Today is Saturday, March 30, 2013.
We are accustomed to hearing the saying, "You are what you eat," but science is now catching up with the wisdom of ancient spiritual traditions in the realization that you are what you think! In fact, there is a whole new science called psychoneuroimmunology that explores the relationship between the mind and the nervous system and immune system.
Native American Wisdom says, "If we have bad thoughts or poison in our minds, they will eventually show up in our bodies in the form of headaches, pains, and stomach problems. It works this way because we are interconnected. Purification means purification of body and mind. You don't purify the body without cleansing the mind; that's the way it works."
My own spiritual teacher, Harold Klemp, the Spiritual Leader of Eckankar, said this even more succinctly: "Every thought, word, or deed either purifies or pollutes the body."
The Christian Bible (King James Version) has the same advice. Proverbs 23:7 says, "For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he." In Matthew 15:11 (English Standard Version) it says, "It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person."
So how does this work? One thing science is particularly good at is describing the mechanism for the way things work. Dr. Richard Schultze describes how it works in his book, Common Sense Health and Healing.
First of all, the brain works continuously, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, never shutting down, even when the body is asleep. When we have a thought, the brain creates chemicals called neuropeptides. Scientists know that cells in the body have "receptor sites" or as Dr. Schultze calls them, "loading docks," for specific chemicals. Within the last decade, researchers have discovered that immune cells, whose primary function is to protect you by fighting off bacteria, viruses, fungus, parasites, and cancer, also have receptors specifically for these neuropeptides created by the brain! This means that immune cells actually respond to your thoughts, depending on which neuropeptides are created by the brain. Your thoughts can literally boost or impair the function of the immune system.
But that's not all. Another researcher, Albert Garoli, says that certain of our organs respond to certain negative emotions, as the ancient Chinese have always known. The kidneys can be affected by fear or shock; the spleen and pancreas are affected by worry or pensiveness. The liver is affected by anger or frustration, while the lungs are affected by sadness or suppressed grief. And, as many people already know, the heart can be affected by too much excitement.
The power of thought actually has more to do with our health than our diet. In The Power of Thought Course System, Keith A. Shaw says, "Change of diet, taking more vitamins, or taking the latest 'magical (insert color here) pill,' advertised during your favorite television show, alone will not help the person who has not changed his thoughts." This is also true no matter how much exercise a person gets or what kind of medical treatment a person's doctor prescribes. Numerous case studies have shown that a positive attitude is credited for a patient's healing against all odds. And we all know great athletes who have succumbed to illness and death, even in what was supposed to be the prime of his or her career in sports.
So how can we become more aware of how our thoughts and feelings affect the body? Deb Shapiro has created the following list:
1) Be aware of when you're irritated or frustrated. Pay attention to your breathing, if it becomes shallow, and the tightening of your shoulders and stomach muscles.
2) Observe anxiety reactions. In what part of the body do you hold anxiety? Do you have pains in your stomach, or do your legs ache or feel tired?
3) Watch how you react when someone is angry with you. Do you get a headache? Do you swallow hard or get a sore throat? Do you clench your muscles? Do you get constipated?
4) Analyze illnesses and injuries. Think about a time when you were hurt or ill. What parts of your body were involved? Do you always hurt the same side of your body?
Another book that talks at great length of the connection between our feelings and our bodies is Gary Zukav and Linda Francis's The Heart of the Soul.
Once we have identified how we are feeling, what next? We know that we will need to do a little re-programming of the subconscious mind, so meditation and affirmations are good practice. Even if you spend as little as five or ten minutes a day just holding pleasant thoughts, you can reap rich rewards in terms of your physical health and emotional well-being. When we feel healthier, emotionally, we are better able to stick to healthy eating habits and exercise routines. When we take the time to think positive thoughts, especially right after getting up in the morning or right before we go to bed at night, we find that our general level of energy goes up, too.
Making time to do things that we enjoy is crucial to our overall health. Hobbies, travel, being with friends, listening to beautiful music, and getting active outdoors are all good ways to keep ourselves in a positive frame of mind. :-)