Mind-Body Link and the myth of Positive Thinking

“All illnesses have psychological and emotional causes and consequences.” Dr Paul Martin.

Mindfulness is all the rage at the moment, but is there really a connection between mind and body that can affect our physical health? Scientists are increasingly answering that question with an emphatic “Yes!”

Stress can alter our susceptibility to many diseases, such as infections, cancer and heart disease. Why is that?

Hormones released under stress (such as adrenaline, noradrenaline, cortisol etc) as well as beta-endorphins and enkaphalins all impact our immune systems. This is because stress temporarily suppresses immune resistance as a way of conserving energy. (For instance, if you’re being chased by a tiger, it’s more important to run fast rather than put energy into combating an infection!).

However, we are not designed to handle long-term stress. If stress is experienced over a protracted period of time, the suppression of the immune cells can have a serious, negative impact.

The relationship between our minds and our health is mediated by both our behaviour and by the biological connection between the brain and the immune system. The autonomic nervous system sends messages to the immune system via our blood cells. Therefore our thoughts impact on our immunity to disease and vice versa.

In other words, our physical state influences our mental state and our thoughts affect our physical health.

Bearing this in mind, I believe:

  1. When we monitor and manage our emotions we help to prevent ourselves becoming ill.
  2. Almost all of us benefit hugely when our psychological needs are attended to as well as our medical ones.
  3. Learning to relax when situations arise that cause us stress of either mind or body (fight-or-flight) or both, can be a two-way process, helping both physical and mental systems to improve.

It is for this reason that my preference when treating clients is almost always to teach a simple relaxation technique before looking to address any patterns of thought.

By training the brain to drop from gamma or beta-wave activity into alpha-wave activity, we are starting the process of reconditioning our responses to the stimuli that we perceive as stressful. This is because we are treating both our emotional state AND our thoughts, rather than looking at one in isolation from the other.

Positive-thinking on its own is not enough. Nor is simply “blissing out”!

Find out more about this easy-to-learn technique in the relaxation classes section of this site.

“To achieve the outcome of your desires you must first assume the feeling of that outcome as if it is already fulfilled.” Neville Goddard.

“The mind is a great healer.” Hippocrates.