Can gratitude heal disease?

Can gratitude heal disease?
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(NaturalHealth365) For years, the only studies being done on the relationship between the emotions and physical health had to do with negative ones such as anger, fear and hopelessness. In recent years, however, there has been a flood of studies that have focused on the other side of the coin – how positive emotions, and especially feelings of gratitude, can have an effect on the body and on physical health.

The results of these studies point to a clear connection between the cultivation of positive emotional states and healing from and surviving major illness, including cancer.

What research says about positive emotions

There were less than two dozen scientific studies about the effects of gratitude on physical health coming into the second millennium. By 2011, there were over 150. The surge has to do with developments in the fields of positive psychology and neuropsychoimmunology and represents only a fraction of the research being conducted on the emotion-body connection today.

Neuropsychoimmunologist and molecular biologist Candace Pert, PhD, explains in her book Molecules of Emotion: The Science behind Body-Mind Medicine, how lignans and receptor sites in the brain work together through peptides to form specific physical responses to emotionally-charged stimuli:

“…A chain reaction of biochemical events is initiated as tiny machines roar into action and, directed by the message of the ligand, begin any number of activities – manufacturing new proteins, making decisions about cell division, opening or closing ion channels, adding or subtracting energetic chemical groups such as the phosphates – to name just a few. In short, the life of the cell, what it is up to at any moment, is determined by which receptors are on its surface, and whether those receptors are occupied by ligands or not. On a more global scale, these minute physiological phenomena at the cellular level can translate to large changes in behavior, physical activity, even mood.”

How emotions stir up body chemistry and affect our health

It is easy to visualize the real-time outcome of all this microscopic hubbub when one is face to face with a bear in the woods or the tirades of a difficult boss. The body stiffens, the mind narrows and focuses in on the perceived danger and the limbic brain signals the production of adrenaline and cortisol, producing the flight-or-fight response.

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But what happens when positive emotions occur? Research around the chemistry of emotions such as joy, love and gratitude is still in its infancy, but many experts suspect that the chain-reaction of events created by positive emotions still spurs from chemical interactions in the limbic brain, albeit in slightly different locations than with negative emotions.

Positive emotions release substances such as dopamine and oxytocin which produce what social psychologist Barbara Frederickson calls the “broaden and build theory” of positive emotions. With positive emotions, instead of narrowing thoughts and stiffening bodily reactions, there is a broadening and expanding on all levels. The mind opens to greater possibilities. The immediate physical effects of this expansion include changes in breathing patterns and pulse as well as a balancing out of hormone levels and blood pressure.

How exactly does gratitude help us heal the body?

Fredrickson says that emotions such as gratitude can effect individuals in the moment – such as helping the mind discover creative options to a real-time situation and bodily regulations in blood pressure – as well as into the future. The long-lasting effects of positive emotions happen in a building-block sort of way: joy can lead to openness to others; interest can lead to exploration and personal growth; love can lead to closer relationships, and so on.

On the physical level, positive emotions may create increased balance on all levels, which can lead to higher tolerance to infection, higher immune system function, lower systemic inflammation and, ultimately, increased survivability when it comes to major illnesses such as cancer.

Here is just a small sampling of studies done in 2015 alone in the field of positive emotion and major illness:

  • A study conducted through the University of Missouri- Columbia contacted breast cancer survivors 30 months after post-treatment. They found that “themes central to long-term survivorship experiences included social support, positive worldviews, breast cancer and lymphedema health literacy, religious/spiritual beliefs, self-empowerment, and recovery expectations. These themes were consistent with a psychoneuroimmunological model of health in which psychosocial variables mediate stress and influence health outcomes.”
  • A study conducted by the Tumor Center at the University of Regensburg in Regensburg, Germany analyzed the subjective experience of breast cancer survivors in Bavaria, Germany seven years after the fact. 42% of the respondents indicated that thinking positive and a “fighting spirit” was the most important advice they would give other breast cancer patients.
  • A study conducted by Capitol Medical University in Beijing, China found a “significant relationship between positive emotions, blood pressure regulation among elderly people with cardiovascular disease.”
  • A report published in the journal of the American Psychological Association and conducted by the UC San Diego Center for Excellence for Research and Training in Integrative Health and the Chopra Foundation found that patients who displayed more outward tendencies towards gratitude slept better, had less fatigue, were less prone to depression and experienced less systemic inflammation.

As the research into the connection between positive emotions and health continues, there is mounting evidence that this connection is real and can possibly even save lives. Every positive thought can be a step towards health and a vibrant life. How will you include the power of positive thinking, and especially gratitude, into your daily healthy breast routine?

About the author:Dr. Veronique Desaulniers (“Dr. V”) is a best-selling author and specialist in Chiropractic, Bio-Energetics, Meridian Stress Analysis, Homeopathy and Digital Thermography. After 30 years in active practice, she decided to “retire” and devote her time to sharing her personal, non-toxic Breast Cancer healing journey with others. Her years of experience and research have culminated in “The 7 Essentials™ “, a step-by-step coaching program that unravels the mystery of healing the body. Her website and personal healing journey have touched the lives of thousands of women around the globe. To get your F.R.E.E. 7-day mini e-course and to receive her weekly inspiring articles on the power of natural medicine – visit: BreastCancerConqueror.com

References:
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed
https://positivepsychologyprogram.com/understanding-developing-positive-emotions

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fight-or-flight_response
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1693418
https://hbr.org/2014/06/the-neurochemistry-of-positive-conversations
https://gruberpeplab.com/teaching/psych231_fall2013/documents/231_BurgdorfPanksepp2006.pdf
https://positivepsychologyprogram.com/understanding-developing-positive-emotions
https://europepmc.org/abstract/MED/26030800
https://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2407/15/554
https://www.choprafoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/SCP-Artcile.pdf
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4509151
https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/author/Robert_Emmons


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Judy Welsh
Judy Welsh
5 years ago

Emotions rule many peoples lives. It is how they view the world and also influences the type of life they have. Thanks for touching on such an important, but neglected topic.

Nurse Lori
Nurse Lori
5 years ago

I have seen first hand what a positive outlook can do. I have had patients that were optimistic and didn’t let an illness get them down. They did so much better then expected. It sometimes is the missing ingredient is the road to recovery.

Carolyn
Carolyn
5 years ago

Gratitude changes so much in your life. Everything looks so different when you express it. You are thankful and appreciate the many little blessing in your life. I don’t really know if you can enjoy life without it.

Bunny
Bunny
5 years ago

I do not agree it is a placebo effect. Our emotions can be toxic. Toxins contribute to disease. All parts of us affects the other parts .. they are not separate.

Sandra Hanson
Sandra Hanson
Reply to  Bunny
5 years ago

Yes our emotions can be toxic. Hate, guilt, shame, jealousy, and depression contribute to disease. On the other hand positive emotions such as joy, gratitude and love bring about healing.

Deborah Lorraine
Deborah Lorraine
Reply to  Sandra Hanson
4 years ago

Sandra, did you grow up in Daly City? If so, Pam Simcox is looking to connect with you!

Jim Apeli
Jim Apeli
5 years ago

The placebo effect is natures first medicine. It is a shame our medical doctors don’t understand this.

Lee
Lee
5 years ago

Thanks for this article. I’m especially interested in the “broaden and build” theory, and now plan to look into it more. The many physiological improvements from practicing positive psychology are really important. So much of modern healthcare tends to be focused on the material realm, and of course, there is value in that. At the same time, it can be a limited and piece meal approach.

It seems like it’d be far more efficient and holistic to set into motion the beneficial cascading health effects discussed in this article from practicing a positive outlook. There is significant research which shows that very often, when things go wrong on the physiological level, it’s because there are mental/emotional deficiencies or areas of neglect. (No blame there; it’s the human condition.) If viewed this way, we can, if we wish, use the state of the body to serve as a mirror (and alarm clock!) for the loving act of tending to our minds and our hearts.

P.S. to Dr. Desaulniers:
I appreciated your contributions to the latest “The Truth about Cancer” series. Ty’s cancer-truth series is simply outstanding, and I trust you are proud to be a part of it. I’m deeply heartened to note its increasing numbers of viewers from one year to the next. To build on a theme here, may its audience size ever “broaden and build,” until there is no longer any profit in the barbaric acts of “cut, burn, & poison.”