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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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November 29, 2012

The Physical Toll of Negative Emotions

By Mark Sisson
173 Comments

Living Primally is first and foremost about taking responsibility for your own health. Though we might not be able to control each and every facet of our lives and genetics, we have considerably more power than we think. Diet, exercise, sleep, sun, social connection, and play all figure centrally into our health. (If you’ve been with us at MDA for even a week, you’ve probably figured that out.) That said, there are also more nuanced facets to wellbeing – subtler influences and interactions that we might not consider each day. True, when we rein in the bad habits and rewire unhealthy patterns, we open the door for an unprecedented level of thriving. Some of us, however, carry other kinds of baggage burdensome enough to keep us from ultimately passing over the threshold. I’m talking about the emotional cargo we live with – the anger, resentment, repression, sadness, guilt, or inertia (to name a few) – and its inevitable toll on our physiological health.

A few months ago, Dr. Albert Fuchs wrote a post highlighting the role of guilt played in some of his patients’ symptoms. Many physicians, Fuchs explains, see people whose physical suffering has no apparent medical source – somatization in medical jargon. Their conditions, which range from insomnia to chest pain, are rooted in guilt. What these folks need, Fuchs argues, is emotional and spiritual “absolution,” not medical treatment.

Fuch’s observation is just the tip of the iceberg, I’d suggest. In recent years, studies have highlighted the role stress, emotions, and personality traits play in serious health risks. For example, research shows sadness increases our perception of pain. Anxiety increases our chance of heart attack. Stress heightens our risk for stroke. Depression raises levels of inflammation-promoting proteins and increases the accumulation of abdominal fat. Suppressing our feelings even suppresses our immune function!

Our emotions aren’t just intellectual configurations. They’re wholly visceral processes. Imagine the emotionally charged times when you’ve had sweaty palms, a tightened chest, muscle tension, a knotted stomach, constricted throat, or light-headedness. It’s all part of the inherent mind-body connection. Our emotions elicit biochemical signals that set in motion a chain of positive or negative physiological events that include or influence everything from blood pressure to blood viscosity, gastrointestinal function to pain perception.

We’re designed, of course, to experience (and recover quickly from) a wide range of emotions, but when we get stuck in a negative rut for too long, it exacts a physiological as well as psychological toll. Over time, our physical condition reflects our emotional state. The persistent physiological impact of our feelings becomes imbedded in our body itself – in skewed neurochemical patterns, inefficient systemic functioning, even epigenetic profiles.

Eastern medicine more readily acknowledges the nuances of our mind-body connection. Yoga, for one, attends to the physical tension we carry as manifestations of emotional strain. Within the strategic focus of poses and the centering of breath work, we can cultivate a physical and emotional sense of release. It’s a discipline that mirrors many other Eastern and alternative practices which appreciate either literally or metaphorically how our bodies and minds are inherently imbricated.

From an evolutionary standpoint, it also makes sense. The more we discover, the more we understand about the body’s and brain’s complementary operations in animals and in our own species. Emotions and emotional perception were part of the larger picture of survival. They spurred us to action or inaction that could save our hides when we were up against a predator or a hostile or helpful stranger. They fostered our successful interactions with kin and even our childhood caretakers.

Today, in a world much safer and more mentally detached from the imperative of the present, I think it’s easier to lose ourselves in emotional narratives (that destructive penchant for self-talk) that can extend and expand our pain beyond the actual situations that prompted them to begin with. How much of our emotional anguish is caused by an unfair or unfortunate scenario, and how much is caused by our unrelenting grip on it. Our negative emotion (e.g. anger, sadness, guilt) likely had at least some legitimate value when the circumstances occurred, but at what point does it spring not from the original event anymore but from our own self-destructive clinging?

From a personal standpoint, how many of us have lived for weeks if not months with our stomachs in knots over stress? How many have ever gone months or even years stressed by a negative relationship (be it partnership, friendship, family, or work) that caused chronic headaches, muscle tension, or other symptoms? (A literal as well as figurative pain in the neck?) How many have felt perpetually fatigued by the weight of resentment?

Hanging onto emotion after the fact, in its lesser forms, can hold us back from experiencing full thriving. In it’s worst manifestations, we let it cannibalize us. When we take responsibility for our health, we also take responsibility for our mental health and the self-talk that fuels (or constrains) our lives. It helps to cultivate a “let it go” approach to life and to let go of negative self-talk that sends us down a useless emotional path. Counselors commonly suggest patients who tend to fall into negative thought patterns nip the process in the bud by learning to identify the physical sensations that begin the downward spiral. Maybe it’s a flushed face, a head rush, or a queasy stomach. Staying attuned to our physical cues can be more effective for many people than trying to mentally police runaway thoughts.

However, taking responsibility also means being honest with ourselves about what we resist addressing in our lives. It calls us to make hard choices sometimes – to let go of friendships that aren’t serving us anymore, to take a risk moving on from a soul-sucking job, to either leave a relationship or commit to the hard (and mutual) work of reshaping it. It calls us to get real about the negative thoughts and patterns that lead us to self-sabotage our lives, actions that result in continual mental and physiological consequences. Responsibility for our wellbeing is undoubtedly life’s grandest opportunity, but it’s also our most profound accountability.

Thanks for reading today, everyone. How do you identify with or respond to the role emotions play in physical health? What advice, practices, or truths have you found meaningful in taking responsibility for your full wellbeing?

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173 Comments on "The Physical Toll of Negative Emotions"

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RobbyJ
RobbyJ
3 years 9 months ago

Great post Mark! I have been battling depression, anxiety, and PTSD for years. The physical manifestations of pain, tense muscles, and lack of sleep are truly horrible and have a negative effect on well being. Every major treatment breakthrough is accompanied by a reduction in those physical symptoms alongside what are typically consider the “mental” ones.

It takes some people years to get where they want to be physically through diet and exercise.. and it also can take a very long time to address the brain dysfunctions many of us face.

Wayne Atwell
3 years 9 months ago

Good luck with your battle against depression, anxiety and PTSD. It sounds like you are well on your way to recovering. It is both amazing and scary that our mood can affect our body and our health. I am fascinated that our emotions can impact our inflammation and even our epigenetics.

Matt Meeks
3 years 9 months ago

Not to mention, our body can affect our mood and emotional health. I struggle with anxiety and depression, and that often translates into lack of exercise and eating poorly, which then causes more anxiety and depression, which causes…

It’s a vicious downward spiral, and sometimes it’s tough to get off the roller coaster.

Wayne Atwell
3 years 9 months ago
I have always tried to be a glass half full kind of guy. Look at the positive side of life instead of the negative. I have long thought that it has had an impact on my life from the perspective of how people treat each other. If I act happy and optimistic then people want to be around me and do favors for me but if I am just complaining all the time and seem depress then people would want to get away from me because my negative feelings will bring them down. The way I stay happy and excited… Read more »
Cal
Cal
3 years 9 months ago

I love your attitude Wayne.

Let’s all appreciate what’s going well, and fix what’s not going so well (if we can) or simply accept it and move on (if we can’t). 🙂

Chris
Chris
3 years 9 months ago

What a fantastic and inspiration post. Great way to start my day and just what I needed to hear. Thank you.

Harry Mossman
3 years 9 months ago

Good reminder. Easier said than done though. Personally, I am increasingly doing things to get in a better state of mind. Yet, looking realistically at the world, I think it’s completely hopeless.

Madama Butterfry
Madama Butterfry
3 years 9 months ago
You’re the farmer, I remember your comments from the other day. I did depression and hopelessness for YEARS and possibly the average person would understand why. But the more I learn the more I realise I’m not responsible for the world, just my place in it, which has become more exhilarating with time, and my enthusiasm for my place has started to impact those around me. There are a LOT of numbskulls out there, they have their place too. Personally I’m getting out of the city and taking responsibility for my family’s food source. I’d like to sell it like… Read more »
Tom C
Tom C
3 years 9 months ago

Being vulnerable and admitting my failures to myself has always been a challenging part of my life, yet is always incredibly rewarding.

Kelda
Kelda
3 years 9 months ago

Check out Brene Brown on youtube or TED.com Vulnerability and then the follow up Shame piece.

Really spoke to me.

Groktimus Primal
3 years 9 months ago

Soul Sucking is an excellent phrase to describe modern life in general. We have been so far removed from playing natures game that we are caught up in some man made economic nightmare reminiscent of the Saw movies.

Harry Mossman
3 years 9 months ago

+1 Yes, the world is soul sucking.

Madama Butterfry
Madama Butterfry
3 years 9 months ago

Only if you give your soul to them to suck on.

DThalman
DThalman
3 years 9 months ago

yes

Amy
Amy
3 years 9 months ago

The world has *always* been soul sucking. Imagine watching helplessly as children die (because there are no hospitals), or to be caught in generations of slavery or living your lifetime under oppressive governments (because democracy had been invented yet).

The difference between then and now is an awesome set of technology and a whole lot more time to navel gaze. We live in an age of the everyday miracle and ironically might be more collectively unhappy about it.

Joy Beer
Joy Beer
3 years 9 months ago

+1

Callie
Callie
3 years 9 months ago

I really needed this today. My husband and I have been trying to conceive for two years and it’s getting harder and harder to stay positive (especially when everyone around me is falling pregnant with ease!). It’s a daily battle to focus on the present and appreciate everything I have, rather than giving into despair every month.

Michele
Michele
3 years 9 months ago

For what it’s worth Callie, I’m with you here. We are in the same boat on all fronts. I wish you the best!

Jenna
Jenna
3 years 9 months ago
Callie, my heart goes out to you. I went through the same thing. For 2 years I watched everyone around me get pregnant no problem. Stay as positive as you can…I truly believe the stress of not conceiving can have a detrimental effect on your health…but I know it’s hard. I ‘m sure you’ve probably already been through many tests, I had been too with no concrete answers, but I know now there were autoimmune issues that most likely contributed to conception issues (I had gestational diabetes, had thyroid flare-ups during pregnancy, and was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s after my first… Read more »
Jen
Jen
3 years 9 months ago

Be sure to check out Chris Kresser’s Healthy Baby Code. He and his wife had a lot of trouble and this program was built from his effort to solve that problem personally.

Sofie
Sofie
3 years 9 months ago

Are you doing fertility awareness? If not, check it out 🙂

Callie
Callie
3 years 9 months ago

Thanks all, your support means a lot 🙂 @Jenna I have endometriosis so I turned to paleo to deal with those nasty hormonal issues. Been doing fertility awareness and acupuncture for a while now too and I’m seeing small, but steady, improvements. It’s a journey and I know I’m on the right track – can only wait and hope. @Jen will check out the Healthy Baby Code, thanks! @Michele, good luck to you too, you’re in my prayers!

nuttmegs17
nuttmegs17
3 years 9 months ago

My best friend was in the same boat and my heart goes out to you. She put a lot of pressure on herself which makes it harder but seems unavoidable 🙁 She tried everything: fertility tea, yoga, etc the month she added Omega 3s, acupuncture, and had been gluten free for 3 months, she finally got pregnant! Shes about 4 months along and doing well. I am sure you will have good news soon. Keep doing what you are doing and remind yourself your time will come

Stacy
Stacy
2 years 9 months ago

A few more resources for you: check out Arvigo Techniques of Mayan Abdominal Therapy and find a practitioner if you can. Many women find this very helpful- there can be scarring and adhesions from endometriosis and this type of deep gentle massage can help. Also, the book Woman Code by Alisa Vitti.

Amy
Amy
3 years 9 months ago

Good luck Callie!!!

Madama Butterfry
Madama Butterfry
3 years 9 months ago

+1

johngreenman
johngreenman
3 years 9 months ago

Hey Callie, much love to you. My wife and I tried for five years before we were able to conceive. It’s a long and difficult road, and one that can be very lonely.

Callie
Callie
3 years 9 months ago

Thank you John, so much. It IS lonely but then I come on here and hear from people like yourself.

Having said that, if I see another friend parading their bump on facebook, I’m going to hurl the computer out the window 🙂

Z.E.S.T.
Z.E.S.T.
3 years 9 months ago
As a trapeze artist working towards being a professional, I have training days (or weeks) that just aren’t good. My performance is off, I can’t get a trick, my strength is lacking, you name it. At the end of every day, I tell myself what one of the top circus performers told my friend: I am good enough. Today may have been a bad day, I can always be better, but, good or bad, my training does not reflect on who I am as a person. Who I am is good enough. And I am so thankful to be able… Read more »
Danny
Danny
3 years 9 months ago

I think this habit is awesome! And definitely something most people could probably stand to do every day. Funny how when you get to know people…there are so many that are filled with self doubt, and think they are not good enough.

I love the use of the word ‘thriving’ throughout MDA…and think this a perfect article/application of the word.

Heather
Heather
3 years 9 months ago
You know what? I think you have just hit a very true point. Modern living is all about being first, the best, on top, the perfect house, garden, kids, car, ripped abs. There is nothing wrong with being second, third or even right up there, or in the middle of the pack. So much angst and negative energy surrounds trying to strive for unrealistic, media imposed goals when being generally good enough, with flashes of brilliance is much more sustainable. Thank you for your post, I know perfectionists that are paralyzed by their need to have every duck in a… Read more »
Christina
Christina
3 years 9 months ago

“Flashes of brilliance”- I love the imagery that conjures. That is exactly what those moments are: going through each day, doing this, doing that.. and then all of a sudden, you have an epiphany, or this incredible idea, this urge to do something. And when it happens, it’s magic.

TerriAnn
TerriAnn
3 years 9 months ago

I LOVE that!!!
“Good enough with flashed of brilliance”

Clay
Clay
3 years 9 months ago

Great thoughts to start the day for sure! Gotta let it go or it plagues you forever…. something I’ve struggled with and slowly been able to put into practice the last couple years.

Brenda
3 years 9 months ago

Mark, this is my favourite of all your posts that I’ve read. While changes in diet can help heal our physical ills, no one even feels really good unless they’re in a good place emotionally. Thank you!

Debbie
Debbie
3 years 9 months ago

This mirrors exactly the comment i was going to leave! I love this post – not too preachy, not too whimsical. Particularly like the idea of taking responsibility. It does take work and is harder than you think! 🙂

Happycyclegirl
Happycyclegirl
3 years 9 months ago

I have bookmarked this page so that I can refer to it in the future when I get bogged down in negative emotions.

I also try to realize that all things will pass–both the good and not so good. That helps when times are hard and also prepares me for tougher times ahead.

Chris
Chris
3 years 9 months ago

Wow, quite an eye opener. I have been coping with significant work and relationship stress for about 6 months, and in that time, my will to maintain my diet and exercise regimen has waned. My fitness is down, and my fatness is up. I should have recognized these symptoms long ago.

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Andrew
Andrew
3 years 9 months ago

I enjoyed the TED talk about playing more video games, I feel that it relates to our well being quite nicely.

http://youtu.be/dE1DuBesGYM

Violet
Violet
3 years 9 months ago

Nice post, and useful reminder for me. I try to stay positive, but it’s hard with employers everywhere wanting more and more from fewer and fewer people, and the threat of redundancy (being laid off) always there. (I am glad I am employed, of course – see I’m putting the message into practice!)

As Mark Twain once said, I’ve seen many troubles in my day – and some of them actually happened.

Chica
Chica
3 years 9 months ago
I clicked over to MDA after reading distressing headlines at a news site, receiving an email about further dramatic climate changes and impending doom, and discussing my brother-in-law’s apparent depression with my husband. I needed a pick me up and that is exactly what MDA always gives me! With my smattering of knowledge of psychology, I would argue that the personal responsibility Mark speaks of is another way of talking about control. While we cannot control our genetics, as Mark points out, we can control — read, “take responsibility for” — what we do with it. And with enough knowledge,… Read more »
Cal
Cal
3 years 9 months ago

Sounds to me like you’re high on life through joy (not control). 😉

Chica
Chica
3 years 9 months ago
For me, it is the sense of control that makes me “high on life”. I’m a scientist by training and a perfectionist by nature, so being in control is important to me. Before I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s, I had no control over my energy levels or many other aspects of my health. The diagnosis put control back in my hands, as I worked with my doctor to get the right Synthroid dose (quite high). Before finding PB, while following CW, I was not in control of my weight or much else about my well-being. I was doing what was… Read more »
Chica
Chica
3 years 9 months ago
To be clear, when you feel like you are not in control, you tend to give up and resign yourself to bad health. For me, between the thyroid condition, the weight, achy joints and other annoying but minor health issues, I was resigned to feeling worse as time went on. That is a very depressing state of affairs and depression was an issue for me, even after getting on Synthroid. So was anxiety about my health and the future, so was guilt about not getting as much done as I thought was expected of me. All of those problems have… Read more »
Amy
Amy
3 years 9 months ago
“I clicked over to MDA after reading distressing headlines at a news site, receiving an email about further dramatic climate changes and impending doom, and discussing my brother-in-law’s apparent depression with my husband.” I’m hoping this thought won’t turn into anything too bad but..I’d like to offer some hope on the “dramatic climate changes” front. It may just be possible that “dramatic climate changes” are just “ordinary climate changes” with a very old fashioned dash of “the world is ending” spiciness thrown in. To repeat another poster – “As Mark Twain once said, I’ve seen many troubles in my day… Read more »
Chica
Chica
3 years 9 months ago
I know a bit too much of the ins and outs of climate change to let myself off the hook completely on this score. Every choice I make as a consumer has a potential impact on the climate. And every week that goes by without sufficient government response to climate change affects my life, the life of our kids and grandkids very directly. I do worry about the planet my grandkids are going to inherit. It is not out of my control: I do my best to make good choices for their future and my own. Having a primal lifestyle… Read more »
Vanessa
Vanessa
3 years 9 months ago

I so agree with you Amy. Climate change discussions are not a “conspiracy” by any means, but a worry that has taken on a life of it’s own and never seem to be in the context of what might be purely natural happenings.

luke depron
luke depron
3 years 9 months ago
Awesome to hear your reaping the rewards! I’ve had quite a few clients have mental gains from going Primal! (reduced anxiety and depression, im sure the exercise was part of it too). Your post made me think of this quote I think??? by Robert Waldo Emerson: Man is not effected by events but how he percieves them. Sure somethings are going to cause a response that ins’t quite controllable (losing a child etc) but many things are. Whether it’s losing my temper, getting frustrated whatever its crucial to be able to step back and have that “control” as you put… Read more »
Chica
Chica
3 years 9 months ago

The Serenity Prayer is trite but useful in this regard. Knowing what we can change is similar to knowing what we can control. I am not a believer, so I don’t put things in God’s hands, but I do recognize that lots of things are not in my control. But with PB, I have taken back control over many aspects of my life. I will always be grateful to Mark for that.

Joey
Joey
3 years 9 months ago
I recently put myself on a total news blackout. I’m loving it! A friend of mine who is a UU minister has been doing it for years. It gives him a lot more energy to focus his energies on actually helping the people around him. It’s amazing how LITTLE of what passes for news actually affects my life in any way. I don’t think Primal man was deluged with information from around the globe. For me, going Primal is about simplifying, and I’m finding that this news emargo is setting me free. It was a little scary at first, and… Read more »
Joy Beer
Joy Beer
3 years 9 months ago
Exactly. Example is Hurricane Sandy. I heard about and saw just enough news to understand that this was significant, and to check on loved ones I had concerns about. Then I sent money and took advantage of my company’s fund matching to enhance that gift. Beyond that, I do not allow the horrors to provide any entertainment. Just enough info to determine what I can do about it to help, how to apply lessons learned. I guess the various coverage is useful for giving enormity, but people individually invest too many hours of their own watching beyond info-gathering to do… Read more »
Joey
Joey
3 years 9 months ago

I don’t think you sound self-righteous. It’s all about recognizing that so many of the world’s problems have nothing to do with me. It’s actually self-righteous (as well as self-important and self-centered) to think that I’m involved in everything going on in the world. I’m really not–even though I can easily delude myself into believing I am.

Amy
Amy
3 years 9 months ago

+1

We shut off the news a long time ago. There’s a limit to what one person’s nervous system can handle. There’s very little to absolutely nothing I can do about 95% of what passes for news. If there’s nothing I can do, then I need to give my brain some protection from unnecessary stress and the cortisol that goes with it.

Ironically I’ve discovered that when I get mental stressed, I find myself seeking out news sites as a temporary distraction. Which unsurprisingly, makes the problem worse. I’m still working on that problem. 😉

Madama Butterfry
Madama Butterfry
3 years 9 months ago

Did this years ago and boy, what a refreshing way to view the world. If I’m about to be exposed to so-called ‘news’ now I turn the radio off or leave the shop. It irritates me more than anything.

Chica
Chica
3 years 9 months ago
+1 I did a lot of translating work for a psychologist a few years ago. Very pop-psych, but still useful in some ways. One of her little analogies was that our mind was like a bank account: a good experience makes a deposit in our mental well-being account, a bad experience makes a withdrawal. To feel capable of coping, we need to make sure that we have plenty of deposits and not too many withdrawals. And the mind does not distinguish well between what it perceives in the real concrete world around us and what it perceives from our television… Read more »
Patick
Patick
3 years 9 months ago

Great post. Awesome read to start the day. This is one of the life changing realizations that I came to, along with the primal blueprint, I feel like a new person.

Todd
Todd
3 years 9 months ago

Check out the book “A Complaint Free World” it really highlights how much attitude really matters.

Doug
Doug
3 years 9 months ago

A Road Less Traveled is my favorite book for helping me think clearly and put things into perspective.

Dr Peck has so many great nuggets on life and how the brain goes sideways at times.

bitsysmom
bitsysmom
3 years 9 months ago

This was an excellent post! Thank you for the time you spend helping all of us on this journey. In my 15 months of eating primally, I have found that my “crazy” has really diminished. I have always been ultra sensitive, defensive and quick to be the injured party in any interaction (don’t you wish you knew me back then?) I truly believe that removing toxic foods has helped heal my brain, body- and relationships.

Karen DeLee
Karen DeLee
3 years 9 months ago

Great post! We can’t always control everything that happens to us, but we can control our attitude about the issue, which makes a huge difference in our health and life in general.

Tracy
Tracy
3 years 9 months ago

I can relate to this but I do think it depends a lot on what type of person you are. I analyse far too much, often assume the worse and can build up resentment and anxiety over things I have over thought. I really like Wayne’s take on things though, concentrate on what is going well and appreciate what you have rather than dwelling on what you don’t

yoolieboolie
yoolieboolie
3 years 9 months ago
Fantastic post today! In my own journey to increase my responsibility for my own health and happiness, I am currently going through many life changes. Among them are learning how to communicate my emotions and needs in a non-confrontational and effective way. “Using my words” was something I never learned to do when I was a kid with unmet needs, so naturally many of my issues as an adult stem from not knowing how to pay attention to my own needs. Also I am going through a divorce. While it has been very exhausting, as we get further through the… Read more »
Jimmy B
Jimmy B
3 years 9 months ago
After a recent health scare while eating almost completely primal, I’ve come to realize how futile it is to put your faith in the way that you tend to your body physically. For many, primal is a way to ensure a long, vibrant life free of many of the plagues of modern life. But you can follow it religiously and still die of a heart attack at 50; that’s just reality. So what started as a physical illness for me was horribly exacerbated by stress and anxiety (which I have never experienced before) because for the time I lost the… Read more »
Jimmy B
Jimmy B
3 years 9 months ago

In essence, mental and spiritual health are far more important than physical. Physical health is necessary, but not the most important.

mix
mix
3 years 9 months ago

Yike! I just did one of these myself. Mild illness + escalating stress & anxiety + obsessing over health = imaginary deadly disease.
Not coincidentally I had stopped my daily meditation discipline while sick because I felt crummy and it wasn’t ‘perfect.’ I couldn’t concentrate worth a damn. Went in the wrong direction there. What a spiral.
I am somewhat chagrined but – lesson learned. (I hope!!)

Tracy
Tracy
3 years 9 months ago

Oh god, that is me Jimmy B! I DO think eating primally will fend off all that life throws at me but it’s my negative attitude to so much that makes me unhappy and I totally agree that mental and spiritual health is so important. It really is mind over matter.

Kristen
3 years 9 months ago

I just was writing in my MDA journal yesterday about self image. I struggle with anxiety and an unstable self image. It is interesting what impact negative thoughts can have on ones life. I mean what are we all living for anyway? I live to be happy, and help others be happy, hopefully with my education I will be able to help others gain skills they did not have before.

I guess I need to look deep and figure out what I need to let go- wish it was easier

Rachel D
Rachel D
3 years 9 months ago
This definitely resonates for me as a college student – papers, exams, and readings seem endless and I often have too much stress!!! I definitely notice the physical manifestations sometimes: headache, muscle tension, etc. What really helped me handle stress this semester was treating my work as a reward in itself. I tried to find it fun, enjoyable, and even a form of “play” to learn and write papers. Also, I stopped focusing on extrinsic things like grades QUITE so much and simply focused on learning as much as I can in the semester. With exam week nearly upon me,… Read more »
Nathan
Nathan
3 years 9 months ago

Great read! As a Christian, I adhere to biblical principles of the mind. I “order” my mind, if you will, to think on things that are virtuous, uplifting, pure, etc. I also think of my eternal place with the Lord (which makes the issues of this world very small in comparison). Just my thoughts. I know not everyone believes this way, and some might even bash such thinking, but wanted to share.

nate

Kiki
Kiki
3 years 9 months ago

Your comment makes me think of Matthew 6:21. I think it can be applied to anything we treasure, not just money. Like the verse at the bottom of the shake cups at In-N-Out Burger (my sons love these from time to time) says…Proverbs 3:5. Many blessings to you!

Stephanie
3 years 9 months ago

This dovetails nicely with what Sean Croxton has been taking about this week as well. The mind is a powerful tool… Negative thoughts can make you sick and positive thoughts can heal you!

I personally had a weight lifted off my shoulders yesterday and when I closed my eyes to go to sleep last night it was the most peace I’d felt in a while.

Paleo Bon Rurgundy
3 years 9 months ago

Daily Affirmation: I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and gosh darn it, people like me.

Madama Butterfry
Madama Butterfry
3 years 9 months ago

I do. : )

Em
Em
3 years 9 months ago

Thanks for this post, Mark! I think this subject is really important and often overlooked. I know that several studies have suggested that our feelings about our body sizes are actually more predictive of health outcomes than our body sizes themselves (which might suggest that a good part of the health impacts we do see of fatness might be more properly attributes to the social stigma attached to fatness), and would be interested to hear your take on that idea.

rose
rose
3 years 9 months ago

Self-compassion helps a lot.

Jane
3 years 9 months ago
Mark- such a great post! I am a doctoral student in clinical psychology and absolutely loved the message of this post. Something to add to this is working on not absorbing other people’s stress, drama, and pain. Some people are extremely sensitive to the energies of other people and can take on their stress. It is important to set up good boundaries with these people in your life and make sure to take notice when you are beginning to internalize other people’s emotional stress. Thanks for the amazing website! It inspires me daily, not only in my personal life, but… Read more »
A.Chena
A.Chena
3 years 9 months ago

Hi Mark! Do you know Dr. Sarno? His work about this subject is impresive. Check it out!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vsR4wydiIBI

Juli
Juli
3 years 9 months ago

+1

Diane
Diane
3 years 9 months ago

I’ve been trying to get my 62-year-old partner to retire already. His job is killing him. And his bad moods are killing me. “More” isn’t worth it, but I can’t seem to get him to see it. Neither can the legions of retired friends who say they should have done it 15 years earlier than they did persuade him. Sigh.

sara
sara
3 years 9 months ago

I needed this today! Thank you!

kip ortiz
kip ortiz
3 years 9 months ago

If todays artical on negative emotions, especially how to heal from them on a conscious and unconscious level (I know that is a really big claim to make) interests you, I highly recommend that you go to amazon.com and read the reviews on a book called “the healing code”, very interesting and powerful presentation of information on health and emotions and how to heal/recover on many levels. Don’t take my word for it, check out the testamonials/reviews on the book at amazon.

Sarah
Sarah
3 years 9 months ago
I’ve been reading MDA for a while but had to comment (for the first time) on this post. I LOVE this Mark. It rings so true.. especially the lines “Today, in a world much safer and more mentally detached from the imperative of the present, I think it’s easier to lose ourselves in emotional narratives” and “When we take responsibility for our health, we also take responsibility for our mental health and the self-talk that fuels (or constrains) our lives.” I’ve been following your primal plan for a month or so now, but have spent 2012 taking charge of my… Read more »
Chica
Chica
3 years 9 months ago

+1

Stacie
3 years 9 months ago

+1!

Amanda
Amanda
3 years 9 months ago
As someone who is in a counseling program, I found this article to be fantastic. However, the last statement that counselors tell patients to nip it in the bud is a little false. Everything depends on where the client is in life and what the situation is. Every client is different, thus saying we can simply learn to let go is not always easy. If you do feel like your negative thoughts are keeping you from having a fulfilling life I urge you to seek counseling to work through those things. Simply trying to work on them on your own… Read more »
Paula
3 years 9 months ago

Your last paragraph about evaluating your relationships, career, and cutting out the repetitive negative patterns is the best advice. Super timely – I find THIS IS THE BEST TIME OF YEAR FOR SELF-EVALUATION & CHANGE. The dawning of a new year is an ideal opportunity to embark upon lasting transformations. A year ago my resolution was to follow The Primal Blueprint principles, a year later never better!!

Leslie Schilling
3 years 9 months ago

Great post. This is so true. So many “use” food to avoid the real feelings or issues that need to be processed properly. We can’t forgot what a huge role mental health plays on overall wellness. Thanks for the post!

Leo
Leo
3 years 9 months ago
A very timely post which resonates with me. Depression is something I’m battling with at the moment. A lot of people say “don’t dwell on the past, look to the future”. This doesn’t help when the future is looking grim for you. My tactic is to take one day at a time. I look for the good on the day and be happy and optimistic for that day- its like a mission. I’m finding it helps and time isn’t wasted thinking about the past or the future. If you’ve got a past which makes you feel down and your future… Read more »
Bob
Bob
3 years 9 months ago
I can’t help but connect this to Mark’s post last week about alcohol. So many people use alcohol and other drugs to escape their resentments, fears, guilt–all the negative emotions that Mark is identifying as so destructive. I really don’t see everything through the lens of alcohol, but I am a recovered alcoholic, and it’s amazing to me how much of what Mark wrote about in this post is directly addressed by the 12-step program of recovery. What most people don’t realize is that Alcoholics Anonymous is not about alcohol. It’s about directly addressing the spiritual sickness that drives alcoholics… Read more »
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[…] The Physical Toll of Negative Emotions […]

shannon
shannon
3 years 9 months ago
Just “thinking positive” can actually make symptoms and pain worse. A lot of chronic pain results from repressing negative emotions, particularly anger. REad the work of Dr. John Sarno (The Mind-Body Prescription, etc). It’s amazing how the mind can create pain and other symptoms in the body in order to distract you from the anger you feel about a situation. For some reason the unconscious mind finds this anger very threatening and would rather have you be in pain than have you recognize the anger. I think this is because we evolved to live in small groups and it may… Read more »
James
James
3 years 9 months ago

Great post. Often, we become so concerned with our physical well-being, it’s easy to forget the mental. Since both are connected, it proves that both need to be properly fed and cared for in order to function properly.

Anonymous
Anonymous
3 years 9 months ago

Not all stress is optional. For those supporting family or friends through a terminal illness, there can be a huge physical toll from lack of sleep, adrenaline, etc. Hospitals advise it can take over a year for families to recover their health after the loved one has passed. However supporting those you love is an essential part of being human.

Victor Dorfman
3 years 9 months ago
Thank you thank you for addressing this topic Mark! It just doesn’t get the attention it deserves. So, let go of negative self-talk and feelings of guilt…no problem, right? Except, how do you do that? Osho once said: “there are things which simply melt in the light of awareness.” That’s what many of the Eastern traditions and practices try to cultivate in the individual – a profound awareness. Here in the West we have so many stimuli coming at us, so many responsibilities and thoughts crowding our minds that even to sit down quietly to a meal and enjoy it… Read more »
Victor Dorfman
3 years 9 months ago

p.s. Screaming your head off in utter rage is also great for releasing!

Paleo Bon Rurgundy
3 years 9 months ago

Yes! When I find my self in a glass case of emotion, yelling and sobbing helps.

Susan Alexander
3 years 9 months ago
I’m working on the skill of living in the now. When we learn how to do that, our thoughts aren’t mired in two of the most common sources of negative emotions: the past and the future. I highly recommend The Power Of Now by Ekhart Tolle. The book actually tells you HOW to LEARN THE SKILLOF pushing troubling thoughts from the mind so you can be in the now. Yes, the author acknowledges, it’s necessary sometimes to tend to matters relating to the past and the future, BUT, he explains, the way to live is to spend no more time… Read more »
Christina
Christina
3 years 9 months ago
I loved this post and as always, love reading through everyone’s comments and experiences. I don’t usually comment, but this article really struck home. I have been fully Primal for 14 months now. I thought that all of the truly difficult things had passed in my life, that I had gotten them out of the way (being sexually abused in childhood, having my father die, my mom staying with my abuser, being cheated on by boyfriends, experiencing debilitating depression, having some very [mentally] abusive relationships), but during the last year, I experienced a few other things that I just did… Read more »
Stacie
3 years 9 months ago
Christina, It’s always difficult to let go of relationships, especially when we feel as if we are going back on our word or letting someone down (or whatever your situation is). Remember, you owe yourself first and foremost, before you owe anyone else anything. It’s easier said than done, but if you tell yourself this everyday, then eventually I hope you will be able to believe it and do it. Someone (and probably several someones) are capable of and will love you. Go after your dreams, for they are yours, and you will find others along the way that share… Read more »
Donna
Donna
3 years 9 months ago

+1…Well said to Christina, Stacie…I was thinking just the same thing to write to her…

Caroline
Caroline
3 years 9 months ago
Brilliant post Mark! thank you! I suspect that maintaining emotional health is just as important as the quality of our food for our long term well being. I was diagnosed with breast cancer last year and after completing the physical treatment, a very enlightened doctor recommended that I see a specialist in NET (Neuro Emotional Technique). It is a similar discipline to kinesiology where they use muscle testing to locate repressed emotions and then work to clear them. What showed up was a jumble of emotions which for years I’d become so used to I no longer noticed. So ingrained… Read more »
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