Cogito a positive mood, it can dampen the

Cogito ergo sum- “I think, therefore I am”. This Latin philosophical proposition
by René Descartes emphasises upon the unsurmountable power of our thoughts.
Thoughts determine our emotions and actions thus exercising an enormous control
over our biological system. Mind and body keep changing, physically reacting
and conforming in response to the emotions. Our mood influences our behaviour
in myriad of ways and when we are in a positive mood, it can dampen the magnitude
of pain perceived by our senses. The opposite happens when it comes to negative
emotions and the sensory perception of pain is exaggerated. As explained by
Passer and Smith, “Emotions are feeling (or affect) states that involve a
pattern of cognitive, physiological, and behavioural reactions to events”. The
primary components of emotion are the eliciting stimuli, cognitive appraisals,
physiological arousal, and expressive and instrumental behaviour. Researches
have shown that thinking leads to the release of neurotransmitters from the
brain. Neurotransmitters are the chemical messengers of our body that
essentially control every physiological process in the human body. Assessing
the potentiality of ‘thoughts’ in influencing our ‘mood’, a more detailed research
study may open up avenues to develop better forms of therapy for treatment of
psychiatric illness

Studies have shown that thoughts greatly
influence vision, fitness, and strength. The Placebo effect, as observed in
sham surgeries is based on the psychological applications of ‘thought-process’.
Placebo effects are the subject of scientific research in an aim to decode the
neurobiological mechanisms which result in real physiological and cognitive
outcomes, such as less fatigue, lower immune system reaction, elevated hormone
levels, and reduced anxiety.

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Body and mind are connected to each
other. A very general example as we can infer from our daily experience is that
stressed and troubled thoughts in our mind negatively affect the overall health
of our body. Overthinking under conditions of extreme strain may disturb our
sleep-wake cycle thus toppling the effective functioning of our
‘biological-clock’. Our brain is sculpted by the thoughts that flow through. A
simplified analogy is to consider mind as the movement of information through
our nervous system. The thoughts are the electrical signals being transmitted
from the receptor to the effector. As a thought travels through the nervous
system, neurons align themselves in distinct ways based on the specific
information being handled, and those patterns of neural activity are potent
enough to change the existing neural structures. Busy regions of the brain
start establishing new inter-connections with each other and existing synapses
(the point of connection of two neurons). Neural regions that experience more
activity get stronger, increasingly sensitive and start building more
receptors. New synapses are also formed. One example of this is the well-known
London cab driver studies which have shown that a part of the brain called the
hippocampus (it is a seahorse-shaped section in
the vertebrate brain that is crucial for long-term memory and spatial navigation)
was much larger in the cab-drivers as compared to the brains of the non-cab
drivers. Their brains literally expanded to
accommodate the cognitive demands of navigating London’s endlessly jumbled
routes. The researches have deduced how an intense training procedure can
greatly produce profound changes in the brain.

It can be said that our mindset is
recognised and reflected by our body. This endows us with the power to
influence our physical and mental realities even to the very basic- genetic
level. Therefore, an improvised and more nuanced mental habit may prove to be
of valuable assistance in maintaining an overall healthy living which
incorporates physical, mental and social well-being. Researches have also
touched upon the beneficial effects of meditation in contributing towards a
healthy life. Meditational practices are reported to have produced measurable
results, from changes in grey matter volume to an enhanced connectivity between
the different regions of the brain.

Neuroscience Professor David Linden
from John Hopkins University explains that the pain perceived by our senses in
case of an injury is controlled and directed by the complex and intricate
circuitry of the brain. Filtering all the information coming from sensory
nerves, our brain particularly focuses on certain fragments. Linden explains it
further in more basic terms, “The brain can say- Hey that’s interesting.
Turn up the volume on this pain information that’s coming in. Or it can say- Oh
no — let’s turn down the volume on that and pay less attention to it”. Our
brain is structured to process two aspects of our sensory perceptions, the
physical and the emotional. To elucidate further through an example, in case of
any sensation of pain, the brain notes the location and intensity thus
processing the pain physically. It also dictates our reaction to the sensation
of pain and this is the emotional processing of the brain. For example, when
you feel a sharp, stabbing pain shoot down your leg, that is the brain’s
interpretation of physical intensity. When you find yourself shrieking out loud
in response, that is the brain’s emotional interpretation.

This becomes crucial in the studies
of pain management. If the exact reason that triggers the brain’s response to
injury is accurately ascertained then this discovery may widen the scope of
more reliable psychological treatments for certain psychiatric illnesses.

It might appear an absurd and
unfounded claim but in times of extreme physical pain, an optimistic and
positive outlook is helpful in efficiently dealing with the discomfiture and
agony. Negativity, and emotions like fear and insecurity create the perfect
breeding ground for pain. The “weaker,” or more negative, the mind
is, the more vigorous are the effects of the ailment. Conversely, a safe,
secure, and comfortable state of mind is the best antidote to encounter pain. A
positive mind lessens the impact of pain and therefore the response to the
ailment becomes less intensified. Interestingly, just as pain can accumulate
over time to further aggravate the existing condition, positive thoughts can also
grow and proliferate manifold as stated in a recent research published in the American
Psychologist. The more you tweak your perspective and focus on the positive
rather than giving in to your negative tendencies, the stronger your emotional
resiliency becomes.

Most importantly, the crucial link
is the need to overwhelm oneself with positivity to reap its pain-relieving
benefits. Dr. Barbara Fredrickson has worked extensively in the field of
positive psychology and has authored his observations in the book, Positivity.
Dr. Fredrickson has emphasised how the brain requires at least ‘three major
positive experiences’ to train itself in optimism to score over the strong and inherent negative bias. In order to deal effectively
with the painful encounters, it is important to cultivate a positive and
optimistic outlook by analysing about every situation from a rational point of
view.

The intricate connection between our
body’s behaviour and our mental state has it’s roots in the structure of our
brain. The things that we experience have different levels of physical, mental
and emotional expression. These levels are interconnected via the central hubs
in our body. Therefore, an experience relating to a certain mental level spontaneously
activates our physical and emotional levels as well. This implies that our
response is not just limited to the mental level but also affects the emotional
and physical level owing to the connection that ties our body and mind
together.

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