I spotted two articles this week that pointed at a much-needed uplifting organizing principle – that developing a hopeful, upbeat mood is good for your immune system and your brain health.
Hey, I’ll take “Holidays You Didn’t Realize Existed” for 200, Alex – Saturday, October 10 was “World Mental Health Day,” and with the onslaught of pandemia, hurricanes, fires, political and racial conflict and financial woes, there’s no shortage of stress to go around. If there is a relationship between mood and immunity, it would be helpful to learn how to manage and, when necessary, re-direct your mental and emotional resources to better advantage.
The first story, from USA Today, is called “Hope isn’t a luxury. It’s essential for mental health.” Researcher Matthew Gallagher, Associate Professor of Clinical Psychology at the University of Houston, stated, “Hope is how we can think about our goals for the future, the extent that we can identify pathways or strategies to achieve those goals and then maintaining the motivation… (to) keep working towards those goals, even in the face of obstacles or setbacks.” His 2013 study of 100,000 people from 100 countries showed that most people have a positive expectancy about the future.
The second story came from Ayurvedic nutrition and wellness company Banyan Botanicals, relating mood to digestion and immune function. Ayurveda, like chiropractic, views the body as “an inherently intelligent, self-organizing system,” and as such understands that there is an interplay between the tissues and organs that causes them to depend in many ways on each other.
In their article “How Our Mood, Digestion and Immune System Are Connected,” they talk about affective immunology, the assessment of how the emotions and the immune system work together. Both philosophy and physiology link mood to immunity, implying that hopefulness improves immune function and despair diminishes it. If so, then chronic stress, depression, and isolation can hamper immune response if left unaddressed, a factor that is currently even more significant.
Because your digestive system has to handle food taken in from the outside, it is equipped with immune processes that deal with bacteria and debris, while it is extracting the nourishment. So, the quality and effectiveness of the “digestive fire,” which Ayurveda refers to as “agni,” is central – the Banyan newsletter declares, “When your agni is happy and functioning well, you have increased immunity and positive moods. On the other hand, when your agni is unhappy with the fuel it’s being given, it can lead to decreased immunity and undesirable moods.”
So then, this inter-relationship between mood, digestion and immunity revolves around these three contributing dynamics coordinating to create balance and harmony – and in this time of monumental upheaval and the corresponding stresses, hope is a key catalyst. In a nutshell, more hope facilitates a better mood, which aids digestion and leads to enhanced body defense.
The research demonstrating that the bulk of our neighbors typically trend toward hope is therefore a favorable sign, and indeed one of the reasons that this virus has not caused even more tragedy – our innate human tendencies directing us toward the brighter side, confirmed by studies and validated by our experiences, incentives us to expect to transcend stress, so we survive and thrive onward.
This in no way means to drop our guard and be nonchalant – COVID is still a force to be reckoned with. But it’s reassuring to know that even science has come to the conclusion that we have always intuitively known – that our attitude plays a major role in our health, our longevity, and our success.
Dennis Perman DC, for The Masters Circle Global
PS As the world awakens, don’t go to sleep – prepare to lead. Work together. Be loving. Do good.