The interwoven tapestry of our thoughts, experiences and emotions has direct and tangible affects on our health, body functions and how we live.
Research is helping us to understand the complex web of these influences on our health and well-being.
In fact, empirical studies over the last 15 years indicate that positive self esteem/self love is an important psychological factor contributing to health and quality of life. The protective nature of self-love is particularly evident in studies examining stress and/or physical disease in which self-love is shown to safeguard the individual from fear, uncertainty and buffer the impact of stressors (which are a major impairment to health across the board).
They found that the level of self-love was a consistent factor in predicting the outcome of a patient after a stroke or could enhance an individual’s ability to cope with disease and post-operative survival. Even more recently we have been finding out exactly how self love/positive esteem changes our brains.
The affects of ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ self-thoughts are abundant and varied so I am going to just give an overview of our brains in this realm. Needless to say there is plenty of data showing that self-love (positive self-esteem) is some of the best medicine/nutrition for us humans so I will leave you to do more extensive research on your own.
Let’s try to simplify this so we can each appreciate and feel empowered around the essential mechanisms of our own brain/body.
Our thoughts and emotions decide whether and how neurons will fire and how they wire/unwire to produce structural changes in the brain. Needless to say, how our neurons fire and wire is the most essential function of whom and how we are. There is no sidestepping or avoiding this. Everything we are and become, not to mention basic motor (motion) functions, are based on our neurons and neural pathways.
Emotions and thoughts are powerful influences that direct the processes of the body. Every time you have a thought or feeling, your body releases tiny chemical proteins called neuropeptides. (Neuropeptides are used by our neurons to communicate with one another.) There are more than a thousand different neuropeptides….each triggering its own specific physiological effect. Without neuropeptides, your body could not function. Hormones, for example, are neuropeptides, as are endorphins and adrenalin.
Together, emotions and (interpretive) thoughts will:
~ Produce physiological sensations felt throughout the body
~ Can create an imbalance where the resulting neuropeptides can cause physical symptoms to appear. Any prolonged negative mental state will weaken a correlating area of your body.
~ Release hormones into the bloodstream that affect the balance of all the body’s critical systems (circulatory, digestive, endocrine, immune, lymphatic, muscular, nervous, reproductive, respiratory, skeletal, and urinary…for overview of the systems see the end of this article)
~ Stimulate the basic cells of the brain (neurons) to fire in specific patterns.
~Sculpt the important synaptic connections between neurons of the nervous system/ brain.
~ Can shape the actions you take in any given moment, if you take any action at all.
~ Affect the heart. The heart generates the largest electromagnetic field in the body. One of the most significant findings is that intentionally generated positive emotions can change the coding of the heart. This ‘coding’ is transmitted throughout and outside of the body.
~ Love alters the brain most in stress response and immune function but also in many other ways. It affects our physiological and neural functions towards balance and wellness. Frequent episodes of stress and negativity can impair certain body systems the following 3 body systems in particular:
Long term effects of stress on the cardiovascular system can result in increased heart rate, damaged blood vessels, high blood pressure, and increase in serum cholesterol levels. All of which lead to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
Digestive system (Actually our 2nd brain and command center)
Stress virtually shuts down the gastrointestinal system (GI). During the acute stage of stress, blood is diverted from the GI tract to muscles, where it is needed much more. Stomach peristalsis is reduced and sphincters are closed. The body reduces secretion of acid juices and digestion slows down. Needless to say this can lead to many illnesses and disease.
Your body naturally produces immune cells, called T lymphocytes, that fight bacteria, viral infections, fungi, and cancer cells. Elevated levels of adrenal hormones during stress suppress the body’s production of T lymphocytes and weaken your whole immune system. Not only does stress worsen existing infections, you also become more susceptible to immune system related health problems.
The above list gives a general overview of the very complex and important relationships between our emotions, thoughts and health of our body.
Many fields of science are showing us that the brain is constantly rewiring itself based on daily life. This is quite exciting since the belief used to be that you couldn’t really change your brain because it was a static organ. Now we know that there is brain plasticity….it can change and stretch and reshape….or it can be reinforced to maintain the same neural pathways.
The brain maintains or creates new neural pathways and associations that feed and fuel our opinions, choices, memories, skills, fears and passions (to name a few). Everything we learn becomes part of our neural associations or pathways that we maintain or change through repetition.
If you are repeatedly thinking negative thoughts (not practicing self-love), you are actually strengthening neural pathways in your brain that support continued negative thinking. More so, speaking the thoughts out loud appears to compound the building of those pathways. Alternatively, if we have thoughts that are positive, uplifting or based in Love then we can rewire our brains for stronger connections in these arenas. With repetitive practice, you can shift your feelings and begin a process of building unconditioned self-love and feeling more positive about yourself. Like studying for any test, there are ways to get your brain on board to rewire and remember and therefore sidestep the negative impact on our bodies moving us toward disease.
This shift in the nature of the Mind Body connection can be the single most important factor in health and wellness.