Well-Being//

Good Health Begins within the Mind

Thrive Global India's July guest editor says stress is at the root of all disease and examines why one must focus on controlling it to achieve a mind-body balance.

Today everyone focuses on diet and exercise and we constantly strive to eat better, exercise more and run from pillar to post to get some advice on our health issues. What we majorly miss out on is the mental and emotional self.

The human body and our well-being revolve around five selves: Mental, Emotional, Physical, Spiritual, and Intellectual. So, good health is not just in the physical body. Good health means growing in all of these five selves and the impact of mind and emotions on our health and immunity should never be underestimated.

Today science and research has well established a connect between stress and almost every possible disease on this planet, be it cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular, falling hair, poor and dull skin, asthma, sinus or low immunity. You can draw a connection between stress, chronic stress and almost every disease.

What happens when we get stressed out?

Stress can be a good thing to have. Each of us need some amount of stress in our daily lives. This called as Eustress and it’s what keeps us motivated to do well in life and have goals and ambitions.

Problem starts when this stress crosses the line to an extent that it starts affecting our health—leading to sleepless nights, negative thoughts, impulsive eating behaviours, negative self-labelling, being rude, overthinking. This is called as Distress and it’s what leads to most health issues.

When we experience stress, the entire physiology of our body changes in order to cope up with the stressor, called the fight or flight response. It’s our bodies’ defence mechanism to overcome a stress. Our heart starts beating fast, blood sugar levels rise, blood pressure rises, sex hormone production slows, metabolism drops, digestion slows, just because your body wants to first focus on dealing with the stress and survive it.

In an ideal situation, the stressor should be very short lived, for example: an exam, or some mistake at work. Unfortunately we live in a world where we move from one stressful situation to the other, so our body is constantly working hard to prepare you to survive all the time, thus leading to an all-time high—blood sugar, blood pressure, cholesterol, inflammation, poor digestion, hormonal imbalance, slow metabolism, and more, eventually leading to diseases like diabetes, hormonal imbalances, PCOD, hypothyroidism, high cholesterol, autoimmunity and even cancer.

Stress spikes up a hormone called Cortisol which has a key role in preparing us over the stress. When cortisol goes up, a handful of other hormones also get imbalanced depicting how sensitive hormonal harmony is.

Melatonin, a sleep-inducing hormone fails to secrete which can lead to sleep problems. Lack of sleep can in turn alter our hunger levels by increasing secretion of ghrelin—a hunger hormone and supressing leptin—a satiety hormone, leading to overeating and unexplained cravings and thus weight gain. Excess weight can further invite a host of diseases.

Holding on to stress for prolonged periods of time also leads to chronic inflammation and low immunity. That’s why when we are stressed, we tend to fall sick faster. You get flus, colds, coughs more frequently. And an immune system that’s weak and running low can predispose us to any disease.

Stress and digestive health

Gut issues have become so common today. Every other person is suffering from acidity, constipation, bloating, indigestion, flatulence—the saddest part being that we have learnt how to live with it. While a majority of factors can affect gut health, emotions play a direct role.

The gut and brain are intricately connected and constantly communicating with each other. Health of our mind can affect the health of our gut and vice versa. Acidity is a condition seen in most people who are short tempered and have excess rage, which is why they see immediate results when they learn how to manage their anger.

Chronic stress is also known to cause a leaky gut which can eventually lead to autoimmunity and food intolerances. 

A hormone called Serotonin, is a happy hormone and is made in the gut. So, if you have a poor functioning gut, you will feel sluggish, fatigued, lethargic and will misconceive that to be depression. Is the answer to that an anti-depressant? There are some genuine cases who may need these pills, but one must also change the health of gut and mind (since mind and gut are connected) so that the gut can produce the right amount of serotonin to help you feel good.

Stress and other diseases

People who are filled with bitterness and resentment tend to have problems with their gallbladder, which plays a role in storing bile. Bile helps break down fat. When we are struggling to lose weight and burn fat, we have a problem with our gallbladder. We are not producing enough of bile to break down fat and it’s clearly seen in people who have resentment, bitterness, disgust and anger in them.

When we get angry and have rage in us, it injures the arteries of our heart and produces inflammation. No amount of cholesterol medication will heal an artery which is destroyed or injured by anger and rage.

Any internalisation of emotions also suppresses our immunity—the first and last line of defence in the human body. When we’re trying to prevent a disease or heal it, we need immunity to be at its strongest.

Most diseases especially cancer comes with a lot of fear. A fear that media has created by saying that fourth stage cancer is the end of life. But it actually doesn’t mean it’s the end of life. There are so many fourth stage cancer patients who are living for the fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, tenth year. So, fourth stage is just a protocol. Fear is also a negative emotion which destroys our immunity.

Suppressing emotions is where problems begin

Firstly, we must accept human to feel bad or hate someone and feel every emotion we go through. The problem is when we start using all the materialistic things around us like drugs and alcohol to numb our emotions.

Feel and release every emotion instead of bottling them up inside. It’s when we fail to work on these emotions and live in a state of denial that things are fine with us, those supressed emotions slowly start manifesting into a disease.

An emotion—positive or negative—is a type of energy and it needs to show up in some way or the other. Those who don’t choose to express and vent out their emotions, give a chance to let them manifest into something that can bother our health.

A glass of whiskey or a drag of smoke will never ever get to the root cause of the emotion and will never teach us how to manage our anger. It’s a great momentary fix but we then start pushing it down and one fine day all these emotions start consuming us.

Every emotion that we constantly internalize, impacts trillions of cells in your body. Good health starts from a cell and so does bad health. Every negative or bad feeling vibrates through each of those trillion of cells we are made up of. Negativity can make our cells vibrate at a frequency that’s much lower than what it needs to be for good health.

For example, right now when you get angry, jealous, abandoned, rejected or you have resentment and bitterness in you; how does it make your body feel? Your body starts cringing. Your body doesn’t open up like it does when you are joyous and happy. All those trillion cells are vibrating with that negative energy affecting cellular health. All the energy to your brain, body, glow in your face, skin, hair, liver, kidneys and lungs starts from cellular energy.

This is why it is so important to give due importance not just to our physical health but emotional health also. Everyone’s out there jogging, running marathons, doing Cross Fit, working out in gyms, eating superfoods, following fancy diets but wise and blessed are the people who also give attention and exercise to their brains, mind and their emotions. Meditate, breathe, visualise, pray, engage in community service and giving back, intend to make a difference in someone’s life, do things that make you truly happy and surround yourself with people that uplift you. Just like we do for our bodies, it’s important to regularly engage in detoxing our mind and emotions.

Want to share your story of how you thrive? Write to us at editorial.india@thriveglobal.com

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People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- Marcus Aurelius

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