Many of us know that stress affects health in general but I think we still need to understand and assimilate better what are the effects of being constantly in this state (of stress) since it is one of the main causes of degenerative diseases that affect society nowadays. Clearly, we live in a world where it is increasingly accepted to live half-heartedly. What do I mean by this?
To live tired, running from one side to another, without energy, with sleep and digestion issues.
Years go by and many people continue living this way, which only brings unhappiness, frustration and health problems not to mention the effect on our personal relationships. In this blog, I want to focus on the solutions, because there are solutions. It is a question of doing it consciously and constantly and patiently.
So let’s talk about stress and biochemical processes in a simple way.
Of the various systems that humans have, it is the limbic system, which manages physiological responses to emotional stimuli. The hypothalamus and the amygdala are key organs in the triggering of emotions in our body. When the brain’s amygdala is activated, our danger detector, it creates imbalances in the prefrontal cortex of the brain, the part that allows us to learn, make decisions and direct behavior. The brain amygdala is like our internal alarm button that makes us react to danger. Our body does not know if the danger is associated with a survival issue (if a lion is chasing us and we have to run for our lives) or simply if it is an argument with the boss. The sympathetic nervous system is ignited and triggers a series of biochemical processes in preparation to “fight or flight”. This is our primary internal defense mechanism.
Once the amygdala is activated, the pituitary gland orders the adrenal glands to release adrenaline and cortisol, which are the stress hormones. From here onwards, the body is prepared to defend itself, which is why the heart rate is accelerated, the contraction movements of the stomach are inhibited, the pupils are dilated and blood glucose levels raised. (in addition to other processes)
According to several scientific studies, I am referring in particular to those analyzed by Dr. Mario Alonso Puig (of whom I have spoken on several occasions, whom I admire for his knowledge about human behavior and neuroscience), it is demonstrated that mindfulness or self-consciousness, (developed through the practice of meditation), increases the size of the hypothalamus which makes us less reactive and we can better regulate our emotional state.
It is also proven that physical activity is of great help to activate our parasympathetic nervous system, which is what allows us to save energy, recover normal body functions, think and act clearly and live in a calm manner. Both systems: sympathetic and parasympathetic work together, we can assist these systems to live healthier and happier with good habits.
Cultivating healthy habits
Meditation and physical activity are really the best ways to improve our health.
Meditation allows us to modulate the chemical reactions that activate the amygdala, making us less reactive. We accept our emotions and feelings kindly and see them for what they are. Without judgments or attachments. We learn to let them go which means we do not keep them in our body as toxic elements. (That later on cause diseases such as depression, fibromyalgia, digestive and heart issues).
On the other hand, physical activity increases brain function by improving memory, it increases oxygenation of the brain, creating and connecting of neurons which help us in learning processes. In addition, at a hormonal level, endorphins, serotonin and dopamine are triggered generating feelings of well-being, calm, joy and even euphoria. Its my natural drug of choice!
As I said before, the solutions exist and do not cost money or long treatments, just by implementing these two habits in your life as well as a healthy diet, you will be in the path to wellness and success. I practice both regularly so I can say that they do help me to keep calm and understand better my emotions and reactions.
I hope you have learned something new today, and more importantly, that it inspires you to learn about mindfulness and gets you in the right mindset to start exercising. Remember that anyone has the power to make changes, it is hard, I know that, but it is possible, and you are not alone. I can help you get there.
Do not forget to share this message and give me your comments. I would love to know your opinion.