OPINION — It’s time to wake up the world. It has been reported that Utah has the highest rate of mental illness in the U.S. (Barbara Christensen, Daily Herald, March 9, 2014). Even the state of Utah concurs that we are ranked the 10th highest in the nation in suicide rates. The Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health’s website features a suicide prevention hotline as the central focus of their home page.
The Utah Department of Health, along with the Office of Vital Records and Statistics, in their Community Health Indicator Report state that the leading indicators of suicide in Utah are untreated mental health conditions, such as depression and anxiety, behavioral problems, impulsivity, low self-esteem, substance use and abuse, and legal issues brought on by instability and anti-social tendencies.
It sounds like an overwhelming amount of conditions to address if we expect to make a dent in the growing problems. If we are paying attention, those problems are growing larger and at an accelerated pace. But what if all of these prevailing indicators and issues actually only had a single source? What if all of these conditions were manifestations of just one single thing?
Epigenetics is the science that has unlocked the door in helping us understand that all of the issues related to depression, anxiety, mood dysregulation, ADHD, low self-esteem, loneliness, isolation, anger, addiction, abuse, relationship struggles, fear of intimacy, unending cycles of poverty, etc. are simply manifestations of what has come to be stored at the cellular level; especially what one has come to believe about his or her self.
So profoundly convincing is the research it is common to hear from the researchers in this field state, “How one sees themself has serious ongoing ramifications; how one sees themself tends to be their destiny.”
Epigenetics has shifted our focus from looking at external reasons for our ongoing struggles and beginning to recognize that the real reason for our ongoing difficulties is because of what is stored inside of us at the cellular level. Cellularly stored learning is never dormant. Cellularly stored learning is consistently sending signals that influence how we see ourselves.
Self-perception becomes encoded upon DNA and stored in neural pathways and acts in a way that shapes our ongoing experience.
In laymen’s terms, epigenetics has us understand how cells function, which provides the insight as to how our current circumstances related to both mental and physical health issues got their footing.
Each of us is made of approximately 100 trillion cells. Cells are designed to do one thing, and they do this very well – they absorb our experience and our environment. If our cells have absorbed and stored incorrect information, we will experience negative feedback in a host of different ways.
The cellularly stored distortions formed by incorrect information form are discerned by ongoing, patternistic negative emotions, whether these be social anxiety, fear of intimacy, depression, agitation, explosive anger, feeling life is unfair, ongoing stress, fear of what others think about us, a general sense of shame, perfectionism, a feeling that one does not matter, an ongoing sense of helplessness, feeling like a failure or undeserving of good things, bi-polar and other mood dysregulation, anxiety, greater social isolation, and addiction. The list goes on and on.
In the research it became abundantly clear that the most impactful source of programming our cells incorrectly is our own mindset. That is why it’s time to wake up the world. Our mindset is an epigenetic signal of the environment which heavily influences so many aspects of our daily living. Here is what we now know: Every minute of every day, our body is physically reacting, literally changing, in response to the thoughts that run through our mind.
It’s been shown over and over again that just thinking about something causes our brain to release neurotransmitters, chemical messengers that open vital communication between cells and our nervous system. Neurotransmitters control virtually all of our body’s functions, from hormones to digestion to feeling happy, sad, or stressed. Our cells bathe in the neurochemicals that are being released in relation to our thoughts.
Human thoughts and intentions are carried within our physiology as protein messengers; therefore every thought possesses the power and energy to transform perception, DNA performance, and our physical and mental health. Our cells are heavily influenced by the compositional medium of those neurochemicals released in connection with our thoughts.
Expectancies and learned associations have been shown to change brain chemistry and circuitry. The thoughts we introduce to our cells will impact and shape real physiological and cognitive outcomes. If those thoughts are accurate then those outcomes are positive, but if our thoughts provide inaccurate information that will have a different outcome. Thoughts have an astonishing power to influence physiology.
What flows consistently and repetitively through our minds sculpts our brain in nearly permanent ways. Think of the thoughts of our mind as the movement of information through our nervous system, which on a physical level is all the electrical signals running back and forth, most of which is happening below our conscious awareness. As a thought travels through our brain, neurons fire together in distinctive ways based on the specific information being handled, and those patterns of neural activity actually change our neural structure.
Our thoughts likewise program our cells. A thought is an electrochemical event which signals the release of a host of chemical and electrical particles, in the form of neuro or polypeptides that look for receptor sites on cells. Each and every cell contains thousands and thousands of receptor sites, and just as the word indicates, these sites are there to receive information. What docks in those receptor sites influences cell activity.
If we are flooding our cells with incorrect information, the daughter cells formed through mitosis will structurally change. These structural changes can lead to a host of physical and mental difficulties.
If we bombard our cells with polypeptides from negative thoughts, we are literally programming our cells to receive more of the same negative polypeptides in the future. What’s even worse is that we lessen the number of receptors for positive peptides on the cells, making our self more inclined towards negativity.
Our thoughts activate or deactivate genes. The rapidly growing field of epigenetics is demonstrating clearly that we are an extension of our environment and experience. Our cells are constantly absorbing environmental signals, including the environmental signals of our thoughts.
All environmental signals have the capacity to activate or deactivate gene programming. Genes can actually be switched on or off depending upon what information is being absorbed. If you would like to know how powerful thoughts are as environmental signals, the research is indicating that 95-99 percent of all health issues are related to the negative thoughts we say to ourselves. That is because most of health issues are directly influenced by stress and emotional states. These are an outgrowth of our negative thoughts.
Our life experience of absorbing environmental signals doesn’t alter the genes we were born with. What changes is our genetic activity, meaning the hundreds of proteins, enzymes, and other chemicals that regulate our cells. Epigenetics is showing that our perceptions and thoughts impact biological controls, which places us in the driver’s seat. By changing our thoughts, we can influence and shape our own genetic readout.
We have a choice in determining what input our cells receive. The more positive or correct the input, the more positive or correct the output of our genes. Epigenetics is allowing lifestyle choices to be directly traced to the genetic level and is proving the mind-body connection irrefutable. At the same time, research into epigenetics is also emphasizing how important positive mental self-care practices are because they directly impact our physical health.
Our mindset is recognized by our body — right down to the genetic level – and the more we improve our mental habits, the more beneficial response we’ll get from our body. We can’t control many of the external events we experience in life; what we can control is our perception of such events.
Our mindset acts in shaping neurological wiring, how our cells become programmed, and how our DNA is expressing itself. Providing our cells with correct information through correct perceptions will change our brain, cells, and genes, either eliminating or significantly decreasing mental and physical health issues.
Genes do not determine human outcomes – it is our responses to our environment that actually determine the expression of our genes. When we respond to our environment with negative patterns of self-defeating thoughts we begin to program our cells to believe things about our self that are not real.
Our beliefs can change our biology. We have the power to heal ourselves, increase our feelings of self-worth and improve our emotional state. Every aspect of our lives can be improved with the right intention.
The worst thing we can do as thinking and feeling people is to get cut off from our deep, positive emotions and let fear and anger take over our lives. When we allow ourselves to be taken over by negativity, we are putting ourselves in a mental-biological state of fear akin to the fight or flight response.
In order to grow positively as human beings, we need to express positive emotions such as love, affection, joy and a will to conquer ourselves and our own lives. When we change our beliefs, we change our emotional states. When that happens, we change our lives.
First we have to believe what is true about our self. Only then do we give ourselves the opportunity to live life with hope, assurance, peace of mind, confidence, motivation, happiness and empowerment.
Submitted by LARRY BRADLEY, marriage and family therapist, Dixie Counseling Center.
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Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.
Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.