The Proverb says: “A merry heart doeth good, like a medicine. But passion (bitterness/anger) is rottenness to the bones.”
Norman Cousins, in his famous 1979 book Anatomy of an Illness as Perceived by the Patient: Reflections on Healing, recounts his own dealing with the “rottenness” and pain in his own bones, thought at the time to be due to a severe form of inflammatory arthritis. He found that two hours of laughter (from watching Marx Brothers movies, no less) would provide a few hours of blessed relief from his physical suffering.
The mind-body connection has been a topic of controversy and study for decades. And the question still remains: Does a healthy body precede a good attitude or vice versa?
The answer is…. yes.
As the science of anti-depressant medications advanced three decades ago it was discovered that anxiety and depression were associated with a lack of seratonin (what I call the “don’t-worry-be-happy” neurotransmitter) in the central nervous system. The SSRI class of medications was developed and Prozac soon became the biggest selling drug in the U.S. It’s interesting to know that positive thinking, laughter, exercise, and a number of volitional activities can also elevate seratonin levels.
And who hasn’t heard about endorphins, the “natural opiate’, the”feel-good” neuro-hormone that is increased by exercise and pleasurable stimuli and activities.
The fact is, every thought you think, every feeling you feel, every motivation that moves you is accompanied by corresponding neuro-chemical phenomena in the central nervous system (in the whole body, for that matter). But which comes first, the thought or the chemistry?
Personally and professionally, I think it works both ways. A healthy body facilitates positive thoughts. Positive thoughts facilitate a healthy body. The human mind is a marvelous thing that can actually transform the chemistry and healing processes of the body. And a body that is well-nourished and cared for properly will facilitate the proper functioning of your thoughts, emotions, and motivations.
So, on the medical level, I do prescribe anti-depressants, anti-anxiety medications and such in appropriate situations. But first I remind my patients and myself to follow the advice of St. Paul, to: “…be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”