Anti aging guide

Psychoneuroimmunology

 

 

Managing Stress with Psychoneuroimmunology

Exercise can prevent many health problems and a good mental attitude can prevent equally as many. Quite a few people are afraid of stress, but a positive use of stress can actually add years to your life instead of taking them away.

Mind over Body (Psychoneuroimmunology)

The idea that the mind can extend life is not new in the Western world. The 18th-century philosopher William Goodwin stated: ‘We become sick and die partly because we expect it and consent to it. If we believe in immortality, our beliefs will come true.’

Most Westeners still deal with illness and old age mainly from a physical point of view, showing very little interest in the mental or spiritual aspects. Only recently have we begun, slowly but surely, to come round to more fundamental ways of thinking, realizing that mental powers are not only real but can help cure disease.

Scientific evidence comes from the relatively new branch of medicine called psychoneuroimmunology (PNI). This examines the effects of the mind (hence ‘psycho’) mediated through the brain and nerves (hence ‘neuro’) on the body and particularly on the immune system (hence ‘immunology’).

It is now well accepted by open-minded scientists that our thoughts can influence some parts of our immune system and make the treatment of disease much easier. For example, it was shown in experiments that in certain cancer patients who had a positive state of mind, the treatment with drugs worked much better than in patients who were resigned to their fate and expected the worst.

Along the same lines, it is possible to argue that a positive mental outlook and the right state of mind will have some effect on the aging cells and organs of the body. There isn’t much scientific evidence to support this but, in theory, it is possible. By creating a positive mental state, we may be able to affect the immune system, delay the onset of some diseases and therefore delay the time of death.

A radical group of people go much further than this, hundreds of miles further. They claim that we age and die only because we think about aging and death. If we stop thinking about aging, and concentrate only on thinking about eternal life, then we will live forever, as simple as that. This is the Immortalists movement which is slowly flourishing in the US and is attracting a lot of ridicule from conventional (and not so conventional) scientists.

Leaving the Immortalists aside, we believe that it is worthwhile taking on regular positive mind training, as long as this is done within reason and as long as you are realistic about the results. It is certainly spiritually refreshing to use something else as well as drugs and pills for avoiding disease in later life.

Contrary to what many people think, stress could actually be good for aging. Some researchers think that it makes us live longer and here is the proof. Centenarian studies from around the world have shown that most people who lived to be over 100 years old had led a strenuous, hard-working and burdensome life, with a certain degree of stress and many crises to cope with. This doesn’t mean ‘excessive’ stress but a sensible degree of stress which is perceived as demanding but comfortable by the individual. And I don’t mean mental stress alone, but any type of stress, including physical and nutritional stress.

One way this may be explained is the following. During periods of stress or starvation, nature panics and spends more energy in trying to maintain the body in good condition. It is a disadvantage to die young, because young people can still have children and so improve the survival of the species. It makes sense that during periods of stress it is better to repair the damage and save the body rather than to waste the energy resources in reproduction.

That is why stress stimulates the body to repair itself more efficiently and therefore minimize age-related damage. This has been studied with animals in the case of calorie restriction treatments which reduce the amount of food to animals for many months, extending their life spans. In these cases, nutritional stress triggers the repair mechanisms, so aging damage is reduced.

For example, in calorie-restricted animals (animals which are under nutritional stress but not malnourished) the free radical damage is reduced, blood cholesterol returns to normal and the repair of collagen becomes more active.

Another study has shown that certain centenarian groups in Georgia consuming an average of 1,768 calories per day, boast low incidence of atherosclerosis as well as low incidence of other age-related diseases. Considering that we, in the West, consume over 2,000-2,500 calories a day, you can see why we die young.

However, it should make clear that the stress, be it mental or physical, should be controlled and kept under a certain limit in order to have any benefits. Very high levels of stress contribute to the well-known illnesses such as heart disease and mental problems. A steady, comfortable and low level of stress in our life may be sufficient.

Perhaps doctors should advice patients not only to pursue physical stress by performing comfortably demanding regular exercise, but also to:

  1. Seek mental stress with daily brain exercises and by pursuing unfamiliar experiences
  2. Seek nutritional stress by consuming a good quality yet low calorie food
  3. Seek social stress by being active, setting new targets and trying to achieve them
  4. Seek spiritual stress by remaining alert and suspicious, unsatisfied with easy solutions and by searching for new directions

Excessive stress on the other hand should be avoided. If you feel that you are under a level of stress which makes you feel uncomfortable, try the following ways to banish it:

  • Flotation sessions
  • Laughter therapy
  • Relaxation and meditation
  • Massage or self-massage

All of these help reduce the hormones related to excessive stress and boost natural chemicals which relax the mind.

You may also wish to try herbal supplements containing melissa or valerian. These two plants can be used together or on their own and have a calming effect on the nerves. They are also used to promote better sleep.

Aromatherapy oils, especially used during massage treatments, are very good for reducing stress.

If you become able to take the positive effects of stress and use these to your advantage, then your chances of living a long and healthy life will be greatly improved. If you let stress overcome you, then you will have no defences against the aging process and it will eat you alive.

Now is the ideal time to turn to the different ways leading to super brain health.

Posted by Carol Hudgens - February 3, 2012 at 3:29 am