"Watch your thoughts, for they become words.
Watch your words, for they become actions.
Watch your actions, for they become habits.
Watch your habits, for they become your character.
Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny".
- Lao Tzu
It's pretty well known that too much stress isn't healthy for us. When we are stressed, we are more likely to make unhealthy decisions: skip out on that workout, stay up all night to study for that exam, stop at a drive-thru on the way home, have another energy drink.
Being in a stressful situation is one thing, but experts now know that even when we THINK about a stressful event it can affect our body. Meaning I don't even have to go through the physical process of being criticized by my boss to have a stress response in the body, I can merely just play it out in my head and get the same negative response in my body. For example: the big exam is coming up, senior picture day is tomorrow, you have a blind date later in the week. Then, BAM... you get a pimple, you are having a "fat" day, or maybe you even get sick. Why does our body do this to us!? How does it know!
On the simplest level: Our thoughts can affect our immune system. How we perceive our environment is directly related to our health. Where the mind goes, energy follows. It kinda seems like common sense, but think about that. Stress in itself isn't unhealthy for us, in fact it is a vital process necessary for survival. It's how we react to that stress that can be unhealthy.
The good news? When have the ability to tap into this physiological process. As I mentioned above, the mere thought about stress and/or fear can negatively affect our immune system predisposing to disease and illness. However, that also means that positive thoughts and energy can bring about a healthy balance with life stressors. When you are being mindful and positive, you cannot be overly worried and negative. You cannot have both.
Here are four ways to use your mind and thoughts to improve your health:
PRACTICE DETACHMENT Often times we are stuck in the past. We make important decisions off of emotions from past experiences. Fear usually comes from a past negative experience that has now left us on high alert. When we hold onto things where it is physical, emotional, mental, etc., we are making it difficult to see new experiences as opportunities rather than stressful events. Always remember the saying, "when one door closes, another one opens." As scary as change may be, rephrase the experience from a disturbance to an opportunity. Now, I'm not saying that we can't live with personal belongs, knowledge, and/or things that provide us with joy- but do not let your possessions define you. It is your responsibility to gain tools/knowledge (possessions), but do not become attached to them. Everything is impermanent. The less baggage we carry around with us, the more able we are to able to enjoy the present moment without blinders. PRACTICE VISUALIZATIONS As mentioned above- if you can't visualize it, don't expect it to happen. Visualizations are simply mental images. Studies show that if you imagine crossing that finish line or crushing that presentation, you increase your motivation and cognitive processes in the brain such as memory and attention- thus improving your outcomes! You literally link and strengthen the neural pathways located in your brain. There is a story that a man was in jail for 20 years. Everyday he visualized himself playing his favorite 18 hole golf course, each and every stroke. When he finally swung a club for the first time in 20 years, he pared his favorite course. Visualizations can be very powerful. Again- where the mind goes, energy follows. Many have a difficult time visualizing, I hear it all the time. I understand because I was the same way. It is awkward at first, it takes practice. You can try writing down every step of the process including the outcomes. Imagine/write down situations that may be difficult and how you can will overcome them. PRACTICE CONTENTMENT We can practice contentment by writing down three things that we are grateful for each day. We can sit outside with our eyes closed and listen to the life and energy around us. We can slow down, put the phones away, look around. You are who you are right now- no matter how far you are from who/what you want to be, enjoy who you are now. The journey is what is most important. There is nothing truer than this moment. Practice living using intuition rather than instinctually. Intuition living: Instinctual living: unconscious programing, protective responses- born of the past. PRACTICE COMPASSION We are all human. Humans by nature are imperfect. If you were perfect, then you wouldn't be here. Those Insta-famous moms, models, and movie stars I guarantee you all have their personal struggles. Never judge yourself for taking a step sideways, backwards, or too far forward. Do not judge yourself if you roll down the hill. Care about perfection, but know that it is never the goal. Practice compassion for others- even those who do not share your beliefs, those who are struggling, those who are sick. We are all inner-connected beings. Compassion directly leads to connection. Leave this world better than how you came into it. Be a karmic snail, leave your imprint in this world.
See a common theme? Practice. Practice. Practice. Your thoughts are so powerful. You have the ability to control your thoughts. Create Space. Envision it. Enjoy the process. When you fail, dust yourself off and try again.
You are who you practice to be.