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The Mind & Body

So we are all pretty familiar with how our bodies can impact how we feel emotionally. A long bout of flu making us feel low, a migraine making us upset or an upset stomach making us nervous to be out in public without easy access to a toilet. But generally we’re less familiar with the idea that our mental health can have a physical impact on our bodies too.

Whilst you might not have given it much thought, most of us have experienced the impacts of stress on our body. Stressors such as worries about work, family, finances or other problems can cause a range of physical symptoms including:

  • Muscle tension

  • Headaches

  • Stomach problems

  • Racing heart

  • High blood pressure

Feeling stressed every now and again is inevitable, and in itself isn’t bad for our health in the long-term as long as it’s short lived and occasional. However, ongoing, long-term stress can cause or exacerbate some more serious health problems, such as:

  • Cardiovascular disease including heart disease, high blood pressure, abnormal heart rhythms, heart attacks and stroke

  • Obesity and other eating disorders

  • Menstrual problems

  • Sexual dysfunction such as impotence and premature ejaculation

  • Loss of sexual desire

  • Skin and hair problems such as acne, psoriasis, eczema and hair loss

  • Gastrointestinal problems such as GRED, gastritis, ulcerative colitis and irritable colon

It’s not all doom and gloom though! Just as our minds can have a negative impact on our health, our minds can also have a positive impact on our wellbeing. A positive outlook on life can help us handle pain and maintain physical health better. Our brains produce substances which boost our health and maintain the normal functioning of our bodies. These substances include:

  • Serotonin - a chemical nerve cells produce, which sends signals between your nerve cells and is considered a natural mood stabilizer and helps with sleeping, eating, and digesting.

  • Dopamine - a neurotransmitter made by the body and sends signals between nerve cells. It is involved in how we feel pleasure, and has a big role in our unique human ability to think and plan. It helps us strive, focus, and find things interesting.

  • Endorphins- neurotransmitters known as endogenous opioids, which act as a natural painkiller

  • Gamma globulin - a mixture of blood plasma proteins, including immunoglobulins (aka antibodies) which strengthens your immune system

Research shows that the way we think, feel and hold particular outlooks influences what our body produces. If you are ill but you believe that you'll get better, your brain is more likely to produce chemicals that will boost your body's healing power. Obviously positive thoughts are not necessarily sufficient to prevent or recover from illnesses, but a positive outlook can help influence your thoughts and state of mind and can bolster your arsenal of illness fighting tools.

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