Personality and illness
Optimist vs. pessimist, good sense of humor vs. having a serious demeanor, being sports oriented vs. having a preference towards inactivity. Does our personality and disposition/orientation towards certain things play a role and contribute to healing? Is it possible that our characteristics can potentially impair our ability to be healthy?
Research confirms there are direct links between emotion and health. Through applied science, we’ve been able to understand how emotions and disease are connected. Disturbances in emotions alter our biochemistry and physiology, and can change our physical well being. These changes contribute to creating physical ailments and illnesses. Interestingly enough, these same physical illnesses can then play a role in affecting our emotions. Understanding the effects that emotions and physical health have on each other is critical to understanding and knowing the big picture relative to what is going on with our health.
All of us have a better chance of staying healthy when we nurture positive thoughts. On the contrary, negative thoughts such as resentment, anger, blame, guilt or depression create internal changes that can damage our body. It’s well understood that humor helps in cases where there is chronic pain to assist or manage the pain. Humor also helps in positively impacting the immune system. The good feelings and emotions we feel when humor is present increases the natural activity of immune cells to locate and eliminate pathogens and unhealthy cells. In addition, humor improves our physical response to stress and provides feelings of well being.
There are a number of clinical and scientific studies that show certain attitudes – including kindness, laughter, love, joy, gratitude, faith – all help strengthen the body’s natural healing process. Another benefit that occurs with people that have these kinds of personality traits is that their minds tend to open up. More options and possibilities come to our minds when we face hardships, trials or important decisions. These attitudes also help us develop more skills. It’s almost as if the brain is able to see and understand thing s with much more clarity – similar to how glasses improve the sight of someone who is near or far sighted. Creativity increases and our ability to socialize with others become more proficient.
Out of all the emotions we can feel, the most powerful health promoter is the emotion of love. Participating in activities that we enjoy, providing acts of service to others, as well as receiving acts of service all perpetuate the emotion and feeling of love. The source of our love can come from within our home or outside of it. We can receive it from family or a pet. We can receive it from our neighbors or community as we interact with others. We can feel it in nature as we hike trails or simply stare out at the sky at night and see the stars. We can also feel a tremendous amount of love from within our own selves as well, inasmuch as we’re at peace with ourselves. However we may feel it, love produces a feeling of connection and acceptance that positively balances the production of neurotransmitters in our brain, creating a feeling of well being.
All of these positive attitudes promote and create a feeling of bonding, belonging, self worth, compassion and self respect. Chemically the brain functions property when neurotransmitters such as oxytocin, dopamine, serotonin and others are manufactured in the right amounts. These neurotransmitters trigger a healthy production of hormones. Our body is made up of an amazing system, known as the endocrine system, which manages all of our hormones. The endocrine system greatly influences our health because the performance of every single tissue or organ in our body is managed by hormones. Hormones affect our physiology and ensure that there’s internal harmony. This control system of hormones all depends on a well balanced production of neurotransmitters.
The amygdala portion of our brain, which is responsible for triggering emotions, has chambers of neurons associated with it. When negative thoughts are present, the brain creates a circuitry map where these thoughts are imprinted. Studies show that stimulation of the left side of the amygdala induces negative emotions such as fear and sadness. These feelings are projected to the hypothalamus and induce stress. Sustaining negative thoughts for longer periods of time increases signaling on the neurons affected in the amygdala and creates some damage which can affect memory. Additionally, prolonged negative thoughts increase the number of neurons on alert, strengthening the circuitry map and deepening its imprint, reinforcing negative attitudes and thoughts. As this occurs the basal ganglia activates a particular circuitry that should only be used when we are in extreme danger – such as a predator chasing us. The sustained feelings of stress that negative emotions produce however, because the brain believes real danger present. As such, the brain sees activating this mechanism as the only option to get away from the perceived high level of danger that we are under. That’s why under these kind of emotional conditions, we become oblivious and mentally paralyzed from everything, except whatever we believe to be causing us stress. We become detached, over analytical, impatient, irritable, etc.
Negative thoughts put us in a position where this region of the brain is constantly turned on, and we place ourselves in situations where we focus on fears, anger or resentment. We cannot see other options because our brain’s circuitry has cut us off from the rest of the world and the only thought is our “predator.” Under these circumstances, looking forward to the future is pointless because we feel that all of our attention needs to be focused on only the here and now. In these situations, chemically our brain makes major shifts that affect other areas, including the endocrine system, triggering physiological sickness.
In interviewing over 100 individuals with negative tendencies in their personalities, I’ve found even though there are many good things surrounding them in their lives, negative thoughts always place them in a stressful situation. It can be anything from finances, traffic, their spouse, a co worker, their supervisor, business, health, the economy, the government, etc. They are unable to see good things for what they are. It’s as though they only see their “predator” and the good things that they have or that happen to them do not matter or are unimportant. I’ve found that it’s hard for them to start doing things that they understand is beneficial for them because they are so hyper focused on the “predator.” Their brain circuitry map continues to be strengthened and reinforced because they are in a state of chronic stress and anxiety. They always feel stuck and feel bad about themselves.
In one of my interviews I had the chance to meet Robert. Robert had a series of emotional and physical challenges – obesity being one of them. John had wanted to lose weight for some time, but due to his negative attitude increasing over the years, he did not start or complete other things that he wanted to address. Losing weight was one of his primary goals, but every time he noticed that he was doing something that was not in harmony with that goal, he felt that he had no will power and reinforced that with self pity and continued negative thoughts about himself. He felt inadequate and depressed. John became increasingly more ill, as he went through some rough years due to his lifestyle. His body began to have hormonal imbalances, metabolic problems, immune system deficiencies (including allergies and asthma), arthritis pain, a low libido and insomnia.
One of the things that Robert mentioned is that in the past he enjoyed certain parts of his life and loved associated with certain people. He had what he called a normal life. But now he had grown to become so discontent with so many things that he became completely disconnected from others and lost a passion for hobbies and pastimes that used to bring him joy. He tried many things, one of which included trying to change his environment though switching jobs and careers. After a few months though, he always fell back into the same situation, regardless of a promotion or new job title.
As we can see, the negative attitudes John had, built and reinforced thoughts that brought about changes in his body that led to him become increasingly sicker throughout the years. Robert had a desire to change so we placed him on the Phytotherapi solution for stress, along with some other solutions and nutritional advice. He lost 58 lbs and was able to restore healthy sleep patterns and began to find his job more enjoyable. We’re happy to see Robert and the improvement that he was able to make in his life.
Genuine thoughts of positivity always promote physical and mental health. For different reasons, some people are more disposed to be positive than others. Whatever the case may be, it is important to understand that the body and mind are able to heal itself from damage, leading to a true paradigm shift which allows us to see things as they really are. All of us, in some degree, suffer from pessimism. As we look to improve how we view ourselves, others and the world around us we’ll be able to make the changes that leads to having a genuine positive attitude and personality.