How emotions affect your health
When discussing health and healing, it’s easy to focus on things like diet and
exercise. And if we go to our doctor with a sign or symptom, it’s easy for the
doctor to focus on that alone and seek to alleviate or remove it. After all,
simplistically, it is what a doctor is trained to do.
But we aren’t just physical beings, we are not just a body and though many
of us know that, do we ever stop and really reflect and consider what that
means and just how significant it is? Do we ever stop and think about how
our emotions affect our health?
We are at basis a soul, a spiritual, thinking, and feeling (emotional)
being -each of all that at one and the same time embodied in a physical
body. We are not our body. We are more than just a body.
For this part, I want to discuss how our emotions can affect our health and why focusing on mental - emotional well-being is in my view a key part of our healing process but mostly ignored by state run health professionals.
The more I do this work, the more I “just know” that lifestyle, behaviour, thoughts, emotions, psychological, and even spiritual factors play a crucial role and sometimes maybe even a more important role in determining our state of health than commonly recognised factors like diet, exercise, and sleep. You don’t have to be a genius to know this. The evidence is all around us; it is just that our medical systems, especially in the west our politicians, shifters and shakers, and those who run the NHS are stuck in a medical way of thinking that, to cover their backs, has to have everything rooted in science, research projects and review bodies.
Our current medical model is based on a philosophical underpinning and rather mechanistic view of the body as a sum of its individual parts, a “let’s deal with each bit separately" – hence why we have so many specialists who, when you see them, cannot discuss the relationship between your diabetes and your duodenum, your foot neuropathy and your nerves in your spine. Our present model is in no way holistic.
However, modern physics teaches us that the parts we perceived to be separate are in fact part of an interconnected whole of atoms and even subatomic particles or as I like to put it, diabetes is a sign that something is wrong, that there is something wrong with the sweetness in my life, that I perhaps am having too much sugar go into my body and in short, its various processing organs, especially the gut microbiome, and the bits that deal with insulin, cannot cope. Diabetes has an emotional component.
Without going too deep on this, for those of us who are not aficionados of this topic, my point is that a medical model that is based not on this bit or that bit, but on a more current understanding of quantum physics, on holisticism, would likely see no separation between our thoughts, emotions, and the physical body because they’re all made of the same stuff…energy, and the interplay and intercommunication of that energy. The medical model has to change. But that’s for another page. This is about emotions.
So back to where I started. Diet, exercise, and sleep are, of course, still very important and in terms of our lifestyle, are crucial. But they, and any warts, bumps, and symptoms we may have, are more obvious and therefore more likely to be examined and taken seriously. In some ways, they’re easier to regulate or change, especially with medication or surgery (think bariatric surgery.) But finding the cause of why they are there or out of balance, is not something the present model goes after.
Whilst most people are able to make changes in their diet and even their physical activity routine, when it comes to exploring the cause of their conditions then they find it more difficult to look for causation and treat that, to make significant changes to who they are as a person and make changes in other areas like developing a good network of social support, how they relate to themselves and the world around them, or how they relate to other people. These often require deep exploration, examination, and consideration, they require a lot of personal awareness, and they’re not the kind of changes that can be easily made overnight.
Thoughts trigger our emotions, our feelings
This idea that our thought triggers our emotions (and vice versa) and therefore play a role in health and disease, is not new. In traditional Chinese medicine, for example, they have organ systems and each of the organ systems is associated with a particular emotion. The kidneys are associated with fear, the liver system is associated with anger, the lungs are associated with anxiety, and the spleen is associated with over thinking. Too much of any of these emotions damages the respective organ system that is associated with that emotion. For example, someone who overuses their thinking facilities, or someone who has a lot of unresolved anger develops a condition called liver qi stagnation.
Louise Hay, in her book You Can Heal Your Life, draws attention to many conditions and the mental thinking pattern that underlie them. She says that constant criticism can contribute to arthritis (think pointy, wagging finger!) Prostate problems area linked to men, albeit subconsciously, believing in a weak view of their masculinity. Tinnitus is about an unwillingness or refusal to listen, especially to one’s inner voice, or being stubborn.
Regardless of what you think about Louise’s views or the traditional Chinese view, modern research has also uncovered a link between emotions and disease and is primarily found in scientific / medical articles on stress. Stress often manifests as emotions like grief, anger, anxiety, frustration, and worry but underpinning those emotions are thoughts. Grief can have thoughts of loss, abandonment, loneliness, helplessness, and lack of support. And leg problems often represent fear, a fear of moving forward, of resistance to change (based on fear of what might happen if one was to change) of not wanting to move, a fear of the future. Stiff knees often mean at a mental level we can also be inflexible and unwilling to bend and so can't move forward in life.
Our thoughts and emotions impact our health and well-being
There is more to this than these simple, introductory remarks are conveying, but think about it; if you ask people if emotions contribute to health and disease, they would say “yes” without even thinking about it.
My younger sister died of lung cancer and physically, using the reductionist model, it was put down to the fact she had, for most of her life, been a heavy smoker. No doubt, the effects of smoking did not help. But I knew her well, as she did me, and I knew she smoked incessantly when she was stressed, when she couldn’t relax, and when she was worried or annoyed or grieving. So what caused those emotions?
Her thoughts. Now without giving too much away, those thoughts could be summarised as about not feeling good enough, or not being good enough, so she didn’t live life fully, she held back, she had thoughts and feelings about particular relationships she didn’t like (she had been deeply hurt) and (a) unwilling to get out of them and (b) then developing an attitude of criticising. She locked herself in grief at the death of one of her granddaughters. If one suggested a way forward, her automatic response was often a shrug and a sigh, accompanied with the word, “Ach!” A good Scottish term for, “What’s the point.” She loved others deeply, but at times did not extend that love to her self.
When I consider the mental / emotional patterning of lung cancer, I find :-
An inability to take in life – think about someone not breathing (through the lungs) the fullness of life
Grief – unresolved – eating away at the self
Not feeling worthy of living.
Longstanding criticism and resentment
Thought of, “What’ the use.”
Now it isn’t as simple as saying all of the above definitely caused the cancer, but can you consider the possibility that her thinking, her emotions and the way she lived life, may have contributed?
In my own case, I had a major life trauma at about age 43, all sweetness and joy went out of my life, I lost my partner, my business partner, my business, and all my money, and my home, and within two years I had problems with my eyes (I wasn’t willing to see the truths of certain situations) and soon was diagnosed with diabetes and depression which, according to louse L Hay is about :-
Longing for things to stay the same or how they once were
A great need to control
Deep, deep sorrow
No sweetness left
Lack of joy
Anger turned in on oneself
Anger one does not feel one has the right to have
Consider the possibilities
How many people do you know who, up to eighteen months to two years after a
major life event, went down with a major medical condition? Of course, a difficulty
in answering, is that whilst we can witness a major change in a person and / or
their circumstances, we seldom know, unless they tell us, what their thoughts or
feelings are in response.
And what of you? Can you recall time(s) in your life when you were emotionally
upset and how that might be contributing to any current situations or health?
Most of us have had some personal experience that would support this
thoughts-emotions-health concept, whether we became ill after a particularly
traumatic emotional event in our life or perhaps after taking care of an aging parent,
a sick child, supporting a friend in need. Most of us have experienced this to some degree
or another, maybe just not thought about it the radical way I am suggesting.
If we think about the more modern scientific research, we know that, for example, caregivers tend to be a population that is extremely affected by stress, and when researchers want to study the impact of stress on human physiology, they will often study caregivers of Alzheimer’s patients because it is known that this population is under extreme stress and the long-term effects of all of the emotional stress involved in caring for someone with Alzheimer’s is extreme and severe.
But how does emotion contribute to disease?
Perhaps, first, we need to define what emotion really is. An emotion can be defined as a natural instinct of the mind deriving from one’s circumstances, mood, or relationships with others. That’s kind of a dictionary definition. But all of us know and can say for certainty that emotions are associated with sensations, physical feelings, in our body. You’re watching a movie, there is a sudden scary moment on film accompanied by loud noises. What happens? You jump. You feel frozen. Hairs tingle. There is a chill up and down the spine. And think of the great outpourings of emotion, the weeping, the wailing, the physical expressions of grief, when a loved one, be it a monarch, musician, or family member, dies.
Again, everybody knows this. It’s not something we need research to show, but there is plenty of research that does show it. It is just because it isn't always scientific research that medical people tend to refute this concept of mind-body-emotional connections. Not all I know.
In some cases, the emotion may precede the sensation that we feel in our body. For example, thanks to an experience once in Zimbabwe, if I see a snake, I feel fear and then I experience many sensations related to that fear—I feel sweaty and clammy, my heartbeat increases, my muscles tense, my stomach tightens, and I remove myself as quickly as possible. Recent research shows that we all have the same bodily sensations associated with particular feelings regardless of culture or language, and that makes sense because these emotions or sensations primarily evolved as primitive survival mechanisms.
But in some cases, the sensation may actually precede the emotion and the thought. An example here is I once had a job where as I was driving to work each day, I was anticipating bullying by my boss. The sight of her arriving into the office was enough to make me feel ill, and then I would feel weak and unwell, then as the moments would go by, my fear would turn to resentment and then to anger then a range of thoughts about the woman’s behaviour and the way she treated people, not just me.
What happens when we hang on to these emotions?
The connection between sensations, emotions, and thought isn’t linear in most cases, but the key point is that emotions and thoughts, whichever it is argued come first, can and do produce real psychological changes. But here’s the rub, if an emotion is chronic, and chronic means ongoing, lasting, over time, regular, for example, chronic sadness, fear, anxiety, or anger, then the sensations and thus the physiological effects of those emotions will be experienced chronically in the body, and it’s really not difficult to understand how that could contribute to disease. What is within, must without. Your fear, anger, resentment whatever it is, has to find an outlet either in an organ, the skeletal system, or on the skin. All that pent up emotion is like a volcano waiting to erupt.
And if the body cannot find an outlet, or you do not do something to release the emotions safely and wisely, then what happens to that energy? It gets blocked, it gets stored, stuck somewhere in the body – often only to erupt at a later stage, at which point, with the passage of time and perhaps reinforcing, erupt more seriously than had it been dealt with sooner.
This may challenge our conventional understanding of the body and how we become ill, but that doesn’t mean we can rule it out as psycho-mumbo-jumbo. Just because you do not agree with something does not mean it is not so! We once thought the world was flat!
We know that traumatic events that happen in utero or in early childhood can ultimately effect the production of hormones like cortisol for the rest of that child’s life. You can talk about that in different ways, and you are likely to use different language than a medical professional but essentially, whatever the language, both are saying "Something that happened when a baby was in the womb actually impacts hormone production for the rest of that baby’s life."
I gave some personal and family examples earlier and in my own case, where I experienced a severe trauma, I know that that trauma affected the body in ways that modern science doesn’t currently understand. I didn’t know that then, but after years of living, research, studying, meeting others, I know now. I have met others who have had emotional traumas; some have developed cancer later in life, some have developed autoimmune and inflammatory diseases, or other conditions, and although it’s not clear to them or certainly to their doctor that the emotionally traumatic event that happened earlier in their life was a predisposing factor to them developing that condition, that possibility is worth considering in order that one can heal at the emotional, not just the physical level.
As I’ve tried to indicate with my "this does not obviously mean that” examples, I’m a little bit wary of any explanation that tries to oversimplify things. Many people experience awful events and do not go on to have medical conditions that are related – so far as we know. We are very unique and complex beings. There are many and complex factors that affect our susceptibility to disease, including genetics, epigenetic expression, toxins, environmental factors like diet, physical activity, sleep, stress, and of course, emotions among many, many others that are both understood currently and have a lot of research behind them and others that are perhaps not as well understood or for which there is downright resistance or hostility.
Nor am I suggesting that we all have the ability to easily understand our lives through
this lens of understanding, or be able to identify those emotional traumas and release
them often through some form of self-help or emotional therapy. It took me years to
discover Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) and, later, Neuro Emotional Therapy
(NET) which uses a form of kinesiology to identify patterns and events and then
through chiropractic, release them.
There are so many factors that affect the processes of health and disease, and some of
those factors we have control over and some of them we don’t. Some I am convinced
we are first meant to learn from and once we make the emotional connection, our health
improves. And I know that whilst some people are open to this, and some open to thinking differently, many are not, or for some, it all sounds too complicated and therefore, better the devil, or disease, they know. But life does not have to be that way. You can choose to think differently and that will effect your emotions which in turn shift your vibrational state.
As you do your own research, you will see this phrase, often, the “mind-body connection.” At least this indicates an increasing awareness of the importance of what is meant by saying “mind-body connection” but even to use the term “mind-body connection” is misleading because it creates the idea that there’s a separate mind and a separate body that are somehow connected. The traditional Chinese medical physicians didn’t have an idea of the mind as being separate from the body and rather hold a view of the mind, body, and emotions essentially being one, not separate and therefore not even connected.
As the human body has changed and evolved, eventually our conception of medicine, health, and disease has changed and evolved along with it. Unfortunately, as we can see with our NHS, that process takes decades if not hundreds of years based on what we’ve seen historically. So it begs the question, why do we keep training doctors and nurses in the same things in the same way in the same model of medicine which is vastly in need of change?
Why are we still having to influence the present paradigm into looking at all of what we understand about physics and matter including the matter that’s in our bodies, our thoughts and emotions, and see that there is a lot less distinction between these things than we might have previously thought and that we cannot continue to view medicine simply based on the bits the current system values. We will never have true integrative, functional medicine until we can accept that there is so much more than our present system.
Giving me medication for diabetes is simply helping me medicate and palliate my symptoms; it does not help me get rid of the root cause and so reverse the diabetes. And reversing diabetes IS possible. We can bring back the joy and sweetness into our life, we can live in hope, not in despair, we can brings our lives back into balance.
Even though with our current conventional medical paradigm, we may not understand how emotion could contribute to disease, there is already, even within that paradigm, quite a lot of research that supports that connection. As our understanding of both the nature of reality and human nature evolves, something explored in Metaphysics, beyond the physical, medicine will look very different in a hundred years than it does today.
And what do I know of it?
Some of you know that at a time when I had my major life crisis and my health suffered, conventional medicine told me to go home and prepare to die. I said to the God of my then understanding, there has to be another way. And the moment I did, synchronistic happenings occurred and I was introduced to famous healers, authors, courses, workshops, and to various forms of healing. And I knew my life was being redirected. Over the years I have studied and researched, practised, and pursued.
This was also a big part of my own healing process and also in learning that the goal was never to cure, but to become whole and to teach that to others.
What is your “worldview” on this? Do you believe that our thoughts and feelings about life and events can actually influence the state of our health?
Do you believe that our thoughts and feelings, emotions unexpressed, get clogged up in the body and have at some point to come out, often expressed as dis-ease?
What are your beliefs about what causes a body to go out of balance or a symptom or condition to show up?
How do you believe what you believe? If you believe that our emotions do not trigger disease, how do you know that? How did you come to believe that? What’s your evidence?
What specific health conditions are you currently living with eg cancer, diabetes, coronary heart conditions, arthritis, candida, etc
Name it / name them
Now consult with a website such as or read Louise Hay’s Book – You Can Heal Your Life or consult the Mind-Body Glossary
Consider each of your conditions in the light of what you read – keeping an open mind
What might be the pattern of YOUR thinking ie your beliefs that may be contributing to your health situation and what might you change it to?
How can you change your present beliefs – and to what?
How would you now lead life as if that new belief were now supporting you?
Dr Deepak Chopra
A little light on
The Body Mind
Emotional Freedom Technique
Book The Emotion Code How to Release Your Trapped Emotions