Evaluating Your Mental Toxic Load (Part 1 of 2)

While we hear about chemical toxins in the food and cosmetics industries, as well as the environmental toxins in our surroundings, the types of toxins your body is exposed to extends beyond those sources.
 
Mental, emotional and spiritual toxins are toxins that also have the potential to significantly contribute to your toxic burden on a daily basis…if you let them!
 
In this first of a two-part blog post, let’s explore “mental toxins” and their impact on your state of health.
 
Mental Toxins
 
Mental stressors (i.e. “mental toxins”) are ever-present in industrialized countries such as Canada, as there appears to be an ongoing steady rise in demands at work, at home and in personal relationships. Expectations of rapid response times are at an all-time high, as an increasing number of individuals have the ability to communicate via smartphones, are constantly connected to the Internet and are regularly exposed to data-carrying cell towers. Furthermore, “To Do Lists” are never-ending!
 
Does this sound too familiar? These “mental toxins” are overwhelming to both the mind and body, taxing your well-being and inevitably compounding your toxic burden.
 
Psychoneuroimmunology (PNI) is the field of study that aims to understand the two-directional relationship between your Central Nervous System (including your mental thoughts and cognition) and immune function.[i] Immune function is able to be altered by the effects on white blood cells brought about by hormones, or by control of lymphoid tissue by the Autonomic Nervous System – the aspect of your Central Nervous System that unconsciously regulates various body functions.[ii] Additionally, behavioural changes induced by stress (i.e. emotional eating, increased smoking and alcohol consumption), can negatively impact the state of your immune health.[iii] As such, there are profound physiological processes that allow your mind to influence your body, and vice versa.
 
A research study combining data from multiple studies illustrated a clinically-significant relationship between mental stress and the susceptibility of Upper Respiratory Infections (URI).[iv] Some of the mental stressors evaluated in the research included minor life events (i.e. stress from work, concern with one’s children and disagreements with significant others), major life events (i.e. losing a job, divorce, death of a significant other, etc.), as well as one’s perceived stress.
 
What do we do about these “mental toxins”?
 
Research conducted at the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School evaluated the influence of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) on immune function and regions of the brain associated with positive disposition affect (similar to mood).[v] This research discovered that by implementing MBSR over an 8-week period, not only did immune function improve, but the regions of the brain associated with positive disposition affect became more active and symmetrical in nature. Therefore, MBSR can be a helpful strategy in managing the negative influence of “mental toxins” on immune health.
 
 
ENDNOTES

[i] Cohen, S., & Herbert, T. B. (1996). Health psychology: psychological factors and physical disease from the perspective of human psychoneuroimmunology. Annual Review Of Psychology, 47113-142.


[ii] Pedersen, A., Zachariae, R., & Bovbjerg, D. H. (2010). Influence of psychological stress on upper respiratory infection--a meta-analysis of prospective studies. Psychosomatic Medicine, 72(8), 823-832. doi:10.1097/PSY.0b013e3181f1d003


[iii] Pedersen, A., Zachariae, R., & Bovbjerg, D. H. (2010). Influence of psychological stress on upper respiratory infection--a meta-analysis of prospective studies. Psychosomatic Medicine, 72(8), 823-832. doi:10.1097/PSY.0b013e3181f1d003


[iv] Pedersen, A., Zachariae, R., & Bovbjerg, D. H. (2010). Influence of psychological stress on upper respiratory infection--a meta-analysis of prospective studies. Psychosomatic Medicine, 72(8), 823-832. doi:10.1097/PSY.0b013e3181f1d003


[v] Davidson, R. J., Kabat-Zinn, J., Schumacher, J., Rosenkranz, M., Muller, D., Santorelli, S. F., & ... Sheridan, J. F. (2003). Alterations in brain and immune function produced by mindfulness meditation. Psychosomatic Medicine, 65(4), 564-570.