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    « Daydream Achiever | Main | Health is Our Natural State of Being »
    Saturday
    Aug302008

    The Biology of Hope

    Every feeling, every emotion, every experience has it's own corresponding physiological state. The body will always perfectly reflect the mind.

    Emotions become physical feelings and physical feelings become flesh. Thoughts become things.

    That means when you worry, you get a worry body, and when you laugh, you get a laughter body. And feelings of health and well-being are conducive to physiological states of health and well-being. Our chemistry reflects our mood. Tears of joy have a different chemical composition than tears that come from sadness.

    When we are happy, our bodies feel happy -- which means that there are changes in the physiology that correlate to the state of happiness. Happiness is as much a state of body as it is a state of mind.

    When we are frightened, we feel it in our bodies as well -- fear has pinched our physiology and our physiological state has now become, to some extent, a flesh and blood demonstration of the emotion of fear.

    When we are fearful, our bodies feel agitated, distressed -- far from a sense of well-being. A fearful body is a stressed body. It is as though alarms are going off in our very being. Hormones and neuropeptides are coursing through our veins, signalling danger, activating defenses, rallying resources -- setting up the "fight or flight" response. Metabolic and cellular activities not directly related to survival are shut down. Our bodies begin to conserve energy as if in preparation for a physical battle. Anything not related to an immediate environmental threat, activities like digestion and healing, including most of our immune response, are put on a back burner.

    Conversely, when we are at hopeful, our internal signalling says, "all is well." We can relax and we feel good. All of our metabolic processes are humming along nicely. Digestion is happening in a relaxed and timely way, nutrients are finding their way where they need to go. Our systems are cleansing and repairing themselves. Our bodies feel bright and soothed and also positively expectant. A different set of chemical messengers is pouring into our tissues, one that is normalizing and balancing cellular activity. Energy is directed toward soothing, enjoying, rebuilding and healing, and also toward preparing for the good things we are imagining and anticipating.

    If your town is in the path of a hurricane you'll put away the gardening tools and start boarding the windows. In the same way, at the all-clear, you'd head out and start cleaning up the messes and repairing the damage.

    Healing is repair and it depends on peace and well-being and hope. There is very little healing that happens in the presence of fear. No one needs a scientific experiment (although many have been done) to prove this -- you can feel it for yourself: which body-state feels more conducive to health and well-being, anxiety or hope?

    The most important factor in any healing process is the emotional state of the person doing the healing. It's hard to heal when you're frightened or confused, because fear and confusion set up physiological states that are antithetical to healing.

    Any parent knows enough to soothe and comfort a sick child. A person heals better when they feel safe.

    Contented cows produce better milk. Peaceful minds produce peaceful feelings which produces a bodily state of well-being.

    Before it is anything else, healing is a thought. And thoughts become things. A plan for a garden becomes the garden. And, conversely, we find that things become thoughts -- the old garden inspires a plan for a new garden.

    Our non-physical perceptions and feelings are translated into physical reality, and our experience of what is physically real translates into non-physical emotions and understandings (and intentions). Both ways.

    The biology of hope is the physical state we enjoy when we are hopeful. It is the body-feeling that correlates to the understanding and the emotion of hope. And like the body feeling that goes with any positive emotion, the body feeling of hope is one that supports physical healing and well-being.

    The biology of anxiety is the physical state of the body we experience when we are anxious or afraid, and it feels very different than the bio-state of hope. Which means that the hormones and cellular activities in play when we are feeling anxious are less about healing and more fighting or running away.

    The biology of despair may be the worst of all.

    Hope is relief from despair. And hope means believing that what is wanted can be had. If you want to be healthy, you need to feel that what is wanted can be had.

    You can't run away from illness. You can't battle your own self without dividing your energies and a house divided won't stand.

    Healing means returning to wholeness -- "heal" is the old-style word for "whole." Health means you lining up with you, you supporting you -- you believing in you.

    Wholeness means reconciling differences, not eliminating them. It means restoring integrity, not breaking it down.

    If you want to heal, then you want to feel whole, well and complete -- that balance has been restored -- not get rid of threats to health, not "eliminate" disease. Disease isn't a thing in itself that can be eliminated. It is the manifestation of  confusion, a series of mistakes on the part of the body. The goal should be the body getting back to health, not the elimination of disease.

    The body is self-healing. Medicine can help. And it helps best when the treatment treats the whole person, and when we take emotions into consideration as well as lab results. Doctors and nurses and other practitioners need to inspire faith and hope if they expect their patients to really do well.

    And what of "false" hope? I would say there is no such thing. Hope is never false. Hope is not a probability or a statistical ratio. It is (this is from the dictionary) the feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best. Everyone needs to feel that, all of the time.

    Getting well means getting well now and staying well until all is well. Feel better now, to the best of your ability. Start down the path to well-being by feeling better now.

    There is a biology of hope, and a biology of love, and a biology of peace and understanding. Our work, as the ones-who-heal, is to give ourselves the biological state most conducive to healing, by practicing the emotions and attitudes most conducive to healing.

    Be well.

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