If you were to talk to the average person on the street about what they would focus on to be healthy, most would say diet and exercise. Yes, diet and exercise should always be a part of a healthy lifestyle or healing protocol. But few people are aware of the connection between what they regularly think and how their thoughts can either boost health or contribute to illness. Your thoughts impact health, so how do we use that knowledge in a healing protocol to help you get well?
How do thoughts affect health?
Throughout every minute of every day, the body is responding to the thoughts that go through a person’s head. When a person has a thought, there is a corresponding reaction in the body based on what type of thought has just occurred. That thought elicits an emotion and the body responds by releasing neurotransmitters and hormones in accordance with the thought and emotion that were experienced.
For instance, someone thinks about a thoughtful gift that they received unexpectedly. They experience a feeling of gratitude. Their body responds by signaling the release of neurotransmitters such as dopamine. And the reward centers of the brain will become more active. The brain becomes sharper, and that person feels good. People who have positive outlooks on life and who generally think more positively tend to have more balanced cortisol levels as well.
But the opposite is also true. Being a pessimist and thinking negatively, with corresponding emotions, signals the body to go into a stress response. As a negative thought occurs, the body signals the adrenal cortex to release cortisol. Respiration increases, glucose is released into the blood stream, heart rate increases and digestion decreases.
Stress responses which happen occasionally are normal and don’t impact health. But staying in a pattern of chronic stress responses do impact health. In a chronic state of fight or flight, the body begins to break down. Symptoms begin to occur and, if the stress pattern is not changed, the result will be chronic illness.
Some of the health problems it can lead to include:
- Chronic pain from consistent muscular tension
- High blood sugar, insulin resistance and diabetes
- High blood pressure, inflammation in the cardiovascular system, heart disease and heart attacks
- Digestion issues such as GERD, ulcers, H Pylori overgrowth, Motility issues, diarrhea, and constipation
- Loss of libido, reproductive problems
- Hormone imbalances
A person can think themselves sick! Thinking negatively can undermine anything you may currently be doing to improve your health. Therefore, it is a good idea to have a plan in place, as part of a regular stress management routine, to include work to help change negative ways of thinking. Changing these negative patterns can help to lower chronic stress so that the body has a better chance of healing. But what can you do to begin changing how you think?
Become aware of negative thought patterns
If you do not recognize your negative thought patterns, you will not be able to change them! Most people go through their day on autopilot. Very few check in with themselves to see exactly what they are thinking or how they are feeling. To really change how you think, you must be present with yourself and aware of what is really going on in your mind. Take a few minutes throughout the day to just be still and mindfully check in with yourself. Taking this time and then writing in a journal can help awareness of your thought patterns. Spend this time with yourself regularly and make it a mandatory part of your regular self-care routine!
Most people are busy throughout the day. And most have a constant stream of people and gadgets that are demanding their time and attention. It is because of this that people forget to listen to themselves. Some don’t even know how to check in with how they are feeling and what they are thinking. If this sounds like you, meditating regularly is a great way to check in with what types of thoughts are floating through your mind. Since meditation requires stillness and quiet, the thoughts that filter through are easier to notice because there are no distractions. This can be a great place to start. Especially if you are out of touch with what has been going on within you. It allows you to be with your thoughts in the present moment.
Reframing is a powerful but simple tool used in NLP (neuro-linguistic programming). It is the process of changing the meaning of a thought or situation. It is about changing the negative ways a person thinks or talks to themselves. Reframing can be as simple as catching a negative thought and changing it to a positive alternative. Although it takes some practice, it can be quite effective.
Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) is a powerful way to diffuse the emotions that come from negative thoughts. Learning how to tap on the body’s energy meridian system can help you overcome the stress response in the body when a specific thought occurs. EFT is a particularly useful tool to overcome painful or negative thoughts or feelings from past situations.
Limiting time around negative people
We all know that one person who is a “Negative Nelly”. They are always complaining, and you may find yourself feeling drained after being around them. If you are working to improve your health and reduce stress, you may need to look at the people you associate and spend time with regularly. Some people are extremely negative. And that negativity is not only contagious, but it is toxic emotionally. Emotional contagion is real. And it makes it easy to take on more stress and negativity when surrounded by others who are toxic and pessimistic. Being with positive, optimistic people has the opposite effect. So, it’s best to try to spend more time with people who are positive, optimistic and who lift you up.
Turn off the news
The news will always be focused on negative stories. Shocking and negative things get much higher ratings. Warm, fuzzy, positive stories do not have the same impact. And it is amazingly easy for a person to get wrapped up in the negativity of a story, particularly in the digital age. Anyone can be informed of what is going on in the world without having a cable news channel on all day or watching the local news. Limiting the amount of time you spend watching news programs or reading the newspaper can help keep you from falling into a negative thought pattern.
Stop scrolling social media
Social media offers a lot of wonderful opportunities to connect with family and friends. But along with the good there is a lot of negativity. Some stories can cause a negative firestorm with strong opinions being shared from both sides of an issue. And there are many who spend their time shaming others on social media for doing things that they feel are “inappropriate”. It is easy to start reading posts on social media and to get sucked into that negative vortex. And it doesn’t take much time on social media for stress to creep in, without you even realizing it. Limiting time on social media, avoiding negative subjects and unfollowing negative people are the best way to not let social media negativity and stress undermine health.
Investigating how you are thinking is a vital part of any healing protocol. Without changing the stress inducing, negative thoughts, you may not be able to restore your health fully. Doing what you can to incorporate healthy thought and mindset tools into your protocols will go a long way to helping you heal and thrive!
Learn more about how FDNThrive can help you undo the imbalances caused by years of unmanaged chronic stress!