Mind Over Matter: Your Mental State Impacts Your Health
Filed under: Financial Fitness
You’ve heard the expression “mind over matter” countless times, but maybe you haven’t stopped to think about what it means in regard to your health. We tend to separate mental and emotional health from physical health, but the truth is that they are intricately linked.
The impact of negative emotions. When we feel negative emotions, such as fear, stress, or anger, we tend to repress those feelings. After all, they aren’t pleasant, and most of us shy away from unpleasant experiences. But when we repress our feelings, they’re still there, under the surface, working on an unconscious level. Often repressed negative emotions suck away your mental energy, leading to physical lethargy. They can even lead to digestive problems, immune system dysfunction, and high blood pressure.
In addition to temporary health problems, certain emotional states can also lead to long-term health problems. Those who repress anger, or express it in unhealthy ways, are at higher risk for heart disease and hypertension. They are even prone to various types of infection, which can impact healing time.
Repressed negative emotions can even shorten your life. Chronic stress actually damages our telomeres, the end caps of our DNA strands, which determine longevity. Scientific studies have demonstrated a link between shorter telomeres and reduced lifespan.
Fight back with positivity. Positive emotions impact us in two ways; they inspire more creativity and allow us to see greater options, and they build up over time, so that we can develop emotional resilience. This can lead to improved physical health, if we consciously harness positive emotions to overcome our repressed negative ones.
According to research scientist Barbara Frederickson, who studies the impact of emotions on physical health, we need to focus on three positive emotions in order to overcome each negative feeling: Forgiveness, Gratitude, and Emotional Resilience. Each time you find yourself stuffing back negative feelings, remind yourself to follow these steps:
- Forgive – accept what has happened and give up the need to assign blame
- Express gratitude – rather than focusing on the negative parts of a situation, identify something for which you are grateful
- Practice emotional resilience – remind yourself that a challenge is an opportunity for learning and growth
Practice these three steps daily, and your positive emotions can overwhelm your repressed negative ones. People who practice a positive mindset experience fewer digestive troubles, have lower blood pressure, enjoy improved cardiovascular health, and have stronger immune systems.