Yes, you are a chemist! As you think, you shape the chemistry of your brain and blood, you shape the chemistry of your relationships, and you also shape the chemistry of your life.
I have a PhD in chemistry and was once a professional chemist. I trained in how to build molecules and found myself working as a scientist with one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies.
I loved ‘organic chemistry’, which is where we stick atoms together in various combinations to construct a particular shape of molecule. My specialist fields were cardiovascular disease and cancer.
But even though we think of chemists as people who work in labs, everyone is a chemist and the labs we work in are the laboratories of our bodies, our homes, and the laboratories of our own lives. Here’s the different ways you’re a chemist.
1) How you practice brain chemistry
As you think, you practice brain and blood chemistry. When you think about someone or something that stresses you, then you produce stress chemistry in your brain and blood stream.
You elevate levels of cortisol, adrenalin, norepinephrine, and histamine. Prolonged thinking like this often leads to a build up of free radicals and inflammatory cytokines in your bloodstream. These are chemicals that play a role in heart disease and ageing. And you’re doing this with your mind!
If you were to think of someone that you love instead, or think of a moment of affection, so you produce different chemistry. You elevate levels of dopamine, serotonin, growth hormone, and oxytocin.
If you consistently think in this way, so you increase oxytocin in your bloodstream, which helps sweep those damaging free radicals and cytokines out of your blood. It is a ‘cardioprotective’ hormone. And again, you’re doing this with your mind.
To take a scientific example, research shows that a hostile mindset is linked with cardiovascular disease. People who tend to be most hostile and aggressive have a much higher risk of heart disease than the general population. An attitude of love, compassion and kindness, on the other hand, is associated with better cardiovascular health.
2) How you practice relationship chemistry
A hostile or aggressive mindset also shatters relationship quality. It steers conversations towards complaints and criticism and guides us away from the things that really matter.
When we overly focus on what’s wrong with things or what’s wrong in the world, we get so caught up in the emotions of anger and frustration that we actually miss out on savouring special moments that happen around us. During these times, we move farther away, emotionally, from those who matter most to us.
When we point the mind towards the heart and focus on what’s good and the good qualities in people, on the other hand, we sow seeds of emotional closeness. People find us more approachable and more enjoyable to be around. We gradually move closer, emotionally, to those who matter most to us, as well as build a network of people who value us for who we are.
3) How you practice life chemistry
Our thinking also shapes the events and circumstances of our lives. We move towards, or attract, those things that we give most attention to.
The trouble most of us have is that while we might have a goal or aspiration, we only give it a fraction of our focus. Throughout the day, a whole manner of things occupy a greater portion of our minds: how crap our current state of affairs is, how such and such a person is causing us stress, how we have too much month left at the end of our money, as well as, of course, a lot of happy thoughts too. But most of us generally apportion a larger percentage of our thinking to where we are and the woes of the past than to imagining and visioning our future. We need to flip this around a bit and learn to direct a better portion of our attention to where we want to go.
Even if it’s not an event or ‘thing’ you want but a state, learn to direct more of your attention inwards, perhaps through meditation.
So everyone is a chemist. I like to reflect on the fact that I started out as a chemist, left that role to study and write about the power of the mind (initially based on the placebo effect. You may have read my bestseller, ‘How Your Mind Can Heal Your Body’), and only years later realised that I never stopped being a chemist at all. I’ve just learned to practice different kinds of chemistry, kinds of chemistry that we’re all practicing in every moment of our lives. We just don’t realise that we’re doing it.
Now if we do realise it, we can impact our health in a favourable way, we can nurture and build our relationships, and we can use our chemistry prowess to shape the landscape of our lives.
Most people grow up with the idea that the mind is impotent, that its only function is to interpret life, think and make decisions. But the mind can be thought of as a force, one that pushes chemistry in the brain and body, one that brings love into our lives, and one that pushes outwards to create our hopes and dreams.
You are much more than you think you are and far more capable than you think you are! Now believe in yourself!