Monday, September 27, 2010

Guest Post: "The Mind-Body Connection" by Diana Raab

Diana Raab
Author, nurse, wife, mom, cancer survivor
The mind-body connection means that your body responds to the way you think, feel and act. For years we have known that our emotions have a strong impact on our health, but more recently studies have been popping up to prove this phenomenon. When we are stressed or anxious, our body warns us that things are not right. For example, we may exhibit some of the following symptoms, such as back pain, changes in appetite, palpitations, sexual problems, stiff neck, diarrhea, constipation and/or random aches and pains.

Furthermore, stress and anxiety tend to contribute to poor emotional health which can weaken your immune system, thereby making you more susceptible to colds, and infections and in more extreme cases, cancer.

Recent studies performed by UCLA scientists reveal how stress makes people more susceptible to illness. One scientist, Rita Effros, a professor of pathology and laboratory medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, and a member of the Jonsson Cancer Center, Molecular Biology Institute and UCLA AIDS Institute. says, “When the body is under stress, it boosts production of cortisol to support a “fight or flight" response. If the hormone remains elevated in the bloodstream for long periods of time, though, it wears down the immune system.”

There are a number of things you can do to improve your emotional health, so that your physical health remains intact. For example:

1) Lead a balanced life – minimize obsessions

2) Be resilient

3) Eat well and exercise regularly

4) Meditate to calm your mind and body

5) Express yourself through writing or another art form

As a nurse, writer and journaling advocate, I have found that both writing and meditating do a world of wonders to minimize my own stress and have helped me through many turbulent times in my own life, including three high-risk pregnancies, death of loved ones and more recently, two bouts with cancer.

When we are dealing with stress, writing is an effective way to ground us and help us gain clarity about what we are going through. This benefits our emotional health. Writing can quiet the agitated mind. It empowers us and improves our communication skills. It’s also a safe place to vent bottled-up emotions. Writing brings you face to face with your own truth and reality which can help you work through your problems.

Dr. James Pennebaker, author of WRITING TO HEAL, has spent more than 25 years studying the link between writing and health. He found that writing about strong feelings improves both our mental and physical health. Not only is it important to write about the sad moments, but it’s important to also write about the happy moments in our lives too.

Here are some tips to keep in mind about journaling:

1) Choose a notebook or journal which resonates with you

2) Choose a pen which is comfortable in your hand

3) Find a place where you will be uninterrupted whether it in your office, in the bookstore, mall or a park

4) Date your entries

5) Write for at least 15-20 minutes each day

6) Start by writing, “I feel ..” and continue the sentence

7) Write quickly and keep the hand moving. Write through the negative thoughts and honor wherever your mind goes. The thoughts do not have to be connected. There does not have to be a beginning, middle and end

8) Brag, exaggerate, be happy or sad

9) Be as honest as possible. Allow gut reactions and intuitions to come forth

10) After writing, take a break; go for a walk or run

Diana, thank you for sharing with us. I must add that Diana's proceeds from her book are donated to Mayo Clinic. Kudos to you, Diana!

One person who commented last Monday on the review of  Diana's book or today on her post will receive a copy of Diana's book, HEALING WITH WORDS. Be sure to leave your email in your comment so I can contact you if you win.
Reminder--if you haven't had your mammogram this year, schedule it today! Early detection is key.


Stephanie Suesan Smith, Ph.D. said...

This sounds like an interesting topic. I would like the book and hope I win.

Susan L. Doyle said...

I write and have been journaling for quite some time, yet I find that when I should be writing I don't. I can guess that I may be thinking: if I don't face it, the problem will go away. And yet I know that when I write I face the problem and see that it really isn't that big after all. Now, I need on getting my sister to understand that, also.
Thanks for the nudge.

Vince said...

Hi Diana:

The mind/body connection works in both directions and some think the mind and body are of the same substance and are just two ways of looking at the same phenomena. Just as light is both a particle and a wave at the same time.

While I see benefits from journaling, just as there are benefits in free-association sessions with a therapist, I also see it as a possible new source of stress and obsessive behavior. If your ‘self-talk’ is negative, won’t your journaling also be the same?

Does your book provide guidelines for keeping the project positive? I’m a big fan of using affirmations as found in The Daily Word.

Also, I believe there is very good evidence that humor has a very positive impact on disease. I think Normal Cousins did great work on this. Do you have a view on humor therapy?

I am very interested in your book.

BTW: I witnessed some of the UCLA monkey experiments in the 1960’s. They put electrodes into the monkey’s brain and could make him happy, sad, aggressive, hungry, sleepy, etc with a small charge. I can’t get the image of all those monkeys out of my mind. It was like it happened yesterday.


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Diana M. Raab said...

Thank you for hosting me on your wonderful blog! I hope HEALING WITH WORDS will help many of your readers and beyond!

Best wishes,
Diana Raab

Marie Beau said...

It's so true. Mind, body, spirit - they're all connected. If you're not happy emotionally/spiritually, it will eventually show up in your health.

Thank you for this post. I loved it!