The raindrops patter on the basho leaf, but these are not tears of grief; this is only the anguish of him who is listening to them.
-- Zen saying






Your Thoughts and Feelings -- How They Relate to Your Health

What happens between thoughts, feelings and our health is like a choreographed dance. For the dance to go smoothly, the steps must be well counted, and the dancers must understand each other’s steps for the movements to flow. When one of the dancers makes too many errors it affects the entire dance.

First, we can look at this dance from the physiological point of view:  Neurotransmitters are chemicals produced by our brain. They are the conductors that reach every cell in our body. Hormones, too, serve as neurotransmitters, relaying messages to and from the brain and making communication between cells possible. Our emotional state affects the hormonal levels in our body, which impacts this communication between brain and body and between cells. This, in turn, affects our immune system.

When we develop habits of thought that translate into fatalism, pessimism, criticism, anger, unkindness, fear, or self-loathing with some frequency, our bodies are placed under much stress and tension, which lowers our immune system.

As reported by Dr. Wayne Dyer in The Power of Intention, a simple act of kindness improves the functioning of our immune system:

Serotonin is a naturally occurring substance in the body that makes us feel more comfortable, peaceful, and even blissful. In fact, the role of most antidepressants is to stimulate the production of serotonin chemically, helping to ease depression… An act of kindness directed toward another improves the functioning of the immune system and stimulates the production of serotonin in both the recipient of the kindness and the person extending the kindness. Even more amazing is that persons observing the act of kindness have similar beneficial results.

The way we think affects the way we feel, and the state of our emotions has an impact on the health of our bodies. Therefore, our thoughts influence our mental and physical health.

It follows, then, that by changing the way we think and feel in a consistent manner, we maintain our health and are more able to heal our bodies.

We all have experienced times of stress. If we try to remember times in which we have been feeling poorly, we may be able to recall that just before or during that time, we were going through some emotional upheaval.

It is not rare for college students to catch viruses and colds during final exams, or for people to become sick after a period of excessive work, worry, and lack of sleep. When a physician formulates a diagnosis for someone, the symptoms are likely to get worse as the patient worries about what he or she now knows.

This does not mean that I am advising you to ignore symptoms. Sometimes whatever it is that you see as a possible solution is what your belief system dictates, and what is most likely to work for you. As you place your trust in the knowledge of a physician, you are more likely to get better than if you do not seek treatment but continue to worry about your symptoms.

An effective way to handle a headache, a cold, or a sore throat is to find a distraction. As you spend less time thinking and worrying about your body, you increase your body’s ability to achieve balance.

We are meant to be healthy. Perfect health is our right. The cells of our bodies know what to do when something goes wrong. Worry is not a good way to assist those cells. No amount of worry can help us improve. Laughter, companionship, distractions, and paying attention to the things we love are the best medicine.  

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Updated 02/12/2009
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