Dear Joyous Readers,
I've been fortunate to speak with thousands of people since the release of my book and share my 10 Essential Habits for Joyous Health. During these seminars I always touch on the power of positive thinking and how you think/eat/live yourself to joyous health. But did you know you can also think yourself sick?
Today I want to expand on this because I came across a great article on Mind Body Green by Dr. Lissa Rankin where she shares scientific proof that negative beliefs harm your health and can in fact alter gene expression. While this may seem like a scary thought, let this knowledge empower you to train your brain to optimism and to peacefulness.
Here's the good news: Genes are not fixed, therefore they respond to a person's lifestyle -- environment, behaviour, thoughts, attitudes, food choices and more. So just because your grandfather had diabetes or your mom had cancer doesn't mean these are the cards dealt to you.
We see have seen the results of people's thoughts in the "placebo effect" which nicely demonstrates the power of positive thinking. On the flip side there is also "the nocebo effect" which demonstrates the physiological effects of negative belief, fear and anxiety, explains Dr. Rankin.
Why do negative beliefs and thoughts harm us?
Negative beliefs and emotions trigger the sympathetic nervous system otherwise known as the "fight or flight" response. As a result you release a flurry of cortisol and epinephrine - stress hormones. Day after day of being in fight or flight has many negative implications including: weakening your immune system putting you at a greater risk for disease, negatively impacting hormones that can trigger troubles with fertility, PMS, menopause, lower libido and make us moody and irritable.
Taking this one step further... if you believe that because your grandfather had diabetes then you will end up with diabetes, you are far more likely to see this become your reality. Don't simply accept that you have no power over the genetic cards you've been dealt.
Can we train our brain to be more optimistic and therefore prevent disease?
The good news is that we can. But it goes beyond simply making a choice to view life as sunshine and rainbows rather than dark and dreary every day. It can be exhausting constantly defending your mind from negativity, which can be unrealistic.
I have an even better solution -- training your brain to be more peaceful (Deepak Chopra has been teaching this for decades!)
There have been times throughout my life where I've felt scared and fell into a trap of negative beliefs and it wasn't just choosing to think positively that got me out of it. It was through reading books from experts such as Deepak Chopra and Don Miguel Ruiz and putting their wisdom into practice, plus deep breathing, yoga and more. This is what I've learned!
5 Simple Ways to a More Peaceful (and positive) Mind
Take 10 deep diaphragmatic breaths 3 times throughout the day. Deep breathing oxygenates your brain, and immediately takes you from sympathetic nervous system to the parasympathetic nervous system, otherwise known as "rest and digest". Breathing deeply is also a fantastic way to aid the body in detoxification as our lungs are an organ of detox.
Yoga calms the mind, body and spirit. Previously I will admit I was guilty of making my to-do list at the same time as my yoga practice. I really thought I would never be able to release my monkey brain, but all I needed was training. After about 4-6 months of practicing I was able to empty my mind of thoughts and feel peace during my practice. Here are some wonderful stress-reducing yoga poses.
Many people shy away from meditation because they think it involves sitting cross legged for an hour breathing deeply and not thinking of anything but the breath. While this isn't such a bad idea, it's not realistic for most people who have never done it before. Here's where you start: Get comfy, close your eyes for 2 minutes and focus on your breath or focus on something that brings you peace -- the feeling of walking along a beach or hiking in a beautiful forest surrounded by nature. There! You just had your first meditation session. Meditation stimulates alpha wave activity in the brain -- this is a good thing.
To all the parents of toddlers out there, lock yourself in the bathroom for 5 minutes (kidding, sort of) :) Quiet time calms the mind. Make time for quiet: read a book before bed, go for a walk by yourself or a bike ride, go out to a restaurant by yourself. The idea is to spend alone time at least once per day. You simply enjoy the stillness of being by yourself.
Nature nurtures the soul. Just like meditation increases alpha wave activity in the brain, it also lights up areas of the brain associated with love, empathy and pleasure. What you can do: Go for a walk after dinner instead of sitting in front of TV mindlessly flipping channels. Get your dose of Vitamin G (greenspace)!
So next time you are feeling a flurry of negative emotions, life feels like it's too much and you can deal with it -- try one of these 5 ways to a more peaceful mind. This peacefulness will make your genes joyous!
Have a joyous day!