I sometimes marvel at how some very abstract paradigms can be traced back to real cold science. Walk with me as I try this out…
Let’s look at getting sick, and developing a fever… If you place stress on your psyche, i.e. worry a lot, there is a pathway that is activated, known as the cortical limbic pathway. Along this pathway in the brain, thoughts are fed down to the more basal areas that control bodily functions. The “thinking” feeds into an area of the brain, which controls your subconscious bodily functions. (Imagine thinking scary thoughts, which increases your heart rate.)
In this way, stressful thoughts have been found to activate areas of the brain which in turn create psychogenic stress. So yes, you CAN worry yourself sick.
– But what about turning your thoughts into health? – Surely the opposite should hold true too… Stories abound, where cancer patients have, with the correct mindset, been able to stall and even reverse the onset of illness.
In his book, “Man’s search for meaning” Victor Frankel re-tells the story of his incarceration and how he believes that the reason he survived, while 8 out of 10 prisoners were perishing from malnutrition and other maladies, was that he lived with a sense of hope, that when he got out of the camp one day, he would share news of these atrocities with the world. It was hope that kept him alive.
On a neurological level, the future is dopamine stimulated. Dopamine stimulates the mesolimbic reward path of the brain and can literally rally the body’s defenses and accelerate recovery and reduce the rate of inflammatory cytokines in the body.
What I’m getting at, is that when you have a reason to get out of bed, because you have something to look forward to, something that you’re excited about, you’re going to be healthier. Mind your thoughts and worry less. Stay in the present moment and address that which is within your control.
Stop right now… and think of one thing that you’re looking forward to.
How did that make you feel? Did your breathing change? Did your posture change? – Yeah, the brain and body are so connected. When you recognize this, you take back control.
And if you find yourself in a slump, you can literally bully your system into bumping up your dopamine. That’s why you should exercise. There’s nothing like a good sweat to retrieve that smile.
Your brain and then your body will thank you.