Open Hearts

When we feel loved and supported, our body benefits.

We all intuitively know that our emotions and our state of mind influence our physical health. When we are in a state of conflict or anger, we can feel the drain on our body and on our energy level. Conversely, when things are “going well” (our way!) we can feel the sense of energy, lightness and well-being in our bodies.

What if that sense of inner calm and lightness of being actually helped us to fight off disease and stay healthy. In fact, that’s just what Seeman & Syme found in their 1987 study published in Psychosomatic Medicine 49:341-354, titled “Social networks and function of social relations as predictors of disease.”

They studied 119 men and 40 women who underwent angiography, a procedure which outlines how much damaging cholesterol plaque is built up inside the arteries of the heart. In their study, they found that the more people felt loved and supported, the less coronary plaque they had built up at angiography. These findings were significant even when all other risk factors were taken into account.

This fascinating study underscores the importance of feeling love and support on an emotional level. When we feel loved, those feelings are translated into biochemical messengers that circulate to the cells and tissues of our bodies and exert their beneficial effects. The exact mechanism of this effect is yet to be discovered, but we certainly have circumstantial evidence (through studies on the immune system and studies like this one above) that show there is a beneficial physical effect to feeling loved and supported.

A basic premise in the field of mind/body medicine is that all our thoughts and feelings are chemical. We all have neurotransmitters in our bodies and brains, which are the biochemical messengers of thought and feeling. Furthermore, every cell in our body has what we call “receptors” for these neurotransmitters, which are like “ears” that hear the chemical messages. Deepak Chopra M.D., the Aryuvedic physician, states that “Our body literally eavesdrops on our every thought and feeling.”

So we must ask ourselves, “What message are we giving our bodies?” when we are holding onto excessive anger and resentment. Are we filling our cells with angry and resentful neurotransmitters? It’s probably not that simple, but certainly the current thinking is that we need to be mindful of the messages we give to our bodies. And clearly the message of the above work of Seeman & Syme is that loving and supportive feelings do produce changes in our biochemistry which help to keep our coronary arteries more open and healthy.

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