If you are reading this, you are probably looking for information that will help you change something in your life. It may be the way you feel, the way you look, or your circumstances. Whatever it is, the first step to change anything starts all in the same place: in your mind.
THE MIND-BODY CONNECTION
It is a proven fact that you can make your body sick just by thinking about it. Pretty much every negative thought or the anticipation of something bad can cause you to develop anxiety that in turn will set your system into a state called “fight-or-flight” mode. When in the “fight-or-flight” mode, your body starts producing hormones like Adrenaline, Norepinephrine, and Cortisol.
These hormones have the job to make you alert, focused, ready to run for your life. To be able to do this, body functions that aren’t crucial in the moment, like reproductive drive, immunity, digestion, and growth, are regulated, put at the background, “barely” running, while most of your energy is used to sustain the “fight-or-flight” mode. In time, your immune system, without the necessary energy to function optimally, becomes so weak that you find yourself getting sick more often.
Without having your recovery working full steam, your body becomes more prone to inflammation, giving you pain. Your Adrenal glands are so tired of producing Adrenaline, Norepinephrine, and Cortisol all the time, that they become stressed out and stop producing as much as they used to, making you feel tired, foggy, and lethargic.
Unfortunately, your body does not know the difference between a real life-threatening situation and a less threatening one. When turning on the “fight-or-flight” mode becomes your body default response to all upsetting thought and troublesome situations, you get stuck, caught in a vicious cycle, that will through your health into a downward spiral.
To change this and reverse the downward spiral into an upward one can be hard, and it will demand a lot of energy and willpower. Energy and willpower you most likely don’t have right now. It’s going to be hard, but not impossible.
If your thoughts can make you sick, they can also make you healthy. In the same way that negative thought can produce stress hormones that over time can damage your body, positive thought can produce happy hormones and neurotransmitters like Dopamine, Oxytocin, Serotonin, and Endorphin that will pave the way for healing, growth, strength, leading to optimal health.
We want to train and develop a mindset that will allow us to have a healthy body. Being positive and happy is more than a feeling. It is a decision. The decision that, no matter what happens, you are determined to be always positive. Turning every problem into an opportunity, every pain into strength, every failure into learning. This is going to be the most important decision you will ever have to make in your life when it comes to your mental and physical health.
But, how can we have a mindset in which you are always positive?
For the next week try to:
- Be grateful:
Think about at least 3 things you are grateful for having in your life that day. During the day, try to remember these things if negative thoughts come to your mind.
Research shows that when we think about what we appreciate, the parasympathetic or calming part of the nervous system is triggered and that can have protective benefits on the body, including decreasing cortisol levels and perhaps increasing oxytocin, the bonding hormone involved in relationships that make us feel so good.
In 2015 an article in the Journal of Personality and Individual Differences showed that “higher levels of gratitude were associated with higher levels of personal well-being, greater life satisfaction, and lower levels of psychological distress.”
A pair of 2014 studies from Utrecht University in the Netherlands found that both gratitude and acts of kindness have a strong impact on positive emotions.
- Make someone else happy:
Think about three ways you can make someone happy. Maybe a gift, a message, a compliment, or practical help (to someone you know, to a stranger and to someone in your family).
Research on the relationship between volunteering and hypertension had shown that charitable work has a significant impact on blood pressure. Those who volunteer more are less likely to develop hypertension in a 4 year period. There is no doubt that a random act of kindness would bring happiness. It is known to have a connection between kindness, volunteering, and altruism with less depression.
Studies of people fighting disease, chronic pain, and emotional trauma have also shown that kindness can help them cope better and combat negative emotions.
- Reward your effort:
If (and only if ) you succeed in doing the actions above, give yourself a small but meaningful reward before going to bed. Anything you like that is going to make you feel good. (some leisure or relaxing time: drawing yourself a nice bubble bath; reading a chapter of a book you enjoy; watching an episode of your favorite show or playing your favorite video game).
Every habit, good or bad, is made up of three different components.
THE CUE: What triggers your habit
THE ROUTINE: What you do
THE REWARD: What you get
We are going to talk more about how habits work in the future.
If the reward is positive, your brain will remember the habit and want to repeat it. You want to reward your new good habits to make them stick and become part of who you are.
After doing these things for one week, come back here and get ready for the next step in your journey to optimal health.
Be in constant awe, and be awesome!
Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and does not substitute medical advice.