During the editing of my upcoming book, Autoimmune Wellness: Eat, Think, Pray, Move and Love Yourself Back to Health and Happiness in 10 Minutes a Day, I recently traveled to the Pacific Northwest with my husband to attend a family wedding. The trip was fun and exciting with lots of gatherings, games and celebrations, and I returned home with the glow of warm encounters, a content heart, and full of gratitude for my family and my life.
I also found myself sort of marveling that none of my five siblings (now all ranging in age from 59 to 72) suffer from any chronic debilitating illnesses or take medication; even though we all inherited a family genetic code that makes us very susceptible to autoimmune disease (from both parents). In spite of inheriting these faulty genes, I noticed that none of my siblings complained of aches and pains, but instead enthusiastically shared how much they were enjoying their very active lives.
Of course, no one is completely free from all pain and suffering, but, the near non-existence of illness and pain in my siblings made me think about the chapter in my book that I am editing right now, titled, Use the Power of Your Mind to Heal Any Illness. The mind-body connection in health and well-being has been firmly established.
My parents gave me and my siblings a huge gift: positive thinking; and I believe that explains the exceptionally good health and well-being of all six children. I can still remember my parents attending a course by Norman Vincent Peale on The Power of Positive Thinking when I was very young. This course seemed to strengthen their naturally positive outlook on life. They always had a solution to any problem, and a strong belief that they could accomplish anything they set their minds to. They passed this on to us, and I see it working in all our lives today in all areas, including our health.
I wanted to share with you some parts of my Power of the Mind to Heal chapter this week, in the hope that you will find it helpful in your own healing from your autoimmune disease.
Here are some excerpts:
Why do optimists live longer? How does happiness improve immune function? Why do stress and depression slow healing and the immune defense against cancer? Discoveries in the fascinating fields of applied psychophysiology, health psychology, biopsychiatry and psychoneuroimmunology have documented many of the biochemical intersections of the body and mind in terms of immune health, and one thing is clear, your mind is the most powerful tool you have to create health. Whatever you experience in your life it is a reflection of your inner thoughts and emotions. Therefore, learning to manage this precious resource is crucial to your health and happiness.
By becoming more aware of your thoughts, feelings, beliefs and attitudes, you will be able to create not only vibrant health and happiness, but also success and abundance. Your outer world, or what you see around you, is a direct reflection of your inner mind. If you have peaceful thoughts or a positive outlook on life, your health will be better than if you are chronically stressed, angry or resentful. Scientific research has shown that every thought you think and every feeling and emotion you feel produces molecules, called neuropeptides, which actually change the structure of your brain, and send out messages to every cell in your body. Your mind affects your health through this mind-body connection. Change your mind, change your life is not just a clever saying someone drummed up; it is an accurate explanation of how your mind influences every aspect of your life, including your health.
In this chapter, I introduce you to some of the most powerful tools to increase your awareness of the power of your mind, and give you simple 10-minute tools to upgrade your thinking, your health and your life.
Day One: Quiet Your Inner Critic
If your self-talk is positive and accurate, you function well. If it’s negative, irrational or untrue, you experience stress, illness and emotional disturbance.
—Albert Ellis, PhD, Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy
What It Is
Negative thoughts have a way of slipping into our consciousness. Most of us have a feedback loop of repetitive thoughts that circulate through our minds throughout the day. These repetitive, negative thoughts become programmed and automatic. Research at UCLA’s Laboratory of Neural Imaging (LONI) shows that the average person has about 50,000 to 70,000 thoughts a day. The most surprising discovery of this study is that most of those 50-70,000 thoughts are negative.
Here are some examples of repetitive, negative self-talk: I hate traffic. I hate my job. Meetings are stupid. What a stupid thing to do! I shouldn’t have said that. I could kick myself. I’d forget my head if it weren’t attached. I hate mornings. Men are stupid. Women are stupid. I always screw up everything. I could never do that. I’m fat, my thighs are huge. My hair is too thin (curly, straight…).
In the book, The Happiness Trap, author Russ Harris tells us that 80 percent of everyone’s thoughts contain some sort of negative content; and even Norman Vincent Peale, author of The Power of Positive Thinking, admits that when he started taking notice of his own self-talk and conversations, he was surprised by how many small negative statements he was including in his daily conversations with himself and others.
Why It’s Important
The problem with these kinds of statements is that a habit of negative thinking and speaking leads to unhealthy moods like anxiety and depression; and on a larger scale, because your thoughts create your reality, negativity impacts your health, as well as all other areas of your life.
According to a recent research paper published in the September 13, 2013 Journal of the American Heart Association, people dealing with heart disease – the number one killer of adults in this country – benefit greatly from a positive outlook: they actually live longer and healthier. The study, which looked at 607 patients in a hospital in Denmark, found that patients whose moods were overall more positive were 58 percent more likely to live at least another five years.
Another plus is that the benefits of positive emotions don’t stop after the good feelings subside. In fact, the biggest benefit Fredrickson discovered is this: positive emotions provide an enhanced ability to build skills and develop resources for use later in life.
The following are exercises to decrease negative thinking, increase positive thinking and improve your health and well-being:
- Today, begin to notice your thoughts.
Become aware of your self-talk, (or what you tell yourself every day, all day long, without even noticing it). This is the first step in changing your self-talk to positive, empowering thoughts that lead to health and well-being.
As you begin to listen to your thoughts, lovingly replace any negative thought or statement with a more positive one. For example, if you find yourself frequently saying, “What a stupid thing to do,” find a more positive way to view mistakes and replace it with something like, “I didn’t do it perfectly, but next time I’ll do it differently, or “the good thing about making this mistake is that I learned from it.”
Be gentle with yourself as you change your thinking. Don’t beat yourself up for beating yourself up – that would defeat the purpose! Your goal is simply to become more self-aware in order to start replacing these negative thoughts with more positive ones to become a happier, healthier, more successful person.
In Your Journal
- Throughout the day, pause to write down any negative thoughts you notice.
- What patterns did you notice? What themes reoccurred?
- Rewrite one of your frequent negative thoughts into a more positive one.
Today, I choose positive thoughts that nourish me and support my goals.
You have the power to heal your life, and you need to know that. We think so often that we are helpless, but we’re not. We always have the power of our minds…Claim and consciously use this power.
—Louise L. Hay, Meditations to Heal Your Life
Enjoy using these exercises and tips to boost your positivity and enjoy greater health and happiness.
In Health and Wholeness,