We have all heard, somewhere or the other that in order to have a healthy life, there has to be a balance between our body, mind, and soul, and basically, these are the 3 basic conditions to be called a living human being.
So when we think about it carefully, we all know the body is the physical form in which we are. The soul/spirit / vital energy is the basic force that keeps us alive. And thirdly is our mind.
What is mind?
Well, to date no one has been able to define ‘mind’. It’s the totality of conscious and unconscious mental processes and activities. Our brain is an organ. And our mind operates this physical body through our physical organ called the brain and its nervous system. And that’s why we can get brain tumors and not mind tumors.
Mind and Body
Now let’s talk about our mind and our body.
We have all noticed the physiological co-relation of our mind/thoughts and body in our day-to-day life.
- When we are anxious / nervous there is an increase adrenaline surge leading to a faster heart rate, palpitations, feeling sick, shaking (tremor), sweating, dry mouth, chest pain, headaches, a knot in the stomach, fast breathing etc.
- When we are angry we feel our body muscles tighten, our blood pressure increase, hands tighten, nostrils widen, etc.
- Likewise, suppose if we have a good positive thought; For example, on a regular day.. we just come to know that our favourite food is going to be served for dinner tonight / or we are going to meet someone we like. When we hear any good news – it produces an emotion of happiness in us. And when we are happy, we feel like the energy level of your body has increased. We feel energetic. And when you feel energetic, our body movements change. We become more active and alert.
So you can now see, it all started from a thought. And most of the time every thought will give rise to an emotion. And when our emotions get involved, our energy levels also change accordingly, and finally, its effects are seen at the physical body level. So you see, whatever thought we have, it ultimately reaches our physical body level. So if we have a nice, positive, self-empowering thought, it will have a positive effect on our body. And if we have a negative thought, it will show negative effects on our body as well.
All these events happen on day to day basis. So as we are growing up, our mind learns to cope up with different types of thoughts and emotions. So we don’t really get much affected by every small thought that we get.
But when a particular thought becomes constant, so much so that it becomes our pattern of thinking, it will stimulate an intense emotion on a regular basis. It can happen due to any reason. Due to some past experiences, disappointments, losses, failures, etc., the situation can be anything. And if these emotions are not expressed, emotional blockages occur. The emotional energy is not only repressed and pushed under, but it also attacks itself to certain key organs, for example, colon, heart, kidneys, liver, etc., and these are used as new pathways for the expression of our feelings.
When under emotional pressure, certain patients react with an attack of asthma, colitis, angina, IBS, etc. depending upon which particular organ is sensitized and used as an outlet. These types of diseases are called “Psychosomatic Diseases”. When we view psychosomatic illness from the perspective of holistic health, we see that all illnesses can be psychosomatic because the body reflects our mental, emotional and spiritual health. So a physical pain is actually trying to tell us, that there is some pain at the thought and emotional level… so Pay Attention In the Now… that is how our mind starts talking in the language of our body.
Even as medical professionals we all have often seen that patients who gave up on life for one reason or other, despite the best medical treatment and technology, wither away and die. And patients who possess a strong will to live, usually fare much better.
We even have a lot of researches which proves the mind and body co-relation –
- Harvard university researchers have found that some types of meditation can prolong life in the elderly.
- In a study reported in The Lancet, the prestigious British medical journal, medical researchers found that a combination of diet, exercise, and the practice of stress reduction techniques can reverse blockages in coronary artery disease. Changes in diet and exercise alone were not sufficient to reverse heart disease. Stress reduction was a necessary factor, more important than originally believed. Dr. Claude Lenfant, a researcher at the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute in Bethesda, Maryland, stated that these life style changes “can begin to reverse even severe coronary artery diseases after only one year, without the use of cholesterol lowering drugs.” Relaxation techniques are very important.
So you see, our day-to-day stress has a lot of effect on our physical body. So let’s first categorize these stressors that cause stress reactions in our body.
Types of Stress
- Chemical – caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, sugar, drug use, high fat diet, household or environmental poisons such as air pollution, asbestos, heavy metals
- Physical – physical inactivity or over activity, noise pollution, accidents, lack of sleep, barometric pressure changes
- Emotional – fear, anger, guilt, sorrow, jealousy, hurt, anxiety
Furthermore, the effects of these stressors on our body are additive, which means that stress accumulates with each additional small level of stress. For example, one sip of coffee may not cause a stress reaction but one sip of coffee, plus one puff of a cigarette, plus one heated argument, plus inadequate sleep, plus a day of sitting at a computer can cause a physiological change in the body’s chemistry. In other words, it all adds up!
Excess physical, chemical, or emotional pressure causes a ‘stress reaction’ in the body. When you encounter a perceived threat, your hypothalamus, a tiny region at the base of your brain, sets off an alarm system in your body. Through a combination of nerve and hormonal signals, this system prompts your adrenal glands, located atop your kidneys, to release a surge of hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol.
Adrenaline increases your heart rate, elevates your blood pressure, and boosts energy supplies. Cortisol, the primary stress hormone, increases sugars (glucose) in the bloodstream, enhances your brain’s use of glucose, and increases the availability of substances that repair tissues.
Cortisol also curbs functions that would be nonessential or detrimental in a fight-or-flight situation. It alters immune system responses and suppresses the digestive system, reproductive system, and growth processes. This complex natural alarm system also communicates with regions of your brain that control mood, motivation, and fear.
During prolonged stress, the body is forced to maintain higher levels of these natural chemicals which eventually results in burnout. This is where the term ‘adrenal fatigue’ comes from – the adrenal system literally becomes fatigued from having to operate in overdrive for long periods. How long we can operate under this stress reaction, all depends on our tolerance for stress or our ‘stress threshold’.
So Chronic stress occurs when there is a build-up of stress due to no outlet. And our bodies start to show the tell-tale signs. Some of the early signs and symptoms of stress are listed below –
Emotional symptoms of stress
- Becoming easily agitated, frustrated, and moody
- Feeling overwhelmed, like you are losing control or need to take control
- Having difficulty relaxing and quieting your mind
- Feeling bad about yourself (low self-esteem), lonely, worthless, and depressed
- Avoiding others
Physical symptoms of stress
- Low energy
- Upset stomach, including diarrhoea, constipation, and nausea
- Aches, pains, and tense muscles
- Chest pain and rapid heartbeat
- Frequent colds and infections
- Loss of sexual desire and/or ability
- Nervousness and shaking, ringing in the ear, cold or sweaty hands and feet
- Dry mouth and difficulty swallowing
- Clenched jaw and grinding teeth
Cognitive symptoms of stress
- Constant worrying
- Racing thoughts
- Forgetfulness and disorganization
- Inability to focus
- Poor judgment
- Being pessimistic or seeing only the negative side
Behavioral symptoms of stress
- Changes in appetite — either not eating or eating too much
- Procrastinating and avoiding responsibilities
- Increased use of alcohol, drugs, or cigarettes
- Exhibiting more nervous behaviours, such as nail biting, fidgeting, and pacing
When these continue for a long time it may lead to chronic stress reactions leading to chronic illnesses.
Relationship between our thoughts and physical illness
The Co-relation of our thoughts and physical illness can also be seen in various types of diseases that we suffer from.
Like, most of the time, kids are very innocent, active, trying out new things, they express themselves totally, they are their true self in all aspects of their life. So the diseases which they get are different types of acute fevers, cold, and cough, loose motions, skin rashes, etc. diseases in which there are only physiological changes in the body.
As we start growing up, we get influenced by our surroundings, there are a lot of exam pressures, pressure to get a job, or you have just got married, taken a home loan, etc. lot of pressure of performance and struggle. So at this stage, the types of diseases which you get are Prolapsed Intervertebral Disc (slipped disc), asthma, PCOD, acne, appendicitis, migraine, acidity, acute pains, etc. where slight structural changes start occurring in the body, but the changes are reversible.
And as we further grow, we are doing good in our work, we are already married, have kids, nothing new happening in life and by now we have learned the tricks. We have learned from our experiences, so have become a little manipulative and secretive, we don’t express ourselves easily because by now we have achieved a good position and impression in whatever we are doing, so we tend to mask our emotions. So a feeling of stagnancy creeps in. Now our life becomes a routine. So now, the diseases which we get, are those in which there is accumulation and stagnancy/laziness. eg. Stones – kidney and gall bladder, warts, piles, increase cholesterol levels – heart attacks, strokes, hypertension, obesity, depression, gouts, arthritis, sexual dysfunctions, etc. where there are structural changes which may or may not be reversible.
And now as you start getting older, your physical strength starts coming down, you have already retired, your children have taken over your role of being the provider. So you start feeling there is no purpose in your life, you have nobody to talk out your feelings, you feel lonely. You start feeling useless and disgusted. You have suicidal thoughts. This is when the destructive phase sets in. So now you get diseases in which there is the destruction of the physical structure, where the changes are irreversible. eg – cirrhosis of the liver, Alzheimer’s, ulcerative colitis, fistulas, severe arthritis, cancers, organ failures, non-healing ulcers, autoimmune diseases, gangrene, etc.
So you see, it all depends on our thoughts. And depending on our thoughts, any disease can happen at any age. So when we are suffering from a particular disease, we not only have to treat it at the physical level but also at the emotional level. And both are important. If we treat only the physical illness, the emotions will find another more important organ to express themselves. Similarly, while dealing with the thoughts we also have to deal with the physical part. For example, in obesity, at the mental level, we have to deal with the thoughts and the emotions behind it. And at the same time, at the physical level, we also have to exercise well.
Now whatever phase you are in, there is nothing good or bad about it. It is a process of growing. Each phase is important. While we are in this physical form, whatever is created will be destroyed someday. It’s a cycle. Only when we complete one cycle, will we be able to go to the next cycle. So whatever phase of thought you have right now, accept it as a process of growing up. And deal with your emotions in a healthy way…
Healthy ways to deal with our stress/emotions
Ways to deal with our emotions are – Deep sleep, exercise, physical detox, verbal expression – talk it out to someone who will listen to you, cry, hobbies, laugh, travel to different places, meditation, and relaxation.
There are different types and forms of meditation. Practice what appeals to you. Let me show you a simple daily meditation. You can do it, any time of the day. But it’s better if you do it in the early morning or just before you sleep at night.
“In a quiet room, take a comfortable position, with your legs straight, on a chair or lie down on the floor. Your palms open facing upwards. Whenever you feel ready, take three deep breathes, inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth. And each time you exhale say the word “relax” to yourself, three times in your mind. And then return back to your normal breathing. And now start observing your breathing. Observe the pace and rhythm of your breath. Observe how far the air travels in your body. Observe the temperature of the air that enters your nostrils. And gradually feel your body relaxing from your head to your toes. Give yourself permission to relax. And then imagine a white divine healing shaft of light, coming from the sky and falling on your head and passing through your body.
Now, think about your day. Just observe your thoughts as they come … for some time.
And then, shift your focus to all the good things that happened on that day … for some time.
Be grateful for all those good experiences.
Express love, towards yourself and the people around you.
After this, if you want, repeat an affirmation that appeals to you. Whenever you feel you are done, slowly open your eyes. Move your hands and legs and come back to the real world. You are ready to start your day with new freshness.”