A year ago I was covering a module for my studies to become a holistic nutritionist, called Body-Mind-Spirit. It was an eye-opening module for me and I enjoyed it thoroughly. The information that our thoughts and feelings affect the way our body performs and functions was not new. It was the deeper understanding of how our thoughts and emotions are so intricately intertwined with our physical health that put the entire picture together for me.
Emotions are energy
What we think of as emotion is actually the experience of energy moving through the body. If you focus on the feeling of emotion it usually senses as tension or expansion. Common examples of these sensations are the feeling of worry and calm respectively. The Latin derivative for the word emotion, “emotere”, literally means energy in motion.
When you understand that emotions are energy, you’ll realize that they are fluid, moving resources meant to be felt and released. Suppressing and ignoring an emotion is actually harmful as we’ll see later, and is a sign of low emotional intelligence.
Positive and negative emotions
Emotional energy in itself is neutral. It is the feeling sensation and physiological reaction that makes a specific emotion positive or negative. Our feelings are our interpretations or thoughts about emotional energy that give it meaning. A feeling is our labeling of an emotion.
Energy centers in the body
If you are familiar with yoga then you will have heard about the Chakra centers. These are energy centers running from the base of your spine to the top of your head. Each of these centers contains universal spiritual life-lessons. Below is a brief summary of the chakras and the lessons they represent:
The first chakra: lessons related to the material world
The second chakra: lessons related to sexuality, work, creativity and physical desire
The third chakra: lessons related to the ego, personality and self-esteem
The fourth chakra: lessons related to love, forgiveness and compassion
The fifth chakra: lessons related to will and self-expression
The sixth chakra: lessons related to mind, intuition, insight, and wisdom
The seventh chakra: lessons related to spirituality.
Each of these chakras become active in a different stage of our life, with the first chakra developing in the first seven years, and so forth until we reach maturity. This line of thought can also be seen in some of Rudolf Steiner’s activities to prepare for the opening of each chakra in children’s education. Failure to learn the lesson that each chakra provides can lead to energy imbalances or chakra blockages.
What happens when we suppress our emotions?
Suppressing emotions or burying them deep down in our bodies can lead to blockages of the energy center this emotion is associated with. This happens, because emotions are energy, and energy cannot be destroyed. And if it doesn’t flow freely it can create damage in the body.
Whenever energy is not flowing freely in certain parts of the body, it can create dis-ease or imbalance in that area. Interestingly enough, each chakra is associated with specific organs and parts of the body, and so you can actually trace back the emotional imbalance that might have triggered or caused a physical disease.
Are emotions the cause of our physical imbalance?
This is not to say that each physical issue we experience is the result of our emotions. Our body is more complex. There are multiple other factors we need to consider. There is physical injury from sports, wear and tear, ageing, the environment we live in, the food we eat and much more. Recognizing that our emotions also contribute to the physical manifestations in our body, can give us insight and push us to examine our attitude towards life more deeply.
In the end it also comes down to a simple realization – everything that is alive pulsates with energy. And as you know from physics in school, energy can have different frequencies. Musical notes have different frequencies. If you think about it this way you will quickly recognize why music can affect your emotions and mood – it is the frequency of music that affects our energy field. And so, when you are starting to feel a certain way – anxious, stressed out, or frightened your body will start vibrating in that same frequency. Long time vibration in this frequency can cause a physical imbalance in the body.
The effect of stress (or negative emotions) on the body
From a biological view, it is pretty clear how emotions affect our physical health. Let’s continue with the example of feeling anxious or angry. Cultivating these feelings for long enough will cause us to feel stressed. Whenever we are stressed, cortisol, a stress hormone is released by the adrenal glands. Cortisol is helpful when we need to deal with short-term stressful situations. It makes us alert and prepares the body for “fight or flight”; it speeds up our reactions and gives us a burst of energy. However, when cortisol levels are too high for too long, this hormone can hurt us more than it helps. High cortisol levels have been linked with high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, weight gain (especially around the belly), fatigue and impaired immune system. Read this article on how stress can make you gain weight here.
This is further evidence of how feeling angry, anxious and stressed out can negatively affect our physical health.
What can you do about all that?
First it is important to understand that ignoring our emotions or denying the fact that they influence our health and wellbeing is not helpful in strengthening our mind and body connection.
It can be challenging to look into our body sensations and increase our emotional intelligence. For this reason it is crucial to understand that reconnecting with our body and our emotions is a process. It takes trust and time.
Because it is a process there is no quick fix. It is an action, not simply a thought, which needs to be performed regularly.
You can perform a body scan every morning or every evening. It is a powerful technique that allows you to connect to your body and its sensations and get out of your analytical mind. By doing a body scan regularly soon you’ll gain understanding about where you hold particular emotions in your body. It is a practice of awareness and release, and it is important to not engage your analytical mind in it.
Don’t overanalyze, just listen to your body
Your body holds innate wisdom and if you manage to reconnect with it, honor it and listen to it, it will start talking to you more. Pay attention to the sensations in your body, simply notice and observe them. If you are having trouble doing this alone, there are many guided body scan meditations you can try.
Honor your emotions
Everyone experiences strong emotions from time to time. You might get upset about something in the moment, or a particular emotion can be triggered by a person with whom there is a history of unresolved issues. It is important to get to the cause of the emotion. This can be done by identifying, understanding and accepting your emotion. When doing this you honor your emotion. You are not trying to suppress it, and you are not indulging in it. You are simply trying to extract the message it is sending and to learn its lesson. Once you have done that you can take more precise steps on how you want to deal with that emotion. Becoming conscious of how we react when we feel a certain feeling is an important step in this process.
Recognizing that we are made of energy and honoring our emotions can change the course of our life and relationships. When you understand how your emotions affect your physical wellbeing and learn how to process these emotions, you will get deeply in touch with your deeper self and this can bring many positive changes and inner healing to your life.