The brain and body are connected. When the brain is not working properly the body will suffer and when the body is not working properly the brain will suffer. We do not know what comes first, the brain or body. What we do know is the brain and the body work together to keep a person mentally, physically, and emotionally healthy. Research clearly demonstrates that the thoughts a person has is directly related to physical health (Goebel, Trebst, Steiner, Xie, Exton, Frede, & Canbay, 2002). People with more positive thinking have improved health whereas individuals with negative thinking have decreased physical health (Cakirbay, Bilici, Kavakci, Cebi, Guler, & Tan, 2004). The quality of your thinking and the thoughts that flow through your mind have the power to make you ill or to make you healthy. Research suggests individuals with a physical health condition had an improved immune system when they had more positive thinking, as evidenced by decreased depression and increased production of cells in the immune system responsible for fighting illness and disease (Cakirbay, et al., 2004). Millions of Americans suffer from chronic illness and millions seek treatment in order to fight illness, improve health, and feel better. Most often illness and disease is treated with medication. Medication is necessary and it is advised to always follow physician treatment recommendations, however, medication can have complications. Perhaps improving the brain and the quality of thoughts in the brain can improve health and the need for medication.
Medication, as helpful as it is, is also associated with increased side effects and discomfort due to side effects. This makes treatment compliance difficult. Treatment non-compliance can cause symptoms to increase and make it more difficult to treat the illness in the future. Additionally people sometimes develop tolerance to medications and they are no longer effective (CDC, 2011). Medication is helpful and effective, however, individuals with chronic illness can also benefit by allowing the brain to heal the body.
Practicing wellness will create a healthier brain, and a healthier brain will think better, behave better, and function better. Research supports this conclusion as well. Studies showed that maintaining positive thinking about maintaining health behaviors, like healthy eating and regular physical activity, was related to decreased emotional distress, improved sleep, and improved physical health symptoms (Goebel, et al., 2002; Meissner, Bingel, Colloca, Wager, Watson, & Flaten, 2011; Nicklas, You, & Pahor, 2005). Simply thinking will change behaviors can that improve health.
People become overwhelmed with the notion of changing behavior and many find it difficult. It can be hard to change behavior and start something new simply because the brain can be lazy, at times. Your brain and your body are accustomed to doing things, and in order to change it requires a shift in thinking. This shift in thinking must be intentional. You must re-condition your brain to think positively about the new behavior change. The brain will be more likely to develop positive thinking about the new behavior if individuals use verbal and environmental cues (Meissner, et al., 2011). In order to change thinking a person needs to speak positive statements. List and state out loud the positive affects of starting and maintaining the new behavior. If the behavior change is to get more sleep (which will improve health) then list all the good things about going to sleep 1 hour earlier. If the behavior change is to eat more fruit and vegetables write down all the good things about eating more fruits and vegetables. Saying the things listed out loud will help motivate the behavior and cause the more positive thinking to linger. Speaking the positive benefits will convince you to engage in the new behavior. You can be your own motivation by reminding yourself of this list and saying the things out loud over and over.
Your environment can also trigger behavior changes. If your goal is to drink more water, have a large water bottle or jug in arms reach throughout the day. Whenever you see the water bottle you will be reminded to drink more water. If you want to improve sleep agree to turn down the lights in the house, turn down the volume of the TV, watch less stimulating television, and put away cell phone, computer, and other technological devices. This will allow the body to relax and unwind and once the body is relaxed it is easier to sleep.
A change in thinking will lead to a change in behavior. Increasing healthy behaviors will improve health. It is possible that improving the quality of thoughts can reduce physical symptoms so that you can live a life where your physical health is only a minor concern. If your body is not feeling well, try embracing the concept of positive thinking and enjoy healthy behaviors like increased sleep, healthy eating, physical activity (as you are able), and relaxation. This will lead to a healthier body. Engaging in daily healthy behaviors will improve overall health in general. It is worth it to make a slight change in thinking to be a happier and healthier you!
Cakirbay, H., Bilici, M., Kavakci, O., Cebi, A., Guler, M., & Tan, U. (2004). Sleep quality and immune functions in rheumatoid arthritis patients with and without major depression. International Journal of Neuroscience, 114, 245-256.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2011). Corticosteroid Therapy (Prednisone, Prednisolone). Diamond Blackfan Anemia (DBA). Retrieved from: corticosteroids/non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
Goebel, M. U., Trebst, A. E., Steiner, J., Xie, Y. F., Exton, M., S., Frede, S. (2002).Behavioral conditioning of immunosuppression is possible in humans. The Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, 16(14), 1869-1873.
Meissner, K., Bingel, U., Colloca, L., Wager, T., Watson, A., & Flaten, M. (2011). The placebo effect: Advances from different methodological approaches. The Journal of Neuroscience, 31(45), 16117-16124.
Nicklas, B., You, T., & Pahor, M. (2005). Behavioural treatments for chronic systemic inflammation: Effects of dietary weight loss and exercise training. Canadian Medical Association Journal, 172(9), 1199-1209.