A new study out of Brigham Young University reveals that loneliness is so harmful to your health, it's like smoking 15 cigarettes a day. And while that may be a shocking statement, it did not surprise me at all.
That's because in the last year or so, I have been hearing more and more evidence of the damaging effects negative emotions have on our bodies. Not just an incidental impact, but a major impact...enough to kill you long before your time.
I believe managing emotions is the new frontier in health. That is to say, I believe in the near future, more studies of this nature will be conducted and reported to the public at large, and there will be an increased understanding of how our thoughts affects our health.
Last year I read a book, then subsequently interviewed its author, which, combined, was an experience that dramatically changed my life. The book is, Younger Next Year, by Dr. Harry Lodge. He studied the latest research and explains how the choices we make directly impact what happens to our cells, which of course, dictates how well our bodies function.
These choices include decisions we make about exercise, diet, and....here's the interesting part.....what we think.
Well, exercise and diet are interesting, too, but we've all heard that stuff. The part about our thoughts is kind of revolutionary. Then on the other hand, it's as old as time itself, because we see all throughout the Old Testament, as well as the New Testament, the importance of breaking-free from anxiety and seeking peace.
This can only truly be accomplished with God.
Here's some of the medical science behind why negative emotions are so bad for us. When we experience stress, our bodies secrete adrenaline and cortizol. That's okay, but only in small, short spurts, the way God intended.
For example, if you're walking through the woods minding your own business and a bear jumps out at you, adrenaline kicks-in and throws your body into hyper-drive. All your cells stop what they were doing and work in concert to get out of that sticky situation. It's a miracle and it works beautifully.
We've all heard stories of things like women lifting up cars when their baby is crushed under it, and so forth. That's adrenaline at work the way it's meant to be used....only in true emergencies and only for 20 minutes, tops. We are not made to use adrenaline very much, because its prolonged use inhibits our cells' true functions to keep us healthy.
So here's where we mess it up. When we are stressed about life, we secrete adrenaline and cortizol in small amounts, all the time...drip, drip, drip...just like a leaky faucet. And, as I described above, that adrenaline causes our cells to stop their normal duties to focus on the crisis at hand.
But those cells really need to get back to their regular jobs...like fighting-off disease. Unfortunately, they can't do that when we are worrying about bills, relationships, politics, traffic jams, work. Imagine how incapacitated our cells are when they are stifled by adrenaline all the time, for years.
God made our bodies to work magnificently, but we disable our God-given internal healing mechanisms when we don't live properly...in this case, when we don't think properly.
God tells us not to worry. Those of us in Christ have no reason to worry! God's admonitions are not only for our spiritual fulfillment, but also for our physical fulfillment.
And one more thing about stress: it's not just worry. It's all types of negative emotions that signal our brains that we are in some type of danger. Anger and frustration obviously fall into this category, but as mentioned above, loneliness is also very stressful, as are depression, and low self-esteem. Resentment is also hugely stressful, so all the more reason to obey God and forgive!
None of us likes to feel negative emotions, but it takes a bit of work to get rid of them. However, when you consider not only how we are instructed by God to deal with them -- and now, thanks to medical research, how they contribute to all kinds of health problems, including cancer -- we might be ever more motivated to change our thought patterns.
There are many ways to de-stress that are outlined in the Bible, such as prayer and casting our cares upon Him, trusting in Him, and rejoicing in Him!
Also loving people, giving to people, getting involved in serving others (instead of focusing on people serving us) getting involved in community, the list goes on and on. Laughter, friendship, exercise, sleep and healthy eating are also effective ways to turn your emotions around.
It's not always easy, and God knows, I am working on it in my own life with His help. But it's worth the effort!