“Always laugh when you can. It is cheap medicine.” ~ Lord Byron
For decades researches have recognised a connection between your emotions and immune system. Understanding the mechanisms behind this incredible mind body connection is still in its infancy.
But what is understood is that a positive emotional style is linked to a stronger immune system. Whereas, a more negative emotional style makes you more susceptible to illness.
Just take a moment to let that sink in! We’re not talking about the food you eat, the amount of exercise you do, or whether microwaving your food is safe. We are talking about your emotions.
The way you respond to life WILL directly impact on your health.
THE MIND BODY CONNECTION
We now know that the brain is linked to the immune system. This means in times of danger your brain releases adrenaline and cortisol to give you heightened awareness and more energy to fight, flight or faint – which is great when you are being chased by a tiger!
However, when you experience chronic stress and / or ruminate constantly on negative life events these hormones are being released constantly, suppressing your immune system.
The Bad News - Your body is more likely to catch infections and when you do get sick your symptoms are usually worse. Any injuries and illnesses you experience will take longer to heal or recover from, and chronic pain can be more intense. And skin conditions such as acne, eczema, hives and psoriasis can worsen. More concerning is the increased risk of autoimmune diseases such as arthritis and multiple sclerosis. Even your cardiovascular system can be effected.
Negative emotions that will suppress your immune system are:
The Good News - You can protect your body from illness and disease by doing the exact opposite. Your immune system is actually boosted when you have a positive mind-set. Positive emotions are associated with resistance to illness and reduced symptoms if you are sick, and known to have healing effects on the body.
Positive emotions that will boost your immune system are:
HOW DO YOU GET TO ENJOY THESE POSITIVE EMOTIONS?
1. Change your relationship with negative thoughts.
♦ Mindfully take notice of your thoughts, emotions and responses. Begin to recognise how easily you slip into autopilot, and become unaware of what you think, feel and how you respond.
♦ Realise, thoughts are just thoughts. Everyone has random, crazy, unpredictable and sometimes very distressing thoughts wander in and out of their minds. But you are not your thoughts. This is so important to understand, so I will say it again.
You are not your thoughts!
Thoughts only become a problem when you 'resist them' or 'get caught up in them'. Let’s look at both of these briefly:
Resisting a thought - What you resist persists! Resisting is the pushing down, pushing away of uncomfortable thoughts and emotions. But the more you try to push it away the stronger the thought gets.
For example: Take a couple of minutes to sit quietly and not think of a ‘flying pink pig’. You will find that the harder you try to push the thought aside or away the stronger the image becomes.
Fusing with a thought - When you fuse with a thought it is only a matter of time before it morphs into a full blown story.
For example: Let’s say you are going to meet your partner’s parents for the first time. The thought pops into your head, “What if they don’t like me?” After dwelling on this for a time you remember a situation where someone at work didn’t like you. Before long you are caught up in a distressing scenario that hasn’t even happened!
But your brain doesn’t know that! So its flooding your body with stress hormones to prepare for the perceived danger.
What you can do instead is practice allowing your thoughts to come and go. Don’t try and fight them and don’t allow them to turn into a distressing movie 'stuck on replay'. Here's how:
♥ When a distressing event happens or negative emotions present themselves find a way to release them. Maybe the event requires you to communicate how you feel. If so learn to do this in an assertive way without judgement. Or you could release your feelings by writing them down and ceremoniously destroying them.
♥ Acknowledge the thought and allow it to move on or stick around if it wants, just don’t fuse with it. You could say, “Hmmm that’s an interesting thought, I wonder what my next one will be.”
2. Focus on strengthening your positive mindset
Even if you are a 'glass half full' type of person, there is an aspect of you that knows how to be positive. If you want your positive mindset to 'out-weigh' your current negative mindset then you must do it often! Those guys and girls you see with six packs didn't achieve it with a few reps a week. They chose to exercise those muscles until they became their new normal!
♥ Mindfulness – Take up a mindfulness based practice. Mindfulness is about being in the present moment. You can’t have thoughts of the past or future when you are living in the moment. In this space you can experience satisfaction, contentment and calm. What’s really exciting is that your mind also becomes less reactive during stressful situations. You can try mindfulness meditation or mindfulness of movement, such as yoga, tai chi or qigong.
♥ Change your filter – You see the world through your own lenses, these filter out many aspects of your daily experience. Your brain picks up on what is comfortable and familiar. If you expect to see red cars then you will see red cars. This is why two people can witness the same event and have totally different accounts. Begin to widen your view and start identifying the positive aspects of your experiences.
♥ Gratitude – Develop a gratitude practice. Research has found that negative people and events have more impact on you than positive ones. And the ensuing emotions tend to be stronger. However, if your positive experiences out-weigh your negative ones then this psychological effect can be overcome.
A daily gratitude practice is writing or stating the positive moments you are grateful for. This might sound a bit over the top. But it is common place to verbalise bad news and the perceived faults of others. What are you grateful for right now? The bird sitting on your window sill, the smile of a stranger, a cool breeze on a hot day...
This is the beginning of you seeing the glass half full!
3. Express yourself
Don't allow negative feelings to buildup. According to research your immune system benefits when share your stresses and feelings with someone else. And writing about your worries for 1/2 an hour a day is just as beneficial.
4. Create positive experiences
Be intentional about creating experiences that feed your positive mindset. By spending time with positive people. Planning to do things that make you feel good or bring you peace, whether it's listening to music, dancing, or taking time outside. And laughing as often as you can.
If you are struggling with anxiety or depression then please call me for a Free 15 minute consultation. We can talk about what is going on for you and I can answer any questions you might have. If I am with a client I will get back to you as soon as I can.
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