“See the positive side, the potential, and make an effort.” ~Dalai Lama
My theme for this month is #LoveYourself. It’s so important to take the time to praise yourself, thinking positively about yourself and to give yourself love. The simple act of self love can actually do wonders for your health. Let me explain…
Positive thinking is a state of mind that allows you to focus on the bright side of life and believe that you can overcome any obstacle and difficulty, including dis-ease. While not accepted by everyone, the concept is growing in popularity. Optimism is the key to effective stress management and I’ve already written about how stress negatively affects our health. The health benefits of positive thinking continue to be researched but may include an increased life span, lower rates of depression, greater resistance to the common cold and a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease related deaths.
The way you think, feel and act has an effect on your body and there is growing evidence that you can change your health just by changing your mindset. Emotions can impact the course of an illness and the mind can affect the outcome of disease. For example, a stomach ulcer may develop after a stressful event, such as the death of a loved one or loss of a job. At the root of every physical symptom is an emotional connection; the body speaks the mind. Poor emotional health can weaken your immune system. Additionally, the liver is connected to anger, while the lungs produce emotions of grief. The emotions that we do not release are stored in anatomical sites and consequently affect physiology, leading to dis-ease. Back pain, a change in appetite, chest pain, constipation, diarrhea, extreme fatigue, body aches and pains, headaches, high blood pressure, insomnia, palpitations, sexual problems, a stiff neck, gastrointestinal distress, weight gain and weight loss can all be connected to emotional imbalances.
Your emotions can trigger your genes to express health or disease and even the CDC has stated that 85 percent of all diseases appear to have an emotional connection. Most of the problem stems from the “fight or flight” response, which triggers stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol to speed up your heart rate and breathing. Your blood vessels tighten and your blood pressure goes up. If you deal with chronic negative emotions, you can cause wear and tear on your artery walls.
By integrating psychology, nutrition and exercise physiology with modern scientific medicine, the body’s natural healing abilities are enhanced. Dr. Benson, founder of the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at the Massachusetts General Hospital, has seen diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, autoimmune disease, chronic headaches and fatigue improve with this kind of program.
While a doctor can address your physical symptoms and suggest ways to treat them, the underlying problem will not be resolved if you don’t improve your emotional health. It is important to try to self reflect and recognize your emotions and why you’re having them. Once you can sort out the causes of your negative emotions, you can start to manage your emotional health.
Research from the American Psychological Association shows that being cynical affects not only your health, but your wealth too. The research goes on to say that a high level of cynicism is associated with lower income levels. Now all of this can be really hard to accept, especially for those who tend to by cynical by nature. But we all CAN change our thoughts and attitudes by making an attempt to reframe every negative situation as a positive one (I have slowly trained myself to believe that when sometimes negative happens to me, there is an opportunity lurking in the wings. Funny thing is, I am usually right.).
Replace negative thoughts by adopting a positive thinking attitude and using visualization techniques. Practice positive self-talk, surround yourself with positive people, follow a healthy lifestyle, stop and evaluate your thoughts throughout the day, smile, meditate or do yoga, read positive quotes or daily affirmations, and keep a gratitude journal. Basically, anything that sparks feelings of joy within you will do the trick when it comes to increasing positive emotions. But just like any other habit, you can’t expect change to happen overnight.
A study by Barbara Fredrickson, a psychology researcher at the University of North Carolina discovered that when you are experiencing positive emotions you will see more possibilities in your life. These findings lend itself to the theory that optimism opens your mind to more options. Fredrickson also discovered that positive emotions provide an enhanced ability to build skills and develop resources for our future. She refers to this as the “broaden and build” theory. By broadening your mind to new possibilities, you develop new skills that can provide value in other aspects of your life.