Psychoneuroimmunology is the study of the relationship between the mind or psyche, the nervous system and the immune system. Another way to state this is the relationship between stress the immune system and our health. When we are “stressed” the body produces “stress-induced” chemicals like cortisol and epinephrine – which are part of our survival mechanism and absolutely necessary. These chemicals rise in the blood in order to protect us from immediate harm. The problem arises when these chemicals are chronically elevated due to ongoing stress triggers i.e., modern life.
How can we turn down this stress response, you say? By increasing its opposite, the
relaxation response. It is no mistake that women, in particular, are flocking to the yoga studio. A review of the literature studying the benefits of yoga found that, compared to no exercise, yoga was linked to a lower rate of obesity, reduced high blood pressure and even tended to reduce high cholesterol. The Cochrane Collaboration found that yoga can reduce diastolic blood pressure and triglycerides in the blood and increase the HDL (good) cholesterol.
Another easy way to induce the relaxation response is to practice “deep breathing” techniques – which have long been part of meditation. The researchers at Harvard Medical School found that practicing deep breathing 20 minutes a day for eight weeks increased the expression of genes involved in energy release and increased the protein NF-B – which is part of the body’s response to inflammation, stress and trauma. The end result is that deep breathing helps to reduce the symptoms of anxiety, lowers heart rate and blood pressure, and improves oxygenation of tissues.
The practice of meditation continues to attract the attention of scientists for its potential stress-relieving effects on the mind and body. Thailand researchers studied the effects of transcendental meditation (which creates a state of profound relaxation while remaining awake). Over the course of 18 weeks, study participants felt less anxiety, felt better in social situations at work as well as with their private relationships with family and friends.
Break your stress pattern and take the time to breathe deeply and “smell the roses” – preferably daily.
Take the time to still your mind and body. Your health depends on it.
Until next time….