Heart, Hormones, and Emotion

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[ Posted by Megan, selected from EnlightenNext]

Heart, Hormones, and Emotion
How many folks do you know who are fuming over economic conditions? Are you one of them? Have you noticed how addictive and contagious anger is? Maybe you secretly feel that the emotion is justified. After all, who wouldn’t be angry watching their 401(k) or IRA shrink like an unpicked vegetable?

Those who try to justify negative emotions rarely see the damage those emotions do to their hearts and other organs. I sometimes think folks would rather die than see their emotional explosions as unjustified, irrational, or dangerous. But findings from a 1989 study at Harvard Medical School should be sobering to those of us who have a tendency toward emotional tirades. Researchers interviewed 1,623 heart attack victims four days after their attacks and discovered that the heart attacks had taken place a mere two hours after angry venting and that anger had actually doubled their risk of an attack.

For most people, statistics like these aren’t powerful enough to override emotions. Indeed, we can only counteract negative emotions with positive ones. Why is this? It’s because we’re dealing with very powerful chemicals called hormones. As we explore this further, keep in mind that all your thoughts are chemical reactions processed in your brain and body. When you’re assaulted by the negative emotions of anxiety, depression, and frustration, you are also ramping up the production of free radicals and increasing your levels of the stress hormone cortisol. (As research by Dr. Sapolsky of Rockefeller University in New York has found, cortisol levels also spike upward two to seven days before you die.) Even if you’re lucky enough to survive this cortisol spike, your immune system will be greatly impaired because your body’s production of disease-fighting antibodies will shut down while the few remaining antibodies will be destroyed. Not a rosy picture at all.

So what can you do about anger? Here are a few time-honored basics: get on a regular exercise program, learn to meditate, improve your diet, learn some new jokes, and smile more. Remember, no one needs a smile as much as those who have none left to give.

The secret to staying alive and regaining peace of mind is to convert your demands into preferences. After all, if you downshift your emotional addictions to things you simply prefer, will you throw a fit if you don’t get them? Of course not. Nothing changes except the space you are coming from, and in reality, it’s only from this space that real change can take place. So give the world a sincere smile–it costs you nothing but creates so much! Good health to you!

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