Social rules dictate we should be nice to other people. Yet how many of us are nice to ourselves?
I’m willing to bet that you wouldn’t dream of talking to others the way you talk to yourself. While we often make an effort to be kind, patient and compassionate with our friends and family, many of us spend most of our waking hours criticizing and mentally berating ourselves.
However, what we say to ourselves is really just as important as how we treat others. Discover how your thoughts can powerfully impact your health, and how you can wield the powerful weapon of your mind to achieve better health!
The Power Of Your Thoughts
The average human being thinks at a rate of 150 to 300 words per minute, which equates to roughly 50,000 thoughts every day!
Thinking occurs in the conscious part of our brain; the part that is under our volition (even if it doesn’t always feel like it).
Our internal thinking has a fascinating impact upon the subconscious area of our brain - the part that isn’t subject to conscious control. This subconscious zone isn’t capable of reasoning or resistance. Rather, it blindly follows the instructions it receives from our conscious mind.
Therefore, what we think about really and truly impacts the direction of our lives on both a conscious and subconscious level. If we want to steer our lives onto a more healthy, happy and fulfilling course, we must fundamentally change the way we think.
Where Do Our Thoughts Come From?
A young infant isn’t born with preconceived ideas about themselves or how the world should be. As we grow up, our experiences and role models shape our belief systems and self concept. Research shows that our self concept is established as young as six years of age, and this becomes the filter through which we view the entire world.
Think about that - do you really want your limited six-year-old psyche to dictate the course of your life? These limiting beliefs can hold us back in all areas, including our health.
It’s easy to think of your thoughts as merely white noise in the background. After all, they’re firing so fast and happening in conjunction with our daily lives, which makes it difficult to really capture and focus upon them. Yet they influence our self-esteem, decision making and level of wellbeing.
The Physiological Impact Of Thinking: How Do Thoughts Affect Your Health?
There’s a mountain of research to show the link between thinking and our physiology. But you don’t really need science to prove this, as it’s something you intuitively know already. Think about what your body does when you’re feeling…
NERVOUS (palms sweat, breath becomes shallow and butterflies dance in your belly)
STRESSED (blood pressure rises, heart races, breath becomes shallow, your immune system gets run down and you may develop tension headaches)
ANXIOUS AFTER A NIGHTMARE (you wake up drenched in sweat and poised to run a marathon - it’s as though your body has physically lived through the trauma in your dream)
ANGRY (you may clench your fists, grind your jaw and feel constriction through your chest)
On the other hand, positive thoughts trigger pleasant emotions that in turn radiate beneficial side-effects. Positive thinking has been shown to improve:
- Anxiety disorders
- Pain perception
- Blood pressure
- Blood clotting - in fact, studies have shown that patients can reduce bleeding by 30% during surgery simply via visualization
So when you are thinking about an experience, your brain responds as if it were really happening. Research has shown that positive visualization can even modulate the immune system and increase our number of white blood cells.
In one incredible study from the Journal of Obesity, normal weight women who considered themselves to be ‘fat’, were significantly more likely to gain weight over time! This is extra proof that humans act according to how we think.
How To Think Your Way To Better Health
Your thoughts literally illuminate whatever path you want to take in life. As such, those 50,000 phrases flitting through your brain each day can make or break your health.
In fact, my good friend Jon Gabriel attributes his health transformation to the power of the mind. Jon used visualization to successfully lose over 220 pounds (100kg) - without even dieting!
So as we look ahead to the New Year and think about the health changes we’d like to manifest, don’t overlook the power of your thoughts. They can truly be your greatest asset! Here are my top tips to transform your thoughts into health boosting magnetizers:
Start With The End In Mind
Most of us have a rough vision of how we want to look and feel. Try to really build a strong, clear and more detailed picture in your mind of how your life will look once you’ve achieved your health goals. Really zoom into the details of how your entire life will be transformed by better health.
Once you’ve clarified this vision, meditate on it daily. It doesn’t have to be for long - even a minute in the morning and night is a great start - but it does need to be consistent. Come back to this vision when you feel your motivation flagging. Perhaps you’d even like to create a vision board or write affirmations that externally reinforce your health goals.
You Gotta Believe It
Thinking positively about your health is a great start but it’s not enough to really crack into your subconscious and instigate profound change.
To really influence your subconscious mind, behave differently and subsequently achieve better results, you’ve got to feel into your positive thoughts. Act as though they’re already true and convince yourself with every fiber of your being that what you’re thinking is truly your reality.
Plan For Setbacks
Like any type of change, you will encounter challenges. Some days, thinking positively will be harder than others. When we’re unprepared for obstacles, our knee-jerk reaction is typically to revert back to old behaviors or completely throw in the towel.
Alternatively, acknowledge that change won’t occur perfectly straight away. How will you deal with those days when you’re bogged down in pessimism? Will you beat yourself up and believe that you’re doomed for failure? Or can you accept that this is a natural part of the process and gently return to positive thinking as soon as you can.
Simplify Your Self Talk
It is easier and more effective to use simple positive language to affirm your health goals. In a similar vein, your mind will respond better to simple images to induce behavioral change.
Talk to yourself as though you were kindly explaining something to a small child. If possible, attach an emotion or sensory experience to your positive thoughts (such as smell or feeling) to really unlock your subconscious vault.
Use Your Thoughts To Distinguish Hunger From Emotions
Humans are hardwired to seek comfort from food. From the moment we are born, our cries and distress are soothed by a bottle or breast milk. And as adults, eating ignites the pleasure centers in our brain to release endorphins and other feel-good chemicals. Is it really any wonder that many of us eat to feel better?
By becoming more aware of your thoughts and emotions, you are better placed to discern true hunger from emotional temptation. Next time you are hungry, give yourself some mental space to ask, ‘Am I really hungry?’ If the answer is a definitive ‘yes’ then by all means eat! If it’s a ‘no’ or you’re unsure, wait a little longer until you’re certain that your belly and not your brain is asking for food. In the meantime, choose another activity that will dispel any unpleasant emotions, such as meditation, exercise, listening to uplifting music or journaling.