A Healthy Mind is Required for Healing
Bitterness, unforgiveness, resentment, retaliation, anger, hatred, guilt, shame, sorrow, regret, jealousy, helplessness, depression, anxiety, worry, apathy, loneliness, fear, and rejection. These are toxic emotions. Interestingly, when we harbor these emotions, they can cause various physical symptoms and may become chronic health problems. We often lump these emotions together with stress and try endlessly to change the emotions by gaining control of our stressful lifestyles; however, many of these toxic emotions can exist in the absence of stress and create an equally ugly state of health. Poor digestion, poor mental health, chronic pain, fatigue, weight gain or loss, and even hormone imbalances can be the damaging outcomes of longstanding, toxic emotions.
Emotions & Heart Health Toxic
Negative emotions have been found to increase the risks of being a victim of America’s top cause of mortality – heart disease. In fact, toxic emotions can influence heart health just as much as traditional risk factors such as age, sex, race, education, body mass index, smoking and blood pressure. Studies have found that anxiety, worry, hostility, anger and aggressiveness are strongly related to heart health. These emotions can impact the nervous system that controls many of the heart’s functions. The body also responds to negative emotions by changing various hormones that may help us cope in the face of negative circumstances. However, these hormonal changes are supposed to be temporary and when they are prolonged, they can affect the health of many organ systems, including the cardiovascular system. Oftentimes, we seek to patch up the external signs of deteriorating health, but sometimes, the ‘real’ solution lies in resolving the toxic emotion and any precipitating circumstances or relationships.
Laughter can be a medicine for both soul and heart!
The Harvard School of Public Health, along with other studies, agree that laughter, optimism, and positive emotions can support heart health and confer positive benefits on the whole person. Laughter and positivity have been shown to slow the progression of various health conditions, improving the consequences, even in the face of less-than-optimal health outcomes. Not only is laughter a free remedy, but it also prolongs life, according to many studies. Heart disease remains the largest cause of death in America, and if something as simple as laughter can turn the tide on this condition, surely we can do better to improve these scores.
Emotions & Quality of Life
Quality of life is a consideration in nearly any wellness plan. It is defined as someone’s standard of health, comfort and happiness. It is a subjective term because everyone possesses a different idea of happiness and comfort. To a chronically ill, bedridden patient, merely being able to stand up and walk may be considered good quality of life. To someone struggling to pay bills and working several jobs, good quality of life may be defined as being financially secure. Emotions play a strong role in defining our quality of life because when we feel happier and more satisfied, we generally say we have good quality of life.
Some chronic, health conditions with a poor chance of recovery can challenge our emotional outlook and, hence, our quality of life. However, these same emotions can change the course of healing and therefore, must be a consideration in health. Negative, toxic emotions often speed up the rate at which a chronic health condition progresses. On the contrary, maintaining a positive attitude and adopting favorable coping skills that redirect emotions in a positive direction were found to improve the quality of life significantly in one study of chronically ill women. When these women resorted to self-blame, rumination catastrophizing, and blaming others, quality of life was poor. However, acceptance, positive refocusing, planning, and positive reappraisal consistently delivered better quality of life scores.
Regardless of one’s state of health, positive emotions have been shown to increase longevity in everyone. Positive well-being that includes positive affect (emotional well-being, positive mood, joy, happiness, vigor, energy) and positive trait dispositions (life satisfaction, hopefulness, optimism, sense of humor) have been found to be protective against many health conditions and therefore, increases longevity even when the outcomes of health conditions are not favorable. Individuals that are apparently in great health can also benefit from positive emotions since they preserve good health.
So much more could be said about the impact of our thoughts on our body. The way we think affects how we perceive our circumstances and how our body responds to those circumstances. Becoming victims of depression, anxiety, worry, blame, hopelessness, fear, loneliness, rejection, anger, jealously and other negative thought patterns will only lead to poor health outcomes. Encouraging positive thought patterns by focusing on joy, happiness, peace, purpose, love, acceptance, kindness, satisfaction, hope, optimism and laughter begins an internal healing process that eludes even the greatest mind. There is truly a healing power when the trinity of holistic health – body, mind and spirit – function together to restore and maintain wellness.
Sources Kubzansky, L.D. & Kawachi, I. (2000). Going to the heart of the matter: do negative emotions cause coronary heart disease? Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 48(4-5), 323-37. Chida, Y., & Steptoe, A. (2009). The Association of Anger and Hostility With Future Coronary Heart Disease. Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 53(11), 936-946. doi:10.1016/j.jacc.2008.11.0 Clark, A., Seidler, A., & Miller, M. (2001). Inverse association between sense of humor and coronary heart disease. International Journal of Cardiology, 80(1), 87-88. doi:10.1016/s0167-5273(01)00470-3 Boehm, J. K., & Kubzansky, L. D. (2012). The heart’s content: The association between positive psychological well-being and cardiovascular health. Psychological Bulletin, 138(4), 655-691. doi:10.1037/a00274 Li et al. (2015). Cognitive emotion regulation: characteristics and effect on quality of life in women with breast cancer. Health and Quality of Life Outcomes, 13, 51. http://doi.org/10.1186/s12955-015-0242-4 Chida, Y., & Steptoe, A. (2008). Positive Psychological Well-Being and Mortality: A Quantitative Review of Prospective Observational Studies. Psychosomatic Medicine, 70(7), 741-756. doi:10.1097/psy.0b013e31818105ba
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