More than a decade age, Norman Cousin wrote Anatomy of an illness, a personal story of his recovering from a supposedly irreversible disease. In it, he championed the healing value of life-affirming emotions, such as, hope, love, a sense of purpose and a capacity for fun.
In recent years, his anecdotal account has been supported by scientific studies. Researchers point to a cluster of emotions and attitudes that seem to be linked to improved health.
Fighting spirit. A British study of women with breast cancer, reports that women with a “fighting spirit” are more than twice as likely to be alive and well 10years later than women who hold a helpless, hopeless attitudes.
Solid Marriage, Friendships. Social support: seems to contribute to heath and life –span, according to nine –year survey of 7,000 people. The group with, strong social ties –marriages, friendship, group membership had lower death rates than those who were isolated.
Love, Compassion: In a Harvard study, students who were shown a film, designed to inspire feelings of love and caring experienced an increase in an antibody that protects against upper respiratory infection.
Mind Undermines Matters.
Mind undermines matters too just as positive emotions help health, negative attitudes and emotions seem to undermine one’s health. Researchers point to other unhealthy emotions.
Depression- Reaches show have confirmed that people who are depressed were twice as likely to die from cancer.
Cynicism and hostility
Researchers at Duke University contend that people with a cynical or hostile attitude are five times more likely to die before the age of 50 than their calmer, more trusting counterparts.
Loneliness: Rates of illness and death tend to be higher among single and divorced individuals, suggesting that loneliness takes its toll on the immune system.
Stress: Increased illness rates among the recently bereaved suggest that chronic stress affects health. In a study at Ohio State University, medical students nearing exam time suffered a drop in the fighter cells that help the body to combat infections.
Two general theories exist says David Spiegel. First, people who have a positive mental outlook or strong social support tend to take better cares of themselves. They are more likely to go to the doctors regularly, adopt a healthful diet and avoid smoking, drug use and other self-destructive behaviour.
The second, more radical idea is that a person’s thoughts and emotions act directly on the immune system, the body’s disease–fighting brigade. Studies seem to show that emotions may directly stimulate the production of brain chemicals that enhance or undermine the immune system. No matter how probable it seems that the mind influences the immune system.
Making It Work For You
Redford Williams M.D, a behavioural medicine expert believes that how you think and feel about others affects your health. His studies of Type A people –over competitive, hand-driving, hurried show that hostility ups your odds of heart diseases.
In his 12 step program toward a trusting heart, he advises people to reduce their anger and cynical mistrust of others, learn to treat others with kindness and consideration and to be assertive, not aggressive in threatening situation.
Other researchers believe there is a health benefit to having some personal control over your surroundings.
Reach Out: One long-range study showed that people with social contact-volunteer work, community activities, support groups –lived longer and were healthier than isolated people
Use Mind –body techniques:
Meditation, biofeedback and numerous other unconventional therapies may help turn on the inner healer. In one study at New England Deaconess Hospital’s Mind/Body Clinic, relaxation techniques helped nearly 80 percent of patients with hypertension to either lower their blood pressure or reduce drug dosage. Few experts call these techniques potential cures for illness. They are meant to complement medicine, not to replace it. Says Doctor Locke.
Most Doctors agree that a positive attitude, whether optimism or a fighting spirit plays a role in recovery from illness. And although, the evidence is still coming in, there is good reason to believe that a positive out look on life help protect you from illness.
Emotions are fundamental processes that participate in nearly all aspects of our behaviour. Because emotions are the essential ingredients of reinforcement, they are basic to learning and conditioning. A behaviour that removes an organism from danger or results in a positive outcome will be repeated.
Emotions are also, basic to perception and cognition. We attend to what is significant is and what is significant is so because of its relation to emotion. All emotional experiences involve a sudden and vigorous change in the nervous system. We are always in the state of emotion, and what we know of emotion is simply a change of internal subjective state, the externalization of the feeling.
The 19th century psychologist William James had a more radical view. He described the process as the other way round. According to James: The more rational statement is that we feel sorry because we cry, angry because we strike, afraid because we tremble, and not that we cry, strike tremble, because we are sorry, angry or fearful, as the case may be.
Can both views be correct? My research suggests that the answer to this question may be Yes. We are now learning that the face can itself cause changes in our feelings. How and Why it does both.
Remember that we smile because we are happy and we are happy because we smile.