If you want to be healthier, learn how to be happier.
Your mind is more powerful than you think. How you feel and what you think can directly affect your body by changing the structure of your brain and the functioning of your immune system. Sure, we’ve been hearing this from meditation teachers and yoga gurus for a long time, but now there is hard science to back it up.
Stay positive to stay healthy
The more you feel positive emotions like gratitude and awe, and the better you learn to control negative emotions like fear and worry, the more your body becomes resistant to infection, inflammation, heart disease, cancer, and even general aging. And if that doesn’t sound fantastic enough, there is also evidence that your very DNA can be affected.
A recent study published in the journal Biological Psychiatry demonstrated that stressed-out adults who practiced mindfulness meditation during a three-day retreat showed increased connectivity in the regions of the brain that controlled higher-level thinking.
This was one of the first studies ever to show how mindfulness meditation can change the structure of the brain and the workings of the immune system too.
The brains of the meditators physically changed to become better at focusing attention and handling stress. Blood tests after the study showed reduced levels of inflammation in those who meditated compared to a control group who didn’t meditate. That’s important because high levels of inflammation can contribute to a host of chronic conditions from Alzheimer’s disease to arthritis, heart disease and diabetes.
Change your mind and change your body
Another study published in the journal Cancer indicated that breast cancer survivors who either practiced mindfulness meditation or participated in a support group showed a decrease in cell aging, which can be an indicator of better resistance to many diseases including cancer.
And finally, more evidence is emerging that even your genes are susceptible. Your emotions and your physical health can determine which of your genes are “turned off” or “turned on,” and possibly even what your future children will inherit from you.
So what’s the takeaway? It’s just as important to work out your brain as your body. When you increase positive emotions and learn to control negative ones, you’re improving your physical health and the likelihood of a long, happy life.