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MOOD

According to an unknown author, “Anger is one letter short of danger.” And this is probably true in the context of health.

Anger, as described by the author of Psychiatric-Mental Health Nursing, Sheila Videbeck, is an emotion considered to be normal that includes an uncomfortable and strong emotional response, towards a certain perceived irritation. Again, anger is a normal process. It becomes bad only if this emotion, which has allowed people to adapt to the environment, cannot be managed appropriately. Videbeck explains that anger will only be negative if the person will deny the emotion, or will hide it, or will express it in an unacceptable manner.

According to some theorists, anger is related to the brain’s response to fight and flight stimulations. As humans try to respond to the stimuli all over his environment, his body, particularly his adrenal glands, will release neurotransmitters such as adrenaline/epinephrine or noradrenaline/norepinephrine which will in turn elicit different reactions from the different physical parts of his body. When adrenaline/noradrenaline binds with some regions of the blood vessels, blood pressure will increase. When adrenaline/noradrenaline binds with some areas of the heart, the heart will beat faster causing an increase in heart rate. When adrenaline/noradrenaline binds to specific regions of the digestive organs, the digestive tract will slow down its processes and will cause constipation to some people. If anger is not managed well, these supposedly normal reactions will over-react and will cause health problems, some of which are as follows:

1.      Headache

The headache experienced by a person who is angry is more related to the physiological responses of the body towards the stimulation. If one is fuming with anger, his jaw will tighten which would eventually cause a headache since the muscles around the head and face have created tension. Additionally, as adrenaline is pumped by the adrenal glands, the blood vessels in the brain become constricted, causing the brain to be deprived of blood which could therefore result to headache. Moreover, dehydration may also occur when one is angry because one fails to remember to drink due to anger preoccupation. Deprivation of necessary fluids in the body, especially the brain, will also cause headache.

2.      Digestion Problems

Anger stimulates the sympathetic nervous system. When this part of the body is stimulated, it causes the digestive system to slow down its activity. The mouth becomes dry as the salivary gland decreases its production, stomach peristalsis (movement) is reduced, and intestinal motility is diminished. For those who hold on to anger for a long time, adrenaline/noradrenaline will cause the body to redirect the blood, enzymes, energy and oxygen away from the digestive system and towards other vital organs as a way for humans to survive. This will result to a low supply of hydrochloric acid in the stomach, lowered digestive enzymes and imbalance of the level of acidity and alkalinity in the stomach, which all spells digestive problems.

3.      Insomnia

Anger is a reaction to perceived danger, similar to fear. When there is perceived danger, the body will be in alert level. If this happens, the mind is always active to protect the body from any threats. This causes the person to stay awake all night, depriving him of the necessary rest and sleep. Insomnia is detrimental to one’s health since the body cannot function effectively if the body is depleted of the necessary energy that are only replenished when one has rested well. By addressing anger and reducing the body’s stresses, the body will become tired and the person can sleep.

4.      Anxiety

Anxiety is normal; it is the body’s reaction to fight and flight stimulations. But anxiety disorder is already a disease. When anger is not managed well, the person will always be afraid of what will happen next and will tend to worry if what has happened will happen again. This will result to massive anxiety which will in turn become an anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorder is the frequent, exaggerated and excessive worrying of events or activities in one’s everyday life. Having this disease causes more complications, such as headaches, digestive problems and other health problems harmful to the body.

5.      Depression

Some people express anger in maladaptive ways. While others turn toward things and other people to communicate their anger, others turn toward themselves. Handling anger is a learned process, usually taught from generation to generation. To some families, anger must be always concealed or not communicated. To others, anger is expressed by self-loathing. Hating oneself will usually cause depression. And depression has many negative consequences.

6.      High Blood Pressure

Anger causes the release of adrenaline and noradrenaline, hormones that will bind to regions of the blood vessels, causing it to constrict. When the blood vessels constrict, it triggers the blood to flow in high pressure. This is supposed to be a normal reaction, but when it happens constantly, the blood vessels weaken and may rupture causing internal bleeding, especially in the brain and eyes. But it also causes thickening and narrowing of the blood vessels, which will result to organs, such as kidneys and heart, working harder for blood to be circulated around the body.

7.      Heart Attack and Stroke

When the blood vessels constrict and blood pressure is high because of anger, there is a tendency for the heart to be deprived of the necessary blood and its nutrients. When this happens, it causes angina (chest pain). When there is too much anger, angina may result to infarcts that will result to heart attacks. Additionally, when the heart pumps harder because the blood vessels are constricted, the heart walls thicken and there will be pooling of blood inside the heart; this disease is called Congestive Heart Failure, which could complicate to problems with the heart rhythm that may result to heart attacks.

Stroke happens when the weakened blood vessels in the brain rupture due to increasing blood pressure caused by anger. It also happens when, because of the high pressure of the blood flowing through the vessels, clots or thrombus will be detached from the blood vessels and will travel towards the brain, causing the clogging of tiny arteries.

We often hear of the phrase, “laughter is the best medicine”, or the very old proverb, “he who laughs, lasts”. Mort Walker, the creator of the popular 1950 comic strip, Beetle Bailey, quoted a double entendre saying, “Seven days without laughter makes one weak.”

Laughter is has been associated with good health and fine well-being. Laughter, which is traditionally described as an outward expression of inner happiness, is actually being understood as a form of communication. Robert Provine, professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of Maryland, believes that laughter may be the very first form of communication of the human race, before human language, as it signifies acceptance in the group and a positive contact.

Interestingly, laughter is contagious; a person that laughs will usually trigger another person to laugh, even without knowing the cause of the other person’s laughter. A laugh center in our brain is not identified, but laughter is closely associated with the stimulation of the ventromedial prefrontal cortex that causes the release of endorphins, a neurotransmitter responsible for blocking pain and controlling one’s emotion. The lack of endorphins causes one to be unsatisfied, which can result to severe mental illnesses. There are also several health benefits associated with laughter.

·         It reduces anger, anxiety, depression and irritation

Norman Cousins was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease that can cause severe body pain. He decided to prescribe himself several doses of humorous videos and comedy shows. In time, his disease went into remission. He published an article in the New England Journal of Medicine about his experience, which eventually was adapted into a medical research by Dr. Lee Berk. According to one study by Berk and his team, looking forward to a mirthful laughter can actually decrease the levels of the stress hormones that are considered to have detrimental effects in the body. These hormones are (1) cortisol, considered as a steroid stress hormone, (2) epinephrine, or adrenaline, and (3) dopac, one of dopamine’s major catabolite. Not only are these hormones detrimental to the immune system, they are also the hormones released by the body when a person experiences anger, anxiety, depression and irritation – responses of fight or flight stimulus.

·         It helps burn calories

Presented in the European Congress of Obesity in 2005 at Athens are the findings that laughter can actually burn calories. The study was made by Maciej Buchowski, PhD of the Vanderbilt University Medical Center. He and his team studied a pair of couples, 45 pairs all in all, inside a metabolic chamber – a room calorimeter, by showing them series of video clips. Results have shown that 10-15 minutes of hearty laughter can increase the heart rate by 10-20 percent and increase the utilization of energy by 10-40 calories per day. This result can be translated to reduction of four pounds per year. The study may have trivial outcome, but it should be noted that every calorie counts and every movement of a person can have an advantage in losing one’s weight.

·         It boosts the immune system.

According to Dr. Robert Provine in his book, Laughter: A Scientific Investigation, the facility of a person to utilize humor has shown that it can increase the levels of antibodies that are responsible for fighting infection and it can enhance the levels of the immune cells. Laughter can decrease stress levels, and therefore increase the responsiveness of the body’s immune system.

·         It protects your heart

According to the study made by the University of Maryland researchers in 2005, there is a strong correlation between laughter and healthy blood vessels. The study shows that every time a person laughs, the inner lining, or endothelium, of the blood vessels tend to dilate. Dilation of the blood vessels will increase the flow of blood in the body. The theory of the researchers emphasized the function of compounds similar to beta-endorphin which is released by the brain’s hypothalamus. It is able to activate the receptor sites located in the endothelium, directing it to release nitric oxide. Essentially, nitric oxide does not just dilate the blood vessels which are actually advantageous to the functions of the heart; it also has two cardioprotective attributes by reducing inflammation in the body when it is injured, and the reduction of clumping of platelets. Some studies have shown that ten minutes of vigorous laughter causes the lowering of blood pressure by 10-20 mm/Hg that can last up to 20 minutes after laughter has ended.

·         It prevents diabetes

Japanese researcher, Keiko Hayashi, of the University of Tsukuba, Japan, headed an investigation on whether laughter can reduce blood sugar levels or not, in order to find out if there is such a thing as laughter-glucose link in the body. Although the link between laughter and glucose is not explained clearly, the study have shown that both normal individuals and type 2 diabetes sufferers had a reduction in their glucose levels after they watched a comedy show, compared to when they listened to a serious lecture for 40 minutes. Published in Diabetes Care, Hayashi explained that the reduction may also be caused by the energy used when the muscles contract during the act of laughing, or there is actually neuro-endocrine activation that controls the level of blood glucose.

·         It strengthens your lungs

Especially for people who are suffering from diseases of the respiratory system, laughter is helpful in cleaning the lungs. Similar to the effects of deep breathing, laughter can empty the lungs with huge volumes of air. The co-founder of World Laughter Tour, Karyn Buxman, RN, says that laughter makes a person breathe from the deepest place in his lungs. That is why the exercises that were conducted by the World Laughter Tour are devised in such a way that it does not only effectively enhance blood circulation patterns, but it also enhances the breathing pattern of the person.

·         It is a natural pain killer.

Our body has a natural pain killer called endorphins, or “endogenous morphine”.  A study made by two scientists from California has shown that laughter increases the levels of endorphins in the blood by triggering the body to release them. As endorphins increase, they bind to the opioid receptor which results to an analgesic effect, dulling the pain sensations. Compared to morphine extracted from plants, man’s natural endorphins is 80 times more potent in its analgesic properties.

·         It lifts up your mood.

In life, people often experience a downward spiral of the mood, especially when faced with negative thoughts or depressing situations. According to Dana Lightman, PhD, to turn the downward spiral around, people must learn to trick themselves by using humor to create an upward spiral of their moods.  For trained laugh leader Beverly Bender, even a fake laughter can produce similar effect as real laughter. Man’s body does not know the distinction between fake and real laughter. When a person starts with laughter first thing in the morning, he will tend to find reasons to laugh the whole day.

Food and the Brain

More than we are aware of it, the foods that we eat play an important role on telling how our day will turn out to be. As studies have shown, there is more to the relationship between food and the body other than it being a source of energy. The urge, more than just the desire, to eat a few meals in a day is a tendency natural to man and other living things. And the organ that controls this urge is the brain. The brain tells you that you need food for sustenance through signals we identify as a hunger.

The eating experience is more than just a process of ingesting food and letting the body perform the necessary task so as to utilize the food that we just ate. There is actually a selection process. People are often stricken with certain cravings and will prefer one type of food over the other. The odor, shape, color and visual texture of food is transmitted to the brain and the brain will tell you whether the food is desirable or not. Following this same line of thought, we get to understand the psychological relationship between food and the brain. The brain has a strong influence over the foods we want and do not want to eat. And inversely, certain foods can also influence our behavior by stimulating the brain.

Often times, a bad mood or a feeling of being drained is due to skipping meals, not getting enough nutrition, or hunger that has been poorly identified. Eating foods rich in carbohydrates can fuel up the body after a long day at work. But if the stressed feeling is persistent and you are beginning to experience anxiety, seeking the advice of medical expert is best.  But for people who are feeling a little bit under the weather, eating sweets can be a good remedy. And there's a scientific explanation on how sweet foods or foods that are rich in sugar can make a person feel livelier and become more in the mood. There are other types of food that exhibits the same mood boosting effects. And its’ true, certain foods can really help in making you feel better. Some may even improve your performance at work, in school or at home. 

There are different ways on how food can boost your mood. Certain foods have been found to increase the levels of neurotransmitters in the brain; these are chemicals that help in improving your physical and emotional function. Foods that can easily be utilized by the body can help in making up for nutritional deficiencies that have been causing you to feel weak and less efficient in performing mental and physical activities. They can also help in keeping a good balance of sugar in the blood and keep you feeling topped up. Oatmeal, for example, has enough carbohydrates to give you a full tank.

Oatmeal

The carbohydrates from oatmeal, when digested by the body, results to the production and delivery of the amino acid tryptophan to the brain. Tryptophan will then stimulate the production of a neurotransmitter called serotonin which results to a feeling of peacefulness and being able to better cope with things. It is impossible to produce serotonin without carbohydrates. The adverse effects of less serotonin is evident in people who are limiting their carbohydrate intake to a very few cups in a day; they tend to get tensed and angry more easily. But too much carbohydrates is not healthy. This is the reason why oatmeal and other wholegrain foods is recommended over honey glazed doughnuts, cakes or white rice.

Salmon

Salmon and other cold water fish are rich in vitamin B12. The nutrient has a mood-elevating effect and it would be a good meal after a long day at work or a few hours in the gym. Salmon can give you that strong energy boost and at the same time stimulate your brain to make you feel better. It is also rich in omega-3 fatty acids that help in increasing the levels of serotonin produced by the brain. Although you won’t feel a notable change at the first instance, incorporating salmon in your daily diet, especially when you are always in need of a mood boost, will help you cope better with stressful moments each time.

Bananas

Bananas have high vitamin B6 content. And like the other types of vitamin B, vitamin B6 has the ability to stimulate the production of more serotonin in the brain. This is important for people who have high alcohol intake since the alcoholic drinks can deplete the body's natural supply of vitamin B6. Eating bananas before and after work can give you that boost that will help you end the day with a smile. The potassium in bananas can also help you stay awake and more alert.

Dark Chocolate

It's not only the taste and aroma of dark chocolate that's making you feel better. Dark chocolate also has the right amounts of caffeine that can help you stay awake and alert all throughout the day. It also contains healthy fats and phenylethylamine that stimulates the release of more endorphin in the blood. Endorphin is a neurochemical responsible for giving you that happy feeling. Eating sugar-free dark chocolate will not only keep you in the best mood but will also help in reducing your risk of developing hypertension and cardiovascular disease. Remember that the darker the chocolate is, the better it is for you.

Chilli Peppers

Chilli peppers can definitely spice up your day. The capsaicin in chilli peppers stimulates the release of serotonin and endorphins in the brain that improves the mood and promotes emotional well-being. The same compound in chilli peppers is also being widely studied for its potential anti-cancer properties and its role in improving metabolism.

Grapefruits

The different antioxidants in grapefruit do not only help in detoxifying the body and in eliminating harmful free radicals that can lead to the development of certain diseases, but they can also help in boosting a person's mood by stimulating the production of serotonin in the brain. Grapefruits are rich in lycopene, vitamin C, limonene and linolenic acid. The essential oil from grapefruit can also be used as an aromatic oil to revive the mind and improve mood.

Chicken

Lean chicken meats rich in protein and with the least amount of fat can stimulate the brain to produce more norepinephrine and dopamine; these are neurochemicals that keep you feeling alert and in good mood. Having as less fat as possible is important since fat can slow down the digestion and absorption of food in the body and can affect chicken's mood-boosting effects. A fresh garden salad topped with steamed shredded or grilled chicken can be a good option.

 

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