Can Your Beliefs Impact Your Biology? Some Researchers Say Yes.

So, You Should Definitely Wake Up Every Morning and High-Five the Universe

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At 19-months-old, I developed a rare and sometimes fatal condition called intussusception, which is caused by one intestine enveloping another, creating an intestinal blockage. I underwent emergency surgery and, from the time I was a toddler, I’ve had a scar running the entire length of my stomach.

Years later, when my son was only 6-months-old, my husband was in the military and deployed to Korea, and I was living with my mother-in-law in upstate New York in the dead of winter. My then-husband and I struggled with co-dependency so separating was a nightmare, and I was a new mother dealing with postpartum depression and anxiety.

It was the single hardest thing I’d ever gone through.

All at once, all the old issues from my childhood started to creep back into my thoughts and feelings. I knew I didn’t want to parent like my parents had, but I also didn’t know what kind of parent to be, or even how to figure that out in the first place.

Honestly, I wanted to die.

One night, before I went to sleep, I got down on my knees and asked God for a sign. I know couldn’t keep living with the thoughts and feelings I was experiencing. I was right back in that old, familiar feeling of total despair—and I never wanted to be there again. I said my prayers and crawled into bed.

A few hours later, I woke up in the worst pain of my life.

I was rushed to the emergency room, where an ambulance quickly transported me to a nearby hospital. Twenty-four hours of tests, X-rays, and a CAT scan later and I was wheeled into emergency surgery.

Doctors had discovered the scar tissue from the surgery I’d undergone as an infant had torn when I was pregnant, wrapped around my intestines, and slowly strangled them. Eventually gangrene set in, my intestine ruptured, and peritonitis began infecting my entire body.

I’d experienced almost the exact same rare, potentially fatal condition and subsequent surgery―a second time.
The moral of the story? Beliefs can influence biology.

I believe in the power of integrative medicine because I’ve seen the force of mind-body connection in my own life. Back then, I think that I was in so much pain, with so much of my past being triggered, that I became so desperate to escape my life that my body just shut down. My ability to digest life stopped (literally.) Every past trauma and negative emotion manifested in my physical body and strangled me, from the inside out.

It could have killed me and almost did. But after I woke up from surgery, I committed to take whatever purpose or calling had my name on and use it to help others.

Now, obviously, I made it.

And here’s the cool thing: You can too.

Our beliefs dictate everything we say and do—and they can inform what our biology does as well. Studies done by cellular biologist Bruce Lipton have shown that human cells can grow or die solely based on the hormones secreted when you’re engaged with the various beliefs you hold.

In other words, you could be the most physically fit person in the world, but through a negative mindset or hopeless attitude about life, you could be creating cellular death in your body through the chemical reactions ignited by your belief-informed thoughts.

Let’s break it down:

A feeling like love positively feeds cells by excreting growth hormone, dopamine, oxytocin, or vasopressin.

A feeling like fear can stop cells from growing, by excreting hormones like cortisol, norepinephrine, cytokines, and histamine.

In Lipton’s research he put human cells into Petri dishes and then added growth hormone, oxytocin, dopamine, and vasopressin. The cells grew prolifically. He then took those same cells and added cortisol, norepinephrine, cytokines, and histamine and the cells died.

Lipton’s point was that our beliefs can influence our biology. We think it’s the other way around: That our biology controls our beliefs, that all our fears and anxieties are imprinted into our DNA. We think our biology is dependent on genetics, and if something is amiss, it’s the cause of our heredity. But chances are what is generational isn’t your chronic stress.

It’s the patterned beliefs and behaviors that your family has been passing on instead.

By examining this function of our emotional well-being as it relates to our growth and evolution as individuals, it can be kind of beautiful. Except, for too many of us, our beliefs and emotions are killing us instead.

We are that powerful, and we don’t even realize it.

This is where mindfulness comes in. We have to wake up and start asking ourselves questions like: Do I have to choose this particular thought? Is this belief serving me? Chances are that whatever behaviors you’re participating in aren’t originating from a DNA level: You’ve learned them. You learned them from your parents, who learned them from their parents, who learned them from theirs, forever.

If you want a different life outcome than your predecessors, you must change your behavior—and to do that, you start with the beliefs that inform that behavior in the first place.

You might be asking yourself: But why can’t I just cut corners and start with the behavior itself?

Have you ever tried to hold a beachball underwater?

Trying to change your behaviors by merely doing different things is about as enjoyable and effective as trying to hold a beachball underwater, all day, every day, for the rest of your life.

Any behavioral change must go back to the sponsoring belief—because otherwise, you’re not getting to the root of the problem, are you? You have to excavate your current beliefs, figure out what is serving you and what can be tossed out, and then replace those discarded beliefs with newer—healthier!—ones.

Only then will your behavior start to change. (Which will probably make you feel pretty good, thus transforming a destructive cycle into a constructive one.)

This is why I wake up every morning and high-five the universe. Maybe you want to get up every morning and dance the tango with the universe before you’ve even put on your underpants.

Your version of the wake-up high-five doesn’t have to look like mine. You just have to do it.

Did this post inspire you to consider some of your beliefs differently? If so, I want to know! Head over to Facebook to share any new insights, ideas, or questions you have!

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