Ground breaking research over the last 15 years has changed everything we know about how the brain works and its implications on our lives. Here I am going to go into a truly revolutionary topic of brain research that can have tremendous impacts on your life. Now this is not going to be another boring, detail heavy, long word spouting article that would put any person to sleep unless you are some kind of super nerd like myself. This article should be a fun read and you might even learn some real science!
Emotional Biochemistry Just Doesn't Sound Intense Enough
All scientists and engineers seem to have this complex. We try to come up with the most "smart" sounding names for things so that people think we are smart. So the word they came up with to describe this field of science is... wait for it... psychoneuroimmunology. For real, that is what they call it. So a person that studies in the field is called a psychoneuroimmunologist. What kind of crap is that! I can barely even say that word and it just screams "you can't understand this" to almost every person that reads it so they just say "well never mind, lets read about the Kardashians". This subject began coming to light in the late 1980's but no one seems to know about it because we have coded it with science double talk. This is where I come in as your personal nerd talk decoder to give you the facts.
I Think, Therefore I Change
Look up positive thinking on google. You will find a million billion (It's a real number, okay) articles on how to "think positively" and be happier and blah blah blah. But I think that all sounds really fake. Like we are just supposed to think positively just because it sounds good. I am a realist. I need to have some facts or justification that is based in reality and not in some "super happy spiritual fun land" in order for me to believe it. So this is what started the quest. Does thinking positively have any real, measurable change on yourself? Whether it be your success in your job, your personal life, or your physical state. It turns out there is so much more that your mind influences than I had ever imagined.
I believe the human brain is the single most powerful and amazing thing on the face of this planet. We have just began to scratch the surface of understanding what it is capable of. It turns out your brain can completely change your physical state and perform miracles that were previously thought impossible. This is where your Neuroendocrine system comes in. We all know that our muscles and tissue are interwoven with our nervous system. Nerves are one highway in which the brain takes in data and distributes commands. So when you want to flex them biceps on the beach with your bros to impress the ladies, the brain sends an electrical signal to the biceps to contract and it also sends signals to many different muscles in your face, mouth, lungs, and throat to utter the phrase "sup ladies, wanna touch these guns?" But one that is even more important and complicated is the role that biochemistry plays in the connection between the mind and the rest of the body.
Neuroendocrine System Explained
So before we dive into the implications that this system has, we need to understand a little bit about what is going on. Aside from electrical signals sent from the brain, almost all other means of communication between different parts of our body is through biochemical signals. These mostly come in the form of proteins (or hormones) through our neuroendocrine system. Proteins are just chains of different molecules that are known as amino acids. These proteins fold in all kinds of different confirmations and the science behind these molecules is intensely complicated. But what is important to you is what and how the proteins affect you. Each one of your cells has these things on the outside of them called receptor sites. The sites are only able to recognize one certain protein. Lets take dopamine for example. Dopamine, as you may have heard, is the protein that is produced when you are experiencing joy. All of your cells have multiple dopamine receptors that only recognize dopamine (and other molecules that have the same active sites). This relationship is similar to a key and lock. The protein is the key and the receptor is the lock. So when the protein and receptor(s) get together, they can actually change the physical state of the cell. This is what causes you to sweat when you are stressed or calls your white blood cells into action when you are sick or causes certain things to happen when your are "in the mood" that we won't go into detail about here...
The Proverbial Mindf$@k
At this point you may be wondering "okay, what is so great about that?" If you are, then you are on the right track! It turns out that every emotion that we experience causes certain proteins to be produced in the brain and carried out through the rest of the body through the bloodstream. Whether it is joy, love, anger, fear, sadness, frustration, or anything else. But the especially bad ones are stress and sadness. All of these emotions cause proteins to be released and intercepted by hundreds upon hundreds of thousands of receptors on cells and changing you physical state across your body as a whole! But you shouldn't just take the word of some random dude on a blog site rambling. Lets take a look at some interesting studies that have been done to prove this point.
Stress And Depression Can Cause And Grow Some Types Of Cancer
Scientists at the State University of Londrina in Brazil published a paper on the effects of stress and depression on the development of certain cancerous tumors. They summarized some of their results in this very straight forward statement "Both stress and depression were associated with the decreased cytotoxic T-cell and natural killer cell activities affecting the processes of the immune surveillance of tumours, and the events that modulate the development and the accumulation of somatic mutations and genomic instability". So translated that means that the hormones that are associated with stress and depression inhibit your body's ability to fight cancer cells. Which pretty much sucks. But no worries, they recommend some treatment "Behavioral strategies, psychological, and psychopharmacotherapeutic interventions that enhance effective coping and reduce affective distress showed beneficial effects in cancer patients."Oh thanks doc, totally get it now. Basically this means do stuff to reduce stress and cope with depression.
Read More: http://informahealthcare.com/doi/abs/10.1080/02646830500382102
Chinese People Know How To Chill Smart
When Americans think of meditation, you probably think of a bunch of Chinese monks sitting around with their legs crossed, hands out, and humming for no particular reason. Well it turns out that the Chinese have taken a liking to using meditation as a medical treatment and have performed some studies on it including this one. "80 Chinese undergraduates were randomly assigned to an experimental group (integrative body–mind training, IBMT) or to a control group (relaxation training) for 5 days of short-term training (20 min per day). Before training, no differences were found for behavioral, endocrine, and immune measures between the 2 groups. After 5 days of training, the IBMT group showed significantly greater improvement of performance in executive attention and positive mood, significantly reduced stress as measured by cortisol secretion following a stressful experience, and increased immunoreactivity compared to participants with the same amount of relaxation training." So meditation training had real measurable effects on the stress levels and immune system activity of the patients. No drugs or anything else. That alone proves the link between our mental and physical states.
Read more at: http://www.pnas.org/content/106/22/8865.full
Heal Faster, Fight Infections Better, Fight HIV...Pretty Much Become Wolverine
You heard me! Stress and negative thoughts can lead you to heal slower, become susceptible to infectious diseases, like HIV and herpes, and cause you to age faster. Now there is a million different products that can treat all of these things but why not go to the source? Eliminate the negative thoughts and you can essentially become Wolverine and regrow limbs. Okay, maybe not that but you can dramatically increase your health by doing so.
There are many many more articles about this subject. If you are interested in learning more about this subject then you can do a simple google search of "psychoneuroimmunology", which I will allow you to copy and paste instead of typing.
Positive Thinking Is Not Just A Poster Phrase
So after learning about all of these factors I realized that positive thinking is not just a nice thing for motivational speakers to say. It has real effects on your life as far as health goes. But I still don't like to use the phrase "Positive Thinking". It just sounds cheesy. I like to think of it as "Mind Hacking" because for me it takes a real conscious effort to change your thoughts from negative to positive, but when you can do that and eliminate stress you can accomplish almost anything. Want to start a new business? Mind hack that shizz and eliminate the stress and fear of failure. Want to talk to that super hot chick/dude at the bar? Mind hack that shizz and eliminate the stress and fear of rejection. Remember that stress is all made up. It is not a real thing. You and you alone determine the amount of stress you have directly in your life and it has fundamentally nothing to do with the outside world. But eliminating stress from your life doesn't only help you think positively and be happier. It also has huge impacts on your cognitive and even physical performance!
You Can't Buy Talent, But You Can Mind Hack It
If you think of the world of professional sports there are many legends that seem to defy the boundaries of human abilities. But what separates the best of the best from the rest? Is it money? Fame? Muscles? Family? Turns out that people have done some real scientific research on this subject. The main thing that makes the Michael Jordan's and Shaun White's stand out is mental states of mind during performance.
In the above article, brain researchers work with some of the top olympic athletes to determine what separates the Gold's from the rest. They come up with this profound discovery “When you are an elite athlete, one of the best in the world, the physical differences between you and your peers are very, very small.” says Scott Grafton, a researcher at the University of California, Santa Barbara and a Dana Foundation grantee, who studies action representation, or how the brain organizes movement into a goal-oriented action. “So what really determines success? The way athletes are approaching their sport at the cognitive level.” Essentially, the separation comes in the method they use to approach their craft. When athletes are about to enter a stage of peak performance (we refer to this as "The Zone") there are certain sets of brain waves that increase. These are the Alpha and Theta waves. Alpha waves are produced in states and intense focus. Theta waves are produced in states of extreme relaxation. So "the zone" is essentially the athlete being relaxed and completely focused on the task. Conscious thought shuts down and they just let it "flow." Next time you are playing a sport, try it out and see what happens! And if you want to measure your own brain waves, visit this site!
Hope you guys enjoyed this article and now realize how important your thoughts are on your health and wellbeing. Here are some articles to help you on your quest for Mind Hacking.