What Happens to Your Body When You Think?

A thought can be the spark that ignites your motivation and positive emotions. The things you create in your mind have the power to transform your reality.
What Happens to Your Body When You Think?
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 28 July, 2022

What happens to your body when you think? People often forget about the effect their thoughts have on their physical body. Thoughts have the potential to activate the engine of your emotions, well-being, and calmness. On the other hand, stress is also triggered by your thoughts.

Writer and philosopher Henry David Thoreau said that, to make a deep mental path, we must think over and over again the kinds of thoughts we want to dominate our lives. The way you think dictates the way you feel. If you want to be happy, it’s important to keep that idea in mind.

A brain and a heart joining together.

This is what happens to the body when you think

Figuring out what happens to the body when you think is a subject that’s fascinated scientists for decades. What happens to the body when a thought enters your mind? How much energy does thinking use up? Do you think better while you’re resting or while you’re exercising?

These and other questions are worth reflecting on.

What a thought is and how can it affect your body

Some scientists define thoughts as electrical waves, a mental spark capable of causing changes in the brain in order to orchestrate a response. Psychologist Edward Chace Tolman, an expert in human cognition, believed that thoughts trigger changes, though they aren’t always visible.

In other words, everything that pops into your brain in five or ten seconds will influence you in one way or another. Whether it’s raising your level of concern, making a plan, evoking memories and emotions, etc. The bottom line is that everything that goes on in your mind shapes and conditions you.

If you want to analyze what a thought really is, you have to think about the multi-part sequence and structure that make up this incredible process.

These structures and the elements that make up the anatomy of thoughts have the incredible power to change what happens in your body. How? By modulating emotions, releasing hormones that affect your behavior, and sometimes even affecting your health.

This is what happens to your body when you think a lot

If you ask yourself what happens to your body when you think, it’s important to keep something in mind. Every time you activate your “thought factory”, your body uses a lot of energy. As a result, overthinking has a serious impact on your body.

Psychologist Catherine Pittman, a professor at the University of Indiana, shares something very interesting in her book, Rewire Your Anxious Brain. Nearly 50 percent of the population thinks too much and overthinking leads to heightened stress and anxiety. Over time, this affects your health.

Not only that, but most of us, when we overthink, suffer from something called analysis paralysis. This is what happens when you turn something over and over in your mind but never make a decision or take action. Your cortisol levels increase and this leads to stress, physical exhaustion, and a mental block. Instead of finding an answer to your problem, you get stuck in an endless loop of worry and immobility.

A guy walking towards the sea.

Think slowly to live better

Psychologist Daniel Kahneman, winner of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences, wrote an exceptional book called Thinking, Fast and Slow. In it, he describes how we’ve reached a point in human evolution where we only act after a sort of impulsive way of thinking. This way of thinking is ruled by intuition and is automatic and filled with biases, prejudices, and mistakes.

We do it because it makes sense in context. You have to react quickly to all the external demands and countless stimuli. In the short term, this reaction style leads not only to bad decisions but also to stress, anxiety, increased blood cortisol levels, physical exhaustion, and a higher risk of heart attack, among others.

The effects of fast thinking on your body are pretty damaging. Especially if this kind of thinking becomes a habit. To avoid that, it’s important to use a more measured, reflective approach.

In conclusion, though it’s difficult to take control of your thoughts, you have to try. Whatever happens will deeply affect your health and happiness. Thus, grab the reigns and try to make sure that you’re thinking healthy, productive, and reflective thoughts.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Kahneman, Daniel (2013) Pensar rápido, pensar despacio. Madrid: Debolsillo

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.