THE MIND IS A POWERFUL THING.
It can stimulate healing or block it. It can manifest physical symptoms due to mental thoughts or it can make those symptoms seem much less or even make them disappear.
The physical body mirrors what a person is thinking. The mind and body are one. In many ways the mind can actually control the body.
Learning to control your mind – your thoughts, anxieties, worries, judgements, etc – can be one of the best ways of improving overall health.
Achieving a healthy mind starts with ensuring that your subconscious thoughts equal your conscious thoughts and they match your spoken words.
SUBCONSCIOUS THOUGHT = CONSCIOUS THOUGHT = SPOKEN WORDS
Many people focus on saying the right thing, on being positive. It is not so much what you say that determines health, it is what you think and what you believe and whether all aspects of the mind are consistent.
The other common mistake that people make is to draw a connection between being healthy and being happy. Achieving mental and physical health starts with being honest, not about being positive or happy. If you feel sadness, anger, frustration or disappointment, it is important to find a way to express those emotions safely.
It doesn’t mean that you have to stay in that emotional state for a long time, but you need to find time when you can truly express how you feel. Many physical symptoms arise because emotions are suppressed or held-in, not because they are present.
Learning to embrace the power of the mind and to support the mind’s ability to support healing starts with the following five steps:
#1: Dissipate Before You Distract
Thoughts and emotions that are held in have the greatest impact on health. I have found that learning to dissipate or release negative or unwanted thoughts and emotions is the most important step to achieving a healthy mind.
When I ask people what they do with their frustration, anger and negativity, many people answer that they read, meditate, do yoga, play on the computer or watch television. All of those activities are forms of distraction. They may serve the purpose in making you feel better in the moment, but they don’t assist a person in releasing unwanted thoughts and emotions.
Some people dissipate their thoughts and emotions through exercise, others journal and shred, others yell and scream or they just need to talk to someone. There is no one ideal way. It is about what works for you. Here are some ways to dissipate thoughts and emotions:
- Writing and shredding. You want to “yell” on paper. Your aim is free-form writing where you say whatever you feel as quickly as possible. The idea is to write uninterrupted for as long as it takes to get things out. If you are upset or angry and you are not sure why, it is often beneficial to write for at least 2 hours without stopping.
When you are done you shred (or burn safely) what you wrote. Do not hang on to these writings. This is not journalling. Your don’t send it to anyone. It is not for others to read. This is about putting your true, unedited thoughts on paper and then getting rid of them.
- Short burst of physical activity. Hitting a tennis ball against a wall, kicking leaves or stones, throwing darts on a dart-board, hitting a bunching bag and other short bursts of activity can be beneficial. The aim, like writing, is to release what you are feeling, It is not about getting exhausted. Find something that you can do that allows you to release emotions.
- Cleansing breath. A deep exhalation helps to relax the nervous system and releases that feeling of holding your breath (which goes along with “holding your tongue” or not speaking your truth). I find cleansing breaths are a good way of releasing pent up emotions. They can be done while you’re driving (preferably stopped at a stop sign or red light), outside or anywhere where you feel it is okay to make a loud noise.
- Talking out loud, to yourself. The mind doesn’t really recognize or care if the person you are upset with is in front on you. It can be very therapeutic to speak your truth without any witnesses. Keep in mind, it is all about you releasing the pent up emotions that you are carrying. It is not about another person changing. Try it. You will be surprised how effective it is.
- Talking to someone. Having someone to talk to who is a good listener and who allows you to get out your feelings is always beneficial. Some people have a family member or a friend that can do that. If you find that you spin in your emotions and that they are driving you versus the other way around, I encourage you to work with someone who can provide you with specific guidance and who can assist you in recapturing the power of the mind.
#2: Stay “off the Fence”
One of the most stressful things for the mind is “being on the fence”, being “in limbo” or “not making a decision”. Being “on the fence” makes the the head spin, keeps the mind incessantly active in a very unproductive way.
The mind is very good at guiding a person about a decision in the present and in evaluating the past. Only the gut can really tell you whether or not something is “right” when it comes to the future.
Learning to trust your gut can be very valuable. The analogy that I use for life is like driving on a road. When you’re on the right path it is like being on a paved road where the ride is smooth. Being on the wrong path is like riding on the shoulder. It is bumpy, uncomfortable and you often run into barriers.
Some people live a life in the fast lane, others choose a leisurely country road. Either way, you want to enjoy as much of your life as possible in the center lanes, avoiding the shoulder and the barriers.
What is important is to make a decision, any decision. Anxiety, panic and worry are often due to or worsened by “being on the fence” – that is, being faced with a challenging situation or decision and spending hours, days or even months running through the various possible options and outcomes without actually making a decision and moving forward.
Not only does “being on the fence” keep the mind unsettled, it also consumes a huge amount of energy. Fatigue, sadness, depression and anxiety will often result if you spend too much time on the fence.
It is difficult for the universe to give you any feedback when you’re “on the fence”. But, when you make a decision, you will quickly know if it is the right one for you or the wrong one. When you make the right decision you will generally find that things flow quite easily and you feel that you are back to the paved road.
Making the wrong decision often feels like everything is a struggle and you find that you run into barriers consistently.
#3: Recognize your Patterns and Triggers
Each person’s mind is unique. You are born with specific qualities – called your constitution – and then you go through life with your unique experiences and exposures.
Together this will determine your patterns and your triggers. Everyone reacts to situations differently. The same situation may excite one person and cause fear or anger in another. Controlling your mind or understanding your mind is largely about recognizing your specific patterns and triggers.
Mental patterns and triggers include things such as:
- not feeling supported
- not being heard
- constantly requiring confirmation or approval
- always seeing the glass as half-empty
- expecting the worst in everyone
- not trusting, etc.
When individuals don’t recognize their patterns or triggers, they often end up repeating the same behaviour, getting into the same types of relationships, having the same challenges at work or home.
The value of recognizing what triggers you is that it narrows down the work that you have to do.
For example, having good self-esteem is beneficial. Only those that lack self-esteem, or that choose to improve their self-esteem need to work on this trait. Similarly for anger or time management. Recognizing your patterns and triggers is like taking stock of your strengths and your weaknesses so you know what to work on.
I often meet people that want to improve their mind and they start by following the agenda in a book they bought. That may work for some people, but it is not the most efficient way.
You are best to start with you.
Just like you would if you were working on your physical health. The key to physical health is to know where you stand and to address your areas of susceptibility or weakness. It is too time consuming and costly to address every physiological system equally. The mind is no different.
Figure out your areas of weakness, or work with a Naturopathic doctor, counselor or other professional to more fully understand the strengths and weaknesses of your mind.
If you want to break patterns, you need to train the mind to respond and react differently.
#4: Practice Mindfulness or Mental Stillness
Being able to still the mind is essential for mental health.
The mind, like all aspects of the body, needs time to recoup and recover. An active, non-stop mind is exhausting – both mentally and physically. An active mind is dehydrating and consumes nutrients that may be needed for other aspects of health and healing.
It allows us the opportunity to make better decisions and to see the bigger picture for things. Having a calm and content mind is associated with better and longer sleep. Mindfulness exercises and mental stillness have repeatedly been proven to be related to improved mental and physical health across a variety of disorders.
There are a number of authors that write about mindfulness. One of my favorite authors is Jon Kabat-Zinn. I encourage you to check out his website and books.
#5: Protect Your Mind
You get to determine, for the most, what you are exposed to and what your mind is asked to process. You determine what you watch on television, what you listen to on the radio, what sites you search on the web, what conversations you have with others, the amount of time you are exposed to “noise” and how much time your mind gets to rest.
Having a strong healthy mind requires you to protect the mind. To limit its exposure to irrelevant, negative, destructive information.
Psychological resiliency is defined as a person’s ability to cope with stress and adversity. It is reflected in a person’s ability to resist, adapt and strengthen itself when faced with “stress”. It is determined by and reflected in a person’s ability to process events, especially “stressful” events in a timely, healthy fashion.
I look at psychological resiliency as a person’s constitution plus the impact of protective or positive experiences minus the impact of threatening or negative experiences.
PSYCHOLOGICAL RESILIENCY = CONSTITUTION + IMPACT OF POSITIVE EXPERIENCES – IMPACT OF NEGATIVE EXPERIENCES
A person’s psychological resiliency can be affected by a range of factors including:
- Stressful or traumatic events that are not processed effectively
- Unrelenting thoughts and emotions such as fear, uncertainty, lack of self-esteem, anxiety, worry or helplessness
- Secrets, feeling “on the fence” or “trapped” by your life, or not feeling supported
- Exposure (whether real or watched) to violence and aggression
- Abuse of the senses, especially too much noise and light
- E-mailing, texting, and constant “unbuffered” communication
- Environmental factors such as environmental toxins, cell phones and EMF radiation
- Nutritional factors such as dietary imbalances, deficiencies, dehydration and excess consumption of salt, sugar or food that you react to
- Sedentary, indoor lifestyles
If you find that your tolerance is low, that you react too quickly, too easily and too aggressively, you may want to look at ways to improve your psychological resiliency.
One of the purposes of the mind is to guide you, to warn you when things need to change, to protect you. A strong healthy mind will do just that.
If there is too much anxiety, worry or mental chatter; or if your psychological resiliency is too low, you can end up with a mind that mentally paralyzes you, that intensifies physical symptoms and that actually creates symptoms.