You have a secret. I know you do. The person sitting next to you has a secret too. According to a new study conducted at Columbia Business School, we all carry secrets, with the average person keeping 13 all at once, including 5 that are buried so deep, they’ll never see the light of day.
It’s interesting that we use the word “carry” when we talk about secrets. Intuitively, we understand their weight and the burden they place on us, so we choose language that accurately conveys this.
What this new study tells us, is that the “weight” of your secret is no joke. When you keep a secret, it causes increased stress, sleep loss, reduced productivity, and memory loss. Because secrets raise your cortisol level, your immune system can weaken, your blood pressure can rise, you can develop osteoporosis more easily, and your skin will wrinkle. Still think that secret is worth keeping?
Neuroscientists now believe that it’s better to confess your secrets than hold on to them. The same is true of grudges. They use up too much of your willpower, and too much of your conscious thought to be healthy.
According to this new study, the difficulty of secrets doesn’t come when you think it will – during those brief moments where you’re consciously hiding what you know from others. No. The damage to your health comes when you’re finally at home, alone with your thoughts, in the middle of the night. That’s when the rumination starts.
You might try to avoid thinking about your secret, but your mind won’t let you. A battle will rage between your pre-frontal cortex, which controls decision-making, complex thought and deception, and your cingulate cortex, which is triggered when you feel anxiety or fear. The bigger your secret, the greater your anxiety and fear. It will wear you down. You will feel burdened.
According to Chinese medicine, worry, or excessive thought – such as you might experience when keeping a secret – is said to weaken your spleen. Normally, when your spleen is healthy, you will have strong energy, a good appetite, and a light feeling, as if you are being lifted up. However, when your spleen weakens, not only will you feel tired and listless, but you’ll feel heavy too, like you’re carrying a ton of bricks on your back. That’s the heaviness secret-carriers feel.
So how can you help your spleen? Well, for one thing, don’t willingly carry a secret for others, if at all possible. If you must keep that secret and you have no choice, you can reduce its weight, and the burden on your spleen, by writing it down. Somehow, the act of putting your secret down on paper releases some of the load, reducing stress hormones and blood pressure, and improving your mental health. Telling your secret to a trusted friend helps too.
To further help your spleen, you can also consider taking our Meta Plus tincture, which contains herbs that directly strengthen spleen functioning. But whatever you do, think carefully before agreeing to keep a secret for someone. Above all else, your mind yearns for authenticity, and you will never be authentic when you’re withholding the truth.
About the author: Rebecca Wong has an honours degree in English Literature from the University of Waterloo, and has been working in the herbal business since 2000. She has received her training in acupuncture and herbalism from respected authorities Paul Des Rosiers and Vu Le at the Ontario College of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Toronto, and Michael Tierra at the East West Herb School in California.