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Thoughts and diseases caused by them

Updated on November 30, 2013
Dr Pran Rangan profile image

I am a physician by profession. I like to write on topics related to health, psychology, psychiatry, and spirituality.

What are thoughts exactly is quite enigmatic, so it is difficult to define them clearly. Thoughts can be idea-like, memory-like or picture-like. They are usually short-lived and discrete events.

The thoughts are directly triggered by external stimuli. Thoughts are electrochemical reactions occurring in the brain in the form of waves, the number and complexities of these reactions make them hard to understand them fully. The unconscious mind undergoes certain processes in order to create a conscious thought. Thoughts are generated by the conscious mind responsible for those things we do knowingly to produce thoughts without one being aware of it. Thoughts are what distinguish the human mind from that of other animals.

Thoughts are influenced by our ideas, opinions, and beliefs about ourselves and the world around us. They include the perspectives we bring to any situation or experience, which color our point of view. We are addicted to our thoughts. We cannot change anything if we cannot change our thinking.

Types of thoughts -

There are basically seven types of thoughts that arise in the mind –

  1. Toxic thoughts
  2. Negative thoughts
  3. Waste thoughts
  4. Necessary thoughts
  5. Right thoughts
  6. Positive thoughts
  7. Elevated thoughts

Toxic thoughts - Anxious, worrying, fearful thoughts are particularly toxic. Toxic anxiety can build up in us and poison our souls. It can result in fearful actions. Another toxic thought is destructive criticism. Critical thoughts are closely related to negative ones. Some folks are always finding fault with others. They’re always focused on what’s negative and lacking. Hateful thoughts are toxic. Jealousy - the green-eyed monster – produces potent toxic thoughts. These thoughts are so powerful that they act like potent poisons which damage us badly.

Negative thoughts – Judging others and ourselves creates negative thoughts. “I can’t,” “It’s too late,” “I’m not good enough,” etc. are negative thoughts. Distrust also creates negative thoughts. Thoughts of despair and hopelessness constitute negative thoughts.

Waste thoughts - Wasteful thoughts indeed form part of our daily lives. Wasteful thinking refers to uneconomical thinking or impure thinking. We usually think about things from the past, about the present, about the future or about things which could have happened; such thoughts are waste thoughts. Unnecessary such rumination about the past and future will deplete us of the energy.

Necessary thoughts – They are the thoughts that relate to our actions for our day to day work. They are about our daily planning of how to manage the daily routine acts. To perform them better it needs to plan them. But if we think too much about planning, it indicates that we lack confidence in performing them which wastes our energy and, therefore, such worrying thoughts about the outcome of planning become waste thoughts.

Right thoughts – The appropriate thoughts about how to perform daily acts and the thoughts about the decisions to be taken correctly about important issues constitute the right thoughts. Such thoughts have no scope for any doubt or vacillation. They indicate sureness of what is to be done in a situation.

Positive thoughts – We have quite often heard the example of a glass half full of water. A pessimist will view it as half empty whereas an optimist will view it as half full. So, the thoughts that arise when any situation in life is seen with the perspective of optimism are positive thoughts. It implies seeing the world through rose-colored lenses by ignoring or glossing over the negative aspects of life. However, positive thinking actually means approaching life's challenges with a positive outlook.

Elevated thoughts – They are the thoughts that occur when we consult our conscience and innate wisdom about something. Such thoughts are divine that include the thoughts of love, compassion, empathy and forgiveness. Counting our blessings and cherishing what we have are also elevated thoughts. Seeing the goodness in others constitutes elevated thoughts.

Our thoughts strongly influence our mental and physical health. So, the positive thinking can be good for the health but negative thoughts can be bad for well-being. The idea that believing you are ill can make you ill sounds far-fetched. But the research has shown that women who believe they are particularly prone to heart attack are nearly four times more likely to die from coronary conditions than other women.

Diseases caused by negative thoughts –

Heart diseases – Negative thinking contributes significantly to the generation of stress. There is an association between perception of stress and a heart attack independent of other risk factors. Constant stress increases the possibility and severity of heart disease. It has been found that constant stress increases the risk of a heart attack to twice as compared to those who have little or no stress. Negative thoughts are also instrumental in causing coronary artery disease and high blood pressure.

Sleep problems – Sleep is a natural mechanism of the body to cope with stress and anxiety. But irony is that anxiety can make it harder to sleep. Often the severe anxiety caused by negative thoughts sour the mood that can have a profound effect on the ability to get rest.

Obesity – The negative thoughts produce stress and anxiety, which is a well known factor responsible for causing obesity. Negative thoughts make it harder to reach and stay at a healthy weight. The hormones released when we're stressed include adrenalin, which gives us instant energy, along with corticotrophin releasing hormone (CRH) and cortisol. While high levels of adrenalin and CRH decrease appetite at first, the effects usually don't last long. But cortisol works on a different timetable. Its job is to help us replenish our body after the stress has passed and it hangs around a lot longer. It can remain elevated, increasing the appetite and ultimately driving to eat more.

Depression – Thoughts of pessimism result in depression. In fact, depression and negative thinking are connected to each other in a vicious circle. If we are feeling low, it means that we are having negative thoughts. Many of our negative thinking are automatic and certainly are not deliberate because of our previous mental conditioning. They pass by very quickly and unless we pay special attention to them, we take them for granted. Therefore, they are hard to change.

Memory impairment - Negative and destructive thoughts can cause damage to the dendrites in the brain, resulting in a belief that the brain is a naturally positive organ. The resultant damage to the dendrites causes memory impairment. If we consciously reject the negative thoughts about ourselves or circumstances, the neural circuitry starts to change. We begin to grow new dendrites in the brain, thereby reversing the damage done by the negative thoughts.

Skin problems – Some negative thoughts and their resultant stress can cause acne. During stress the body releases stress hormones including cortisol, which may increase the skin's oil production, making one prone to pimples. Studies show that at least 30% of all dermatology patients have some underlying psychological problem that often goes unaddressed, at least on initial visit, but if addressed, it can have a very positive and powerful impact in improving the skin condition. And negative thoughts that produce lot of stress contribute largely to the psychological problem underlying the various skin problems.

Digestive problems – Stress created by the negative and toxic thoughts has been associated with the onset or exacerbation of some of the chronic common digestive disorders. Such disorders include functional gastrointestinal disorders, inflammatory bowel disease, gastro-esophageal reflux disease and peptic ulcer disease.

Cancers – Many experts have blamed stress caused by toxic and negative thoughts for some types of malignancies. But cancer also causes stress and it might be difficult to determine which came first. So, it is obviously difficult to establish exactly any temporal relationship between stress and cancer. In fact, stress can adversely influence the course and outcome of a cancerous growth. Stress can increase the risk of cancer in many ways such as people under stress may develop certain behaviors like smoking, overeating, or drinking alcohol, which increase a person’s risk for cancer, especially in persons who have an inherited risk factor.

Replacing negative thoughts with positive thoughts -

Since the toxic and negative thoughts have a profoundly bad effect on our body, it becomes imperative to replace them with positive thoughts. Most of the thoughts are related to the unpleasant events of the past and the expectations that we wish to fulfill in the future. When our expectations are not fulfilled as we desire them to be, we develop stress and anxiety. So, in order to avoid the negativity so produced by the unpleasant past and undue expectation of the future, we will have to learn to be in the present. By being in the present, we can stay away from negativity.

The practice of mindfulness is one of the important ways to stay in the present. It uses techniques like meditation, breathing and yoga. Mindfulness training helps us become more aware of our thoughts and feelings so that instead of being overwhelmed by them, we're better able to manage them.

Another important way to replace the negative thoughts is to repeat frequently the positive statements and concepts throughout the day. This practice is more effective when done in the morning as the mind is more receptive at this time of the day and before bedtime, when it reduces the stress of the day by infusing positivity in the mind. With practice, gradually, it becomes a habit and then our nature of positive thinking.

Still another important way is to cultivate the friendship of people with positive frame of mind. Since positivity is contagious, it will definitely influence you to be positive.


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    • Dr Pran Rangan profile image
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      Dr Pran Rangan 3 years ago from Kanpur (UP), India

      Thanks for your nice comments.

    • OhMe profile image

      Nancy Tate Hellams 3 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      I found this extremely interesting and I do believe that our thoughts are connected to diseases. I love the "Words to Live By" and will be sharing this page.

    • Dr Pran Rangan profile image
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      Dr Pran Rangan 4 years ago from Kanpur (UP), India

      Thanks for your nice comments.

    • thumbi7 profile image

      JR Krishna 4 years ago from India

      Very good ideas Sir. I like the way you linked diseases to thoughts.

      Thanks for sharing