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Take care of your emotions or they will physically change your brain
Your emotions shape your brain and have epigenetic impact on your body. Does this mean that you can influence your body’s stress regulation? Yes – you can.
Isn’t it wonderful to know that you have some control over your stress response in your body? So many of us fall into the trap of reacting immediately to the environmental factors. We get mad when we are made redundant at work, we attack our partner because he or she attacked us. We usually don’t think before we act because the emotions take over.
What if I told you that your unhappy emotions produce your unhappy self also on a biological level, changing physically your brain? Sounds scary, doesn’t it?
Scientists A.R. Isles, L.S. Wilkinson and E. Higgins have already published papers showing the direct relationship between emotional states and genes. They were analyzing the interplay between diseases like depression, PTSD or schizophrenia and gene expression, particularly the one in the brain cells. They produced evidence showing that the patterns of gene expression in the brains of unhappy people are different to those people who feel happier and more balanced in their lives. This means that our emotions create epigenetic impact and can methylate genes in those parts of the brain which take part in our response to stress. Please check out this article for some inspiring information.
You might ask now: “okay, so I had a crappy childhood, full of negative emotions. Does this mean that I can regulate switch on and off my genes by creating happier emotional states?” This process, however, is not as easy as it seems. Why? Because there are some people with certain genes that are more prone to negative emotions. On the other hand, scientific research shows that you still need environmental factors to trigger (switch on/off) those certain genes.
Having a “cancer gene” does not cause cancer.
Maybe your mother and grandmother had breast cancer and you carry the “cancer gene”. I am writing this in quotation marks, because in reality there’s no specific cancer gene. Yes, you can carry certain predispositions to this disease, but it doesn’t mean that you will automatically get it, just because your mother and grandmother had it. It’s far more complex than that. There needs to be an environmental trigger to switch on certain genes to create the dis-ease. If there’s no trigger, the genes will not get activated and can stay latent throughout life. That’s why i find it hard to understand women who decide to remove their healthy breasts because they are in the “risk zone”, so to speak.
Allright, getting back to the subject of today’s blog post. Dr Moshe Szyf discovered that for small baby rats taking care of them by their mother is an epigenetic impulse. When a mother takes care of the baby, is attentive to its needs – all of this changes the gene expression in the hippocampus and other areas of the brain. The same happened when rats didn’t get the proper care and nurture from their mothers. Then, dr Szyf wondered if humans might have similar changes in the hippocampus, as a result of tough childhood experiences. He made brain autopsy of 24 people. 11 of them had a happy childhood, the rest was unhappy, they had schizophrenia and commited suicide. During the section dr Szyf discovered that “unhappy people” had many genes responsible for stress reduction switched off in the hippocampus. This happened as a result of environmental factor of a parent neglecting/abusing the child physically or emotionally.
Does such a child still have chances of being happy in his or her life? Yes. But we need to remember that children from dysfunctional homes have changes in gene expression. This means that striving for happiness can be more difficult for them to achieve, than for those who were brought up in a loving and accepting environment.
We know that emotions influence our bodies in a physical way. Biochemistry changes, gene methylation as well.
Now you are aware what power you have. The power to stay healthy by creating positive, loving, caring emotional states for yourself. The power to let go of negativity, sadness, turbulence and drama.
The choice is yours. Of course, it comes with a price to pay. That price is your effort. Are you ready to take care of yourself and your emotions?
Please contact me if you need support and guidance in this.