A state of mind

Your mental state can influence your wellbeing

brain power
All in the mind
It has become evident that the insights into the brain’s functioning can be used to enhance effectiveness, performance and productivity in organisations. 

This could simultaneously lower absenteeism, raise productivity and increase profit. PNI, or psychoneuroimmunology, is where this intersection of the workplace and neuroscience takes place.

Psychoneuroimmunology is a mouthful (psycho-neuro-immunology). PNI is perhaps easier to understand if you divide it into its three more recognisable constituent categories: psychology, neurology and immunology.

Psychology, at its most simplistic, is the study of our minds, as expressed in our behaviour and emotions. Why we do what we do, feel the way we do and ways of dealing with it. Neurology is the branch of medicine that deals with disorders of the nervous system. And immunology a branch of biomedicine that looks at the structure and functioning of our immune system, particularly our ability to fend off infection and disease.

Science now confirms what Buddhists and hippies have known for years: that human’s circuitry operates on an integrated, holistic level – your thoughts do literally manifest themselves in physical symptoms.

As an accredited scientific application PNI, designed to enhance productivity while simultaneously reducing chances of absenteeism, has profound implications for HR management. Its effects are so profound that it is regarded as an essential requirement in any company that takes investment in its people seriously. Through cultivating higher levels of wellness in their workforce, such companies benefit from increased profitability through a more productive workforce. While the intelligence of PNI applies to the corporate environment, it is of particular interest to specific sectors such as medical aid funders and insurers as well as the medical and para-medical professions.

Wellness is a buzz word. Typically, health was lumped with wellness with both implying an absence of disease or disability. These days, we have come to think of wellness more holistically and as a concept it now means more than health by incorporating reference to quality of life. 

Immune changes due to stress are central to PNI research. On a medical level, theorists now propose that stressful events trigger cognitive responses, which induce nervous system and endocrine changes (relating to the endocrine glands or the hormones secreted by them), which ultimately impair immune function. While stress in short bursts can be beneficial, on a bio-chemical basis if prolonged its emotional states of fear, anxiety and anger can be particularly negative. Potential health consequences vary, from the common cold to the incidence and progression of cancer.

The interaction of the chemistry resulting from brain, psychological and physical processes are what determine optimal levels of wellness, performance and leadership. The good news is that diagnosis programmes exist that can accurately evaluate and intervene in the wellness and associated performance profile of an individual.

Depending on diagnostic results, individuals can either be referred to associated professions or in most cases, to accredited coaching programmes. In the diagnosis, a trend over time can be evaluated upon which to gauge an effective intervention. This is relevant to a corporate environment where evidence clearly links mind-states to physical wellness and performance.
Natalie Themistocleous
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This edition

Issue 16


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