The thing that got me onto the mind-body bandwagon was a story a decade or so ago about an experiment involving three groups of basketball players. The researchers wanted to know if visualizing basketball practice would be effective in keeping the player's skills honed even if they didn't actually get onto the court. One group practiced daily. The second group visualized practice daily. The third group went fishing. Well, I don't know what they really did, but it had nothing to do with basketball.
At the end of the experiment, the daily-practice group had excellent skills, the group that was disconnected from basketball experienced a significant drop in their skill levels. The players who visualized practicing basketball – much to everyone's surprise – were nearly as good as the players who had actually played.
There is one rub in all this that allows the non-believers to point fingers and scoff at the process: you have to believe it works; belief is the backbone of mind power, it holds it up and gives it strength. There is a saying that demonstrates this: "If you think you can, or you think you can't, you're right," meaning that your ability is dependent upon your belief.
There are many stories like the one about the basketball players that show the power of the mind to do many things, including healing from serious, chronic health conditions. However, if you are fighting your own skepticism, you will spend more time trying to convince yourself that it works than you will letting it work for you.
I have written quite a bit on the topic of mind-body healing, and here are links to just two of the articles posted here at Live Stress-Free ~ Naturally!
You will also see mention of the benefits of Progressive Relaxation, and preparing for sleep, so here is a link to my Progressive Relaxation "how to" articles and an article on holistic techniques to counteract insomnia: http://bewellwithmichelle.blogspot.com/search/label/Progressive%20Relaxation
Have a look at those, and then put into practice the great advice given by Christina Laun in her article:
Fitness isn’t just about working out and eating right– the way you think and feel can have a big impact on your health as well. Studies have shown that Buddhist and Hindu monks tend to live longer and happier lives and the reason has to do more with how they think than how they eat or keep healthy. You don’t have to be a monk to enjoy these kind of benefits of putting mind over matter, however, as research is showing a powerful connection between mind and body that can be accomplished by anyone determined enough. Here are some ways that you can use your brain power to make you happier, healthier and more fulfilled every day.
Here are a few simple ways you can change your thinking in a way that can have a positive impact on your health.
- Get out negative emotions. Letting negative feelings and emotions build up can cause negative health effects as they stress you out and make you feel bad overall. Give yourself an outlet to think about and deal with these emotions rather than just ignoring them.
- Try hypnotism. Many people report that hypnotism allows them to change their thoughts and behaviors. While it may not work for you, it doesn’t hurt to try it out to see if it can’t help you to change your thinking about bad habits and negative attitudes.
- Realize change is possible. When reflecting on things you want to change in your life, don’t get discouraged by goals that seem far off. Remind yourself of things you’ve changed in the past and use that to motivate you to change things from unhealthy habits to the way you deal with stress.
- Think about things that energize you. If you’re feeling run down you may be able to use your brain instead of caffeine to give yourself a jolt of energy. Try thinking about things you love to do or that you’re excited about taking on. This may wake you up enough to get you started on your day.
- Imagine yourself aging more slowly. They say you’re only as old as you feel, and that can be true if you think young. Visualize yourself aging more slowly and staying healthier longer and you may have a better chance of actually doing so.
- Feel in control. Don’t let things in your life override the way you feel or think. Use your thoughts to figure out a way to get control of a situation whether it’s at work, at home or your entire life.
- Embrace your faith. Studies have shown that having faith can have a big impact on your recovery from illness and possibly your overall health as well. If you do have a faith that you follow, make it a part of your mental wellness routine.
- Trust in yourself. You won’t be able to change much with your thinking if the first thing that comes to mind is how you’ll likely fail. Trust that you can make a difference in any aspect of your life you want to bring more happiness or well-being to and chances are you will.
- Be honest. There isn’t much use in trying to think yourself healthy if what you’re thinking is a lie. Be honest with yourself about your past, good or bad, and commit yourself to thinking about making realistic, healthy choices.
- Live consciously. Don’t blindly go through life eating what is put in front of you or doing things just because they may be easier even though they may harm you in the long run. Follow your own thinking and make your own decisions about everything that comes into your life.
- Accept what comes your way. There are some things in life that there is no way to change, no matter how much you think about them. Learning to turn your thoughts to acceptance rather than forcing things to change is a big part in maintaining mental and physical health.
- Forgive yourself. We all make mistakes, do things we regret and go back on our word sometimes. Don’t let minor setbacks destroy the positive thoughts you have for yourself. Forgive yourself for these transgressions and start over fresh the next day.
Dealing With Stress
Stress can have a big effect on physical and mental health. Here are some ways to think yourself free of it.
- Meditate regularly. Numerous studies have shown that meditation can have a very beneficial impact on the brain and even change how your brain processes things over time. Make time in your schedule for meditation and you may learn to control your stress and your mind.
- Relax and let stress go. You can use your thoughts to help rid yourself of stresses. When you’re feeling overwhelmed take a minute to relax and focus your thoughts on something else. Over time, you may be able to better handle the big and little stresses that come your way.
- Think about each breath. It can help to focus your thoughts and draw stress away if you make a conscious effort to think about each breath as you take it in and out. It will help relax you and bring you more in touch with your body’s rhythms.
- Control your thoughts at bedtime. For many who are stressed, getting to sleep at night can be a challenge. Use your thoughts to shove out all the worries and tasks that are floating around and to concentrate on relaxing, restful thoughts even if that means just counting sheep.
- Prepare mentally for bed. Before you ever hit the sack, make sure your mind is ready to sleep. Start creating a thought routine that will get you ready both mentally and physically for bed and help you get the sleep you need to be happy and healthy.
- Revise your dreams. If you find yourself haunted by bad dreams or awoken multiple times throughout the night by them, learn to use your mind to control them as they are happening. This lucid dreaming will allow you to turn nightmares into happier dreams and allow you to get the rest you need.
- Concentrate on each muscle individually. One way to relax is to concentrate on each muscle individually in your body and relaxing them, bit by bit. By the time you’re through you should be in a completely restful state and you’ll have your mind power to thank.
- Allow yourself to daydream. Daydreams are often are body’s way of taking control when we need a break from the stresses of our busy lives. Give yourself a chance to daydream now and then without interrupting with thoughts of things you should be doing.
- Stop worrying. Many people fall into a mental pattern of worrying constantly about things to the point that it causes them a great amount of stress and anxiety. When you feel worries coming on, train your brain to start thinking about other kinds of thoughts.
- Set aside time to think. With busy lives it can be hard to find time to just think, let alone organize your thoughts and prepare for the next day. Give yourself a few minutes each day, whether it’s during your commute or before you go to bed, to let your mind wander and think about your future, your relationships or whatever else it wants.
- Write in a journal. It can be helpful when trying to direct your thoughts and emotions to write them down in a journal. This can be a great way to vent out negative feelings and emotions and to let you track your progress in making changes in your life.
- Use color to control your thinking. Having trouble relaxing or waking up in the morning? Colors can have a big impact on how we perceive things. Make your bedroom full of soothing colors like greens and blues to help you get to sleep and try wearing a bright color when you wake up to see if it gives you a little extra pep. By using your natural associations with colors, you may be able to change your thinking.
Illness and Disease
If are you are faced with potential illness or disease here are some ways you can use the power of your brain to improve your chances of recovery.
- Don’t think about the pain. Studies have shown that when people are distracted from a pain source they feel it much less intensely than when they are concentrating on it. Use your brain to distract yourself away from your pain whether it’s a simple headache or something more serious so you can feel better and get through your day.
- Concentrate on getting better. This may sound like something your mother would say to you to keep you from jumping back into work or taking care of yourself but it can actually be true. Those who focus their thoughts and energy on getting better more quickly are actually more likely to do so.
- Believe in your treatments. If you go into a treatment, whether it’s for something serious like cancer or something more innocuous, thinking that it won’t work you’re actually lowering the chances that it will work. Patients who go into treatment with a positive outlook have a better chance of a positive outcome so try changing your thinking. After all, it can’t hurt.
- Imagine you have a strong immune system. Some studies have shown that you may be able to stimulate your immune system simply by thinking about it. If you feel a cold coming on, try picturing your immune system putting up roadblocks to stop the infection. It may sound silly, but it just might work.
- Picture your body fighting off infections. Along those same lines, whether you have a sinus infection or a serious illness, you may be able to take a shot at helping clear it up by concentrating on eradicating it with your mind. Imagine your body fighting off the infection bit by bit and it might do just that.
- Listen to your body. Because people are often so busy they may fail to notice signs from their body that something is wrong until it’s too late. You know when something is wrong with you and you don’t feel normal. Don’t put these thoughts aside, instead, listen to them and try to figure out just where they’re coming from so you can get help for whatever may be troubling you.
- Find a positive and friendly doctor. Patients who have a doctor with a positive outlook on their recovery and who treat them with a friendly and understanding demeanor are much more likely to positive outcomes from their treatment than those that do not. Find a doctor that can help you go into treatment with a positive outlook and you may improve your health in the process.
- Believe in miracles. Crazy things happen every day and there is no reason to think that they can’t happen to you. Believe even when there is little hope that there is still a chance for a cure or treatment of your illness. While there is no guarantee, thinking positively may have more of an effect on your wellness than you realize.
- Don’t fear treatments. If you go in for medical treatments fearful and scared you may be causing yourself more of a chance of future complications. Find a doctor you trust and bring along a family member to help keep you calm and in a good state of mind before you go under.
- Relax to save your gums. It has been shown that stress and worry are a major cause of gum disease or at least exasperate existing cases. To avoid this sometimes painful and dangerous condition, allow yourself to relax and think more positively about your life in general.
- Tell yourself you will get pregnant. Many women who have trouble conceiving may find that they finally do after they imagine the process happening. While it certainly isn’t a guarantee of success, giving your body a little vote of confidence and positivism may be just what you need to finally become pregnant.
- Take time to deal with negative things. Finding out you have a serious illness or a potentially fatal disease can be heartbreaking and any person would be upset. Give yourself time to fully think through and deal with these feelings until you find that you can think about them rationally. Only then will you be able to adapt a truly positive outlook and influence your wellness in a genuine way.
- Stop thinking of yourself as a sick person. When you are constantly thinking of yourself as being sick you may be resigning yourself to that fate not only mentally but physically as well. By thinking of yourself as becoming well again you may motivate your bodily systems to kick into gear and give whatever’s plaguing you the boot.
- Don’t milk injuries. Along those same lines, if you are hurt don’t pretend to be more hurt than you really are to get sympathy. You may end up actually causing yourself to be sicker than you were in the first place by convincing your body that you’re unwell.
- Understand that sometimes its all in the mind. Not all illnesses have a physical cause, some are the result of built up negative feelings, stress, and thoughts that you are carrying around. If you can’t find the reason you’re in pain or don’t feel well, try changing the way you’re thinking to see if that can make an impact.
- Don’t expect pain. When you expect something to hurt or to have a negative side effect you increase the chances that it will. Studies have shown that patients who were told a treatment would hurt or who were advised it may cause headaches were more likely to experience these side effects than patients who were not. So allow whatever treatment you’re going in for to be whatever it will be and deal with it as it comes.
- Don’t place blame for illness. Many patients sabotage their ability to think positively about their illnesses by blaming themselves for getting them in the first place, feeling that they could have had less stress, eaten better or done a number of things to prevent them. While this may or may not be true, it doesn’t change the present. Don’t wallow in the past, instead turn your thoughts to how you can positively deal with the present and make an impact on your future.
A big part of your overall health is your happiness. Here are some ways you can boost your mental outlook just by changing your thoughts.
- Concentrate on happiness. Want to be happy? Then start thinking happy. Focus your thoughts on things that make you smile and blessings in your life and you’ll see a turn around in your mood in no time.
- Focus on positive aspects. There are always going to be situations in our lives that seem downright rotten at first. But you can help make them more bearable by focusing on the positive and when you feel yourself getting down training your brain to go to these kind of thoughts instead of those that make you feel worse.
- Start each day with optimism. It’s easy to roll out of bed in the morning because you feel you have to or you are afraid of the negative consequences if you don’t. This starts your whole day on avoiding bad things instead of seeking out the good. Remind yourself of a positive thing you want to get up for each morning and focus on that.
- Smile. You may be in a bad mood but if you force yourself to appear like you’re in a good one you may actually start to be.
- Change your inner dialogue. If all your thoughts about things involve negative terms, worst-case scenarios and doom and gloom you’re not doing yourself any favors health wise. Change the way you talk to yourself to a more positive, motivating voice. You’ll be happier and in the long run healthier too.
- Reverse thoughts. If you catch yourself heading down a path to negativity stop yourself in your tracks and turn those negative thoughts into positive ones. Over time you’ll improve your mood and make it easier to get through your day.
- Give yourself compliments. Do something great today? Looking sexy in a new outfit? Give yourself a compliment and acknowledge your accomplishment. Do this often enough and you may be able to influence your self esteem and think about yourself in a whole different light.
- Use positive words in your thoughts. It’s very easy to fall into the habit of using negative words in your thoughts, but it’s also just as easy to replace those negative words with positive ones. Instead of saying "I’ll never be able to do this" think "This will be hard, but I know I can do it."
- Put positive energy out there. Some people believe that you get back what you give out. Whether you subscribe to that theory or not, you won’t be hurting yourself any by taking on a more positive and upbeat attitude and making others around you feel good.
- Expect the best. When you expect the worst to happen sometimes you get your wish. Always assume that the outcome of a situation will be a positive one. You may not always be right, but you won’t have to spend hours moping about how you knew you wouldn’t be.
- Think of happy memories. You may be in the middle of the worst day of work ever and all you want to do is crawl under your desk and cry but you can help make a little bright spot in all that horribleness by thinking about things that you’ve done that have made you happy. Maybe a great trip with friends, watching your children play or special moments with a spouse or loved one.
- Be friendly to yourself and others. Sometimes when you think the best of others you help them to see themselves in that light as well. You’ll feel better about having positive relationships with others and who knows, maybe your kindness will be returned just when you need it.
Help yourself stick to a healthy diet with these mental exercises.
- Control your cravings. Want to get your cravings under control? Try to think about how you’ll feel if you indulge them. LIkely you’ll feel guilty and beat yourself up about it. Focus instead on how you’ll feel if you don’t cave. Probably pretty good. Give yourself that positive mental reinforcement and you’ll be able to more easily stay on track.
- Actively remember your last meal. Studies have shown that when people take the time to actively recall what they had at their last meal that they actually felt fuller and snacked less than those who didn’t. See if this method can work to help curb your desire to snack away, even if you don’t need it.
- Concentrate on food while eating. You may find that you’ll eat less overall if you concentrate on your food at every meal and enjoy it slowly. This concentration will allow you to get more joy out of eating as well as help you to feel more satisfied at the end.
- Visualize yourself as slimmer. Want to shed a few pounds? Then stop thinking about yourself as a fat person. Visualize yourself as the slim, trim person you want to be. The more you concentrate on that person, the harder you’ll work to attain that goal.
- Understand your hunger. Not all hunger is based on a true need to eat. It can be caused by loneliness, anger, sadness and a variety of other emotional and psychological issues. When you feel yourself getting the desire to eat, take a minute to think about whether or not you’re truly hungry or if you’re just trying to fill some other kind of need.
- Don’t beat yourself up. When making any big change in your life you’re bound to have relapses and fall back on your old ways. The same goes for eating well. Don’t be too hard on yourself for these occasional slip ups. Remind yourself of all the times you didn’t cave and simply start over again.
- Reward yourself mentally. Not all rewards have to be physical. If you’ve done a great job keeping up with eating healthy foods give yourself some credit. Think about how much better you feel and all the benefits you’re getting from this new, healthy lifestyle.
Help yourself meet your fitness goals by changing your mind set with these suggestions.
- Think about exercise. Studies have shown that you may be able to get some moderate physical benefits from just thinking about working out. So if you can’t make it to the gym, try concentrating on thinking about all the exercises you would have done. While it’s no real substitute, it beats thinking about cupcakes and french fries to keep you in shape.
- Get into the right frame of mind. If you go into a workout thinking it’s going to be terrible and not being able to wait until its over the experience will be miserable and you’re likely to get little benefit from it. Change your mind set before you hit the gym and focus on all the good you’re doing yourself by working out as well as the long term benefits you’ll reap.
- Think of yourself as healthy. Imagining yourself as a lazy bum isn’t going to motivate you to truly be healthy. Sometimes thinking about yourself as a happy, healthy person can be all you need to make that a reality.
- Make it a game. You can use your thoughts to make working out a game. Make bets with yourself as to how much you can do, challenge yourself mentally while on the treadmill and even use the people working out around you to keep you entertained.
- Think of exercise as fun. If you think of exercise as a chore it very likely will be. Think of it instead as an opportunity and one that is giving you the chance to live a longer, healthier life. Try working out during your favorite TV show or listening to a great song while running to make working out more closely associated with good things in your mind.
- Envision the negative effects of your bad habits. Can’t seem to stop smoking or eating poorly? Take a moment to focus your thoughts on the possible negative outcomes of these behaviors. Is it really no big deal if you can get cancer or have a heart attack? These kind of thoughts can help you get serious about changing these habits.
- Celebrate small victories. Are you finally able to run a mile without having to stop? Can you now touch your toes? These little steps in fitness should be a big deal to you. Give yourself a mental party for your accomplishments and share them with whomever is willing to listen.
- Think of your body differently. Many people avoid gyms because they feel they are too fat or because they have low self-esteem. Get your mind to start thinking about your body in a positive light, whether you’re just starting out or well into a fitness program. When you’re happier with the way you look you’re actually likely to make more progress and feel more confident at the end of the day.
Help yourself meet your own goals and be happier and healthier overall with these mental tricks.
- Visualize yourself meeting goals. Whether you want to quit smoking, lose ten pounds or get the promotion you have a better chance of doing so if you visualize yourself reaching the goal. It may sound silly but you may work harder once you have a clear image of what success looks like.
- Downplay cynicism, ill will and envy. These kind of negative thoughts won’t bring anything good your way. Instead, turn your thoughts about others into a more positive light and remind yourself that no one controls your happiness but you.
- Remind yourself of your successes. Even in the face of a total failure don’t allow yourself to wallow. Pick yourself up and start thinking of all the times you have succeeded at something rather than failed. This can help you get back onto the saddle and on the road to future successes.
- Visualize the future. Do you know where you want to be in five years? If it isn’t working at your current job or even in the city you’re living in then it may be time to sit down and have a good long think about how you can start heading your life in the right direction. Once you’ve got a goal in mind you can start thinking about ways to meet it and focusing your thoughts on this instead.
- Think about what means most to you. Many people do things simply because they are convenient or easy without really considering what the most important things in life are to them. Focus your thoughts and energy on those things that are most important and you’ll start leading a happier and more fulfilling life.
- Make your goals realistic. While it’s good to be ambitious, there are some things that may be setting yourself up for disappointment. Set goals that are realistic for yourself and set your thoughts to meeting these goals.
- Fake it until you make it. Sometimes all it takes to be successful is to pretend that you are already are successful. By believing that you will meet your goals one day, and acting the part, you may actually be setting yourself up for future success.