(NaturalNews) Much research over the years has shown that a positive emotional state actually has a very strong and profound impact on one's physical health.
Endorphins and the immune system
Most people are aware of endorphins, the "feel-good hormones" in the body. Endorphins are a type of natural occurring substance known as peptides or neuropeptides which influence one's mood, pain and pleasure. When released, they give rise to pleasurable responses not dissimilar to those linked to opiates.
What most people are probably unaware of is that endorphins can also be found in the immune system.
"The astounding revelation is that these endorphins and other chemicals like them are found not just in the brain, but in the immune system, the endocrine system, and throughout the body. When people discovered that there were endorphins in the brain that caused euphoria and pain relief, everyone could handle that. However, when they discovered they were in the immune system as well, it just didn't fit, so these findings were denied for years. The original scientists had to repeat their studies many times to be believed," said Candace Pert, PhD, former Chief of the Section on Brain Biochemistry of the Clinical Neuroscience Branch at the National Institute of Mental Health.
In other words, emotions are not just purely psychological, but actually have a direct impact on the functioning of different systems of the body, including the immune system.
According to Dr. Pert, viruses and neuropeptides use the same receptors to get into a cell. If there are more of the latter around, viruses would find it more difficult to penetrate cells.
Positive emotions and immunity
One's mood and attitude has a great impact on his or her immune function. When optimistic and happy, one's immunity is much stronger.
Several studies have shown that laughter and other positive emotional states can actually boost immune function. Indeed, laughter, play, love, faith, hope and self-acceptance help to boost and balance the immune system.
Even the use of therapies such as guided imagery, hypnosis and other meditative states has been revealed to improve immune function.
Other ways positive emotions improve health
More specific associations shown in other studies were stated by Jeanne Achterberg, PhD. For example, feeling helpless, hopeless, fearful, anxious or stressed all negatively affected health in one way or another. On the other hand, feeling secure and being able to cope actually countered the harmful effects of negative emotions, while feeling relaxed and joyful improved circulation to injured or painful areas of the body and boosted tissue repair.
A sense of control over a serious illness, attained via taking action, also helped to reduce fear and depression.
In one study, the animals trained to have a sense of control were most likely to fight off injected tumor cells, whereas those conditioned to experience helplessness were more likely to get cancer and die.
Research has also found that positive emotions helped to maintain blood pressure at healthy levels, while being optimistic helped to improve physical health and boost mental functioning. Other than boosting the immune system, laughing could help decrease inflammation.
Further, research suggested that having a sense of control, commitment and connectedness, plus looking at change as a challenge as supposed to a threat, helped to maintain good health even when placed under stress.
In addition, it was shown that meditation helped to produce beneficial changes in both the immune system and the brain.
Moral of the story? Laugh more, be more relaxed, choose to look at life more positively, learn to let go, and use therapies such as meditation and guided imagery to improve health.
Sources for this article include:
Trivieri, Jr., Larry, and Anderson, John W. Alternative Medicine: The Definitive Guide. 2nd ed. New York, USA: Celestial Arts, 2002. Print.
Murray, Michael, ND, and Pizzorno, Joseph, ND. Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine. 2nd ed. New York, NY: Three Rivers Press, 1998. Print.
Mercola, Joseph, Dr., and Pearsall, Kendra, Dr. Take Control of Your Health. Schaumburg, IL: Mercola.com, 2007. Print.
About the author: Reuben Chow has a keen interest in natural health and healing as well as personal growth.