The human mind has always fascinated me, and I've been particularly interested in how our bodies respond to whatever is going on in our minds. If our brains can be tricked (and they can be), so can our bodies. Try this experiment with me:
Imagine, as you read this, that you're cutting a plump, juicy lemon into quarters with a sharp knife. Pick up a piece of the lemon and study its freshly cut surface. Look at the crinkly texture of the lemon's flesh and notice the juice that clings to it. If there are seeds, you can pick them out with your fingers now and place them on the table in front of you. Good. Now lift the lemon gently to your nose and smell it for a moment until your nostrils are full of its scent. Now look at the piece of lemon once more...take your time...then move it to your mouth and bite your teeth into it, hard.
How'd that work out for you? If you're like most people, there's a lot more saliva in your mouth right now than there was before you read that last paragraph. Considering that there wasn't really a lemon, isn't it odd that your body reacted just as if the lemon had been real? Your brain relied on the information it received (which happened to be false), and then it did what brains are supposed to do and sent appropriate signals to your salivary glands.
Here are a couple of other examples right off the top of my head: Think about the sound of somebody scraping their fingernails across a blackboard. Did an involuntary shiver just run down your spine? What if I were to tell you about the time I was peeling potatoes when the potato peeler slipped and sliced a chunk out of my knuckle? That didn't happen, but did you get a little twinge in your stomach when you thought about it?
No doubt these automatic physical responses are important to us in some ways. They get us off our butts if we just "think" we smell smoke. They're what make it so much fun to read a good thriller or watch a car chase (or a love scene) on the big screen. But the fact is, our bodies generate these various chemical responses without requiring our brains to prove anything. So sometimes we get all stressed out for nothing.
I'm certainly no expert, but I've learned enough to be convinced that our thoughts influence our brain chemistry and, therefore, our health. I think that's why it seems to matter so much whether we focus our thoughts and energies on the positive aspects of our daily lives or the negative ones.
There is one thing I wonder about, though. Whether I'm feeling bummed out and blue or happy enough to celebrate, my brain seems to send the same message over and over: "This might be a good time to have some cookies."