Thoughts influence our immunity, heart health, and even our life span. As a result, we can become healthy or unwell by the thoughts we harbour.
Our mind creates 60,000 thoughts a day. These thoughts are powerful and strongly affect our physical health. Thoughts can raise our blood pressure or lower it, increase our heartbeat or drop it, can make us happy or sad, and change the chemical composition of our blood. Hence, our thoughts are potent! They influence our immunity, heart health, and even our life span. As a result, we can become healthy or unwell by the thoughts we harbour.
In fact, the Yog Vasishth, an ancient scripture, tells a revealing story about what we think and how it impacts our bodies. Lord Ram once undertook a tour of His kingdom, to personally observe the condition of His people. He was dismayed to see them suffering from the disease. Returning to His palace, He asked His preceptor, Maharshi Vasishth, ‘Guru-ji, what is the cause of disease?’
Guru Vasishth replied, ‘Ram, the disease begins in the mind. When we harbour poisonous thoughts, the Manomaya kosh (mental sheath) gets disturbed. This agitates the Pranaamaya kosh (vital energy sheath). That disturbance manifests in the Annamaya kosh (physical body) as a disease.’Though this is a simple explanation, it gives us insights into the mind-body connection being studied today by medical science.
Mind-body medicine reveals the intricate connection of emotions with our health. A powerful example of this is the placebo effect. A placebo is a harmless substance, like a sugar pill, given to patients instead of prescription drugs. However, patients are told they are being given medicine for their ailment. The consequence of consuming the placebo is that patients mentally believe they will now get well, and their thoughts induce them to recuperate, even without taking actual medicine! One such study on the use of placebos was conducted by Dr Stewart Wolfe in the 1950s.
Dr Wolfe conducted research on pregnant women who have a natural tendency to vomit in the first few months of pregnancy. When they would complain to Dr Wolfe of symptoms of vomiting, he would give them Ipecac, a drug that induces vomiting. Ipecac is often kept in laboratories as a safeguard. If anyone accidentally swallows poison and needs to vomit it out, Ipecac is administered to induce the vomit. When Dr Wolfe administered the drug to the pregnant women, as expected, the symptoms of vomiting were exacerbated. He would then tell them, ‘Do not worry. I have a wonder drug that has just been launched. It has been tested on thousands of patients and found to bring about miraculous suppression of the vomiting tendency. I will administer it to you now.’
Then he would give them the same Ipecac that had earlier aggravated their urge to vomit. But this time, the symptoms of vomiting would disappear for the night. The next morning, the tendency to vomit would again return. What was the reason for the cure, even though it was the very drug that induces vomiting? It was the placebo effect. The patients’ minds told them that they should feel better, and their bodies responded to their thoughts. Hence, thoughts determined the physical outcome, not the drug.
The thoughts we harbour can significantly change the state of our physical health. Good thoughts can boost our health and negative thoughts can degrade it. An adverse mind-body connection creates what is called ‘psychosomatic illnesses. These are physical diseases having psychological causes.
Excessive stress and anxiety are the precursors of many psychosomatic disorders such as hypertension, respiratory ailments, gastrointestinal disturbances, headaches, ulcers, dermatitis, etc. And the risk of cardiovascular disease is higher in those with ongoing and long-term tensions.
Further, study after study is revealing that other negative emotions such as extreme hatred, fits of anger, intense sensual passion, long-standing grudges, and bitter jealousy are all harmful to our body. They injure the cells of our kidneys, heart, intestines, and liver.
Healing Through Our Thoughts?
While bad thoughts can create illness, the reverse is also true. Positive thoughts can bestow good health. Our well-being gets enhanced when we feel joyous. Positive thoughts of love, hope, and courage are the best vitamins we can offer to our bodies. They nourish our organs and rejuvenate our energy levels.
Research has revealed that compassionate and kind thoughts towards others increase the production of a hormone called serotonin in the brain. Serotonin makes us feel good, which in turn strengthens our immune system. Amazingly, others who see our acts of kindness also experience increased production of serotonin. Consequently, kindness has the same effect as an antidepressant drug.
And not surprisingly, as per Ayurveda, the most effective way for bringing our kapha, pita, and vaat into balance is by cultivating selfless love in our hearts. Hence, we can heal our bodies by nurturing our minds with compassionate and noble thoughts.
The author is an internationally acclaimed teacher of spirituality, yoga, and meditation. His latest book, The Power of Thoughts, is published by Penguin Ananda Publication.
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