In herbal medicine circles, there is the saying “treat the nervous system first”. The last couple of weeks I have been studying the nervous system more in-depth and have begun to realize why this statement is so true. Many of the physical health problems we face are rooted in the dis-”ease” of the overtaxed nervous system.
Nervous System Overview
Physiologically speaking, the nervous system can be divided into two functional groups: the somatic nervous system and the autonomic nervous system.
The somatic nervous system (SNS) is our voluntary nervous system and is what we use to control our skeletal muscles. For instance, if I want to get a glass of water, I consciously move my body to the kitchen to get the glass of water.
The autonomic nervous system (ANS) is involuntary and regulates our internal organs (heart, breathing, digestion). The ANS is further divided into two distinct functional groups: the sympathetic nervous system and the parasympathetic nervous system. It is these two systems that we will focus on.
Sympathetic Nervous System
The sympathetic nervous system is responsible for the body’s stress response. It is sometimes known as “fight or flight”. When our bodies are faced with stressful situations (either short-term or long-term), a chemical chain of events occurs starting in the brain (hypothalamus –> pituitary), causing the release of cortisol from the adrenal glands (located on top of the kidneys). This is known as the HPA axis.
For acute situations, this release of cortisol helps us deal with the stressful situation we are facing. But when our stress is long-term, it negatively impacts our health.
Parasympathetic Nervous System
The parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for the relaxation response, otherwise known as “rest and digest”. Ideally, we should spend the majority of our time engaging our parasympathetic nervous system, although very few of us are able to do so as often as we would like.
Engaging the parasympathetic nervous system not only reduces stress, it reduces pain, anxiety, tension, slows our heart rate and breathing, and leaves us in a state of PEACE!
Sounds delightful, doesn’t it!
Engaging the Relaxation Response
If you have done much delving into the world of herbs, you know how prevalent new age ideas are in much of the educational materials available. One of the big buzzwords you will hear referring to engaging the relaxation response is “Mind-Body Technique”. In the new age world, this often refers to meditation and some type of positive affirmation.
As a Christian, when I encounter this type of situation I often ask myself “how has Satan twisted the goodness of God to achieve his means”. In other words, I know that engaging the relaxation response is good, and all good things come from God. How can I honor God and please Him as I work towards a healthier body?
Looking at His Word, I believe it is possible.
Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.
When we are worried, scared, hurting, anxious, dealing with difficult situations—whatever the case may be, we are to bring it to the Lord in prayer.
2. Meditation on Scripture
Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.
The Bible doesn’t tell us not to meditate, but it does say that the meditations of our heart should be acceptable to the Lord. When we read further on in Philippians, we find the things that we should think on:
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.
3. Renewing of the Mind
And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
When we are born again, our minds should be transformed. We should no longer think like this world does, but rather think on the things of God.
4. Peace through Christ
Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.
True peace cannot be achieved by simply clearing our minds and finding our “happy place”. Peace comes only through Christ.