Wise people have known about the mind-body connection for centuries. While an “apple a day” might keep the doctor away, a smile a day might do just as well.
Mainstream medicine, by contrast, is only now starting to not only acknowledge these links, but research them in any serious way. Which is good, because negative emotions which you don’t deal with and let go can have a severe impact on your health up to ten years later.
So what exactly can managing your emotions do for, or to, your health?
Your emotions can strengthen or weaken your immune system.
Getting sick all the time? Check your emotional state.
Studies link chronic stress to increased inflammation in the body. Inflammation is a natural immune response, but chronic inflammation, or inappropriate inflammation, essentially gets your immune system working so hard it has few resources to spare on fighting the common cold or that bout of bronchitis that’s making the rounds.
Of course, we tend to make it worse by neglecting self-care when stress and negativity loom large in our lives. Failing to eat right or sleep well enough can certainly overtax the immune system as well.
Your emotional state can improve, or threaten, your heart health.
“Broken heart syndrome” is a real issue. When you’re sad or stressed, your heart takes strain.
Over time, this strain can lead to arrhythmia, also known as atrial fibrillation. Stress targets the left ventricle of the heart, weakening it. It can even lead to congenital heart failure.
Fortunately, the opposite is also true. Releasing stress and focusing on happy thoughts can strengthen your heart, helping to keep cardiovascular issues at bay. And doing a little yoga, listening to some meditative music, or even watching a funny cat video online aren’t exactly hardships!
Certain emotions can undo the damage caused by stress and unhappiness.
When’s the last time you felt a sense of awe?
If you can, you might want to seek out an opportunity. Seeing a beautiful sight out in nature, hearing an uplifting piece of music, or watching someone do something extraordinary can all help to lower stress levels by filling us with a sense of wonder and even gratitude about the magic of being alive.
In essence, it acts as a healing counter-agent to the stress and negativity we tend to surround ourselves with on a daily basis.
Stress may not be a choice, but managing it is.
If you’re caring for small children or elderly loved ones, you’ve got stress. If you’ve got financial difficulties or a demanding job, you’ve got stress. Avoiding stress isn’t possible for many people.
However, anyone can make a conscious effort to manage stress. You have the power to lower your stress levels, even if you just take a fifteen minute walk every day to clear your head, get some time alone, and boost your body with some endorphins.
Sometimes managing stress is as simple as taking a few deep breaths. Or stopping to focus on what you’re grateful for.
The next time you notice your temper’s on edge, your stomach’s flip flopping, your muscles are tense or your breathing is shallow, slow down. Get it under control. After all, there’s nothing more stressful than managing day-to-day stress in a state of dis-ease that’s sapping what few resources you already have!
Stress management and self-care aren’t luxuries. They’re real life-and-death health necessities you must pay attention to.