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Expressions we often use reflect the link between mind and body. The phrase “died of a broken heart” has anecdotal evidence behind it. Suffering the loss of a loved one actually increases the survivor’s chance of a heart attack by 20 times.
Someone who is experiencing depression might develop chest pains even when there is no medical reason for it. In fact, one of the symptoms of depression is physical pain. A stressed individual might be said to be “carrying the world on his shoulders” where a related symptom of stress is back pain or shoulder pain.
The mind controls the muscles in the body and regulates our systems that keep blood flowing and breath circulating. When our brain is overtaxed or awash in a strong emotional response, these systems change.
The connection between the mind and the body is still being studied, but a few things are certain. One of these is that your brain plays a critical role in the way you handle pain, and it can play a significant part in any chronic disease.
Stress, for example, has been shown to suppress the immune system, increase blood pressure, affect cholesterol, blood sugar and hormone levels. Stress also promotes inflammation in the body.
This happens because the brain registers stress. When this happens, a substance called cortisol which increases heart rate, saturates the lungs with oxygen and suppresses the immune system. When stress doesn’t stop, that is when it becomes chronic, your immune system eventually becomes used to the influx of cortisol. The release of cortisol is one of the ways the body has to fight inflammation, but once the body has become desensitized to it, it stops being effective. This means inflammation no longer has a natural response to stop it.
How long does it take for the body to become desensitized? The answer is that emotional responses, or “moods,” vary from person to person. Some people can go from one point to another without a lot of change emotionally. They live their lives with a certain balance of emotions. Others are caught in a pendulum effect going from extreme to extreme. It’s not so much the emotion that makes the difference, but the way the emotions are handled that is important.
The reverse is also true. Good or “positive” emotions can have an equally positive effect on the body. “Laughter is the best medicine” is another well-known expression that seems to have roots based in fact.
Laughter relaxes your entire body. A good belly laugh will relieve both tension and stress and will relax nearly every muscle in your body. That same belly laugh will keep those muscles relaxed for 45 minutes after the laughter stops.
Laughter has a positive effect on the immune system because it decreases the hormones associated with stress and boosts infection-fighting antibodies.
Laughter releases endorphins which are the body’s natural painkillers and the feel-good chemical. It improves blood flow, burns calories, eliminates anger and prolongs life. A recent study of patients with cancer found those who found a way to laugh consistently lived longer than those who did not.
Thich Nhat Hanh, a Buddhist monk and international motivational speaker, put it this way: “Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.”
Have you ever seen someone with a bright, happy smile that made you feel good just seeing it? Have you noticed how attractive that person was, in that he or she was someone you wanted to befriend immediately?
When you’re feeling a bit down, make yourself wear a smile. I think you’ll be surprised how difficult it is to continue to feel down when you’re smiling!
Helping You Achieve Major Wellness in Your Life!
Cheryl A Major
Cheryl A Major lives in Westford and is a Certified Nutrition and Wellness Consultant. Her TV show, Thin Strong Healthy, airs on WestfordCat and is an offshoot of her blog http://ThinStrongHealthy.com Cheryl offers ongoing information, live and online courses and personal health coaching to help you feel better and be healthier. Follow Cheryl on Twitter @CherylAMajor. She is also a full time residential Realtor with Coldwell Banker with more than 25 years experience.
Her new book, “Eat Your Blues Away” in which she chronicles her recovery from depression is now available on Amazon in both Kindle and paperback!
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