The whole body is connected, we know that! This is a topic that we frequently discuss, especially in our most recent newsletter. We like to specifically focus on how the health of our gut (i.e. gastrointestinal tract) affects the rest of our health. If our gut is in poor health, this will cause many other aspects of our health to be in a not-so-good condition. But what about our thoughts. If those aren’t in good health – meaning they are negative – how does this affect our health?
What we put into our body affects our health. With this topic, we commonly think of foods and drinks. But, now it’s time to bring thoughts into this conversation. Thoughts have such an immense effect on our health that there is an entire field of study dedicated to this topic! This field of study is called psychoneuroimmunology. By definition, this is the study of the effect of the mind on health and resistance to disease. Our thoughts affect the way our body functions. Sounds impressive, right? We think so too.
Links between the brain, emotions, and the immune system have demonstrated the importance of attitude on human health. Rising research has shown that every part of the immune system is connected to the brain in some way; this connection can take place via a direct nervous system connection or by way of a complex string of chemical messengers and hormones. Due to these connections, scientists have found that every single thought, emotion, and experience sends a message to the immune system. Depending on the type of message that has been sent, the immune system’s ability to function is either enhanced or inhibited. To put it simply, positive emotions (i.e. joy and optimism) boost the immune system and negative emotions (i.e. sadness and pessimism) suppress it. Research has been able to label certain traits as “immune power” traits. Included in these are positive mental attitude, effective strategy for dealing with stress, and the capacity to effectively deal with traumas and challenges.
If this is difficult to comprehend, think of something as simple as blood pressure. If an individual is stressed, their blood pressure rises. This is due to the effect of stress on the body, which in turn, causes blood pressure to rise. This can even be seen in short term situations. Have you ever heard of White Coat Syndrome? This is when a patient has higher blood pressure in a medical professional’s office simply due to the worry that comes about with being at the doctor. In comparison, their blood pressure is lower when they are in their normal, comfortable setting.
Another important component of health, in relation to how our thoughts affect the functioning of our body, is self-actualization. This term can be defined as the realization or fulfillment of one’s talents and potentialities. This term is a common one in the field of psychology. However, in short, when one has achieved self-actualization, it has a positive effect on the rest of their life – a cornerstone of this is a positive attitude. Last week, we posted a quote on social media that said, “the way you speak to yourself matters” and this ties in perfectly to what we are discussing here! Our self-talk makes a deep impression on our mind. In order to develop a positive mental attitude, we must talk to ourselves in a positive way.
Here are seven steps to help develop a positive mental attitude which will, as a result, help to improve overall health:
- Become optimistic (Can you think of situations where you can become more optimistic rather than pessimistic?)
- Become aware of self-talk
- Ask better questions (i.e. What in my life makes me happy? What can I do today to achieve my goal? Who do I love/Who loves me?)
- Employ positive affirmations
- Set positive goals
- Practice positive imagery (i.e. What does YOUR ideal health look like?)
- Laugh long and often