might now take a back seat to that sadness that has shown up and taken root.
Actions that once seemed routine take significantly more effort now. You might try to simplify your routine – instead of going to the grocery store after work you decide to order a pizza instead. It takes less effort.
The opposite side of the coin
So far we’ve talked mostly about how negative thoughts can physically weaken you, but there’s also the opposite side of that coin. Many studies have shown that a positive mental attitude has significantly improved the prognosis of people suffering from disease.
This could be a direct result of your biochemistry, or the effect of resuming activities that may also help control the disease, such as more physical activity and a healthier diet.
To conclude, we encourage you to care for your mental health as much as you possibly can, because through this, you’ll be caring for your entire body. Aren’t you worth it?