You Are What You Think

What do hopelessness, helplessness and stress have to do with rats, astronauts and you?

Did you know that right after splashdown, one of the most difficult phases of spaceflight, NASA doctors found significant changes in the Apollo astronauts’ immune systems? The Apollo, Gemini and Mercury capsules (even the lunar excursion modules) were pretty cramped environments. Not much room to move, and “escape” required a significant amount of time, care and planning, especially for a spacewalk.

Researchers have also found that rats, given electric shocks from which they cannot escape, give up and become helpless. Later, when placed in a box where they can escape the shocks just by moving to the other side, these rats don’t even try. They also develop stomach ulcers and abnormal brain chemistry. And, it’s not because of the shocks. Another group of rats received the same amount of electricity, but they could turn the current off by pressing a bar. They remained healthy.

There is no longer any question about it. Many, many studies have verified that the health of our immune systems is linked to our stress levels and our attitudes about life in general. Now a certain amount of stress is good for us and can give us more energy and greater concentration. But too much stress causes it to break down. We see the results of this stress in changes in productivity of the workforce, and the increase of sick days at all levels of our organizations.

Today, doctors recommend to their patients fighting cancer to put lot of time and energy into building up their immune systems. Monitoring their thoughts as carefully as controlling the diet has a great impact. If you’re concerned about living a long and healthy life, or if you’re fighting a serious illness, developing a sense of control about your life can be as important as anything else you do. Some say you are what you eat. But it looks more and more like you are also what
you think and feel.