How Thoughts Influence Hormones And Immunity!
As a teenager I read a book by a guy called Al Koran called “Bring Out the Magic In Your Mind.” The book gave numerous reports of positive thinking affecting people’s health and circumstances. Al Koran insisted that through focused engagement on the positives of the present moment, we could change our lives by making positive thinking a real habit.
I took his ideas to heart. To enjoy the magic of colour I bought a bright yellow and black school bag that earned me a nickname of Bumble Bee! At the earliest sign of a coughand- cold virus I would say to myself calmly that I would be successful in not succumbing to the cold. What’s funny is it always seemed to work.
You may have heard other “positive thinkers,” share a similar story. Is it coincidence? At the time I fancied that my decision not to get sick was the “power factor”. As I grew older I questioned this, could it just be that I was blessed with a phenomenal immune system thanks to an awesome and loving God?
Today we are beginning to understand how the temperament of our thoughts affects our health. And not surprisingly the details are complex but the basic concept is simple. Those of us who believe in God are also not surprised that a positive attitude, which is the fruit of faith, hope, love and God consciousness, should also bear health benefits.
First the evidence:
- Long term depression increases chances of cancer MORE THAN TAKING UP SMOKING! (It is not however recommended that you creatively make an excuse of persisting in smoking in order to avoid depression!)
- Women who are socially isolated have a five times greater risk of dying from certain cancers.
- Depression reduces your white blood cell functioning indirectly, by increasing your stress hormones. Healthy white blood cells are critical to fight off infections and detect mutant cells which sometimes progress to cancer undetected by white cells, the immune system’s first line of defence against cancer.
- Centenarians are those of us who make it to age 100 and older. A Harvard study published in 1998 showed no signs of dementia among 162 centenarians who were generally in better health than other senior folks 20 years younger!
The key similarities among centenarians who are also in excellent health were :
- Playing of an instrument
- A sense of humour
- an ability to cope with stress WITHOUT much guilt,anger, fear or sadness.
- Wide and active social circles
As Marie Knowles put it at age 100, “I try to make each day, at least a part of it, a joyful day and not a day of finding fault.” Your thoughts form your attitude and then your attitude influences your thoughts. Your thoughts influence your moods and this in turn influences your behaviour and your day-to-day choices. Can you see too that if you are depressed, angry, resentful or full of regrets that besides the physical impact of this emotional stress on your body, you are probably less likely to exercise, socialize, laugh and eat healthy? With determination, practice and effort, and the support of the right friends and healthy foods you can improve your attitude and get rid of ANTS (Automatic Negative Thoughts). Did we just say “food”? Yes indeed! A diet low in fruit and vegetables may lead to a lack of folate, and depression is very hard to beat with medication if the person taking the medication is also lacking in folate. A healthy mind must be supported by healthy food choices, or else the brain chemicals needed for balance just won’t be available!
ANTS (Automatic Negative Thoughts), trigger the stress response just like eating toxic food and skimping on sleep! Common examples of toxic foods are lots of refined carbohydrates (sugar, white flour and refined rice) and lots of fried or chemicalized foods. The stress response means you stimulate your inflammatory pathways, reduce serotonin (your happy hormone), reduce BDNF (Brain Derived Neurotropic Factor for brain healing and repair), reduce sleep quality, impair your mood and damage your relationships, lower your good cholesterol, raise your bad cholesterol, increase your insulin resistance and tummy fat (and your risk for diabetes and heart disease) and we can go on and on.
We used to say health was about nutrition, exercise and rest. Now we’re forced to say that self-help gurus were right. Everything gets better when you change your attitude! Why? Your brain’s response to negative thoughts is along a system that impacts your hormones and immune system directly. We could call it the Psycho-Neuro-Endocrine-Immune system or PNEI.
Funny thing is somewhere deep inside before all the research and terminology, you kind of knew it all along.