Your thoughts can have a huge impact on your health. The human mind is the most powerful supercomputer in the world. It controls all the functions of your body, your behaviour, and your emotions. But your mind doesn’t necessarily control you, and recent research shows that you have the power to control your mind. The secret lies in the way you think because our thoughts affect health. It turns out the power of positive thought may be stronger than we thought, and it can be harnessed to create health and wellbeing. The way you think can either make you sick or it can make you healthy.
IMPACT OF THOUGHTS
How we think determines how we speak and what we talk about, which then impacts how we feel. Every decision, choice and action we make is influenced by how we feel.
Studies have shown that mindsets can change us in ways we had not imagined possible. So science is now asking if mindsets can change us, can we then deliberately choose our mindsets to improve our abilities. And the answer appears to be yes.
The cells in your body react to your thinking. Your thoughts can literally change your health by altering the cells and how they function. Every thought you have causes neurochemical changes within your brain and these can either help or harm you.
THOUGHTS AFFECT HEALTH
Your thoughts can alter your performance. They can alter your engagement and enjoyment of life. They can even alter your energetic body.
This really is a case of mind over matter.
Studies have produced much evidence that the way we think can create or change real-life physical and mental outcomes.
It’s been shown that our expectations can change brain chemistry and circuitry. This results in cognitive and physiological changes such as reduced anxiety, elevated hormone levels, or lower immune system reactions. Thoughts alone can improve our vision, weight loss, fitness, fatigue level, and can even stop allergic skin reactions.
Essentially your brain is shaped by your thoughts. And apparently your health and wellbeing is too.
THE PLACEBO EFFECT
Dr Lissa Rankin MD conducted extensive research and became completely convinced that a combination of positive belief and nurturing care activates the body’s natural self-repair mechanisms and helps the body heal itself. “The medical establishment has been proving that the mind can heal the body for over 50 years. We call it ‘the placebo effect‘”, she says.
But as she explains in her book Mind Over Medicine: Scientific Proof That You Can Heal Yourself the opposite is also true. Negative beliefs you hold about your health and harsh insensitive treatment by the health care system can poison your body.
Your thoughts have a long-term impact on your brain. The messages sent through your nervous system cause patterns of neural activity. When the same thoughts are repeated over and over they actually change neural pathways in your brain. The more frequently you have the same thoughts the busier these pathways get. And the busier these pathways, the stronger and more sensitive the neural connections become.
If you bombard your cells with negative thoughts you programme your cells to receive more negative thoughts. You also reduce the number of receptors for positive thoughts. You increase your pessimism and it becomes more difficult to even have positive thoughts.
Similarly if your focus on positive thoughts you increase your cells ability to receive positive thoughts, and reduce negative thought receptivity.
When you’re focused on negative thoughts your body fills with the harmful stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline. But when you replace negative thinking with positive thoughts your nervous system relaxes. Your body can heal.
There are many examples of the power of positive thinking demonstrated by the placebo effect. The body heals itself if it believes it’s taking or doing something that heals, even if it’s only a sugar pill. Similarly, if you’ve been told you have a new skill it will be able to perform it.
The opposite state to placebo is termed the “nocebo effect” and it demonstrates the physiological effects on your body of negative belief, fear, and anxiety. Negative thoughts and emotions trigger/target the amygdala, the part of the brain that triggers the “fight, flight or freeze” stress response.
The stress response is a throw back to cave-man days, designed to switch on whenever you were facing danger. It would then switch off again as soon as the danger had passed and the nervous system would relax. In our modern world this response often engages with chronic stress or negative thinking but doesn’t disengage.
If your nervous system gets stuck in this response you become more predisposed to illness because the body’s self-repair mechanisms don’t function well.
CHANGE NEGATIVE THOUGHTS
“Watch your thoughts; they become words.
Watch your words; they become actions”.
~ Lao Tzu
image: Hartlife Coaching
Neural pathways formed by continued negative thoughts can be consciously changed and the good news is it only takes about thirty minutes a day to establish new pathways.
Adopting strategies that support new thinking are a great way to establish new habits. Ninety-eight percent of all behaviour is subconscious so changing a habit of negative thinking requires you to take conscious daily action until new thought patterns have become automatic.
Strategies to focus on for more positive thoughts are:
- Vision boards
- Giving thanks
- Saturating your consciousness with positive audio and reading
- Replacing negative self-talk
Your subconscious cannot tell the difference between fact and fiction, it simply believes whatever your tell it. Positive affirmations mean we tell our subconscious we have something before it arrives or we are something we may not have accepted. Repeating statements formed in the now such as “I love my work and am paid abundantly” sends a positive message to the subconscious, which believes whatever you tell it.
Affirmations need to repeated frequently through the day and continued until the new mindset has become established
Like affirmations, visualization is again effective because of the inability of the subconscious to tell what is real and what is vividly imagined. Making simple visualization techniques a part of your daily life helps establish new habits and new thoughts.
Vision boards are a collection of images of the ideal life you’d like to have. They are great for visual thinkers bringing their focus and their thoughts to happy positive possibilities. Whenever you look at them they will evoke happy thoughts. It only takes a few seconds for your brain to retain an image and looking at the same positive image frequently helps form positive thinking quickly. They can be kept on a computer, on cardboard, framed on a wall.
Practicing gratitude is not just a case of convincing yourself that things are great, nor is it deluding yourself that negative things don’t exist. Whenever you practice gratitude you brain releases a flood or neurotransmitters like dopamine, the ‘happy hormone’, rewarding you with a sense of alertness and general happiness.
Your brain quickly learns to seek out more of these feel-good experiences, switching your thoughts from negative to positive.
Replacing Negative Self-Talk
When we’re in the habit of negative thinking we tend to use dis-empowering words such as “I can’t”, “it’s no use”, “I should/must/won’t” and many others. Recognising when we use these words and consciously replacing them with empowering words can begin to change those neural pathways. Phrases such as “how can I”, “I trust”, “I am popular” are just a few that lift your feelings about yourself and pave the way for more positive thoughts.
Take Control Of Negative Self-Talk
Of course positive thoughts and attitudes are not the only answer and they can’t entirely control what happens to your health. Genetics still play a part and accidents still happen. But although you may not be able to prevent these, the way in which you think and respond particularly when it comes to fear, affects how well you recover and move on.
The power to influence and even direct your physical health, your emotions and your mental experience lies firmly with you. Every cell right down to your DNA notes your thoughts. Choosing to keep your thoughts positive, focusing on gratitude and other positive practices, and locking positive recognition into your physical body will keep you healthier and happier.
It’s up to you. You’re the only one who can govern the nature of your thoughts, and it’s your responsibility to direct your thoughts.
All information and opinions presented here are for information purposes only. They are not intended as a substitute for professional advice offered during a consultation with your health care provider. Do not use this article to diagnose a health condition. Speak to your doctor if you think your condition may be serious or before discontinuing any prescribed medication. Please consult with your health care provider before following any of the treatment suggested on this site, particularly if you have an ongoing health issue.