Psychoneuroimmunology (try saying that three times!) is a relatively recent branch of medical research that explores the relationship between moods, thoughts, emotions, and the immune system.
Specialists in this field have established strong links between our emotions and the state of our health.
The brain and the immune system send messages to each other through nerve connections and chemical messengers. The messages sent depend a great deal on our emotional and psychological condition.
Negative emotions such as grief, loneliness, depression, and chronic stress can actually weaken the immune system by suppressing the production of immune cells in the body and making us more vulnerable to illness.
Several studies have shown that people who are chronically depressed or have a pessimistic outlook on life have a much higher risk of developing heart attack, diabetes, and stroke.
On the flip side, positive emotions such as love, friendship, joy, and serenity boost the immune system by stimulating the production of immune cells.
Age, lifestyle, and genetic predisposition all contribute to the development of disease. But people who generally have positive attitudes, supportive relationships, and a good sense of humor seem to get ill less often -- and fare better when they do become ill.
This has led to new approaches in the treatment of cancer patients. A study done at Stanford University found that women with metastatic breast cancer lived an average of eighteen months longer when involved in a support group that engaged in mind-body therapy such as self-hypnosis.
Prayer, meditation, visualization, breathing exercises, and relaxation techniques are all being used by cancer patients to create a more positive environment in which to battle this devastating disease.
March 23, 2007
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