Friday, November 8, 2013

How Change Affects Us Physically

Today is Friday, November 8, 2013.

Change is often hard because it actually causes your body to go into a state of chemical imbalance. This feels uncomfortable. Most prefer to avoid the change and return the body to a state of balance and return to a comfortable feeling. They can't get past the short term discomfort to gain the long term benefits.
–Paradigm Shift on Facebook

 A few years ago I heard that the physical chemistry of the body changes as we progress along the path of spiritual growth, but I had a hard time figuring out why this might be so.  However, I knew that the hallmark of spiritual growth is change, and I knew lots of people who had undergone changes, dramatic and subtle, along the way.  I knew that certain people who had been on a path of conscious spiritual growth had become much more sensitive to certain foods and to the electromagnetic frequencies of electronic equipment.  I knew that a number of people on the path had become much more emotionally balanced, but that there were also some who had become emotionally unbalanced.  Some people had overcome enormous health challenges to become poster children for abundant health and wellbeing, while others' health had become more and more problematic.  

Science tells us that the brain produces certain substances called neurotransmitters when we feel certain emotions.  I'm not so sure that it's the chemical substances, themselves, that actually "cause" the emotions, but they are definitely present when we have certain feelings.  Emotions are not necessarily "good" or "bad," although most people like to label them that way.  They are signals that inform us how things are going, and reminders that, if we don't like how things are going, we need to do something about it. 

Here are some important neurotransmitters:

Serotonin (a hormone) aids in the smooth transmission of messages to the brain and body.  It plays a large role in the regulation of mood, appetite, memory and learning.  A lack of serotonin may result in low self-esteem, depression, or aggression.

Dopamine (a hormone) helps information to flow to higher levels in the brain, and plays a key role in regulating pain and pleasure.

Melatonin (a hormone) regulates waking and sleep cycles.

Epinephrine (also known as adrenaline, a hormone) gets the body moving when instant action is required (fight-or-flight response).

Norepinephrine (a hormone) is most responsible for concentration and cognitive alertness.

Acetylcholine (a hormone) enhances memory and counters the effects of epinephrine.  It is released in the brain when we are dreaming.

Endorphin (a neuropeptide) is the body's natural painkillers.  An abundance may create a feeling of euphoria.

Cortisol (a neuropeptide) is released when we are under stress.  High levels of cortisol can interrupt transmission of messages from neuron to neuron. 

Our emotions seem to be triggered automatically at first, but the actual production of chemicals associated with each emotion doesn't last that long.  In order to maintain any given emotion, we have to make a choice to continue the circuitry of that emotion.  In other words, if something makes us angry, the neurons produce adrenaline and noradrenaline, but once those chemicals start to dissipate in the blood, the feeling starts to go away.  If we continue to think about what made us angry in the first place, we trigger that anger circuitry again, and we can keep in going indefinitely.  Eventually, most of us also begin to produce acetylcholine, a hormone that counters the effects of adrenaline.  A few people with anger management issues may be unable to produce this hormone, which is one reason some people have to be medicated in order to control their anger responses.

So-called "negative" emotions aren't very comfortable, but that's the point.  The discomfort is meant to make us aware that a change needs to be made.  In fact, if you think about it, "negative" emotions fuel all changes.  Why change if you're feeling great, right?  When we see "negative" emotions in this light, they don't seem quite so negative anymore.  At least they're useful – that is, if we don't hang onto them.

The nature of life is to go from a state of balance to one of imbalance, then a change occurs, and balance is restored, but at a different (hopefully "higher") level.   There's nothing wrong with a temporary state of imbalance.  The danger is when a person is stuck in a state of imbalance.  It appears that not only do we go into states of mental or emotional imbalance, but we also experience a state of chemical imbalance when we go through our changes.

Especially when a person starts out on a path of conscious spiritual growth, a lot of karmic issues come due, which is why a lot of people's lives seem to be going crazy.  The imbalances are generally temporary, and a new state of balance can be achieved once a karmic lesson has been processed.  As I've written before, many so-called "negative" experiences call forth qualities latent within us that we need to manifest in our lives: patience, humility, and perseverance, to name a few.  Once we have brought out a quality within us, we achieve a new state of balance that incorporates that quality, and we are free to use it to solve future issues that will come up.  That's what I mean by a "higher" state of balance.

We never stop growing, mentally, emotionally and spiritually, and we therefore never stop having "problems" in this earthly life, but once we learn to control our minds and our emotions, we can meet our problems – and return to a state of balance – with less anger, less anxiety, and less stress.  That means we end up producing less of the hormones that fuel "negative" emotions and more of the ones that fuel positive feelings.  In that sense, our body chemistry does change as we move along the path of spiritual unfoldment.  :-)

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