Mind Over Matter

by Jeanne Rhodes

Dr. Ron Glaser's research (Ohio State University) is one of many studies showing a decrease in immune function brought on by even minor, temporary stress. Students who were apprehensive over grades at examination time showed a significant impairment of immune function and a subsequent increase in colds, flu, and other illnesses.

All physical things affect us mentally. What we eat, when we exercise, when someone touches us - all affect our moods which in turn affects all cells of the body, especially the immune system and ultimately our health.

Judgements, resentments, and a tendency to become critical separates us from the one we're blaming and ourselves. These feelings of separation create a negative mood, which in turn, produces negative immune function.

Researchers at UCLA increased immune function in subjects by relieving depression. Their findings emphasize that people cannot be treated for physical symptoms alone. All positive forces (love, hope, faith, determination, purpose, laughter, etc.) are very powerful in creating an environment that assures healing. These scientists suggest a Wellness Lifestyle to support the body's powerful healing and preventive systems plus medical care when necessary.

Additional research at UCLA supports the fact that your mind can become a powerful helper. One study measured actual physiological changes that come as a response to feelings. An actress, hooked up to a variety of gauges to measure vital signs was told to imagine that her play was a smash hit in New York. Researchers took measurements as the actress “felt” the “success”-related emotions. The same measurements were applied to the reverse situation - she imagined that her play was derided and closed as a result. The actress' response showed an impressive downturn in vital signs and immune function, indicating that imagined situations create the same response as real situations. This illustrates the power of the mind in helping or hindering our health status.

A state of mind that is particularly beneficial is to be totally focused in the moment. It is then that our body and mind are at peace, resulting in a happy mood and a healthy body. Being focused in the moment occurs when we are totally absorbed in something - watching a sunset, a baby or a pet at play, an exercise class that we're totally involved in, meditation, etc.

Dr. Candice Pert, a researcher in PNI, a newer science which focuses on mind/body relationships, states that each cell in the body is imbued with a “mind” so that all emotions affect the physical body, even imagined situations and emotions. Blood pressure, cardiac function, galvanic skin response, immune system, brain waves, etc.- the body's organs and physiology respond to emotions and situations, real or imagined. PNI identifies the ability of the body to turn back illness as one of the wonders of the world. The more we learn about the power of our minds to regulate our body functions, the greater the prospect of putting it to work for our greater good in health, illness, and the quality of our lives.

One of the interesting possibilities of this mind-body connection is that we may be better able to help prevent serious disease by gaining a wider understanding of how it begins. By acknowledging the power of our minds, we may be able to help the body mount its defenses and become a more vital, more powerful force in recovery.

Rhodes, B.A., M.A., is a Nutritionist, Wellness Lifestyle Strategist, Author and Director of Rhodes Preventative Health Institute in Hagerstown.