The Physical Effects of Emotions
Your emotional health has a lot of influence on your physical health.
In this article we explore how your emotional and mental state can affect your physical health, and just how you can apply
aromatherapy to ease the physical complaints that have manifested as a result of excessive emotional demands.
Emotionally we are capable of experiencing both positive and negative emotions. There are no such things as ‘wrong’ emotions, as negative emotions do have a purpose. Negative emotions can spur us into productive action.
However, there can be wrong emotional responses. In this case, emotions
are unproductive and can affect how we communicate and solve problems and can lead us to develop low self esteem. Unproductive
emotional function can cause emotions to become so intense that we cannot focus, use reason or consider other factors, which
can lead us to make the wrong decisions.
An important component of healthy living is not to allow our negative emotions to rule our lives
or undermine our efforts. Negative emotions can exert powerful influence over
both our thoughts and behaviour and consequently affect us physically. An individual’s
negative outlook and the fears that underlie it can cause illness to manifest. Negative
mental states cause physical changes in the body. Stress is thought to be at
the heart of many diseases, causing a degenerative effect on the entire person. Suppressing
negative thoughts and feelings will also cause negative consequences. Chronically
ignoring and denying negative feelings is not a good thing to do, but spending a lot of time thinking negative thoughts can
cause us to spiral uncontrollably into depression, anxiety and anger. Negative emotions can actually be a warning sign that
we are not effectively dealing with issues or concerns in our life. The trick
is to recognize the difference between unproductive negative emotions that cause us to view life, the world, events and situations
through a distorted, negative lens, and productive negative emotions that cause us to face concerns and conflict in our lives.
way to help break the cycle of dysfunctional negative emotions is distraction. Actively
seeking ways to use positive emotions to cope with negative moods helps repair the mood and improve overall thinking and responses.
Positive emotions reduce the negative effects of stress on the body’s physiological
systems. Looking for ways to infuse negative, stressful situations with positive
emotions improves psychological wellbeing, problem solving skills and physical wellbeing. Going
for a walk, taking a bath, having a massage, and talking to friends are all examples of ways we can invoke positive experience
and emotions to change a negative mood. Aromatherapy has a useful role in altering
emotional states as it can be employed in self-soothing through massage, vaporization and bathing. Emotions, memories and
aroma are linked. Our sense of smell is directly connected to, and influences
our nervous system
Aromatherapy oils themselves can bring about changes in emotional behaviour on a subtle level
by creating changes in moods on a subliminal level. Scent can also distract us
from our emotions by shifting our focus of attention, or simply by inducing positive memories and emotions related to the
scent. By using aromatherapy to help balance emotional states, we in turn affect
our mental and physical states, enhancing our life, attitudes, relationships and sexuality.
functions on a psychobiological level, affecting both the mental and the physical simultaneously. Aromatherapy oils offer these effects without impairing a person’s thought processes and bodily functions,
or causing detrimental side effects as opposed to pharmaceutical psychological drugs. (Oils have to be used in appropriate
doses.) Therefore, aromatherapy as a treatment for emotional states is highly valuable and highly effective.
our sense of smell we can influence our moods and emotions. Inhalation of aromatherapy oils has primarily psychological effects.
Essential oil molecules reach the olfactory system via the nose.
This affects the limbic system. The
limbic system is a primitive part of the brain concerned with basic emotions, mood and memories. The components of the limbic system govern emotional states, behavioural drives and help to store and retrieve
memories. Stimulation of the components of the limbic system by aromatherapy
brings about aroma’s ability to affect conscious thought and reaction. It
is the link between the cerebral cortex and the unconscious functions of the brain system.
The limbic system is especially susceptible to the effects of aroma, and through it, it is possible to influence a
person’s attitude, mood and disposition by introducing them to certain scents. The
stimulation of the limbic system by the aroma molecules also causes reactions in both the nervous system and the endocrine
(hormonal) system. The hypothalamus and pituitary glands are stimulated, influencing
hormones, stress levels, sexual arousal, body temperature, digestion, insulin production, appetite, thirst and repulsion.
Stimulation of the hormonal system affects the nervous system, balancing the
two halves of the autonomic nervous system, the parasympathetic and the sympathetic. Therefore
hormones in the body can balance emotions and physical states bought on by negative emotional states.
Using the oils to change your moods is a wonderful way in helping you cope with the day-to-day,
ups-and-downs of life. But perhaps you have been caught in a cycle of negative
dysfunctional emotions, which has progressed into a physical and mental condition that has a whole set of ailments attached
to it, and you may not even be aware that your physical condition is a result of your emotional state.
are several physical conditions we can link directly to excessive demands on emotional resources, emotional difficulties or
dysfunctional emotional responses. These conditions are; stress, depression,
debility, headaches and migraines, anxiety, insomnia, abdominal pain, stomach complaints and diarrhoea, and sexual problems
Stress in itself is directly caused by demands on emotional resources. Unresolved issues or demands which are built up over time cause stress. Stress causes hormonal changes
in the body, basically asking your adrenal glands to produce adrenaline as a reaction to the stress you are experiencing.
The adrenaline release is part of the body’s fight or flight response.
The fight or flight response causes physical changes in the body such as increased
heart rate, increased blood supply to the muscles, increased respiration and an increase in blood sugars. In the case of stress, over time this increased adrenaline in the body weakens the immune system, making
it more susceptible to all kinds of diseases. Stress which is ongoing can result
in a wide range of physical and psychological conditions such as; headaches, migraines, lethargy, digestive complaints, depression,
debility, insomnia, tension, heart palpitations, irritability, chronic fatigue, skin conditions, eating disorders, reduced
concentration, stomach ulcers, heart failure, abdominal pain, diarrhoea, cardiovascular disease, weight gain or loss, addictions,
arthritis and other inflammatory conditions, respiratory or lung disease, hyper tension (high blood pressure), nervous anxiety,
anxiety and sexual problems such as ; frigidity, infertility and impotence. It
is estimated that in between half and two thirds of illnesses, stress is a main contributing factor.
Essential oils that are of particular benefit in the treatment of stress are; lavender, jasmine, chamomile, rose, valerian, neroli, bergamot, Melissa, clary sage, marjoram and frankincense.
Aromatherapy Oils helpful in lowering high blood pressure are; lavender,
jasmine, ylang ylang, marjoram, neroli, valerian, chamomile, clary sage, vetiver, bergamot and vetiver.
Aromatherapy Oils useful in treating heart palpitations are; ylang
ylang, neroli, clary sage, lavender, rose, melissa, valerian and chamomile.
Essential oils useful in the treatment of anxiety are; bergamot, chamomile, neroli, ylang ylang, melissa, frankincense, cedarwood, lavender, valerian, vetiver and rose.
Mild depression which may have arisen due to difficulties in life, fears, grief and loss responds well to
treatment with aromatherapy oils of; rose, jasmine, basil, clary sage, lavender, neroli,
bergamot, melissa and sandalwood.
Essential oils useful for the treatment of debility are fortifying oils like; rosemary, black pepper and pine
A five minute foot bath with hot water and oils of rosemary,
chamomile, melissa or lavender can be used as a preventative measure for headaches and migraines, as can a regular aromatherapy
massage. The oils most often recommended for treatment of stress and tension related headaches and migraines are; rose, marjoram, melissa, lavender, peppermint, eucalyptus and chamomile.
Aromatherapy oils useful in the treatment of insomnia are; lavender,
ylang ylang, chamomile, clary sage, valerian, neroli, sandalwood and vetiver.
Aromatherapy oils which assist in relieving constipation by stimulating the digestive system are; ginger, black pepper, cinnamon leaf, rosemary and cardamom.
Aromatherapy oils which assist in relieving abdominal pain caused by Irritable Bowel Syndrome or Diarrhoea
are; geranium, chamomile, lavender, melissa, neroli, petitgrain, peppermint, thyme,
tea tree, ginger and cinnamon leaf.
Aromatherapy oils which help relieve indigestion are; palma
rosa, chamomile, lavender, valerian, black pepper, angelica root, petitgrain, fennel, cardamom, lemongrass, clary sage, melissa,
rose and marjoram.
Essential Oils that have Aphrodisiac Properties and help to relax and build confidence are; sandalwood, patchouli, ylang ylang, jasmine, black pepper, cardamom, and clary sage
Essential Oils which help to regulate and balance hormones are; fennel,
geranium, lavender, clary sage and rose.
Essential oils with antispasmodic effects to help relieve menstrual cramps; clary sage, lavender, ginger, chamomile, peppermint, valerian, marjoram
Essential oils with astringent properties to help ease and reduce excessive menstrual flow are; cypress and yarrow
HolyOake. (No date). Living with Emotions: Topic and information worksheet. [Brochure] Perth, Western Australia: Karen Muller.
(2000) Anatomica: The Complete Home Medical Reference. Australia:
Global Book Publishing Pty Ltd.
Lawless, Julia. (1997). The Complete Illustrated Guide toAromatherapy. Great Britain: Element Books.
Nolen-Hoeksema, Dr Susan. (2003). Women who think too much. United
Kingdom: Piatkus Books.
Kylie. (2005). Aromatherapy For The Emotions. United States:
Lulu Press, Ingram Books.
© 2006, Kylie Thompson