Our brains and emotions can help us heal faster if we get sick. In fact, for the first time, the link between the brain and the immune system and how positive emotions and motivation can promote a series of protective processes for our health have been demonstrated very clearly. The study was conducted by an Israeli team and is soon to be published in the prestigious journal Nature, which offers a preview (Haykin et al, Nature, 2023).
Illness and healing are also a matter of the mind
Until a few years ago the mind and the body were considered separate. Only recently more and more scientific studies are bringing out a link between emotional state and physical health, capable of explaining situations that otherwise could not find an answer. Just think of broken heart syndrome, which is a sudden form of heart failure resulting from a very stressful event, such as a sudden loss or traumatic event. But recent studies have also been able to hypothesize that a positive attitude can lead to faster healing in the case of heart disease, without however being able to clearly demonstrate the link. The study we are talking about today shows a very important proof of what has just been stated.
Emotions and the immune system, the link exists and has been demonstrated
The research took place in the laboratory and was based on the microscope analysis of heart samples from mice that had had a heart attack. Dr. Hedva Haykin, head of the study, analyzing the samples had noticed a singular fact, namely that some fragments of the heart showed clear scars left by the infarction while others presented only a faint trace in the midst of healthy cells. How could that difference be explained? The explanation was sought within the brain. In fact, mice with few scars had been treated to stimulate brain areas involved in positive feelings and motivation. The mice with very conspicuous scars, on the other hand, had not undergone any treatment. What was observed therefore seemed to clearly indicate a link between emotional state and healing capacity, with a stimulation of the immune response capable of recovering faster after a cardiovascular event and reducing the formation of scars. However, as excited as the Israeli scientists were, they were also aware that it was too soon to come to any conclusions. Therefore, the experiment was repeated countless times and the results were always the same, indicating that a stimulation of the brain areas dedicated to positive emotions and motivation allows the heart to heal better and faster.
The mental state is not to be considered secondary and of minor importance compared to physical health. As we have come to understand today, our emotions can influence the way we recover in case of illness. At the moment the evidence only concerns heart health but scientists are hopeful that this also extends to other conditions, such as viral and bacterial infections, but also cellular degeneration. In short, while waiting for science to take its course, we have more proof that serenity and calm are essential for our well-being, even physical. Sure, you can't think of living without problems, obstacles and thoughts that are part of everyday life, but it's important to be confident that you always have the resources to face them. We can try to be silent once in a while, taste the emptiness, look without judging what we feel and the thoughts that crowd our minds. These are great remedies to bring calm to our mind and activate all those inner resources that can come to our aid, instilling confidence and greater serenity. It can also be useful to dedicate yourself to meditation and yoga, which help to free yourself from obsessive thoughts, bring calm and tranquility and promote a more optimistic mood.