Everybody knows that we are what we eat; it isn’t too big of a leap to also understand that the foods we chose to put into our mouths eventually become us (our hearts, brains, legs, skin & eyes). It should also make sense that the quality of the foods we eat is important, and differences in not only what we eat but the quality of it will causes different genes to be expressed, changing not only our phenotype (appearance) but also our physiology (the way we function). But did you know that your thoughts shape you in a very similar way. Depending on how you think, you can actually turn on & off genes in your body, causing a completely different expression of your appearance and function. That’s right, you can, in a sense think yourself healthy (and the side effects of being healthy contain but are not limited to: increased energy, better mood, better looks, better digestion, healthy skin, happier, faster, stronger, no inflammation, decreased sensitivity to pain (tissue damage)…and on and on.)
To your nervous system, thoughts are very much like movements, the more often you think a certain way, the better you get at thinking that way. It’s similar to becoming coordinated in a specific movement like shooting a basketball, the more you practice the better you get. This is because of a process called neurosensitization, nerves that fire (are used) often get bigger and require less stimulus to fire. It is a lot like carving a trail through a dense forest, after the first time through there is still much brush left and the trail probably isn’t clear, but after thousands of people have used it, the trail is there, and it is much easier to use. This analogy will also help you understand why you cannot change your thoughts by trying NOT to think of something. Your brain is very good at creating new paths, but it cannot get rid of old ones, just like with the forest, you can create new trails, but only time will cause that original trail to fade.
Why is this important? If you continuously think negative, harsh, contemptuous & hurtful thoughts, those thoughts not only become easier to think, they actually cause stress & trigger the amygdala (stress & anxiety center in your brain) to release stress hormones. Stress hormones are released in response to a stressor (whether negative thoughts, a hungry tiger, angry boss, nutrient deficient lunch, emotionally deficient relationship…etc). Those stress hormones cause breakdown in body tissues to provide ample energy and other changes to promote surviving that stressor, so that you can get back to a restful state. This is an amazing & life-saving system for acute (short term) stress (hungry tiger, deer to hunt..etc); however, this is a terrible & life-taking system for chronic (long term) stress. We now live in a modern world that is void of most acute stressors, and is FULL of chronic stressors, and this is why 75% of the deaths in North America are from lifestyle disease each year.
The good news: knowledge is power, and you can actually think yourself healthier, thoughts that are positive, healthy, happy, affirming, confident…etc (thoughts that are pure and sufficient and that go along with our innate values) have a calming (normalizing) effect because they cause the release of certain neurotransmitters (chemical messengers) that block stress and normalize our physiology. How awesome is that?!
“The left prefrontal cortex can inhibit the stress response by releasing GABA at the amygdala in response to a positive (homeostatic) emotion. This is profound! What this means is that we, as humans can consciously choose to react differently to stimuli and thus control our stress levels.” –Innate State of Mind P28
“Under normal conditions SEROTONIN is released to inhibit the activity of the noradrenergic (stress) cells of the locus cerleus (anxiety relay center) that lead to anxiety. However, under chronic stress serotonin production cannot keep up and the result is that serotonin levels drop. The result of chronic increased noradrenaline and decreased serotonin levels is that people get depressed, feel irritable, tired, and listless, have problems sleeping, get tension headaches…etc.” –Innate State of Mind P30
What this means is that depression is a symptom of chronic stress and unhappy/negative thoughts and not the other way around. It is often specifically related to the chronic stress from habitually negative thought patterns that have been engraved in the nervous system. This is why drugs like SSRI’s (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) treat the symptom by changing brain chemistry, but do not address the cause (a drug will never create a healthy thought pattern).
We must create sufficiency and purity with our thoughts just as we must with our diets and exercise/movement patterns. It can be a slow process, just like going from a 300 # extremely unfit person to a shredded 175 # fitness guru, but you can do it! Focus one step at a time, one meal, one work out, one thought at a time.
I believe in you, it’s worth it and you can do it!
Own the consequences: Understand that thinking negatively (you’re stupid, ugly…etc) has a very harmful effect on your health, while thinking positively (you’re smart, beautiful…etc) has a very helpful effect on your health.
Write down in detail how the person you want to be would act, what they would do, how they would think, and what choices they would make, and then start acting, doing, thinking and choosing like they would.
Practice accessing happy memories when you are not in crisis. THIS IS HUGE! Get neurosensitization going on positive thoughts, so that if you find yourself in crisis you can access positive thoughts much easier & break the cycle much faster.
When you catch yourself thinking negative, don’t feel bad or guilty, just focus on something else, what you are thankful for (best & easiest one), your breathing, counting telephone poles, think of a happy memory or place.
Exercise – “relieves muscle tension and increases serotonin and GABA – and (↓) the trait of anxiety. Exercise gives neurons everything they need to connect…” –Spark p 95 Ratey
Get Adjusted – Chiropractic Adjustments improve reduces stress, and less stress = more health!! Reducing your stress anywhere helps your overall health everywhere. Get your spine checked ASAP!!
Choose 4 Health,
Your Health Buddy
Dr. Nicholas Araza DC CCWP