In keeping with our mission of bringing you, our community, varied and objective peeks at all things mental and emotional health, we’re presenting a guest post today from Penny Bond, BS, ME, MHS (nice letters, huh). Penny is a SCENAR practitioner and co-owner of Healing Innovations Pain Relief Center in Asheville, NC.
Now we are celebrating the season of mid-winter, when after months of daylight becoming ever shorter, moments of light begin to expand again. From antiquity, humanity has held ceremonies of respect, festivity, and rejoicing to welcome the return of the light, whether pagan or religious.
In modern life this season provides us the opportunity to once again focus on counting our blessings, appreciating the gifts showered upon our lives, and experiencing the healing that comes from giving and receiving love.
There is actually a physiological basis to this healing. The emotions of wonder and joy that make this time so magical have an actual impact on our health and well-being. Such emotions cause the release of substances (science calls them neuropeptides), including endorphins that are a part of our body’s natural, intrinsic, healing pharmacy.
This part of our nervous system operates for the most part outside of our conscious awareness. Called the autonomic nervous system, it is made up of two opposing systems: the sympathetic system also known as the “fight or flight” response, and the parasympathetic system known as the “rest and digest” response. They are designed to work in a way to provide balance and homeostasis to the body.
On the one hand, the sympathetic system is activated when we perceive a threat to our survival and makes use of all of the body’s resources to cope with the danger. We recognize it as “stress.” The parasympathetic response, however, helps the body to recover and restore the resources used by the sympathetic system to avoid the danger. It is how we heal. Since both systems are intimately connected to our emotions, it is our feelings that offer us a way to have an impact on which system is activated.
Too much in this season in adult life is experienced as stressful. Financial concerns, filling our calendars with social activities, and the busyness required to meet the demands of this time can leave us exhausted and diminished. As adults we often lose the enchantment and magical feelings we knew from childhood. The season becomes just one more hassle piled on top of all of our normal ones. The sympathetic system is full on trying to protect us from our perceived threats.
Since our emotions are tied to our thoughts, by choosing our thoughts carefully and consciously, we can change them to ones that stimulate the parasympathetic system. Gratitude, wonder, joy, appreciation, and love shift us into our “parasympathetic mind.” We can take a deep breath, our shoulders relax, and we can awaken to the moment. Our sympathetic system quiets and we experience a sense of harmony and peace.
As our bodies return to healing and homeostasis, so does our mind. We feel more balanced, hopeful, and comfortable within ourselves. Our lives become less burdensome and more a source of inspiration. If we so choose, we can find value and fulfillment in every circumstance.
The deeper message of this holiday is one of joy, peace, hope, and love. It is the message of healing, balance, and the “parasympathetic mind.” What thoughts we allow to dominate are the source of our experience of this time.
Then, which thoughts will we choose? Like the Cherokee legend of the two wolves living inside of each of us, one full of negative emotions of fear, and the other holding positive emotions of love; the one that expresses in our experience is the one we choose to feed.
May this holiday time give us the opportunity and motivation to choose thoughts and feelings that bring to us the sacred experiences of healing, balance, gratitude, and, most of all, love.
Excellent post, Penny. And thank you! Be sure to check-out Penny and Healing Innovations Pain Relief Center on their blog, healinginnovationsnc.com/blog