how thoughts affect your physical health

Our thoughts and feelings affect our physical health and our physical health affects our thoughts and feelings. It’s an amazing bio-directional feedback mechanism adapted by the mind and body to keep us safe. However, many of us do not stop to think about this until our physical health hits a crisis point.

The body’s communication system is extremely complex with neurological, neurochemical, biophysical and biochemical components and could challenge any computer for number of simultaneous inputs per minute. It is estimated that in one second there are over 100,000 chemical reactions in every cell of the body which happen without our conscious application!

Each time you have a thought your mind processes these thoughts through images. These images are then translated into emotional footprints primarily by the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus works in close connection with the nervous system and all the hormone secreting organs and glands in the body, which together in return influence the immune system. The three systems are intrinsically linked through neuropeptides, chemical protein messengers produced in nearly every cell in the body, especially the brain.

How the body responds to a thought therefore is dependent on the emotional response the image generates. Emotions tend to be linked to past or learned experiences, whether real or imagined based upon our attitudes, perceptions and beliefs. For example, imagine a scented flower. For one person, the fragrance may conjure up happy memories of a wedding, bringing a smile to their face and a sense of happiness. Whilst for someone else the exact same scent may remind them of the flowers laid at a close family members funeral, bringing an overwhelming sense of sadness and loss. The emotional footprints and therefore consequences in the body would be very different between these two people.

It’s estimated that we have between 60,000 – 70,000 thoughts per day, 90% of which we repeat tomorrow, of which 70% are typically negative. In his book, ‘You Are The Placebo: Making Your Mind Matter’ Dr Joe Dispenza[1] writes ‘95% of who you are by the time you are 35 years old is a set of memorised behaviours, skills, emotional reactions, beliefs, perceptions and attitudes which function like a subconscious automatic computer.’ It is easy therefore to see how we become creatures of habit, addicted to our thoughts and feelings.

Until we sit back and reflect on the consequences of our thoughts, we are often unaware that they are having a negative effect on our body as many of the resulting bodily functions operate subconsciously. For example, when a thought causes us ‘stress’ we automatically switch on the autonomic nervous systems fright/flight responses to prepare the body for action. Adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol are released into the bloodstream and our respiratory rate increases. Blood is directed away from the digestive tract and to our muscles and limbs. Our pupils dilate, our sight sharpens, our awareness is heightened, our immune system is placed on alert and our perception of pain diminishes – we’re ready for action.

While short-term stress may be helpful the problem arises when we’re unable to switch off this response, due to our repetitive cycle of thoughts, perceptions, beliefs and habits. The body likes to feel ‘safe’ and if it gets use to the feeling of being ‘stressed’ and sees this as the norm, it will signal back to the brain to request more of the same chemicals to keep it feeling ‘safe’. The consequences can be very damaging as we can begin to exhibit signs such as insomnia, exhaustion, depression, anxiety, impotence, inflammation, autoimmune errors, abnormal cell growth, bacterial and viral infections, ultimately leading to chronic health issues like cancer.

Addressing what we’re thinking and how this makes us feel can be a helpful start to bring about change in our lives. When we question our perceptions and beliefs and the story we’ve been telling ourselves for years, the ‘truth’ we’ve been hanging onto can begin to filter into a different story which helps us to move forward.

The good news is we know the brain is never static. The hardwiring of the brain is constantly changing and adapting to new information, to where ever we focus our attention (neuroplasticity). We constantly reproduce new brain cells throughout our lifetime which lie dormant for approximately 21 days until our mind decides where to place them. Active imagery has been designed to focus your mind and body in a positive and constructive way, to empower you at a challenging time in life and to direct your thoughts to help get you back on your feet. Deep breathing helps the mind and body to relax and become more receptive to new information learned and bypass troublesome conscious thoughts. When you understand why you are listening to active imagery and how it can help you; enhancing your immune responses, alleviating stress, improving your muscle strength, reducing the effects of muscle atrophy and elevating your mood and optimism, this strengthens your emotional attachment and belief in the outcome, to allow your mind and body to bring about these physical and psychological changes.

[1] Dr Joe Dispenza, You Are the Placebo, Making Your Mind Matter, 2014