It’s only recently that doctors have begun to look at the mind/body connection and realize that emotions play a huge role in our overall health. Of course, I could have told them this (well, I tried) years ago.
You see, it wasn’t long before my diagnosis of stage 4 malignant melanoma 30 years ago that my dear daddy was killed by a drunk driver and ripped from my life. I was absolutely devastated when it happened. I was in my early 20s and my father was my world and my best friend. When he was killed, I think a part of me wanted to die as well.
Months later and I’m being told I have aggressive cancer and only 6 months to live. Coincidence? Not on your life!
The Connection Between Your Emotional Life and Your Physical Health
Freud uncovered links between repressed emotion and physical symptoms nearly one hundred years ago. And recent studies have begun to support the notion that emotional and physical health are directly related to one another.
For instance, some studies have found that over 80% of all doctor visits involved a social-emotional problem, while only 16% involved a solely biological root cause. Other studies have found that those people who repress and deny their emotional feelings suppress their immune systems, which makes them vulnerable to all kinds of illnesses, from colds to cancer. And still, other studies have found that cancer patients who habitually avoid experiencing and sharing their feelings, die sooner and in greater numbers than cancer patients who found positive ways to express their feelings.
That was me to a proverbial T. When my father died, I had no coping skills. I simply could not process the reality that the person who meant most to me in the word was gone in an instant, taken away in a senseless tragedy.
And so I denied his death and my feelings about it. I pushed everything down as far as I could because it was the only way I knew how to go on living. And then in the next moment, I’m being told I am dying.
One of the main reasons my body was able to naturally heal itself from cancer, was because I finally faced my repressed emotions and grieved the loss of my father. If you’re reading this blog post because you’ve recently been diagnosed with cancer or another chronic illness, I urge you to explore your emotions and see what you need to work on.
How to Heal Emotionally
Here are five things that I do to keep myself healthy and cancer-free:
- Stop judging
- Stop watching the news
- Get creative
- Practice Gratitude
Research has shown that forgiveness can help us experience better emotional and physical health by lowering blood pressure, improving cardiovascular health, and boosting our immune system.
A study found that after 260 adults practiced forgiveness in their life, 70% reported feeling less hurt, 13% experienced reduced anger, and 27% experienced fewer physical complaints if pain, GI upset, and dizziness.
When I finally grieved my father’s loss, I realized I harbored a lot of anger and downright hatred for the woman who took his life. I had to learn to forgive him for my daddy’s sake and the sake of my health.
Admittedly, forgiving doesn’t often feel easy. I had to learn 2 vital lessons about forgiveness:
1) Holding onto anger and resentment serves no purpose. We subconsciously think our anger, hatred, and resentment will somehow hurt the other person, give them what they’ve got coming.
But it doesn’t. It only hurts us and makes us sick.
2) All human beings are walking around the planet in some kind of pain. And most human beings are doing the best they can. The woman who drank and got behind that wheel wasn’t an evil person and she didn’t mean to take my father’s life. She no doubt had her own pain and problems that culminated in her making a bad choice. As soon as I realized that, my anger and resentment evaporated.
So much of our negativity comes from how we perceive the world. When we judge something as either good or bad, we signal our minds and hearts how we should feel. All life has its ups and downs, there is light as there is dark, positive as there is negative. This duality is an inescapable fact of existence.
Try to stop judging things as being either good or bad experiences. Just accept what comes your way and learn to see the value and lessons in ALL of it.
Stop Watching the News
I’ve stopped watching the news and it feels great. There is rarely anything on there that is inspiring. Sometimes I think the folks who deliver the news intend to scare and depress the hell out of us. Stop watching or reading anything that instills fear, depression, or hatred in you.
Sometimes the best way we can work through our emotions and get them out of us is to do it through a creative endeavor such as writing, painting or dancing. What kind of activity or hobby have you always thought you’d enjoy but never tried? Do so now. You will be amazed at how creativity can help us process those hard emotions we’ve kept pushed down.
So many of our negative emotions stem from simply being negative. It’s easy to get into mental ruts and look at everything through half-glassed empty lenses.
Since my death sentence, I look at each day with absolute wonder. Every blade of grass, bird call and smile of a loved one sends my heart fluttering. I am grateful for my life, my health, my soul mate, my cat, and so many other blessings. And I know this not only makes me feel “happy” in the moment, this consistent gratitude washes through all of my cells each day, keeping me healthy.
Your emotional health directly impacts your physical well-being. This is no longer a woo-woo concept that only some of us believe. Medical science has now proved it. If you want to become healthy and stay healthy, make sure you feel ALL of your feelings, the good and not-so-good.