The importance of the interaction between mind and body has been central to healing practices for millennia. Many ancient healing practices are seen by modern medicine as superstitious at the least and dangerous at worst. But modern science and medicine have ignored this relationship only by ignoring a growing body of evidence that demonstrates a strong connection between the mind and our physical health.
Robert Ader and Nicholas Cohen at the University of Rochester made an accidental discovery in the mid-1970s. They paired saccharine water with a noxious substance. The rats became conditioned to respond to the saccharine water as if it was the noxious substance, which depressed the immune system. After that, the saccharine water was sufficient to depress the immune system of the rats.
They realized that there was a communication between the nervous system (brain and spinal column), the immune system, and the endocrine system. The study of these interactions was called psychoneuroimmunology (PNI). This has become a new and important discipline.
Essentially, these systems, which had been assumed to be separate and independent, actually “talk” to one another. They interact with one another and affect one another constantly. This brings to the mind-body question a very scientific explanation for the power of thought and feeling on the body and its health or illness
In layman’s terms, every thought and feeling we have directly affects the body, especially the immune system. Every experience we have, for better or worse, affects the body. For example, depression literally depresses the immune system and optimism enhances it. Every thought and every feeling affects the body to a greater or lesser degree.
Because of this, the best way to stay healthy or to heal ourselves quickly when we are sick, is to be aware of our thoughts and feelings throughout the day. If we are dwelling on negative emotions and negative fantasies, holding onto grudges or feeling victimized, we can be sure that our bodies are responding. If we are having fun, enjoying ourselves, and smiling and laughing a lot, our bodies will likewise respond.
Our thoughts, attitudes, and feelings; our fears, anger, resentment, anxiety, and negativity, immediately go into our bodies and gradually will create illness. The same is true of our more positive thoughts and feelings. They strengthen the immune system and create good health. Your body knows what you’re thinking.
If you are ill and in some kind of treatment, the success of that treatment may depend more on your attitude toward the treatment, your attitude toward your health-care professional, and your attitude toward your illness than on the treatment itself. Our thoughts may be more important to our health than our diet or our genes.
Because of this, it may be possible to have a better understanding of our illnesses and not just heal our diseases but also heal their cause. If I become ill because I have been carrying some kind of resentment for years, recognizing that connection can lead to healing the resentment as well as the disease.
Because of this intimate connection between our thoughts and feelings and our bodies, I believe that all of our illnesses are meaningful. They do not come out of the blue but have been created over time by the power of our thoughts and attitudes. If we have the courage to look at our illnesses and ask ourselves some tough questions, healing may be possible.
The most important thing in this process of trying to understand what led to your illness is not just the potential to heal the illness. The real value of this way of looking at illness is that it may bring healing to your life.
One of the terrible things about an illness, especially one that is life threatening, is that it makes us feel helpless. We feel completely out of control. But maybe we’re not as helpless as we feel. Perhaps if we honestly look at the kinds of feelings and attitudes we have carried over the years, we may see some patterns that just might have led to our current crisis.
On the other hand, knowing how immediately our bodies respond to our thoughts should help us to be more aware of what is going on in our heads. What kind of energy are we sending to our bodies throughout the day? Wouldn’t it be useful to deliberately send loving and healing messages to our body every day? It couldn’t hurt!