What Really Happens when you think Positively
By Dr Sheyda Isazadeh
Positive thinking not only has short term affects but also long lasting skills.We all know we should think positively. We all assume it affects out day, mood, and work. Here is how.
Electro-chemical stimuli such as negative thoughts and emotions activate the sympathetic portion of our nervous system, also referred to as fight-or-flight system which involves directing blood to our limbs, and not organs, so we can get away from the danger. The brain reacts similarly in that when there is a negative thought, that is all it thinks about and shuts everything else out, struggling to take action. Negative words are hurtful because they increase cortisol levels, which limits cognitive function of the brain, activating the sympathetics, preparing us to fight or run. This system activation causes more sensitivity, and reactivity. Cortisol affects in the body last longer, if we dwell on the thought.
Our positive and negative emotions derive from the hard wired memories that have formed in the hippocampus of the brain. Due to the plasticity of the brain, these templates can be altered by positive visualizations, which is why one bad experience doesn’t stop us from trying something again. After a bad experience, to imagine it happen with positive outcomes produces serotonin, creating new neural pathways and therefore new templates in the hippocampus that is the foundation of our limbic-emotional- state. These new pathways ultimately control neurotransmitters that process everything in our nervous system and all functions in our body through the spinal cord.
Positive comments also produce oxytocin. This hormone allows us to feel good, elevating our social ability, and trust in others, it directly impacts the frontal cortex which is responsible for personality and executive decision making. However, compared to cortisol, oxytocin effects only last a fraction of the time. This is why a negative comment can affect us all day but a positive one is short lived. Positive actions or words of gratitude release dopamine and norepinephrine, which allows the brain to feel more alert and everything is brighter and appreciated more. Positive emotional images activate the caudate nucleus, which is the reward center of the brain and gives us a warm feeling.
Each cell in the body has thousands of receptors that are specific to a peptide/protein. Each feeling releases a specific neuropeptide which bind to cells throughout the body, changing the structure of the cell. In cell division, the cell memory causes the new cell to have more receptors for the peptide it has seen more often. Meaning, if you keep overwhelming your cells with negative thoughts, your new cells will have less receptors for positive and way more receptors for negative ones. Most cells in the body are replaced within couple months, and practicing optimism can take that long to change you at a cellular level. Looking even further within, epigenetics shows the genes in your DNA are switched on and off by life experiences and lifestyle. The greatest influences of genetics are within our control including diet, exercise, stress. Emotional stress is dependent on positive or negative thoughts.
The healing power of the human body is so profound that with our mental thoughts we are able to make chemical, and physical changes, not only in the everyday world outside but right down to the microscopic levels within us. The past might have caused our mental and physical state today, but the future of our mind and body is within our power.