We’ve all probably heard or spoken this phrase at some point in our lives, “S/he’s getting under my skin!” This age-old adage has been used for centuries, but for as often as we use it, do we really understand the consequences of letting someone or something get under our skin? If you’re not familiar with the saying (and kudos to you if you’re not), the phrase refers to something or someone that really annoys or bothers you, sometimes to the point of making your skin itch or even crawl. If you’ve never felt this way, you may as well save yourself a few minutes and just stop right here. On the other hand, since simply searching for “annoying people” gives 105,000,000 results, I’d say most of us should probably read on.
Being the word nerd that I am, I searched for online synonyms for annoy and bother and sadly came up with irritate, frustrate and even anger. Ouch. Is it just me or are these words part of most of the sentences the average person uses on pretty much a daily basis? I started thinking about last month’s article on negative thinking and began wondering how feeling negatively or angry, for example, could also affect a person’s overall health. Almost immediately, I was reminded of an ancient proverb that refers to anger as “folly” or lacking good sense:
Being slow to anger goes with great understanding, being quick-tempered makes folly still worse. A tranquil mind gives health to the body, but envy rots the bones.
I couldn’t stop thinking about how a tranquil mind gives health to the body. There’s so much research to support the fact that a healthy mind directly relates to a healthy body. And since my mind decides what or how I should feel, I thought it prudent to pay attention to the wealth of information that’s out there on the mind-body connection. Here are just a few findings that may ring a bell with some of us:
- ScienceDaily (Sept. 25, 1998): “Women who are hostile, hold in their anger, and feel self-conscious in public show greater thickness of their carotid arteries, an early marker for the development of atherosclerosis [hardening of the arteries] throughout their bodies.”
- Kawachi (1994) found that “Anxiety, worry and fear more than double the risk of fatal coronary heart disease.”
- The one that really got me thinking: “Research has demonstrated that just 6 minutes of a negative emotion can suppress the immune system for more than 21 hours” Berk (2001).
I’m no mathematician, but I’m fairly certain this is one “if-then” statement I’d prefer to steer clear of. In other words, if 6 minutes of negative thinking then screws up my immune system for 21 hours, I had better start figuring out ways to avoid feeling like this if at all possible. While I still maintain the importance of feeding the body good food, I’m realizing that the way I think translates into the way I feel and undoubtedly affects my overall health as well.
I know what some of you might be thinking: “I can barely use the bathroom by myself and yet I’m somehow supposed to find time to work on myself. Create a new and improved me. Blah, blah, blah.” Okay, admittedly, this stuff doesn’t happen overnight and yes, it does take some work. But, and that’s a BIG but, I also know that so many of us are not happy with life status quo and are looking for change—somewhere, somehow.
So take some time this month and pay attention to how you’re thinking. Are you easily angered or irritated? If so, see if you can identify the triggers that allow in these negative emotions and then find ways to offset them with patience or “great understanding.” The reward will be tranquility….and it just might change your life.