The connection between emotions and heath is undeniable: of course, you know that if you're burdened emotionally, you will begin to feel it at a physical level, too. If you get home from a long, draining day in which things just didn't go as you planned, you might notice that you feel sluggish, achy, and physically exhausted from your emotional exertion. But emotions play a much bigger role in our physical health than we can imagine. Let's look into it a bit further.
Your Overall Health: Correlation between Mind, Body, and Spirit
It's a common misconception that a healthy body equals a healthy self. But there is eternal truth to the old Latin phrase "anima sana in corpore sano." Our emotional state of being is an equally important factor in our overall health. Being emotionally unbalanced or burdened can manifest in physical means, leading to certain illness or disease. To achieve health on all levels of being, you must first learn the effects of emotional instability on your body.
Our body responds to every emotion we experience by creating a different chemical or hormone to reflect that emotion. Positive emotions result in the creation of "feel-good" hormones, while our negative emotions trigger the body to produce dangerous chemicals. These harmful chemicals invade our very cells and can have a very adverse reaction on our bodies. Remember, our cells are reproducing at every second of the day, and what's contained within them reproduces and spreads as well.
Our bodies react in conjunction with our emotional states. If we're sad, we cry; if we're happy, we smile. But the theory goes much further than that; certain diseases such as cancer, autoimmune disorders, depression, diabetes to an extent, and many more are all correlated to the emotions we harbor within ourselves. The more our emotions are in balance, the more our physical state will reflect a sense of equilibrium as well.
The Importance of Your Four Great Emotions
How large of a role do your emotions play in your life? Emotions are everything. We are made of emotions. In fact, we come from a drop of emotions! Emotions determine everything we think, say, and do. There are four major emotions through which we pass frequently. These four emotions branch off into dozens of subsets (for example, love inspires joy, the subset of love). But for the most part, we are encompassed at all times of the day by one of these emotions:
1.) ANGER: We feel angry more than we recognize. Even an absent-minded driver on the road can produce rage within us. Anger raises our temperature as well as our blood pressure, putting extra strain on our bodies. Anger also raises adrenaline levels. Momentarily, we feel somewhat of a high off of an adrenaline rush, which explains why we love fast theme park rides and horror movies. In the peak of an angry adrenaline rush, we might make irreparable mistakes: scream at our partner, fight with our friends, punch through a wall, even murder someone! Think about how and why almost all non-premeditated homicides occur. A person becomes angry (or experiences any emotional subset of anger, such as jealousy or rage), their adrenaline levels burst out of control, and without thinking, they grab the first object in sight to attack someone else. I use this extreme example because murder is the epitome of anger. But the adrenaline rush fades quickly, leaving us to ask "what have we done?" Anger is a contagious emotion, meaning that your anger spreads to those around you like a virus, putting them in an angry mood, too.
2.) HATRED: We subconsciously "hate" many aspects of life. We hate chores, the daily grind, the unfairness of the world, and we even begin to self-hate when we're unable to achieve what we want. Hatred and anger go hand in hand. When you hate something, you're angry at it, and vice versa. Unfortunately, hatred lingers in our system much longer than anger. Anger is characterized by a peak of the emotion followed by a crash. But hatred can dwell in our subconscious mind for many years, even for a lifetime. You may not be angry with your best friend who stole your husband many years ago, but the hatred still remains deep within. It is very important that we heal ourselves of both our hatred and our anger, for no one else's sake but our own.
3.) FEAR: Fear is the most common emotion and is the emotion responsible for holding us back from reaching our infinite potential. When we "fear" something, we subconsciously build a blockage in our minds. We fear we can't find a better job, so we mindfully block ourselves from finding one. Not to mention, fear won't allow us to even look for a new job. Fear represses our creative nature, restricts our positive actions, and narrows our field of possibilities. Fear allows those who are in power to remain in power, because we fear standing up for ourselves against someone we perceive to be more powerful than us.
4.) LOVE: Love is the only emotion which is able to conquer the other three dominating emotions. It is the emotion which possesses the most healing qualities. When we are shown love, we are automatically soothed and feel relieved from whatever was grieving us. Have you ever noticed that your pet will quickly come to comfort you right when you're feeling down? That's because animals possess that 6th sense which they use to detect their owner's emotions. And they know just what to do to help: they snuggle very close to us and offer us their endless love. Indeed, their unconditional love and warmth immediately picks us up both emotionally and physically. Another example to consider is a person in the hospital healing from an injury. Studies have shown that their injury will heal significantly quicker if their loved ones are present and supportive versus if they are left to deal with it on their own. Ideally, we should similarly spread love to others despite what they may feel for us. This is hard to do because we tend to reciprocate the emotions we are shown, and, often, we are shown emotions other than love. Regardless, we need to learn to expand our love for others in an attempt to correct many problems in our world.
Which Emotion Dominates You?
Every day, we experience tens of emotions: we are like a roller coaster of emotions, happy when we watch a comedy or sad when our best friend tells us of their troubles. Our emotions can change suddenly and quite drastically: you might wake up very content an in love with life, but when you hit that unmoving wall of traffic on your way to work (not to mention that you're already 15 minutes late), your joy quickly turns to desperation. But regardless of the plethora of emotions which swarm and swirl within our brains every day, we each possess one dominant emotion which outlasts the rest. Whether it's negative or positive, our one dominant emotion is the emotion which we feel most often throughout the day. We would like to think it's a positive emotion which has the most control over us, but because of external factors and everyday complications, the majority of the time it is a negative emotion which dictates our mood on a daily basis. This is because, sadly, frustrating factors from the outside world often times guarantee that we will be in a bad mood by the end of the day.
On your journey to emotional and physical health, I want you to start by figuring out what your very own dominant emotion is: keep an "emotion diary" every day. This could be the memopad on your computer or a small notebook in which you write down every single emotion you feel from the moment you wake up to the moment you lay your head on the pillow. I want you also to write down the cause of each of these emotions: if you've written down "happy" because your spouse surprised you with flowers one day, make sure to credit him or her down as the cause of your happiness. Likewise, if your bank suddenly deducted $200 from your account one morning for no reason, you might want to write down the word "angry," followed by "my bank." After one week of consecutively jotting down your emotions, revisit your journal entries. Which emotion comes up most frequently? Is it bitterness, depression, and envy? Or is it joy, inspiration, and fulfillment? You might be surprised which side wins! Try to specifically pinpoint which negative or positive emotion you harbor inside most often during the course of one week. Also pay close attention to the source of this dominant emotion: are you "irritated" most times during the week, and is it because your neighbor continues to throw his trash into your backyard? If so, you might want to move. I use this just as an example to reiterate that if your dominant emotion is a negative one, you need to address the cause(s) of it and either eliminate those causes or find a new way of dealing with them. You do not deserve to be programmed into a series of negative moods every day, no matter what the cause may be, whether it's your spouse, boss, family, or friends. If you find yourself in this position, it's time to break the cycle of negativity.
Manifestation of Your Emotions
Besides the obvious, which is that if you are angry you want to punch someone or that if you are overjoyed you might hug the first person you see, your emotions manifest in a very real way at the cellular level, deep inside you.
Your hypothalamus is the part of your brain which is responsible for producing chemicals. Neurohormones, in particular, are produced by the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus produces a chemical or neurohormone to match every single emotion we experience. There is a neurohormone or chemical to match our emotions, from a chemical for love to a chemical for bitterness, to a chemical for disgust, and even one for attraction!
When we begin to feel a certain emotion, its corresponding chemical is sent out by the hypothalamus into the bloodstream and it begins to travel throughout our bodies. Every one of our cells, however, have receptors which welcome in the chemicals that match our emotions. So if you hate someone, your cells are literally filling up with a "hate" chemical.
An emotion-related chemical which enters your cells changes your cells: it can change the very dynamic inside of your cells. An emotion-chemical will have a tremendous impact on the way your cells function from the inside out. Your cells are alive, after all, and they "feel" everything which is happening to them. They respond accordingly. If "hatred" chemicals are invading your cells because this is your dominant emotion and the "hatred" chemical is running rampant in your bloodstream, then your cells will feel the effects, too. Your cells won't know what to do with too much of one emotion-chemical, especially if it is negative, and may respond by reacting in abnormal ways. As you may imagine, many negative emotion-chemicals living within your cells can cause serious damage to your cells.
So what exactly does "damage" to a cell mean? Well, it is not only my own personal theory but the theory of many scientists that this is where cancer may very well originate: the chemicals of your emotions invading your very cells and causing them harm. Remember that it only takes one cell to mutate, due to something which triggers it to reproduce incorrectly, in order to start a chain reaction of mutant cells.
The Danger of Negative Emotions
When you experience a negative emotion (such as anger, hatred, fear, or depression), your body begins to react physically to this emotion. You might cry or shake, but your body is also doing something else to manifest what you are feeling: let's take a look at the science behind the theory which links emotions to your physical health.
Within your brain exist nerve cells which are constantly reaching out to other nerve cells. Over time, because of connecting to each other over and over again, these nerve cells establish a relationship. In essence, they become friends. A group of nerve cells might all come together and form a net on one side of your brain, while a different group of nerve cells may similarly connect on the other side of your brain. It's like high school, in which there are many different groups that stick together. Each group of nerve cells represents one concept or emotion. Take the concept of "love," for example, which is one of our four great emotions: the notion of love is built up over time and is built upon the many different memories and personal experiences we've each had with "love." But it's impossible to disassociate all of our other emotions from the one nerve cell group called "love." The nerve cells in the group called "love" may have some nerve cells from other groups, including "disappointment," "sorrow," "hurt," "pain," and so on. This all depends on what you've experienced in your life: if you associate love with being hurt by someone you loved, then you will have the emotions "love" and "hurt" intermingling in the same group of nerve cells. If you've never been hurt in love, then your "love" nerve cell group is pure, but this is rare.
Learning to Control Your Negative Emotions
We're all going to experience negative emotions; it's impossible to be carefree and joyful every day, it's just not human! But it's not so much whether we experience negative emotions or not that counts, it's how we deal with them that is most important. I just explained to you the science of the brain in dealing with emotions. The brain stores every emotion and sorts them into the appropriate group of nerve cells. The more it experiences one single type of emotion, the more that group of nerve cells grows and becomes a larger group. Ideally, we would help the nerve cell group called "love," to grow, but for most of us, the groups called "frustration," "anger," and "hatred," are continuing to grow day by day because of various factors. The worst part is that we become used to operating on these emotions: if you're frustrated every day, you've entered into a cycle in which your brain is literally prepared to receive more and more "frustrated" nerve cells on a daily basis. It gears itself up for the daily emotion and already knows to produce the "frustration" nerve cells. This does indeed become a vicious cycle; it's exactly how a person who has an eating disorder cannot break out of that eating disorder because it's become a daily habit. Or how someone who is addicted to gambling just cannot stop because it's a dependency. Our emotions, too, become addictions and dependency. We often don't control our emotions, we allow them to control us, and emotional addictions are the most frequent and undetected types of addictions.
Now, to break free of the cycle of daily "frustration," for example, you will need to rewire the nerve cells in your brain. The only way to do this is to cut frustration short: if you feel yourself becoming frustrated, STOP the emotion. Yes, you can stop an emotion through logical thinking and a rational explanation. This is why it's so important to keep an "emotions diary" like I said earlier, so you can recognize your emotions and anticipate which ones might be coming up in life.
The moment you become aware of the fact that you're becoming frustrated, and distract yourself from this emotion, some of the nerve cells in the group called "frustration" detach from each other. If you do this enough times, the nerve group called "frustration" will dwindle and diminish. If we were to relate the theory back to social groups in a high school, this is like a teacher stepping in and breaking up a group of bullies who are up to no good.
You must learn to control and put a halt on your negative emotions. As soon as you feel a negative emotions coming on, do anything in your power to banish it before it has the opportunity to create more nerve cells of its kind in your brain.
Reaching the Peak of your Well-Being
True well-being can be reached when we live as balanced, harmonious creatures. Given the hectic world around us, this is difficult to be done. But with a little bit of introspection, self-awareness, and discipline, we can each reach the peak of mind-body-spirit health. The key is to tune out the external world and tune in the Divine world.
First, you have to release your negative emotion in some way. Just not on your loved ones, please! Emotion-management tools range from writing out your emotions and physical activities like exercise to "burn away" the emotion. I recommend affirmations for mood control: whenever you feel yourself getting carried away by a certain negative emotion, just repeat to yourself: "I choose to surrender my [NEGATIVE EMOTION] and replace it with [POSITIVE EMOTION]. I banish [NEGATIVE EMOTION] from my heart, mind, and soul and send it off to diminish in the waves of the universe. I choose to nurture only love, abundance, health, unity, and healing within my Divine self." You should also practice meditation techniques to re-center your mind and rebalance your inner flux.
In addition, you have to reconnect to the greater whole to benefit from positive emotions. You must surrender the mindset of isolation and surround yourself with like-minded people. My new book, Wholeliness, can help you do just that. I wrote Wholeliness because I saw great changes coming for our humanity very quickly in the near future. And I think these are changes which we're all beginning to see happening around us: economy in crisis, political power shifting, natural disasters increasing, everything is changing! But we can't conquer these changes alone. Only by coming together can we make sure our world reflects the changes we want to see in it. The old systems are coming to an end in exchange for new ways of thinking about life. We can't deny it any longer, and we see that the way our world operates isn't very effective. I wrote Wholeliness to prepare my readers for these major shifts in our civilization. Wholeliness is the antidote to human suffering. I wrote it to help everyone understand that we can recreate our world to reflect justice, peace, opportunities for all, and unconditional love.
I believe we were each destined for much more than we know. We each have this potential to do good which is bursting within us, but we repress it so often. Now, on the brink of the greatest shift in human history in 2012, I believe it's time to open up our realm of possibilities once more and leave our fears behind. Our emotions are the ones holding us back, particularly fear, anger, hatred, and anxiety, but we can control them. We can stifle our negative emotions and help our positive ones thrive. Lastly, we can embody health at the levels of mind-body-spirit. We begin by reevaluating our emotions, and it all flows from there.
I wish you a safe and prosperous week, and send you only the most positive and healing emotion of all: love.
-Dr. Carmen Harra