Updated: Mar 29, 2019
As I become aware of my bodily reactions to changes in my exercising habits and diet, I begin to understand how my emotional states affect my quality of life. When I'm sad, worried, doubtful, anxious, stressed and fearful, I don't feel energized. Consequently, these bad health decisions negatively affect my immune function. As a Psychology graduate I enjoy finding scientific evidence to my intuitive hunches. In this blog I share three studies that are worth sharing to help us re-evaluate the power of our thoughts and mental states on our physical well being. (Click on the pink text for link)
1) He and his colleagues sampled blood from medical students, and found that during a stressful exam period, they had lower activity from virus-fighting immune cells, and higher levels of antibodies for the common virus Epstein–Barr, suggesting that stress had compromised their immune systems and allowed the normally latent virus to become reactivated.
2) Graham-Engeland and team noticed that individuals who experienced negative moods several times per day for extended periods of time tended to have higher levels of inflammation biomarkers in their blood. The scientists also note that if they collected blood samples from participants soon after they had experienced a negative emotion such as sadness or anger, inflammation biomarkers were all the more present in the blood.However, experiencing positive moods — even for a short while before the collection of a blood sample — was associated with lower inflammation levels. However, this was only true for male participants in this study, the investigators specify.
3) Davidson, with colleagues at Wisconsin and Princeton University, New Jersey, asked 52 men and women who graduated from Wisconsin in 1957 to recount both the best and worst events in their lives on paper. During this autobiographical task, the electrical activity of the brain was measured. The subjects were then given flu shots and their antibody levels were measured after two weeks, four weeks and six months. The researcher found a clear link between strong activity in the left Prefrontal Cortex and a large rise in antibodies, and vice versa. The Prefrontal Cortex is associated with depression People who had the greatest activity in the right PFC when asked to dwell on distressing episodes in their life had a markedly lower antibody levels after an influenza vaccination. In contrast, those showing exceptional activity in the left PFC when recalling happy times developed high antibody levels.
Psychoneuroimmunology (PNI) is a relatively new field, but the studies presented in this blog show that researchers are beginning to see some type of correlation between mental states and physical health. Regardless of the studies, however, I am my best case study. As I release toxic relationships and negative thought patterns I have noticed a sharp decline in sick days. Before, I would get sick on a monthly basis, and since the beginning of 2019 I haven't gotten sick once. Environmental factors aside, my immune system is thanking me of my letting go of people that no longer belong in my life.