According to Dr. Candice Pert, an award-winning scientist, researcher and writer, a two-way communication system exists between the body and the mind. In her book, “Molecules of Emotions”, she describes the physical elements of emotions and how they work.
By learning about this relationship and how to use the body efficiently you can learn to manage your moods and your emotions. It is, however, important to understand what emotions are and how they work.
So what are emotions?
Emotions motivate you and make life interesting. They play a major role in decision making.
Yet emotions are largely misunderstood.
We naturally move to pleasant emotions and reject negative ones.
Not much to misunderstand, is there?
But when it comes to emotions, like cooking, if you want to have an interesting and amazing life you need to embrace them all. Awesome food is created by balancing and including all the flavors. (Salty, pungent, bitter, sweet, and sour) If you don’t, your meal might be boring or taste bland.
Living life to the fullest is about accepting that we have and will experience both positive and negative emotions. If you don’t, you can’t appreciate the good when it happens.
Wilson’s Disease has taught me that. At times, it has made me depressed, agitated and even angry.(I have learnt it has a lot to do with how copper is moving in my body. More on this later).
But I have learnt that these emotions are an indication that I am run down and need to rest.
I now use my emotional state to gauge if I am pushing too hard and not looking after myself properly. I have also learnt so much about who I am and and what I am capable of.
How your body controls your mind
As it happens, your body chemistry plays a role in your mood and what you eat plays a role in your body’s chemistry. I experienced this connection one day after eating a bowl of soup.
I was reading a book called “Healing with Whole Foods”, where he talks about using bone marrow soup for building strength.
At this point in my life, I could have done with some, so I decided to try it. Which I am glad I did. This soup has now become a favourite of mine and the rest of the Davidow household. And the best part is, it’s so simple to make.)
I was feeling depressed at the time. But shortly after eating the soup, the depressed feeling was gone. I felt like a new man. It was bizarre and amazing at the same time. It made the connection so clear to me.
It showed me that we really can impact our emotions by eating differently. But we can’t deny that emotional issues can also come from our emotional brain.
The cause of emotional pain
My understanding of emotional pain is when your perception of reality and reality itself are not the same. It’s like trying to put a round peg in a square hole and you just can’t figure out why it doesn’t fit.
This frustration (emotional stress) eventually leads to anxiety, depression and pain. Interestingly, some experts say that our emotions can even cause physical pain. They say that it can function as an indication of unresolved emotional trauma in the body.
In his book, “Healing without Freud or Prozac”, the late Dr Schreiber says that prolonged emotional stress or severe trauma actually damages the emotional brain.
- “Emotional disorders result from dysfunctions in the emotional brain. For many people, these dysfunctions originated with painful past experiences that have no relation to the present yet still continue to control their behavior.”
- “The primary task of treatment is to ‘reprogramme’ the emotional brain so that it adapts to the present instead of continuing to react to past experiences.”
- “To achieve this goal, it is generally more effective to use methods that act via the body and directly influence the emotional brain rather than use approaches that depend entirely on language and reason, to which the emotional brain is not as receptive.”
He talks about several “body” methods like EMDR, acupuncture, breathing techniques, exercise and nutrition to name a few. He goes into the science and his experiences with them. I found his book very insightful.
The two brains
If we can take a small science detour.
It becomes easier to understand the body-mind relationship when you understand how your brain is built. It also becomes easier to understand why Dr Shreiber says it’s easier to access the emotional brain through the body.
Let’s simplify it by dividing the brain in two:
Your cognitive (rational) brain controls:
- Abstract thinking
While your emotional (reactive) brain controls:
- Instinctual control of behaviour
- Basic physiology
- Heart function
- Blood pressure
- Digestive system
- Immune system
As you can see the emotional brain controls the body’s basic functions.
Anytime you experience emotional pain you shift gears. You move from your rational thinking brain to your reactive emotional brain.
This puts energy production in overdrive. As the stress contiunues it drains you of nutrients (calcium, magnesium and zinc etc.) which can lead to pain, disease and injuries
An intelligent solution for pain
One of the methods Dr Shreiber mentions in his book is developing emotional intelligence (EQ = how you understand and manage your emotions).
This can help you get rid of pain and make you more successful as well. (In a study on success, they found that your success is not determined by how smart you are (IQ). Your IQ’s contribution to your success was less than 20%. The majority of the other 80% was how well your EQ was developed.)
Before you can develop a new skill you need to know where to start. Fortunately, some smart people from Yale and the University of New Hampshire defined 4 parts to developing your EQ.
- You need to be able to identify your emotional state and those of others.
- You need to understand the natural course of your emotions.
- You need to be able to be able to rationalize your emotions and those of others.
- You need to be able to regulate your emotions and your response of others.
If you are able to master these 4 attributes you are on your way to a happier, healthier and more successful life.
Finding your own solutions
These days I like to approach life as one big experiment. Try new things and find what works for me. By sharing, we can learn from each other. This is how I have used this tool so far:
When I’m feeling depressed I often feel empty inside. This often leads to me eating…..a lot.
Reservation for one, food for twenty.
- I have now connected the eating to my depression. I have also noticed that my depression comes when I eat certain foods (like sugars) or don’t get enough sleep.
- Depression is a low energy state. All I am trying to do is increase my energy by eating.
- I am now aware that eating more doesn’t help. It makes me feel worse (more tired and sore).
- With this awareness, I try and respond differently. I try and sleep or breathe when I can. It helps me eat less as well.
- I don’t always get it right. But the more I try, the easier it becomes.
Restoring emotional intellgence in 15-20 minutes a day
Another method I really enjoy is breathing. I know what you thinking, breathing?!? We all enjoy breathing, can’t imagine life without it.
But breathing is so much more than an unconscious habit. Your breath is a reflection of your current state of mind, health and an indication of whether you are stressed.
You can use your breath to:
- Switch off your stress response
- Improve health
- Balance your emotions
- Improve your energy
- And so much more.
It is such a great topic that I will write more about in the future.
One of the techniques I use daily is the 365. In his book, “Heart Coherence 365: A Guide to Lasting Heart Coherence”, Dr David O’ Hare goes into the science behind creating balance through breath work. He speaks about getting in the “zone” called heart coherence.
If you ever doubted that the heart was your emotional center. Doubt no more. There are over 10,000 published clinical studies that prove it is.
Scientists have found a “small brain” in your heart. They call it your heart-brain system. It is so closely connected to your brain itself that any time your heart loses its balance so does your brain.
5 minutes to emotional peace
Dr O’ Hare calls his technique the 3-6-5 because you breathe:
• 3 times a day.
• 6 breaths per minute (5 seconds in and 5 seconds out)
• For 5 minutes breathing time.
This sequence balances your heart-brain system, putting you in the zone. This zone can last for 4-5 hours. By doing this 3-4 times a day, you keep yourself in the zone. This stops the emotional roller-coaster that wastes a lot of energy. When you have more energy your body can use it to get rid of pain.
I love it.
I feel so level headed and calm afterwards. I start my day with my breathing. and end it with breathing. I also add a 5 minutes session before lunch (which helps me enjoy my food without any indigestion).
If you can squeeze one more 5-minute session in when you have that afternoon slump, it is even better. But I don’t always do that one. I guess in an ideal world, there are no ideal situations.
Doing what you can, when you can, is good enough.
For me, the best way to make changes that last is by starting small. Choose a door (physical, emotional or mental) and open it. Keep an open mind and try new methods. Dont take everything you hear at face value. Question and play with new ideas.
But most importantly, be safe.