How we manage our emotions is intrinsic to our health.
When people come to me, they are chronically unwell.
They can’t eat out. They can’t sleep. They can’t feel at home in their home. What’s worse, they are struggling to feel validated and find solutions.
Just being sick is stressful.
Add other stressful events to the burden of being chronically unwell, and they’ve got the perfect storm.
I regularly see the loss of a loved one or another major life stressor as the straw that broke the camel’s back.
But here is the thing.
This is not about our mental health. It’s not “all in our head.” And there is nothing fatally wrong with us.
Our emotions can be easily mastered.
Research shows that small amounts of exercise, breathing, meditation, or gratitude practice can immediately impact our emotional health.
Add to that the burgeoning science of neuroplasticity, and we can transform our stress response in minutes.
I have seen clients literally transform before my eyes within a matter of months simply by practicing neuroplasticity.
Stress is inevitable. Distress is not.
This is how damaging emotional stress is to you.
These two women are twins who started life with identical genes.
They are both 40 years old. One has a cellular age that is 10 years older due to emotional stress.
This is not about genetics. They both had the same genes.
Instead, studies repeatedly show that our emotions significantly change the genes that regulate inflammation, immune function, and cell function.
Not just for the worse but also for, the better.
A 2014 study with 88 breast cancer survivors found that meditation, hatha yoga, and supportive-expressive group therapy decreased distress, cortisol levels, and cell aging.
What’s more, Dr. Joe Dispenza has shown that the more profound the emotion, the more gene function will be changed.
Simple daily practices can have a profound impact on our health and happiness irrespective of our circumstances.
Our emotions are a primitive survival mechanism that alters our cell function.
Changes in our emotions trigger changes in our autonomic nervous system, changing our physical body and cell function.
At the cellular level, the mitochondria sense these emotional signals, which informs gene selection and the rate of cellular aging.
The autonomic nervous system performs these changes.
Our autonomic nervous system, or vagal nerve, sense our emotions and decide whether the body will run negative or positive instructions.
Negative emotions (such as fight, flight, or freeze) run the sympathetic system. Positive emotions (bliss, joy, gratitude, compassion) run the parasympathetic system.
The sympathetic system makes changes to our immune, hormone, gastro-intestinal, and neurotransmitter systems. In this state, the immune system is suppressed, and cortisol is instead prioritized.
The parasympathetic system restores these changes, and the body returns to homeostasis and feelings of bliss.
Cellular health requires being able to flow seamlessly between the parasympathetic and sympathetic systems throughout the day, congruent with our circumstances.
Simple emotional housekeeping practices such as gratitude, breathwork, meditation, self-compassion, yoga, or Qigong all build resilience.
But here is the thing. So does emotional integrity.
Health is not about ignoring our emotions or faking positivity.
It’s about deeply feeling our emotions and transforming emotions that harm us into ones that heal us.
Fortunately, this does not require years of therapy due to the burgeoning science of neuroplasticity.
Our brains are still evolving.
Our beliefs, attitudes, and thoughts, not our circumstances, are what gets us emotionally stuck.
The good news is our brains are soft-wired and can be easily changed. The bad news is that we need to intervene and rewire our brains. It’s not automatic.
When our unconscious beliefs are at odds with our conscious beliefs about our current circumstances, it triggers our brain processing changes.
Here is how our brain works.
In low-stress moments, when our conscious and subconscious beliefs are congruent, the brain is in homeostasis.
Our brain can effortlessly process emotions, even negative ones, moving fluidly between sympathetic and parasympathetic modes. Cognitive behavior therapy is effective in this brain state as our brain is wired!
In high-stress moments, when our conscious and subconscious beliefs are incongruent, the brain is in allostasis.
Our brain is trying to return to homeostasis by making the emotions, thoughts, and behaviors dramatic and extreme, to force the connection or to base them on the past rather than present circumstances. Cognitive behavior therapy is ineffective in this brain state as our brain is miswired!
This brain state is immature, like a toddler throwing a tantrum.
These indicate that an unconscious belief is at odds with the conscious belief and driving blockages and changes at a cellular level.
In this state of high stress, neuroplasticity rewires our brain to move it back into homeostatic emotions.
When this happens, there is literally a rush of feel-good dopamine and a loss of emotional “stickiness” in what was stressing us. Homeostasis is restored.
Emotional Brain Training, Emotional Freedom Technique, Dynamic Neural Retraining all work through neuroplasticity.
Whilst any one of these techniques may take time to master, with repetition and practice, they can be used within minutes to transform emotions that harm us into ones that heal us.
Within a functional health model, there are five levels of healing. The first three deal with emotions. The last two with our soul.
Emotional health or ill-health happens on the physical, energy, and mental levels.
Our beliefs, attitudes, and thoughts (the mental level) trigger changes in our emotions and autonomic nervous system (the energy level), which in turn change our physical body (the physical level).
The medical model over-emphasizes the physical level.
The physical level is important, and my experience is that chronically ill people often need support on more than the physical level to heal.
We need to see the whole person.
This is a list of common emotional solutions and the level on which they operate.
It is not necessary to master all these modalities. However, some interventions on all three of the physical, energy, and mental levels are typically needed for emotional health.
“Going for a walk first thing makes a profound difference to my stress levels. At first, my mind is busy trying to find reasons not to exercise, but as I get into the rhythm, I find my mind quietens down, and by the end, I am fully in the present moment. Sometimes I listen to beautiful music. But I also just walk, say good morning, and smile at passers-by, and just be. I walk in emotionally all over the place, and walk out centered and ready for the day.”
Exercise reduces stress and helps the brain change.
Thirty minutes of exercise a day increases brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) synthesis by 300%.
BDNF is a chemical derived from major muscle groups that pass through the blood-brain barrier to stimulate neuroplasticity. It also is important to long-term memory and aging.
Exercise needs to involve major muscle groups (like walking, dancing, hiking, and playing sports) to be effective.
“Before using the five-minute journal, I was living on auto-pilot. Wake. Check Facebook. Check emails. Work. Netflix. Sleep. Rinse. Repeat. Now, rather than being perpetually in a state of angst, I am oriented to the real joy all around me. I’ve also let go of things that are not serving me and made way for things that are.”
Gratitude literally switches off the stress response.
Dr. Joe Dispenza has proven that cultivating feelings of love, joy, or gratitude reduces cortisol (the stress response) and significantly improves IgA levels (the body’s immune system).
Any type of gratitude practice works.
“Many years ago, I heard Paul Gilbert speak about the power of self-compassion and had an ahh haa moment. Many of my clients were really hard on themselves and could not tolerate even mild symptoms, blocking progress. I decided to put this to the test and arranged for the local medical school to run a self-compassion therapy course over eight weeks. We drew around twenty people from the area who had chronic depression and anxiety. Over the course of eight weeks, I watched the participants transform before my eyes from a shadow of themselves to being fully expressed, including full-body joy. The professor who ran the program described it as the defining experience of his career so far.”
Self-compassion can also transform our autonomic nervous system.
Studies show that self-compassion reduces our experience of suffering, promotes feelings of connectedness, and improves our immune system.
One of the roadblocks to health I see can be hypervigilance, over-checking of body symptoms, and obsessing about food lists.
It’s like driving a car only with an accelerator and without a brake.
In its extreme, every symptom is a catastrophe waiting to happen, which pushes the body into the stress response.
But a more subtle version of this same roadblock focuses on self-esteem, self-judgment, self-pity, feeling undeserving, and self-indulgence, which also pushes the body into a state of permanent stress response without reprieve.
What these have in common is a lack of self-compassion. Self-compassion is the brake that stops our stressing over our symptoms from accelerating.
If we have not been modeled love and compassion towards us as a child, then we may not have developed self-compassion and the ability to self-soothe and be kind to ourselves.
Not to worry, we can easily learn these skills, and with regular practice, they can become innate to us.
Paul Gilbert and Kristen Neff have championed Self-compassion therapy, and they provide many free tools on their website.
I particularly love the “self-compassion break” (or was that brake!) in Kristen Neff’s free resources.
“In out. In out. In out. I breathed as if I was huffing and puffing up a very steep mountain. After a while, I started burping, then dry heaving, seemingly purging unprocessed emotions. In out. In out. Now my whole body is paralyzed, stuck in freeze mode. I surrendered to the breath. In out. In out. Then there is a surge of electrical current through my whole body. My toes tingled. My hands came back online. Electricity is pulsing through my body, rewiring it. Then there is calm. I am at peace.”
Breathwork can also transform our autonomic nervous system.
However, breathwork also plays an important role in oxygenating the body and potentially alleviating mast cell activation.
Hypoxia, when a cell is starved of oxygen, is linked to mast-cell activation. Can breathwork be used to head off mast cell degranulation? There is mounting evidence to suggest it can.
Different types of breathwork serve different purposes.
HeartMath is extensively researched. It uses a 5 to 6-second breath in and 5 to 6-second breath out to exercise vagal tone.
Somatic breathwork is similar and can gently release stored tension and emotions through directing the breath.
A 2008 study of cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy also found that somatic breathwork could decrease inflammation.
Shamanic breathwork (used in the example above) uses rapid breaths to over oxygenate the body. The breath then transforms the trapped energies and restores the autonomic nervous system.
The Wim Hoff Method (WHM) involves 20 to 50 deep inhales to over oxygenate the body, then holding the breath to deprive the body of oxygen as long as possible, followed by one big breath held for about 15 seconds. It is also paired with meditation and cold exposure.
A 2014 study showed that the WHM activates the innate immune response and increases anti-inflammatory markers when study participants were exposed to pathogenic bacteria.
A 2019 study assessed whether WHM could modulate the immune response in chronic rheumatic inflammation in the spine. The study found a decrease in ESR and calprotectin inflammatory markers.
These studies suggest that by over oxygenating and then depriving our cells of oxygen, our body builds the capacity to adapt to future oxygen shortages.
This is an area of active research at the moment. The 2019 Nobel Prize in physiology and medicine was awarded to three medical researchers “for their discoveries of how cells sense and adapt to oxygen availability.”
“In her book, The Stress Overload Solution, Laurel tells the story of meeting with a psychiatrist to demonstrate EBT. She transformed strong negative emotions into intense positive emotions in front of his very eyes. After a moment’s silence, the psychiatrist said: “Nothing in my 40 years of psychiatry has prepared me to explain what I just observed.” All of this happened in four minutes.”
EBT provides a solution to self-regulate the stress response.
It uses a simple five-step system that can be learned in just 30 days to monitor and rewire the brain circuits that promote excessive stress.
A limiting unconscious belief is replaced, and at that point, there is a release of pent up emotions, typically with a rush of pleasure.
It also incorporates meditation, feeling joy, exercise, and other brain supporting activities.
The emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) also rewires the brain.
I find in as little as 6 sessions with an experienced practitioner, clients can radically transform harmful beliefs and make rapid leaps in their health.
There are now extensive randomized control trials, meta-analyses, systemic reviews, and even brain scans supporting EFT.
A 2012 clinical trial of 83 people using a single hour-long EFT session saw a 50 – 58% reduction in psychological distress and a 24.39% in saliva cortisol.
A 2019 clinical trial confirmed changes in the limbic brain with brain scans.
EFT uses tapping on acupressure points while focusing on a specific problem or issue to target the brain's neural pathways.
EFT also replaces a limiting unconscious belief, resulting in a release of pent up emotions, ending in bliss.
If you do not feel this release, you have not identified the unconscious belief causing the stress.
A word of warning. Gary Craig has kindly made the EFT manual available online. This ease of access is both a blessing and a curse.
Please learn from a qualified practitioner so that you can learn to do it for yourself.
The objective is to do it for yourself, but you need to feel the release to really master this technique.
“Whilst most of my clients are seeking additional emotional skills, and most come to me inquiring about the Dynamic Neural Retraining System. My approach is to ART test them to determine the root cause of the histamine intolerance and mast cell activation and precisely what will restore health. In most cases, DNRS is not needed. The answers lie elsewhere. However, in some instances, it is the only way forward. These clients do not tolerate any or few supplements on ART testing, even ones that the most sensitive clients tolerate. Also, whilst they may have had many exposures to mold, Lyme disease, viruses, retroviruses, or whatever, there is often a high level of distress or unresolved stress over a range of life events. The body is stuck in a threat mode regardless of the source. “
The Dynamic Neural Retraining System (DNRS) has deservedly gained a good reputation in the mast cell community.
When the threats (from whatever source) are chronic, the body’s threat receptors get stuck and adopt a “shoot first ask questions later” approach.
Everything is now considered a threat even though it is not.
DNRS works on this specific unconscious belief.
Often, clients desperately try to find medicine or a supplement that will enable them to eat, sleep, and function.
However, this is futile until the brain is rewired.
When a client is reactive to just about everything, DNRS is typically the only way to start the healing process.
In my experience, however, other neuroplasticity modalities are needed to provide long-term emotional resilience.
“I have done family constellations work several times. It always puts me into a deep parasympathetic state even when I am a surrogate. I’ve also seen enormous changes in the person whose work is doing, including dramatic changes in autistic children. I can’t logically explain the changes I’ve seen and experienced, but the changes are profound.”
What if your feelings were inherited?
Family constellations work focuses on the feelings we carry for someone else in the family.
Intergenerational trauma, that is, anything that cannot be psychologically resolved by a parent, grandparent, or great grandparent, becomes sub-conscious in the body, where it is inherited in-utero.
Intergenerational trauma shows up as repeating patterns. The language that repeats, ages that repeat, a trauma that repeats, belongs elsewhere.
Family constellations resolve this inherited trauma by restoring the family unit's individual roles and returning the unresolved trauma to the original owner.
This work is done through the use of surrogates.
“A year or so ago, a client had an APN session. During that session, it bought up something that had happened to her thirty years ago that was blocking her health. She said to me: “The funny thing is I’ve not even thought about it since.” This is a perfect example of APN in action.”
If emotions are sub-conscious, how do you know what emotions are blocking organ function?
Applied psycho-neurobiology was developed by Dr. Dietrich Klinghardt and is based on Psyche-K®.
It uses applied kinesiology to identify what emotions are affecting which organs and who they started with.
Since unconscious emotions can get trapped in the body, this approach can make emotions conscious. How do you know what your body knows?
I have experimented with four different forms of kinesiology.
In my experience, APN is far more accurate than other forms due to the verification steps.
Whilst this identifies the issue, it may not completely address the unconscious belief. It still needs to be worked on.
“When I look at the Dalai Lama, I see someone in a gamma brain state and want what he’s having. Yet, I have to admit that meditation has been one of the hardest things for me to master. My thinking brain loves to think! The unconscious belief is that I can figure out anything and keep myself safe if it thinks. All that ends up happens is the analysis by paralysis followed by less stress resilience. Yet, I’m persisting and finding it easier to transition into other brain states.”
Meditation also switches off the stress response.
Dr. Joe Dispenza has shown that meditation improves brain co-ordination, heart rate variability, and immune system function.
It does this by altering brainwaves or electrical pulses to change brain co-ordination.
In particular, Gamma brainwaves are associated with a high degree of brain co-ordination and are highly active when in higher-level emotions.
Has a focus on physical health, with medications or supplements, resolved your health concerns?
In the medical model, emotional issues are treated as mental health issues.
In the functional health model, emotional issues are treated physically, energetically, and mentally.
Physical and energy issues can also cause emotional issues.
Physical and energy issues change the autonomic nervous system function, which changes our emotional health.
A good example of this is brain inflammation, gut inflammation, or dental work problems, all of which impair the vagal nerve.
Emotional issues can also cause physical and energy issues. Health or ill health can happen on any one of the five levels.
Emotional issues change cell function. In doing so, they also change our physical and energy levels.
A good example of this is pain, which can often move around and disappear altogether through resolving energy and mental level issues.
I also find that clients need binders onboard before doing emotional work.
In my experience, the more chronically unwell the person is, the more the answer lies on non-physical levels.
A good practitioner sees the whole person.
Are you busy getting sick or healthy?
Within a medical model, a diagnosis is needed to prescribe medication.
Within a functional health model, a diagnosis is unnecessary and can actually be a burden.
Some of the hardest clients to work with are those who come to me with a diagnosis that they believe validates the way they feel.
Not because they don’t have mast cell activation or histamine intolerance, or certain genetic SNPS but because they believe that is who they are.
It becomes another stressor we have to remove to restore health.
I’ve been there too.
I spent years seeing specialists getting a diagnosis of histamine-intolerance, mast cell activation, chronic fatigue syndrome, and chronic inflammatory response syndrome only to find that was a dead end.
Instead, a focus on creating a healing environment has restored my health. Starting with the conviction that my body can heal.
Have you ever felt stressed and taken it out on food?
One of the real challenges when dealing with food intolerances is dealing with stress around food.
This takes several forms.
Firstly, the false belief that any food intolerances are permanent, genetic, or a diagnosis.
In my experience, histamine intolerance is none of these things unless you believe it to be so.
Secondly, the false belief that food is the root cause of ill health or the sole remedy.
In my experience, having ART tested around 100 people, food intolerances can be directly linked to underlying environmental stressors.
Address the stressor, and food intolerances resolve. It’s not about the food unless you believe it to be so.
Thirdly, using food as an emotional solution. Food is to nourishes our body for it to function optimally.
This takes many forms, from devouring a whole block of chocolate when stressed even when it gives you a histamine attack, to the more subtle form of eating a vegetarian diet to save the planet, even when it does not suit your biochemistry.
I am not for or against any one diet.
No one person has the same nutritional needs, and the diet that is optimal for one person is different from another.
It just needs to serve its purpose – which is nourishment.
Ever find yourself resisting or simply not open to considering something?
When it comes time to practice meditation, I can’t find my phone with the meditation app, can’t find the meditation on my phone, and did I tell you that the kitty litter needs changing? Better still, I forget completely,
I have come to understand that resistance is at the epicenter of our unconscious beliefs.
This is simply the way our brain is structured.
Our sub-conscious chooses what information becomes conscious. It literally does not let us see what does not fit with its belief system.
There are so many false beliefs around emotions. We cause other people’s emotions. False. “Suck it up, princess.” False. It’s not ok to cry or show emotion. False.
If you are having a violent reaction to the suggestion that emotions are important to your health, what is your unconscious belief?
Are you happy?
Whether you believe that there is an emotional link to your health or not, this is ultimately about happiness.
Harvard Professor George Valliant found that our conscious mind can light up the pleasure center in our brain and be happy regardless of our circumstances.
The neuroscientist Antonio Damasio has proposed that joyous states of mind as an indicator of optimal physiology.
This is also a practical reality.
I’ve practiced neuroplasticity skills for over a decade.
I still experience stress and negative emotions, but they flow through my body rather than lingering on well after the event.
When stress lingers, I know it's time to roll up my sleeves.
Within minutes, I can switch my brain from the stress response to sheer unadulterated joy.
I’ve also seen clients’ faces light up the first time they manage to pop into a state of bliss and realize that power is within them.
So forget about health for a moment and think about happiness. Are you as happy as you want to be?
If not, choose one of the tools above, whatever intuitively feels right, and start there. Alternatively, you can work with me, and we can figure this out together.
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