The Art of Self-Healing:
A Complete Guide to Creating Emotional Health and Balancing Your Bio-Chemistry


self healing and emotional health go hand in hand. research has shown that the two are deeply interrelated. photo: issara willenskomer

Molecules, Emotional Health, and Conscious Interventions
Consider this: Every cell of the human body is in constant communication with other cells. The way signals are communicated is either by chemical or non-physical signals. Molecules are physical (chemical)

signals, and sunlight or emotions are examples of non-physical signals. With speeds similar to that of sound, both types of signals “fly” back and forth, through the vast expanse of our nervous system, on a constant basis. For instance, adrenalin (epinephrine), a hormone and a neurotransmitter, is associated with the emotional counterparts of fear (fight or flight or freeze responses). When we encounter (or simply imagine) a fearful situation we instantly send an emotional signal to the adrenal glands (on top of the kidneys), which in turn instructs cellular DNA to code for proteins that combine into adrenalin in rapid succession. Adrenalin enters the bloodstream and increases the body’s heart rate and blood pressure, and diverts blood supply from the gastrointestinal tract to the large muscle groups, getting you ready for fight or flight. After all, there is a tiger in front of you. And what are you going to do?

“We know now that many physiological processes which are of significance for health of the individual can be controlled by way of emotion.”

Flanders Dunbar, MD, MedScD, PhD

Acute fear can tell you to step away from that cliff and in that sense is a great motivator that has your body’s survival in mind. However, with chronic fears that just won’t go away, stress molecules such as adrenalin and cortisol are produced on a continuous basis and in higher amounts, which in turn can have numerous real and serious ill-effects such as making the body more vulnerable to infections and increasing your risk of developing a host of potentially life-threatening diseases including heart disease and hypertension.

Here is the good news: reducing stress hormones is in the domain of conscious intervention and vastly improves emotional health. To stay with the example of adrenalin and cortisol and by extension the emotions of fear and anxiety, consider the ten exercises for reducing these specific bio-chemicals later in this article. Some of the suggestions may not resonate with you at all, while you may find others especially useful. The idea is that we have options to consciously influence our internal chemistry and instigate self healing, not by denying our emotional realities, which only functions to suppress them, but by reducing our fears and anxieties in constructive ways so we can be done with them and their debilitating impact on body and mind.

As you will see in the following pages, understanding the two-directional nature of our emotions and the body’s associated physical reactions provides us with the potentially powerful opportunity for self-healing. We can, in fact, begin to release emotions associated with unhealthy molecules and instead foster healthy emotional signals that support our self healing abilities and help us thrive.

At this point, it is important to remember that constricting emotions and stress are not themselves harmful to our health provided they are expressed and let go of appropriately.

biochemistry-self-healing-and-harmonybalancing your bio and neurochemistry is core part of the self healing process and much of that work is accomplished through balancing and fine tuning your emotional health.

Generally speaking, all appropriately expressed emotions are healthy. Anger, while normally seen as a negative emotion, can certainly be destructive, but it can also bring about positive change. The constricting emotion of fear unchecked can paralyze a life, but it can save one from falling off the edge of a cliff in the moment. Hopelessness can kill or give birth to determination. Worthlessness can imprison or produce compassion. Blame can fuel violence toward others, and it can demonstrate what matters.

Conversely, the expansive and positive emotion of love can be a true wonder to behold and experience, but it can also be used to control or smother another. Hope can sustain life in difficult times or maintain a negative influence. Trust can propel a positive reality, while inappropriate trust can destroy it.

However, there are three types of emotions that by definition have only a negative impact, namely guilt, harbored anger, and martyrdom.

The up-side of stress comes into play when we love what we do. When we are engaged in work that is meaningful and important to us, stress turns into a positive by propelling motivation, growth, and evolution. Healthy stress produces a molecular balance in which our mechanism for processing stress is fortified and quite able to handle most everything we experience biologically as well as psychologically, which leads to robust emotional health and even activates the bodies self healing mechanisms.


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Molecules and Emotions—A Two-Way Street

Have a look at this partial list of endogenous molecules (made by the human body) and their known or suspected emotional counterparts. Consider the possibility that by generating specific emotional content you are also changing the very chemistry of your body, either fully or partly modulated via the endocannabinoid system. In doing so we can consciously direct and support the self-healing abilities of our body.


“When we are engaged in work that is meaningful and important to us, stress turns into a positive by propelling motivation, growth, and evolution.”


Also, remember that the evidence-based patterns represented in this section are a sampling of a much larger body of scientific studies and do not represent a comprehensive review. They do serve, however, to demonstrate the intricately linked mind-body connection and its influence on our health, well-being and capacity for self healing.

The Biology of Emotions (Summary)

Molecules primarily associated with expansive emotions:

+ Acetylcholine: I remember
+ Anandamide: I am at ease
+ Endogenous opioids: It feels so good when the pain stops
+ Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA): I am melting
+ Oxytocin: I feel for you
+ Serotonin: I am happy

Molecules primarily associated with constricting emotions:

+ Epinephrine: I am afraid
+ Dopamine: I am motivated
+ Norepinephrine: I am attentive!
+ Cortisol: I am stressed
+ Glutamate: I am excited
+ Vasopressin: I am aggressive

Molecules Primarily Associated with Expansive Emotions


+ Produced by neurons throughout the body
+ Neurons contain CB1

Acetylcholine is a naturally occurring neurotransmitter of the autonomic nervous system and the only neurotransmitter of the voluntary nervous system. Depending on location, the molecule produces different effects. For instance, acetylcholine produces contraction of skeletal muscles while it inhibits contraction of the muscles of the heart.

Animal studies show that a low to medium dose of THC can increase acetylcholine in the brain (while a high dose of THC may lower it, an effect not confirmed in human trials).1

Emotional Keywords:
I remember (learning, memory, plasticity, arousal, attention, reward)

Potential Ill-Effects:
Reduced acetylcholine levels are associated with insomnia, impaired creativity, and dementia in Alzheimer’s patients. Too much acetylcholine may contribute to anxiety, restlessness, or heightened levels of fear.

Potential Health Benefits:

+ Increased sense of creativity, ability to enjoy life’s pleasures and passions and overall emotional health.
+ Enhanced ability for learning and remembering.
+ May help you sleep.
+ May reduce risk of dementia.

To Boost or Balance Your Acetylcholine Availability:

+ Learn and use a new word(s) every day
+ Meditate to enhance focus and concentration
+ Improve your memory (crossword puzzles, riddles, etc.)
+ Recall a rare emotion in detail until you feel it
+ Think of a feeling you never had and imagine what it feels like
+ Consider CB1 activating cannabinoids


+ Produced in human cell membranes
+ Human cell membranes contain CB1 and CB2

Anandamide is an endogenous (made by the human body) cannabinoid and neurotransmitter very similar to THC (from the cannabis plant). THC binds at the same receptor sites (CB1 and CB2) as anandamide and at the proper therapeutic dose produces very similar effects.

Emotional Keywords:
I am at ease (bliss, relaxation, social)

Potential Ill-Effects:
Not known

Potential Health Benefits:

+ Anandamide may reduce hypertension, depression, fear, and anxiety as well as contribute to social play behavior and overall emotional health, which are key elements for the self healing process. 1 The molecule may also be relevant in the treatment of psychiatric disorders characterized by impairments in social behavior such as autism.

+ The presence of corticosteroids stimulates the body’s production of anandamide, which may account for the way in which anandamide influences the neuropathic and antidepressant effects of exercise.2

+ Both THC and the synthetic cannabinoid CP 55,940 reduce pain by inducing the release of the endogenous opioid dynorphin A and dynorphin B, respectively. Anandamide similarly reduces pain but by a potentially novel mechanism not very well understood.3

+ Anandamide inhibits the movement of cancer cells and may prevent metastasis without negative effects to the patient’s immune system. 4

To Boost or Balance Your Anandamide Availability:

+ Exercise such as high-intensity endurance running significantly increased anandamide and “runner’s high.”5
+ Meaningful social interactions may increase anandamide levels naturally.
+ Anandamide inhibits norepinephrine.6
+ Meditation practices may increase anandamide levels naturally.
+ Consider a balanced CB1:CB2 activating cannabinoids.

How to meditate:
About thirty years ago I was interested in learning about Buddhist philosophy and healing practices, and I went straight to the source. I traveled to Northern Thailand, to a town called Chiang Mai. I visited a temple called Wat Tapotaram. While there I noticed a Thai family bring in a severely disturbed woman who was hearing voices “telling her to do terrible things.” A young monk was brought to talk to her. About an hour later she had visibly changed and appeared at peace and was taken home. I learned that this young monk was well known to be able to help the psychologically disturbed, or as the villagers called them, the “possessed.”

I wanted to learn more about how he was able to assist the patient and her family to allow such a significant change in mental and emotional health in such a short period of time. Believing in learning by doing, I ordained as a monk. I lived at Wat Tapotaram, where the old Abbott taught me the following simple technique called Samatha (Tranquility), which develops single-point concentration as a way to calm the mind and induce self healing mechanisms.

Samatha (Tranquility Meditation):
Kneeling on a meditation bench (I could never sit cross-legged for long), I listened intently as he taught me to focus my attention on my abdomen (about an inch or so above my navel), i.e., to place my mind’s attention there. (The focus point should lie on the vertical midline of the body.)

As I breathe in, my abdomen expands until it peaks or pauses; as I breathe out, it contracts until I reach the bottom of the exhale or pause again. He said, “This never changes as long as you live.” As the abdomen expands, pauses, contracts, and pauses, follow the motion from beginning to end with your mind’s eye. Just be with your breath throughout these four phases. That’s all there is to it.

If you get distracted or your mind starts to wander, bring it gently back to that focus point on your belly. After I had some time to practice I began to notice changes in my ability to maintain equanimity, and I experienced a deeper sense of peace and overall calm.

A month or so later the Abbott introduced another technique to me called Vipassana. This technique is designed to understand and develop insights into self that lead to transformation and healing. Mindfulness practices are employed to contemplate the constructs of the mind (sensation, thoughts, and feelings) and how they contribute to one’s health and healing or the lack thereof. Vipassana is taught in many countries including the U.S. (for example, by Jack Kornfield, Ruth Denison, Sharon Salzberg, Joseph Goldstein).

It has been adopted by numerous psychotherapists, neuroscientists, and clinicians alike as a means to further therapy, achieve stress reduction, and deepen personal and spiritual growth as a pathway to lasting mental, physical and emotional health. Vipassana is taught in various prisons in Asia and the U.S. to remarkable effect in reducing violence and establishing compassion among inmates.

Jon Kabat-Zinn, Professor Emeritus of Medicine at MIT, developed a technique based in part on Vipassana called “mindfulness-based stress reduction,” which has been studied extensively for its positive impact on self healing and numerous diseases such as hypertension, anxiety, depression, and fibromyalgia.

If you don’t like to sit but would like to practice meditation, you can look at moving meditations such as simple Walking Meditation, Tai Chi, or Qi Gong.

Endogenous Opiods (Pain-Blocking Molecules Made by the Human Body)

+ Produced by central nervous system (CNS) and pituitary
+ CNS and pituitary contain CB1

Five groups of endogenous opioids have been discovered: beta-endorphins, enkephalins, dynorphins, endomorphins, and nociception.1 Endogenous opioids bind with opiate receptors and reduce stress and pain perceptions; they are also involved in the formation of emotions and play a key role in emotional health and self healing, interpersonal relationships, and hunger, among other feelings and physical states.

Emotional Keywords:
It feels so good when the pain stops

Potential Ill-Effects:
None known

Potential Health Benefits:
In addition to modulating pain, endorphins can produce feelings of euphoria and elation. Both THC and the synthetic cannabinoid CP 55,940 reduce pain by inducing the release of the endogenous opioids dynorphin A and dynorphin B, respectively.2

To Boost or Balance Your Endorphin Availability:

+ Strenuous exercise
+ A pleasurable massage
+ A deeply relaxing acupuncture session
+ Sex
+ Inducing deep relaxation response via cannabis or relaxation technique of choice
+ Consider CB1 activating cannabinoids

Gamma-Amindobutyric Acid (GABA)

+ Made in brain cells from glutamate
+ Brain cells contain CB1

GABA (the brain’s own Valium) is an amino acid that acts as an inhibitory neurotransmitter and thus functions as the body’s “downer.” It regulates excitability of nerve cells and muscle tone. GABA also influences speech and language by putting a pause between our words.

A pilot study conducted at the University of Boston demonstrated a mind-body link via measuring a significant increase in brain GABA after subjects practiced yoga.1

When GABA and glutamate balance each other, relaxation and excitement balance each other and vice versa. Find your emotional balance.

Emotional Keywords:
I am melting (relaxed, calm, slowed down)

Potential Ill-Effects:
Low levels of GABA are related to irritability, anxiety, panic attacks, lack of empathy, aggression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), antisocial behavior, depression, craving for carbohydrates, and adrenal fatigue and interfere with self healing.

Potential Health Benefits:

+ GABA inhibits fear signaling in the amygdala.2
+ May reduce sleep problems, anxiety, and depression.
+ The dual capacity of the endocannabinoid system to simultaneously balance upper (via cortical glutamate) and downer effects (via GABA) may present a new approach to treating ADHD.3

To Boost or Balance Your GABA Availability:

+ Yoga (asana) sessions increased brain GABA level by 27%.4
+ Chronic stress reduces GABA. Reduce toxic stress with the method of your choice.
+ Consider the calming effects of CB1 activating cannabinoids.


+ Produced in hypothalamus and stored in pituitary
+ Hypothalamus and pituitary contain CB1

Oxytocin is a hormone produced by both genders. In orthodox medicine it is used to stop post-partum bleeding and to induce labor.

Emotional Keywords:
I feel for you (empathy, generosity, trust, and reduced fear)

Potential Ill-Effects:
Lack of oxytocin (or imbalance) has been associated with the development of autism, low libido, eating disorders, social anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, and depression.

Potential Health Benefits:
You may already know that a mutual hug is fun, free, and feels good. But you may not know that recent scientific discoveries have shown that hugs 1, warm relationships, 2 but also sex and orgasms 3 create oxytocin and by extension measurable emotional health benefits, helping you not just improve the quality of your life but also stimulate and empower your innate capacity for self-healing.


“Oxytocin is commonly referred to as the “cuddle molecule.” It is involved in the development of bonding, closeness, tenderness, and intimacy.”


Oxytocin is commonly referred to as the “cuddle molecule.” It is involved in the development of bonding, closeness, tenderness, and intimacy. It increases trust 4 and generosity. 5 Additionally, it initiates the release of endorphins with their own deep relaxation, self healing and emotional health benefits. And while the scientific community acknowledges that understanding the “cuddle hormone” is just beginning, here is a list of physical benefits we already know about.

+ Oxytocin reduces high blood pressure and protects the heart in women. 6
+ Oxytocin reduces cravings such as your sweet tooth and thus can have an impact in preventing diabetes, excess weight gain, and drug use. 7
+ The cuddle hormone enhances the healing of wounds, making hugs an important benefit in any recovery. 8
+ Oxytocin reduces the sensation of pain, making hugs an important adjunct analgesic. 9
Intimacy reduces inflammation and oxidative stress by increasing endorphin levels and ridding the body of pro-inflammatory hormones, which translates into better immunity and faster recovery and is an important factor in self healing processes. 10 (Most chronic degenerative illnesses involve inflammation and oxidative stressors.)
+ Oxytocin released by hugs reduces anxiety and fear and enhances the development of trust. 11

The “cuddle hormone” may also be implicated in getting an erection, suggesting that male virility may be related to developing good relationships. 12

Remember, “vitamin O” has a short half-life and last only for a few seconds in the bloodstream, which suggests that to maximize the potential emotional health benefits of oxytocin we need to keep our focus on generating these qualities.

Oxytocin and the Endocannabinoid System:
Recent studies suggest that the endocannabinoid system is involved in the production and release of oxytocin.13 Anandamide has been discovered to modulate oxytocin levels, 14 and the CB1 receptor plays a key role in the ability of oxytocin to reduce pain. 15

How to Make “Vitamin O”

+ Hugs
+ Warm relationships
+ Sex and orgasm
+ Closeness
+ Tenderness
+ Intimacy
+ Trust
+ Generosity
+ Consider CB1 activating cannabinoids

Self-Love (A “Tell All” Technique)
Close your eyes, enter a state of relaxation, and begin by touching your feet. Make physical contact with them and, as you feel them, convince them that you love them. Explain why. Thank them for getting you around the beautiful world all by themselves, for allowing you to go places and have adventures. Love them for the work they do so well. Move to the ankles: love them for the support, strength, and flexibility they bring to your steps, jumps, and bounce. Your calves for the power of motion they bring to each step you take. The support and solidity your shin bones provide day in and day out, without you ever having to even think about it. Your knees for their flexibility, endurance, and range of motion they provide. Your strong thighs whose powerful muscles and bones carry your weight so easily. Your pelvic girdle, your biggest joint (no pun intended), between your upper and lower halves that allows for motion in all directions. Your buttocks that allow you to sit and contemplate the world, to work long hours, and to grind to the rhythm of your bass. It also contains your genitals that offer sensuality and pleasure, as well as your anus, which releases what is no longer needed. Your abdomen with all the organs that digest, assimilate, and eliminate in a process so essential for your life and well being. Your chest, with the ribs that protect your heart, and the lungs that deliver fresh oxygen and nutrients to every cell of your body. Your arms and hands that allow you to reach and touch whatever your heart desires. Your neck and spinal cord, that spring that supports you with strength and flexibility. Your face rich with sensory treasures and home to your taste, smell, sound, and sight. Your skin and hair sensitive to the slightest touch of wind, letting you know where you end and the outside world begins.

Let each of your body’s parts know you love them and you will have found an avenue that leads to self love, self healing and emotional health. After practicing this technique, see and feel how your day may unfold differently. I still surprise myself at how much better my day goes when I do this.


+ Made primarily in the digestive tract
+ Gut contains primarily CB2

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter especially abundant in the gastrointestinal tract (assisting appetite regulation and bowel movement). To a lesser degree it is found in the central nervous system (affecting mood, sleep, memory) and in blood cells called platelets that are responsible for clotting; thus serotonin is involved in wound and self healing.

Research has shown a direct correlation between mood and serotonin. Positive mood = increased serotonin while negative mood = reduced serotonin.1 Positronic brain imaging has shown that healthy people who underwent positive or negative mood induction produced more serotonin when happy and less when sad, showing that it plays a clear role in emotional health and hence, in self healing.2

The endocannabinoid-induced modulation of stress-related disorders such as anxieties or depression appears to be mediated, at least in part, through the regulation of the serotoninergic system.3

Emotional Keywords:
I am happy (relaxed, sensual, happy, safe, positive, flexible, easy-going)

Potential Ill-Effects:
Low levels of serotonin are linked to difficulty finishing things, poor impulse control, irritability, depression, and anxiety disorders. Too much serotonin (e.g., resulting from serotonin reuptake inhibitors/SSRIs) can cause excessive nerve cell activity and serotonin reuptake syndrome, with potential deadly consequences.

Potential Health Benefits:

+ Increased sense of well-being, sensuality, and happiness.
+ May protect against depression and anxieties.

To Boost or Balance Your Serotonin Availability:

+ Reduce toxic stress (chronic stress reduces serotonin)
+ Be Happy! Merely remembering happy situations and memories gives you a boost. Also, happiness tends to occur naturally when you meet your basic human needs for safety, security, pleasure, and belonging.
+ Get a massage to boost your happiness and your serotonin.
+ Consider CB2 activating cannabinoids
+ Exercise increases serotonin production and release.
+ Balanced exposure to sunlight increases vitamin D, which is involved in promoting serotonin production.

Molecules Primarily Associated with Constricting Emotions

Catecholamine Family (Epinephrine, Dopamine, and Norepinephrine)


+ Produced primarily by the adrenal glands
+ Adrenals contain CB1

Epinephrine, also known as adrenalin, is a hormone and neurotransmitter associated with fight, flight, or freeze responses as well as the long-term memory of intense events. It is produced in the adrenal glands, which are located on top of each kidney. Physiologically arousing epinephrine increases heart rate and raises blood pressure (by constricting the smooth muscles of the arteries), but at the same time it relaxes the smooth muscles of the airways (all in anticipation of a fight or flight stimulus).

Psychologically the hormone is clearly associated with fear and an over abundance can interfere with self healing mechanisms. Consider one of numerous experiments with similar results. Healthy students were injected with epinephrine and then watched film clips that induce emotions such as fear. Those injected with the hormone responded with greater fear and intensity than the control group, whose members received a non-reactive saline injection.1

Emotional Keywords:
I am scared

Potential Ill-Effects:
Too much epinephrine (adrenalin) causes adrenal fatigue, rapid heartbeat and palpitations, high blood pressure, anxiety, weight loss, sweating, and cold extremities. The good news is that adrenalin has a half-life of about 5 minutes in the bloodstream, which means that once the chronic stressor (e.g., fear) is removed, so is epinephrine.

Potential Health Benefits:
Epinephrine can save your life by enabling you to quickly respond to a real threat.

10 Proven Strategies to Reduce Stress Hormones by Ending the War with Fear and Anxiety

1. Accept Your Fear and Make It Bigger

One way to diminish fear’s stranglehold and restore emotional health is to embrace it. In fact, try this technique: Retreat to a quiet place, get comfortable, close your eyes, and breathe a few deep breaths.

+ Notice where in your body you experience fear.
+ What does it look like (shape and color); do you notice a sound, smell, or taste of fear?
+ Say, “Greetings fear, I welcome you to this moment.”
+ Now, allow fear to grow bigger. Let it become as big as it wants to be.
+ Notice your fear-based thoughts and feelings and welcome those as well.
+ Try to get a sense of the boundaries, dimensions, and the edges of fear. What is its shape? Is it sharp-edged or like an amorphous blob?
+ Thank fear for its intention (whatever that may be).
+ Now, release fear back whence it came. Sense it depart.
+ Flood your senses with compassion, love, and gratitude.
+ You may try filling yourself with white light.
+ Allow the light to flood every single cell in your body and instigate self healing.
+ How do you feel now?

2. Create a Plan B (this technique is best done in writing)

Identify your fear and let it tell you its story (each fear has a story). Ask yourself the following questions and write out the answers, in detail, like you were writing in a journal.

+ What if I fail? (create a plan B, break it down into small steps that you can do)
+ What happens if I do nothing?
+ What happens if I succeed?

This simple writing idea will often let you give dimensions to your fear and allow you to realize that fear does not have to be overwhelming, never-ending, or all-powerful.

3. Tsunami Technique—Reclaiming Your Imagination

Close your eyes and use any relaxation method you like. When you have entered the safety of your meditative space, imagine yourself in the middle of your worst-case scenario. Your nightmare is here and everything is falling apart. See and feel in detail what it would be like to be lost in the tsunami of your fear realized. Now, STOP. Lift out of the wave of destruction and let it collapse below you. Above you imagine a reality in which you succeed and your best-case scenario unfolds instead of your worst. Lift into it and see and feel the details of this version of reality. Come out of meditation and notice how you feel and any improvements in emotional health.

4. Flip the Switch from Fear to Wonder

You may not be able to control the circumstances of your fear, but you do have control about how you are going to respond to it. Instead of responding with fear, consider wonder instead. What can be learned from this situation? What does fear tell you about yourself, about others, or the values you hold dear? Perhaps it is informing you that trust is earned and should only be given to those who are worthy of it. Perhaps it is showing you your motivation, creativity, the power of your imagination, and what it is you truly love.

5. Surrender

There is a fine line between fear and exhilaration. I talked to a skydiver who described it this way: “I feel intense fear all the way up in the airplane. But, when the door opens and I climb outside there is the moment when I let go. And in that moment all that fear turns instantly into pure, orgasmic exhilaration.” Now, granted skydiving is a risky activity. But consider something that for you is exciting and scary at the same time. For instance, “I like to have intimacy but just the thought of it terrifies me.” What do you have to let go of to turn the switch? What would have to happen for you to surrender and consider intimacy fun, safe, and exciting?

6. Breathe

Fear has a specific breath pattern of rapid inhalations and exhalations with short pauses in between. Accelerated heart rate, increases in blood pressure, and fear go hand in hand. By changing the way we breathe, we can change the way we feel and our emotional health and instigate self healing within the body. Taking successful control of your breathing (the only one of the three that is subject to conscious intervention) will lower heart rate and blood pressure and by extension reduce your fear.

+ Breathe in deeply and hold your breath at the height of inhalation.
+ Count to five (slowly).
+ Breathe out, deeply.
+ Hold your breath at the bottom of your exhalation.
+ Count to five (slowly).
+ Repeat for at least five cycles.

7. Analyze Your Fear

Determine if your fear is keeping you from real danger or if it is just a fabrication of a fear-fueled imagination. For instance, are you standing at the edge of a cliff and your fear is asking you to step back to safety, or is your fear telling you that love is for fools because your first date as a teenager didn’t go so well?

8. Slow Down

Studies have shown that when we are afraid we limit our choices and close down to many otherwise possible responses. Fear, like most of the constricting emotions (such as anxiety, anger, defensiveness), flourishes with the speed of thought and speech. In other words, the more dangerous tigers you imagine, the more your mind will try to protect you by rapidly trying to find a safe place to hide. We think fast and we speak fast. However, a person in constant fear always imagines more tigers. So, slow down your thinking. It is your imagination; it does not belong to fear. Take it back and go slow motion in your mind’s eye or ear. Slow down your speech. In conversation speak one or two sentences, then take a break and breathe, relax, and listen to the response. Repeat.

9. Work with Cannabis (Consider strains with slightly higher THC: CBD ratio to favor CB1 activation)

Cannabis is broadly recognized for its capacity to diminish chronic negative affect (fear, anxieties, anger) and replace it with a gentle attitude, an easy smile, and more optimistic outlook, all of which have proven to support out natural self-healing abilities.


“As you continue to focus on your heart and your heart-centered breathing, choose to experience a positive feeling.”


When working with cannabis or CBD it is important to remember the idea of the therapeutic window. Your subjective therapeutic window is established by bottom and top threshold. Using too little (below your therapeutic threshold) is sub-optimal and ineffective. Using too much (above your therapeutic threshold) may worsen the very symptoms you are trying to alleviate. For instance, if you are working to reduce your anxiety then taking in excess of your top threshold can make your anxieties worse. (You might want to review the section “Is Cannabis Safe: What is a subjective therapeutic window?” in Chapter I.)

10. Heart Rhythm Coherence (HeartMath Technique)

A study conducted by the Santa Cruz County Children’s Mental Health Agency in California used this HeartMath Technique on seriously emotionally disturbed youths and found that it could help the kids feel calmer during times of stress. 2

+ Step 1. Focus your attention on your heart (the center of your chest).
+ Step 2. Feel your breath coming in and out of your heart area (breathe deeply but normally).
+ Step 3. As you continue to focus on your heart and your heart-centered breathing, choose to experience a positive feeling. (The study participants were instructed to create a library of positive feelings, thoughts, and memories on which they could focus at any given moment.)


+ Made primarily by adrenal glands
+ Adrenal glands contain CB1

Dopamine, a hormone and neurotransmitter that is primarily produced by the body in the adrenal glands located on top of each kidney, is associated with emotional health and behavioral motivation (positive and negative) 1 such as reward, emotional memory, and arousal (e.g., pleasure, love, money, food, and sex). In a way the molecule is saying, “Pay attention, this is worth remembering.” The more intense, unpredictable, or novel the experience, the greater the reward and associated dopamine release. Dopamine is also involved in the processing of emotions, making this molecule makes especially relevant to patients with PTSD or autism and an important factor in self healing processes.2

Dopamine modulates neurons in the substancia nigra (a portion of the mid-brain) via dopamine receptors and CB1. 3 The loss of dopamine-producing nerve cells in this portion of the brain is associated with numerous mental and neurological disorders such as schizophrenia, ADHD, and Parkinson’s.

Emotional Keywords:
I am motivated (arousal, emotional processing, and memory)

Potential Ill-Effects:
Lack of dopamine is associated with fatigue, failure to finish tasks, low libido, and burdensome emotional memory. Too much dopamine (e.g., pharmaceuticals such as L-dopa drugs, or drugs such as methamphetamine) is associated with psychosis and/or aggression.

Potential Health Benefits:

+ Increased motivation, productivity, sensuality and libido; sufficient dopamine reduces risk of developing Parkinson’s disease; general support of the body’s self healing mechanisms.

+ Abnormal dopamine transmission in the striatum (the part of the forebrain that modulates the endocannabinoid system) plays a pivotal role in ADHD. Researchers point to CB1 receptors as novel molecular players in ADHD, and suggest that therapeutic strategies aimed at engaging the ECS might prove effective in this disorder.4

To Boost or Balance Low Dopamine Availability:

+ Listen to music that accesses and moves deep emotions. 5
+ Learn to play music (play an instrument).
+ The natural amino acid tyrosine is a precursor to dopamine.
+ Meditation induced changes of consciousness. 6
+ Consider CB1 activating cannabinoids.
+ Explore Extended Attention Span Training (EAST), a technique developed by NASA, and its offshoot called Self Mastery and Regulation Training (SMART), a biofeedback-based video game.


+ Produced primarily by the adrenal glands
+ Adrenal glands contain CB1

Norepinephrine, another hormone and neurotransmitter, functions physiologically in a similar way to epinephrine (fight and flight), and it is also produced in the adrenal glands. Psychologically norepinephrine is associated with focused and sustained concentration. GABA, THC, and anandamide inhibit norepinephrine levels, therefore playing a peripheral semi-direct role in self healing processes. 1

Emotional Keywords:
Attention! (excitement, alertness, urgency, concentration, focus, and motivation)

Potential Ill-Effects:
On the mental-emotional health plane, excess norepinephrine can increase anxiety and restlessness, and heighten levels of fear. Physical effects may include rapid heart rate and elevated blood pressure. Lack of the hormone is common in Alzheimer’s patients and may play a contributing role.

Potential Health Benefits:

+ Norepinephrine can speed a heart beating too slowly or increase the force of contraction, thus improving circulation of oxygen and nutrients. It can tighten the smooth muscles in the arteries and raise blood pressure in hypotensive patients such as those suffering from forms of shock (i.e., hypovolemic, septic).

+ Psychologically the hormone produces excitement, alertness, urgency, concentration, focus, and motivation. It reduces symptoms of ADHD or ADD.

Modulating Norepinephrine

+ Reduce toxic stress with the relaxation method of your choice.
+ Consider the calming effects of cannabinoids.
+ Increase your anandamide availability (see Anandamide, above).
+ Consider CB1 activating cannabinoids.


+ Made primarily by the adrenal glands
+ Adrenal glands contain CB1

Cortisol is a steroidal hormone that is released into the bloodstream when we experience stress. Cortisol, like epinephrine and norepinephrine, is produced by the adrenal glands, situated on top of the kidneys.

The presence of corticosteroids stimulates the body’s production of anandamide, which may account for the way in which anandamide influences the antidepressant effects of exercise and how it is generally related to self healing. 1

An experiment conducted at the University of California suggests a connection between the emotions of shame and guilt and the psychological constructs of self-worth and self-esteem.

People burdened with shame and those with low self-esteem and a low sense of self-worth exhibited increased levels of cortisol when compared to a random control group.2

Emotional Keywords:
I am stressed (fear, anxiety, restlessness, shame, guilt, low self-esteem, low self-worth)

Potential Ill-Effects:
Sustained and increased levels of cortisol are highly self-destructive (weaken the immune system, weaken bones, skin, muscles, tendons, and other connective tissue, thereby increasing vulnerability to infections and injuries).

Potential Health Benefits:
Cortisol is a steroid-based hormone that, similarly to epinephrine, helps to produce energy to escape dangerous situations and is beneficial in the acute (initial) phase of an injury, showing that all bio-chemicals have some relation to self healing when in proper balance.

To Reduce or Balance Your Cortisol:

+ See Epinephrine, above (“10 Proven Strategies to Reduce Stress Hormones”).
+ Reduce feelings of shame and guilt; rediscover your self-worth and build self-esteem.
+ Consider CB1 activating cannabinoids.

Giving Shame Back Technique (a meditative process, not a real-life action)

1. In the safety of your meditative space, relax and breathe.
2. Set the intention of finding and releasing shame (feelings of “there is something seriously wrong with me”) and restoring emotional health.
3. Scan your body for where you sense shame, and allow your body to show you (it remembers).
4. Allow yourself to get into the feeling of shame and explore what is there (you may find a memory, or a set of memories, or a perpetrator or not).
5. Either way feel the ugliness, the hurt, the violation . . . (and the debilitating meaning of it).
6. Now grab hold of it (i.e., if you sense it as a tarry goo, pull it off and out of you and throw it at its source—the perpetrator). If you can’t sense or it is too scary to deal with a perpetrator (that’s okay), throw the shame in whatever form you sense it into a hole in the ground. Earth can handle shame and transform it into fertilizer just fine.
7. The perpetrator will take it and leave your meditation and take their shame with them (after all, it is your meditation, you are in charge, and it is their shame to process, not yours).
8. Now, flood the area previously occupied by shame with light (color of your choice) to flush out any remaining residue. Remember that the autonomic nervous system does not know the difference between a real or an imagined event. Once you end shame by returning it from whence it came, you can be free of the mental construct that constantly produces shame-based cortisol.
9. Alternate process/ending: If you believe in a celestial architect (by whatever name) you can ask them to take the shame away (they know what to do with it) and flush your body and mind with the light of their choice.


+ Most likely produced by mitochondria and released by brain cells (astroglia)
+ Astroglia contain CB1 and possibly CB2

L-glutamic acid is the most abundant excitatory neurotransmitter, but it only exists in low concentrations. Glutamate is glutamic acid to which a mineral ion (salt) has been attached (e.g., sodium glutamate or potassium glutamate, etc.). L-glutamic acid made by the human body is healthy and contributes positively to emotional health and self healing processes. All L-glutamic acid made outside contains unhealthy impurities and at high concentrations (e.g., MSG or 99% pure labels). Glutamine, an amino acid, is a precursor to glutamate. Gluten and synthetic glutamate are unrelated except in that they both may contribute to neurological illnesses.

Emotional Keywords:
I am excited (the body’s “upper”)

Potential Ill-Effects:
Too much glutamate is a major contributing factor in anxiety disorders, insomnia, neurological illnesses such as autism, Parkinson’s, MS, seizures, and increased risk of strokes. Too much glutamate can overly increase acetylcholine, which can further increase anxiety, restlessness, and fear. Excitotoxicity is defined as excessive stimulation of nerve cells (e.g., by too much glutamate, or too concentrated an amount), causing inflammation, damage, or death to cells of the nervous system. Inflammation increases glutamate over-excitation and neurotoxicity which is generally counterproductive to self healing.

Potential Health Benefits:

+ Activation of CB1 stimulates the release of glutamate, thus modulating synaptic transmission and plasticity.1 The dual capacity of the ECS to balance upper (cortical glutamate) and downer effects (GABA) at the same time may present a new approach to treating ADHD.2

+ Chronic stress and acute stress associated with severe emotional trauma can reduce natural endocannabinoid production as well as reduce receptor-site sensitivity, thus removing an important biological mechanism to end anxieties. The body utilizes the endocannabinoid system to reduce stress responses and anxieties by reducing glutamte.3

Modulating Glutamate:

+ Reduce or cease using foods that contain glutamate.
+ Reduce fear, worry, and stress with any technique of your choice (see Epinephrine).
+ Consider CB1-activating cannabinoids.


+ Produced by hypothalamus and stored and released by pituitary
+ Both contain CB1

The hormone vasopressin functions physiologically primarily to hold on to water and thus is important in maintaining hydration and the utilization of molecular sugars and salts. Vasopressin also constricts blood vessels, which makes it relevant to blood pressure regulation.

On the mental-emotional health plane, the hormone is associated with aggression and defensive and territorial behavior (especially in males). Vasopressin is also involved in social recognition of facial expressions (i.e., happy and angry), which serve as important cues in developing intimacy in humans.1

In an experiment a group of men and women were exposed to a significant stressor. Blood level and emotions were assessed immediately after the stressful event. Results showed that men (but not women) had more vasopressin in their blood and reported increased anger in response. Hence the correlation of anger and vasopressin in males.2

Another study focused on 12 heterosexual couples in which the male partner suffered from PTSD, with the symptoms of difficulties with emotional intimacies. When patients received vasopressin they were able to antidote the effects of PTSD by making emotionally healthy connections.3  Thus vasopressin was associated with social cognition.

Recent studies suggest that the endocannabinoid system is involved in the production and release of vasopressin. 4

Both vasopressin and oxytocin modulate the portion of the brain responsible for social and emotional interaction and thus may be relevant to other-regarding behavior such as empathy, compassion, and kindness (altruism), which are important aspects of self healing. 5

Emotional Keywords:
Move over, I see you (aggression, defensive and territorial behavior especially in males, social recognition of facial expressions such as happy and angry)

Potential Ill-Effects:
Low levels of vasopressin contribute to polyuria (excess urination), excess thirst, and hypernatremia (excess salt retention). Too much vasopressin can cause hyponatremia (lack of sodium concentrations in blood).

Potential Health Benefits:
Vasopressin may act in the brain to induce assertiveness and is involved in social (re)cognition.

Modulating Vasopressin:

+ Reduce fear, worry, and anger-related stress states with any technique of your choice.
+ Consider developing empathy and compassion by paying attention to subtle cues such as facial expression, tone of voice, or body language, for example.
+ Employ open, non-defensive, and vulnerable inquiries or any other method of developing intimacy skills.
+ See the section on oxytocin (above), since it is very likely that both hormones are produced and utilized to achieve similar outcomes.
+ Consider CB1 activating cannabinoids.

To view a list of the citations referenced in this article, please visit the citations page here.

Medical Disclaimer
This information is intended for general information purposes only. Individuals should always see their health care provider before administering any suggestions made in this article. Any application of the material set forth therein is at the reader’s discretion and is his or her sole responsibility. The publisher does not advocate illegal activities but does believe in the right of individuals to have free access to information and ideas.

This article on self healing and emotional health is excerpted from The Cannabis Health Index: Combining the Science of Medical Marijuana with Mindfulness Techniques To Heal 100 Chronic Symptoms and Diseases by Uwe Blesching, Ph.D. Copyright © 2015. Reprinted with permission from New World Library.

About The Author

Uwe Blesching is Editor-in-Chief of Healing Times magazine and author of Spicy Healing: A Global Guide to Growing and Using Spices for Food and Medicine and Cuba’s Carnival: Origins of the Biggest Party on Earth. He is a regular contributor to Mind-Body-Medicine, and a medical journalist who focuses on cannabinoid medicine, phytopharmacology, evidence-based alternative protocols for the prevention and treatment of malaria, pregnancy, and venereal diseases. He was a Mobile Intensive Care Paramedic and a firefighter for the city of San Francisco. He holds a B.A. in Humanities from the New College of California; and an M.A. in Psychology and a Ph.D. in Higher Education and Social Change from the Western Institute for Social Research.