Negative thoughts can actually make you sick. In fact, the impact of negative thoughts is one of the most obvious indicators of the connection between mind and body.
Negative thoughts cause stress, and stress causes the release of cortisol, the stress hormone. And while the release of cortisol is actually a good thing when you’re, say, getting chased by a bear, in the longterm, an overabundance of the stress hormone in your body can suppress the immune, digestive, and reproductive systems. Long term stress can cause anxiety, depression, digestive problems, heart disease, sleep problems, weight gain, and memory and concentration impairment.
That’s why learning how to work with your mind and stave off some of the negative thinking that can cause stress in your life is so important. Awareness is key, and it’s the first step to understanding that your thoughts are a part of you, but not all of you.
1. Be a witness to your negative thoughts.
Learning to be a witness can help you to step back and realize that your mind is swirling into a negative thought pattern. Thoughts run in cycles and about 90 percent of your thoughts are repetitive. Knowing this can help you to realize when a negative cycle of thoughts is coming on. Witness the thoughts as if you are watching a movie without getting so consumed by them.
2. Be mindful beyond meditation.
Meditation is a practice of staying mindful and it works by teaching you to watch when thoughts come up and to avoid reacting to them. This is important because it’s not your thoughts that are the problem, but your reaction to your thoughts that can become problematic. In order to be mindful of your thoughts without letting them take over, you have to be mindful throughout the day. Try and stick to your meditation practice even after you leave your mat.
3. Stop the screen time.
A large part of my job is typing away on my laptop. That’s screen time that I can’t control, but after work, I try and limit smartphone and television time because both tend to amp up the hardwiring in my brain that causes negative thoughts. Especially because most television has a tendency to be negative. Turn the television off and read a (positive) book instead.
4. Forgive people.
Many of our negative thoughts can revolve around past actions in which we were wronged. But our inability to forgive people only hurts ourselves in the end because each and every time we think of it a swirl of negative thoughts and the emotions attached to those negative thoughts arises. Forgive past actions because the stress they cause can make you sick.
5. Talk to someone.
Part of the problem with negative thoughts is that they can be isolating. They make you feel like you’re the only one having those thoughts. Don’t be afraid to talk to someone you trust about what’s going on. Whether a professional, your spouse, a family member, or a friend, they can help put things into perspective.
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