The connection between the emotions and disease has been known for thousands of years in cultures all around the world.
It is mentioned in the Bible and by the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)textbooks. Yoga traditions use the term samskara which means the “subtle impressions of our past actions” and describe how this can impact your physical health.
And now finally, modern science is discovering how certain emotions can have a direct effect on disease and healing.
What Science Says about the emotions
The profound effect that emotions have on health and lifespan was discussed in a groundbreaking series of 10-year-long studies published in the British journal Psychology and Psychotherapy in 1988. The study concluded that “emotional stress was more predictive of death from cancer or cardiovascular disease than from smoking.” It also found that individuals who were the most affected by stress had an overall death rate that was 40% higher than non-stressed participants. Unbelievable, isn’t it?
So just how can emotions have such an effect on our bodies?
Doctors have been using the term psychosomatic for a long time to describe imaginary illnesses-no evident physical cause is found but the patient is exhibiting a series of symptoms. In fact, the term simply relates to the physiological connections between mind and body. In modern scientific terms, this connection happens through tiny molecular structures called peptides.
Peptides are tiny bits of protein that are produced throughout the body. They are found in hormones such as endorphins, serotonin, and insulin, for example, and are key elements for life.
Peptides make the connection between the brain-emotions and the body. When a thought triggers an emotion, peptides transmit those feelings through neuropathways and extracellular fluid. And it’s that simple for your anger or stress to transform into a stomach ache or breathing problems.
When a thought triggers an emotion, peptides transmit those feelings through neuropathways and extracellular fluid.
How Your Emotions Affect Your Body
Here are just a few ways in which specific emotions affect specific bodily functions:
- A University of Arizona study found that expressing affectionate feelings towards your loved ones can lower cholesterol;
- A study published in the International Journal of Psychophysiology discovered that when subjects simply recalled the situation that had been the initial cause of stress, their blood pressure rates raised significantly.
- A study at Loma Linda University in California found that when individuals laughed at a funny movie, the levels of beta-endorphins, responsible for mood elevation, rose as well. In addition, Human Growth Hormone, which aids in sleep and contributes to cellular repair, rose by 87%.
Balance emotions for Better Health
Learning how to manage emotions and dealing with the stress go hand in hand. Before you can handle emotions, you must learn how to manage stress in order get cortisol levels down. Remember, there is a direct and proven correlation between chronically high cortisol levels (i.e. chronic stress) and many illnesses.
Here is a picture that make it easy to understand how cortisol impacts our body and how a prolonged high level of cortisol can destabilize this delicate balance.
Here are 4 basic ideas about how to manage stress, lower cortisol levels, and clear stressful emotions so that true healing can occur:
- Find out what keeps you stressed in your life and DECIDE to make a change. Divorce, the death of a loved one, finances, even happy occasions like getting married can add to the stress factor. Which one is yours? On a scale from one to ten, how would you rate this stress? Then make a commitment to yourself and your health and lower that score.
- Try EFT tapping, acupuncture, tai chi, massage, chiropractic care, meditation, prayer, journaling, exercise, and eating healthier. These are all things able to lower stress responses and add a little more self-care to your life. And you don’t have to do them all. Simply choose one or two modalities, then try it. Even taking 10 minutes each day can sometimes do the trick.
- Let others help you or support you. Study after study has shown that those who have the support of a caring group of loved ones have a better chance of coming out of a cancer diagnosis than those who do it on their own. So, whether it is a church group, a cancer support group, or a group of loving friends, let them be part of your healing journey.
- Don’t be afraid to acknowledge your emotions. It is natural for deeper issues, memories, or events to rise to the surface once the initial shock is gone. Practice sitting with emotions as they rise to the surface and always remember that no matter how bad you may feel, these emotions are coming up to be released.
In our culture, we often feel as if we have to “do” something about it. Feelings, however, sometimes just need to be “felt.”
All the above suggestions would apply to any illness or stress but perhaps people diagnosed with cancer are the ones who need it the most.
Being told you have cancer is one the most stressful events you and your family can go through.
During a study of over 20,000 cancer patients, Dr. R.G. Hamer saw a direct link between psychological stress, no matter the cause, and how it can directly lead to DNA damage.
That means the anxiety and depression you may be feeling from a cancer diagnosis or any other illness can affect how well your body functions on a genetic level.
No one wants to have this happen to them but if it does happen, know that you still have the power to affect your outcome!
To your health,
Dana Neacsu, MD