Evidence indicates that there is a direct connection between a person’s emotions and physical well-being. Many studies have been conducted proving that stress can have a detrimental effect on health and can cause heart diseases, metabolic syndrome (Brower, 2006), and many other psychoneuroimmunological, gastrointestinal and endocrine disorders (Shankar & Park, 2016).
Although it is not clear how exactly the mind and body are connected, clinical trials have indicated that emotional instability can transform into illnesses because of complex networks of communication that exist between the brain and endocrine, neurological, and immune systems (Brower, 2006). Research clearly highlights the importance of treating mental diseases and stress as a source of physical diseases and paying increased attention to the emotional aspect of care.
The connection between emotions and general well-being has long been recognized by scholars and practitioners. In the second century, the famous physician Galen acknowledged the role of mind-body connection in affecting a person’s health (Brower, 2006). In the 18th-19th centuries, doctors often recommended their patients to visit seaside or spas to treat their diseases. Gradually, however, the role of emotions was forgotten as scientists discovered bacteria and toxins as the major causes of diseases. It was not until the late 20th-21st centuries that scholars realized the immense contribution of emotions to physical well-being. Research showed that lifestyle changes, positive attitudes, and psychotherapy can not only prevent diseases but also support the body when it is struggling with already present illnesses (Brower, 2006).
So how exactly emotions affect health? Scholars do not have a conclusive answer for this question. For now, it is believed that negative emotions such as anxiety, worry, stress, sadness, fear, etc. cause increase in the hormone cortisol, which has a detrimental effect on the immune system. In other words, when a person continuously experiences stress, he/she is more likely to get sick from different diseases. Therefore, research demonstrates that the positive outlook, the feelings of joy and happiness, patience, and love are critically important for maintaining good health. Sometimes, they can be even more valuable than therapy and medications. Based on this data, one may summarize that scholars, healthcare practitioners, and the general public should pay more attention to mind-body connection and seek ways to boost positive thinking as one of the ways to fight diseases.
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Brower, V. (2006). Mind–body research moves towards the mainstream. EMBO Rep., 7(4), 358–361. doi:10.1038/sj.embor.7400671
Shankar, N. L., & Park, C. L. (2016). Effects of stress on students’ physical and mental health and academic success. International Journal of School & Educational Psychology, 4(1), 5-9.