The connection between mind and body is, without a doubt, the most exciting area of modern research into the causes of illness and disease and the maintenance of good health. It is now a proven fact that when you aredepressed, your immune system is too. More and more areas of science and medicine are being forced to give serious consideration to themind-body relationshipand its implication in your overall mental and physical health.
The relationship betweenmind-bodyand the interaction between psychology (the mind with all its thoughts and emotions) and the central nervous, immune and endocrine or hormone systems. Studies all over the world seem to bear out what most complementary therapists and holistic practitioners have always maintained-the whole person ins much greater than the sum of all their parts. When looking at creating enduring optimum health, the interconnection of all the mind-body systems holds the vital key to continued wellbeing.
It is a medical fact that stress has a big effect on our general and specific health and on our sense of wellbeing. If the mental and emotional pressures that build up inside cannot be expressed and resolved, they are likely to find a way out through the body, usually through the weakest point-whether its the nerves, the digestive system, the immune system, or our sleeping patterns. The research and work of Dr. Dean Ornish, founder of the Preventative Medicine Research Institute in Sausalito, CA, certainly support these findings. In a study of heart disease, Dr. Ornish proved for the first time that the clogging of the arteries-which can lead to heart attack and stroke-can be reversed without the use of drugs or surgery, and thatlovewas the key factor in this reversal. He concluded that a sad and broken heart was as damaging and dangerous to healthas baddietary habits or lack of exercise.
Dr. Ornish believes that one of the main causes of heart problems is the profound isolation that growing numbers of people are experiencing in modern society. We are not, by nature, solitary creatures. Our roots take us back to extended families, the community, and the “tribe”. However, our lifestyles have changed dramatically in a relatively short span of time, and the end result is increasing numbers of people living alone, or living far away from either their family or a social network that can offer support and comfort when it is needed. A weakened, inadequate immune system is often the result of an inadequate social support system. One indicator of the immune response is the natural killer cell activity, levels of which are more likely to be lower in people who are lonely. As Dr. Ornish says, “Looking out for No.1 isn’t enlightened self-interest. It’s just lonely, and loneliness kills.” Recent research has shown that people who are usually lonely and isolated suffer more poor health and are much more susceptible to all kinds of illness and disease.
The point is this: there is absolutely a strong link between ones psychological stress and physical problems. Dr. Larry Dossey in Healing Breakthroughs, which states thatmore heart attacks occur on a Mondaythananyother day of the week, not only on a Monday, but most often at 9 o’clock in the morning. If we believe that there is no connection between the mind and the body, then what causes so many heart attacks to take place just as the first work of the week is about to begin? “There are certainly physiological reasons why death might be more likely in the morning than in the afternoon, such as higher heart rates or blood pressure. There is, however, no reason why more deaths should take place on a Monday rather than any other day.”
Every day stress is what affects us most deeply, by slowly taxing our inner reserves. Thefight-or-flightresponse enables us to respond to danger, but it is not just major life threatening situations that stimulate this response. Fearful or anxious thoughts do it too-the car not starting, being late for an appointment, unpaid bills, arguments with loved ones-all these can create a stress response.
In conclusion: the body has to work harder when we are depressed, anxious or stressed. In order to have a healthy body, we must have a healthy mind. If we take time to focus on ourselves psychologically, emotionally and spiritually, we can directly affect our body in positive, healthy ways.
Ornish D, Scherwitz L, Billings J,et al. Intensive lifestyle changes for reversal of coronary heart disease Five-year follow-up of the Lifestyle Heart Trial. Journal of the American Medical Association. 1998; 280: 2001-2007
Shapiro, Debbie.Your Body Speaks Your Mind, 2006
Dossey, Larry Dr. Healing Breakthroughs, 1996
Mind/Body Connection: Granny Was Right After All.Rochester Review 1997, University of Rochester