Are Your Thoughts Making You Sick?
By Janna M. Hall
Heart disease, cancer, diabetes. Unforgiveness, anger, self-hatred, fear. Matters of the body and matters of the heart are often treated in isolation of each other, but what if the two were in conjunction? The three aforementioned diseases are some of the leading causes of death within the African American community, making up 51.3% and 50.8% of deaths among Black men and women, respectively1. Generations have witnessed relatives’ passing from such diseases, leading many in our community to believe their fate is inevitable because those diseases are unavoidable. But how would your behavior, affirmations, and attitude change if you knew that your thoughts could literally make you sick?
Since 1995, Adult Nurse Practitioner Evelyn Hall-Harris has dedicated her medical career to bridging the gap between what we think, feel, and meditate on and how that manifests itself as sickness and disease in our body. Psychoneuroimmunology, its formal name, is a study of medicine that explores the connection between your thoughts (psycho), nervous system (neuro-), and how they both affect and impact your health (immunology). For over a decade, Evelyn owned Alliance Family Practice, where she created a medical environment unlike any in the Richmond, Petersburg, and surrounding areas. She challenged patients to dig deeper into the root cause of their illness, viewing physical symptoms as merely the outward sign of an internal emotional or spiritual conflict. The result? A legacy of encouraging members of the Black community to confront emotional trauma and experience healing from the inside out.
Hall-Harris, a Wrens, Georgia native, attended the Medical College of Georgia before joining the military in 1976 and embarking on a 25-year career as a Navy nurse. Throughout her time on Active Duty, she noticed an interesting trend: wounded soldiers who went into surgery anxious, worried, and depressed experienced more complications during both surgery and the recovery process. Some even passed away during surgery or were never able to return to full duty. Conversely, soldiers who went into surgery hopeful and with positive expectations experienced a speedy recovery and returned to full duty in no time. “Many of the soldiers went into surgery for the same exact thing, yet some soldiers made it through and others didn’t. Then I began to take notice of their attitude going in, and I knew there had to be a connection,” Hall-Harris explains. She also notes that she’d listen to soldiers’ attitudes and confessions before being deployed and oftentimes witnessed their fears and doubts realized. It was then that she dove into the study of psychoneuroimmunology.
To think that our negative thoughts and feelings don’t affect our health, Hall-Harris believes, only does us a disservice. In her 2012 book, entitled Fearfully and Wonderfully Made, she advises, “If you see yourself as a victim instead of a victor, you will send your immune system defeating messages. On the other hand, when illness attacks your body and your heart says, ‘This sickness has no right to be in my body,’ this thinking sends your immune system a different message—mobilize and fight back!”2 She carried this message with her to and from military bases in Oakland, CA, Corpus Christi, TX, and Orlando, FL before settling in Richmond, Virginia in 1994 with her husband and four children. After many years with the Veteran’s Affairs McGuire Women’s Medical Center, Hall-Harris utilized her Master’s degrees in Nursing and Business Administration to open Alliance Family Practice with the goal of providing patients with the medical and holistic keys to reaching optimal health.
Hall-Harris planted roots in Petersburg, VA in 2002, and like most people, her patients relied heavily on medicines that eased the symptoms of a disease rooted in something much stronger than the diagnosis. After time in the field researching root causes of diseases, she noticed more trends that she refused to ignore. A common example she uses to emphasize how our thoughts and emotions manifest themselves in our bodies is the idea of blushing. When we’re triggered by emotional stress, such as embarrassment or anger, our blood vessels inflame and it manifests in the form of redness on our face. Blushing is a physical sign of what’s happening emotionally. Patients dealing with chronic pain were often battling with unforgiveness and trauma. Those who struggled with cardiovascular disease were harboring spirits of fear, anxiety and stress, anger, rage, and resentment. Cancer patients often had unresolved bitter conflicts with others or with self, negative confessions, and/or a spirit of hopelessness. Her faith in God growing stronger everyday, Hall-Harris began incorporating her spirituality in her daily work with patients as a way to provide comfort in often unsettling situations. She’s famously known for writing scriptures on the ceilings of her exam rooms, a strategic move and pleasant surprise for patients seeking solace during exams or procedures. Taking it a step further, she jots scriptures on individual prescriptions that coincide with each patient’s particular medical or emotional need. “Healing takes place both in the natural and supernatural,” Hall-Harris explains. “So they get the prescription for the body, and a scripture for the spirit.”
Serving the Petersburg area also meant serving military personnel stationed at Fort Lee. This provided the opportunity to connect on a familiar level and share stories that allow even the highest ranking officers to align their thoughts with thoughts of healing and wholeness in order to serve their country effectively. It also allowed her to remain connected to the very place from whence she got her start, 15 years after retiring. To further assist her patients—especially those stationed at Fort Lee—Evelyn created the New You Weight Loss Program, a natural weight-loss program that works with members to set and reach weight loss goals, goals oftentimes needed for military weight requirements. In addition to a detox plan, meal guide, exercise schedule, and weekly weigh-ins, the program includes nine scriptures that relate to health, weight loss, persistence, and achievement that patients are to meditate on through the duration of the nine-week program. From matters of serious disease to weight loss needs, Hall-Harris believes that your thoughts and confessions must align with the outcome you desire. When there’s a disconnect, there’s a dis-ease in the body, which ultimately sustains the disease.
Though Alliance Family Practice closed in 2014, the Petersburg-based weight loss program is still running strong today. She took her medical ministry on the road in 2015 and became the CEO of Alliance Healthcare Consulting, making house calls to both longtime and new patients and offering both medical and spiritual counsel to those in need. By praying with her patients, Evelyn has built a trust with members of the community, and they’ve learned to play an active role in their healing, thanks to her counsel and spiritual guidance.
Her message extends beyond her patients and reaches foreign land. Since 2000, she’s traveled to Uganda, Kenya, Nigeria, Brazil, and Haiti to participate in medical missions. In addition to providing healthcare to countries without working medical professionals, Evelyn seeks to get to the root of their issues. She’s studied extensively the root cause of disease, and shares the connections she makes to all willing to listen.
Today, Hall-Harris also serves as the Pastor of Healing the Heart Ministries, a mobile ministry that allows her to speak at universities, local churches, seminars and conferences, spreading the word about psychoneuroimmunology and encouraging the masses to align their words with their thoughts and actions to have victory in every area of their life. “As Proverb 14:30 states, ‘A calm and undisturbed mind and heart are the life and health of the body.’ I’ve watched too many patients literally stress themselves to death and speak disease into their own life. They say things like, ‘She makes me sick’ and then wonder why they’re in fact…sick! Life and death are in the power of the tongue, and that’s essentially the message I spread to my patients.”
1 Leading Causes of Death by Age Group, Black Males-United States, 2011*
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2011
2 Evelyn Hall-Harris, “Are Your Thoughts Making You Sick?” in Fearfully and Wonderfully Made (Virginia: Faith Printing, 2012), 31-40.