The debate over whether the body and the mind are separate is finally finished. The scientists, during the past 50 years, have discovered that not just the body and the mind are connected, but they are also inextricably and intimately intertwined.
What clinched the argument was the PNI or psychoneuroimmunology, a field of the science that studies the connected between the brain, mind and the immune system.
One of the first psychoneuroimmunology studies was published in 1991 in the New England Journal of Medicine. In this study, the researchers asked a huge group of people to fill out some surveys and after that gave them a nasal spray with either the cold virus or saline, but they didn’t know which one of the two they were getting. The researchers discovered that those people who reported more stress got a full-on cold, while those who were less stressed were capable to fight it off, regardless of the person’s weight, age, diet or some other factors.
How the stress can make us sick
Fast-forward 15 years – the researchers have found out why the stress makes us sick. The PNI studies have shown that some emotional states like fear, stress or anger send signals to the most important glands in the body to release some hormones, like adrenaline, cortisol and epinephrine. These hormones can tell the cells that it is a time to flee or fight – not repair and rest. Because of that, the body turns away its attention from some things like fighting off illness and digesting nutrients and instead raises the blood pressure, so you are not able to run from that tiger.
The real problem is that we really don’t have real tigers that are chasing us these days. Instead of that, we have to-do lists without end, the fear of failure, resentment… When that vacation arrives and the body switch out of fight-or-flight mode, what will happen? We will get sick? That is happening because while we were running from that tiger for the past few months, our bodies were purposefully ignoring any bacterial infections or viruses they picked up until we had the chance to deal with them or to slow down them. Unluckily, that time is the vacation.
How the happiness can make us healthy
Is there anything you can do? Well, just as your most important glands release the immune-suppressing hormones every time when you feel worried or stressed, they also are able to release the immune-boosting hormones when you feel relaxed or happy. These self-produced hormones include dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin and relaxin. When these powerful hormones hit the bloodstream, they send signals to the body to make more immune cells. Just 5 minutes of happiness or laughter can importantly boost the number of white blood cells, which are our natural killer cells.
The Cancer survivors use emotions as a cure
Because of what the PNI has found out about the association between the immune system and our emotions, it is not a surprise that the people pay attention to their emotion in order to get well. Kelly Turner, Ph. D., for the past decade has studied thousands of radical – remission cases – folks who survive the cancer against the odds. She has discovered that radical – remission survivors have in common 9 key healing factors, 3 of which directly involve the emotions:
- Increasing positive emotions
- Releasing suppressed emotions
- Embracing social support
It is not important if the stress is released with exercise, cuddling the family car or laughing at a YouTube video, the radical – remission survivors have a top priority to get the daily dose of oxytocin, right up there with taking their prescribed drugs or fish-oil supplements.
When we talk about the fight with the cancer, the most important thing that you should do is to boost the immune system, and that is why the radical – remission survivors that she study do it any way that they can. Now we know from the psychoneuroimmunology that managing our emotions can be a powerful way for boosting the immune system. Because boosting the immune system is a great idea for those people who want to live a healthy lifestyle and be healthy, go ahead and also goof off today, even for 5 minutes.