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Can Our Thoughts Affect Our Health?

Kathy Roman | Feb 29, 2024

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the authoritative views of the Baha'i Faith.

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Kathy Roman | Feb 29, 2024

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the authoritative views of the Baha'i Faith.

Have you ever gone, without warning, from perfect calm to absolute terror? Within seconds, your heart starts racing, your blood pressure rises, and you feel sick to your stomach.

When we’re confronted with frightening circumstances or thoughts, a tiny part of our brain called the amygdala goes into overdrive. Called the fight, flight, freeze, or fawn response, all it takes is for one singular situation or thought, and our whole world can turn upside down.

I remember being pregnant with my daughter in New Zealand. My husband and I were at a Lamaze class, and suddenly, I realized that I might have left food cooking in the oven. Within seconds, I went from happy and relaxed to completely terrified. I felt nauseous, and my mind and heart started racing. For the next 60 minutes of class, I couldn’t think rationally, picturing our house burning down. 

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When we finally arrived back home, I found that I had indeed not turned the oven off. Fortunately, the damage was only three baked potatoes that looked like chunks of coal. 

Immediately, I calmed down, my heartbeat slowed, and my stomach felt normal again. In actuality, nothing had changed in my world except my thoughts, but my body had indeed experienced a profound transformation. This led me to wonder about how the energy of the thoughts we think can significantly affect our health.

In his book 27 Flavors of Fulfillment: How to Live Life to the Fullest, author Dr. Robert Young asks, “Can Positive or Negative Thoughts and Emotions Affect Your Body, Mind and Spiritual Health?”

Apparently, quite a bit of scientific and anecdotal research responds to that question with an overwhelming “yes!” 

In fact, according to Dr. Young, you generate two to three times more metabolic acids from just your emotional state or your thoughts than you do from consuming highly acidic foods. We can actually get physically ill from fear, worry, and insecurity. Anger, jealousy, and other toxic emotions physically affect our constitution in profound and damaging ways as well. Baha’u’llah, the prophet and founder of the Baha’i Faith, was quoted in Dr. J.E. Esselmont’s book Baha’u’llah and the New Era as saying, “Jealousy consumeth the body and anger doth burn the liver: avoid these two as you would a lion.” 

So, if negative thinking and emotions affect our bodies in an undesirable way, then couldn’t positive thinking have the opposite effect? We’ve known this since the ages of antiquity — the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius said, “The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts. The soul becomes dyed with the colour of its thoughts.” 

If this is true, then not only can we foster our physical and emotional health by circumventing negativity, we can nurture our bodies and minds by keeping our thoughts lofty, positive, and pure. The Buddha said, “Nothing can harm you as much as your own thoughts unguarded.”

We think thousands of thoughts each day, and many of the negative ones are simply untrue. Challenging destructive thoughts about ourselves or others and giving ourselves compassion throughout difficult situations can keep negativity and its resulting ill effects in check. Also, mentally challenging those negative thoughts can help raise our consciousness about how others are affecting us. How we react to the people around us makes all the difference. Remember — people treat you as they are, not as you are. It’s easier said than done, but if you can avoid negative people who drain your energy — and instead associate with kind souls whenever possible, you will feel better. In his mystical book The Hidden Words, the prophet and founder of the Baha’i Faith, Baha’u’llah, wrote:

The company of the ungodly increaseth sorrow, whilst fellowship with the righteous cleanseth the rust from off the heart. 

Beware! Walk not with the ungodly and seek not fellowship with him, for such companionship turneth the radiance of the heart into infernal fire.

How do we foster positivity? Focus on the good. In a speech he gave in Paris in 1911, Abdu’l-Baha, the son and successor of Baha’u’llah, said:

The reality of man is his thought, not his material body … If a man’s thought is constantly aspiring towards heavenly subjects then does he become saintly; if on the other hand his thought does not soar, but is directed downwards to centre itself upon the things of this world, he grows more and more material until he arrives at a state little better than that of a mere animal. 

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Therefore, concentrating on good thoughts can go a long way toward bringing about happiness, inner peace, and mental, physical, and spiritual health. In several enchanting prayers and passages, Abdu’l-Baha described how our thoughts can heal us and change our world:

Thy name is my healing, O my God, and remembrance of Thee is my remedy.

O Thou the Compassionate God. Confer upon me thoughts which may change this world into a rose garden through the outpourings of heavenly grace.

I charge you all that each one of you concentrate all the thoughts of your heart on love and unity. When a thought of war comes, oppose it by a stronger thought of peace. A thought of hatred must be destroyed by a more powerful thought of love. Thoughts of war bring destruction to all harmony, well-being, restfulness and content. Thoughts of love are constructive of brotherhood, peace, friendship, and happiness.

Simply put, our thoughts do affect our physical, spiritual and emotional health. Abdu’l-Baha said, “Joy gives us wings,” and it just feels better and more joyful, emotionally and physically, when we try to see the best in each other and ourselves. 

Gratitude has a way of elevating our spirits, just as concentrating on all the good in our lives rather than the not-so-good. Loving friendships enrich us, and music uplifts our mood. Caring for animals lowers our stress levels. Meditations and spiritual thoughts of our Creator can bring us peace and tranquility. Finally, when all the good thoughts we have mindfully cultivated translate into elevated feelings, they can evolve into their highest form possible — the spiritual actions of love and service.

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  • Jules R
    Feb 29, 2024
    Such a powerful and well-written article! 🙏🏼🩵 our thoughts can make all the difference 💭
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