A few months ago, my husband, Kevin, turned 40 years old. Since I am not exactly a master at surprises, I decided to go out on a limb and throw him a surprise party.
While it was fun to plan the party for him and get excited about actually surprising him for once in my life, what was not all that enjoyable was feeling like I was constantly sneaking around.
Maybe it’s because I’m a rule follower, but keeping this giant secret from Kevin actually started to bother me after a while. I often felt tense after I’d have to quickly close my computer when he came into the room or make sure he didn’t see a text message come across my phone. I started to feel guilty about hiding all of the details from him, even though everything I was working on was totally for his benefit.
Even though I loved seeing the look on his face when he was genuinely surprised, I also really loved not having to keep hiding things from him after everything was said and done.
After the party was over, I started thinking about how I felt during the planning process and it dawned on me: Keeping a secret seems like it can really wreak havoc on your health.
So I did a little research and was pretty amazed at what I found.
Did you know that we are actually “wired” to tell the truth? Without getting too sciencey, there’s a part of your brain (the cingulate cortex) that is negatively affected when you keep a secret locked inside.
Stated very simply, keeping a secret can actually interfere with your brain’s normal functions and causes different areas of your brain (between the cingulate cortex and the prefrontal cortex) to miscommunicate, leading to pressure in the cingulate cortex.
Brain function – Cortex…Huh? Why should you care even a little bit about any of this?
Because pressure in the cingulate cortex = an increase in the production of stress hormones. And this, my friends = bad news for your body.
A high level of stress hormones is referring to your “fight or flight” response kicking in. And when you continue to keep a secret, guess what? Your stress hormones remain in high gear.
In fact each and every time you think about the secret you are keeping, your cortisol levels can surge and negatively impact your:
- Blood pressure
- GI tract and digestion
- Sleep patterns
- And leads to feelings of anxiety and fear
Our brains are so intelligent that the bigger the secret or the perceived risk to anyone finding out, the higher the anxiety and the level of cortisol that is released.
As if the effects mentioned above weren’t bad enough, prolonged spikes in cortisol can also lead to mood swings, the propensity to lose your temper, difficulty with memory and learning, a weakened immune system and loss of collagen in your skin.
Why am I bringing this up now, you ask?
Because I continually run into situations with clients where they appear to be doing everything right. They’re eating clean as a whistle. Proportion sizes are under control. They’re moving and getting a decent amount of exercise.
In other words, everything on the outside looks good.
And yet they can’t sleep, their guts are a mess and the battle with anxiety is raging. On top of this, their weight is higher than they want it to be and no matter how much tweaking we do, nothing seems to matter.
So I started asking questions and gently digging a little deeper…and you can guess what was uncovered: Secrets. Deep, painful secrets that were hidden away for years and years.
Except our brains and our bodies are way smarter than we think they are.
You see the mind – body connection is alive and well. Our brains are so intelligent that they’re really quite miraculous.
I mean who knew we were actually and physiologically wired for truth?
But troubles can and will arise when the truth is hidden. Our health can deteriorate quickly as our body’s check engine lights start going off with the hopes of us realizing there is a problem…So we can do something about it.
Perhaps you are reading this and experiencing some of the aforementioned side effects. You thought you were doing everything right and yet the mention of keeping a secret is speaking directly to you.
Before you do anything, I would highly suggest taking some time to do what may seem like a trivial exercise: Write out a list of the pros and cons of continuing to keep your secret(s).
Research shows that simply addressing the issue and writing it out can begin to dramatically reduce stress hormone levels.
Next, find someone you can go to in confidence that can first listen to you as you reveal your secret and can then provide further guidance. Telling the truth can release the burden from your mind and can stop the miscommunication in your brain, effectively decreasing cortisol and the negative effects on your body.
But it needs to be done in a safe place.
Consider talking with a close friend, pastor or counselor.
Take some time to evaluate what you may be hiding so you can start working towards releasing the secrets that could in fact be making you sick.
While I don’t know all of the answers, I do know that this life is s-h-o-r-t. Making mistakes is part of it, but hiding them and attempting to push them out of your mind (which as we’ve seen, doesn’t work anyway) physically ends up doing more harm than good and will effectively rob you of your peace and joy.
As I’ve said continually over the past few years, true health begins on the inside and then works its way out.
If you want to truly be healthy, take heart and realize that the truth really can and will set you FREE.