How Thoughts Affect Mind and Body

The topic of effects of thoughts on our mind and body has been very much studied in recent research. In this blog post, I would be highlighting some of these effects. We all entertain thoughts all day long and before we go to bed. These thoughts are very powerful and can affect us in many ways. Positive thoughts will trigger healthy emotions whereas, negative thoughts will trigger negative emotions and adversely affect our health..
Thoughts serve as internal triggers to cause stress and lead to many illnesses if they become habitual. Cumulative stress overtime can suppress the immune system and trigger “fight or flight” reaction. As soon as we imagine a threat in our environment, we tend to have automatic self talk with scary pictures and images. This self talk often stems from our belief system about events, persons, and environment.
Regardless of how thoughts originate, they tend to create a state of panic and affect our nervous system. Sympathetic nervous system is aroused and as a result, we experience rapid heart beat, tension in major muscle groups, high blood pressure, diversion of blood circulation from major muscle groups to smaller ones, affecting heart, lung and brain. Release of adrenalin and cortisol start and our digestive system is affected. Many people experience irritable bowel syndrome in this state. As soon as these physiological changes happen, the person begins to indulge in scary self talk, for example, “Oh no, here it comes again”, ” what if I panic?” The self talk which is connected to our thought process, leads to anxiety and panic. It is interesting to note that if this becomes a habitual pattern and chronic, the cumulative effect can give rise to several stress related illnesses, for example, ulcers, high blood pressure, cardiovascular diseases, stroke, chronic back pain, constipation, diarrhea, insomnia, headache, stiff neck, weight gain, weight loss.
Poor emotional health can weaken immune system and lead to cold, infections, abuse of alcohol, substance, and tobacco. These are signs of poor health. Research has also found some evidence of infertility and it also speeds up the aging process. Long term, it can rewire the brain leaving the person vulnerable to anxiety and depression. Breast cancer and ovarian cancer have also been linked to cumulative stress according to a study done by McAllister, et al and published in the American Journal of Medical Genetics.
Connie Lillas, a psychologist states that three types of reactions happen under stress: 1. Foot on the gas which gives rise to anger and agitation, 2. foot on the brake, which gives rise to feelings of depression and withdrawal, 3. foot on both which leads to a state of “freeze” when the person becomes immobile under pressure.
There is some evidence in the literature that people who repress and suppress their emotions, experience a decrease in energy because repressed emotions zap mental energy and hope and lead to health problems described earlier.
Chronic stress from negative feelings of hopelessness and helplessness can upset body’s harmonal balance and deplete the brain chemicals required for feelings of happiness. The end caps of DNA strands called telemores, are decreased and this affects our lifespan negatively. Studies have found that stress and anxiety can be multi generational as it is passed to the off springs via genes of the parents. Genes can be regulated with treatment of anxiety so we see that there is a connection of our thoughts to the composition and regulation of genes.
Hostility and resentment when poorly managed, can lead to cardiovascular disease, digestive disorder and infections.
In addition, there are so many psychosomatic disorders that develop when the person has stress and anxiety and become obsessed with his or her illnesses. Writer has written a blog post on this topic as well on www.cognitivehealing.com
Emotions can trigger panic disorder, GI complaints, chest pain, headaches, breathing problems, weakness and urinary problems. Hypochondria is marked with symptoms of depression, insomnia, loss of appetite, decreased libido. In this illness, the person becomes preoccupied with belief that he or she has serious illness despite medical findings are contrary to their beliefs. Acute grief can also trigger symptoms of hypochondria. Similarly, chronic pain syndrome sufferers are often very angry, jobless and dependent on narcotic pain killer. They are often abused as children, suffer from loss of libido, decreased appetite and insomnia
Conversion disorder is marked with amnesia, blindness, numbness, seizures, excessive vomiting, inability to swallow and the root of the physiological symptoms is believed to be psychosomatic. The person needs to understand the association between emotions and physical complaints. Again Cognitive Behavioral Therapy helps reframe the cognitive distortions and thus decrease the intensity of symptoms. Biofeedback, relaxation therapy, hypnosis, acupuncture are available in pain centers.
In this way, we see that negative thoughts, beliefs and self talk can have a counter effect on our body, mind and spirit.
Negative thoughts about harming others, violence, homicide are more dangerous than having thoughts of guilt, regret because the physiology of these thoughts appears to be different. Violent thoughts can lead to criminal activities, whereas, thoughts like envy, regret will make the person unhappy but will not be so intense that it drives the person to avenge violently towards the person. However, these negative thoughts should not be ignored as they can become progressively intense with time and can lead to violence, murder and hateful crimes. Serial killers, rapists, abusers, and perpetrators of domestic abuse had these thoughts but never sought professional help to address them. As a result, they became antisocial and committed such crimes.
In contrast to negative thoughts, there are positive thoughts which can counter these negative side effects. In general the rule of thumb is to have at least 3 positive thoughts to counter the effects of one negative thought. Thoughts of gratitude, forgiveness, and emotional resilience can help us deal with our stressful thought patterns and create a sense of well being. When we challenge our negative self talk with Socratic questions and dispute the irrationality and make positive counter statements, we can reverse the physical effects of negativity and build up psychological resources that contribute to a happier life style. When we show generosity, be grateful, and forgive, we generate positive emotions and overtime become more resilient in the face of adverse situations.
Ben and Brown have found that there is a relationship between joy and gratitude. We are happier when we show gratitude and it also improves our spiritual well being. Similarly, forgiveness decreases feelings of hurt, anger and physical complaints such as, gastrointestinal upset, dizziness etc.
In this way, we see that positive emotions broaden our perspective of the world and facilitate lasting emotional resilience. We enjoy better sleep, have fewer incidence of colds, and a greater sense of overall happiness. When we focus on the positive aspects of our lives, show wonder, awe and gratitude through out life, we enjoy life better. It is good to ignore the negative as it leads to so many problems and shift the focus from negative to positive.
Research has found that techniques of meditation, positive imaging, progressive muscle relaxation are instrumental in alleviating anxiety, and symptoms of depression as these techniques arouse the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for inducing feelings of calmness and relaxation, as opposed to the activation of sympathetic nervous system under the state of panic and anxiety.
In summary, we should entertain positive thoughts as they are so much beneficial for our mental, physical and spiritual health. On the contrary negative thoughts give rise to numerous health related problems.Hypnosis has been found effective in changing thought patterns.Please visit www.cognitivehealing.com/hypnosis-services/ to learn how hypnosis can facilitate growth. Relaxation exercise helps the person go in a trance and suggestions offered in this state of mind are retained better. They assist the person make desired changes and achieve life goals.

One Comment

  1. Sarah said:

    Thankyou for this post and the others on your website. Many of your writings are ringing true for me, I’m commenting on this one purely as most recent, in the hope you will see my question.
    I’ve only recently come to understand that perfectionism is a disorder, as opposed to a thing people say when being elitist, and that I now think I am one. This makes perfect sense with my well-meant upbringing, especially in the light of discovering as an adult I have educational needs and Asperger’s syndrome.
    But is it common for perfectionists to also be procrastinators, and instead of constantly trying to achieve to feel overwealmed and give up?
    I feel this is how I have lived my life since my teen and uni years., and especially so now I am a wife and mother.
    I used to try and get everything in my life how it “should be” be failed to keep it up so many times I fear that I now display such low standards so no one will expect better, be disappointed in me and I won’t be “found out” for the failure I am. I’m still miserable, I still hide that I am so rubbish at everything, I still long for a perfect minimalistic clean tidy home (just one example that couldn’t be further from reality); but this hurts a little less because people have stopped expecting better from me.
    This is a new realisation, but am I still dealing with perfectionism? I ask simply as I want to seek out CBT help locally but want to be sure this is the right course for what I am doing.
    I realise you are likely very busy, but would appreciate any insight at all, even publically in case it helps others in the future.
    Many thanks again for this blog, I have bookmarked it to read more.

    March 11, 2015
    Reply

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