The Healing Power of Your Thoughts and Feelings
You have probably heard that positivity is beneficial and good for you. While it does feel good to think positive, much more is happening!
It turns out that positive thoughts and feelings are two of the best medicines for your body. Your body contains a veritable pharmacopeia of helpful chemicals that are released at the change of a thought/feeling. Science has revealed that positive mental and emotional states actually forge changes in our nervous systems, creating new neural pathways, improving our immune systems, diminishing inflammation, improving sleep, increasing positive social interaction, increasing longevity, and flooding our brains with the feel good hormones dopamine and serotonin.
Here is something to be grateful for: It doesn’t take much time or energy to access this feel-good mechanism. It’s free and available all the time!
The advice to “practice gratitude” is so common that it has almost become cliché. But practicing gratitude is one of the most efficient means to turn on the healing cascade, help retrain the brain, and take some control over our health. The feeling of gratitude is associated with greater levels of happiness and more sustained positive emotions.
Studies demonstrate that when gratitude is practiced, the brainstem region that produces dopamine is activated and our brains are flooded with the neurotransmitter dopamine, resulting in elevated serotonin levels. Dopamine is associated with feelings of love, joy, pleasure, reward, and motivation. Gratitude toward others increases activity in the brain’s social dopamine circuits, which makes social interactions more enjoyable. Enjoyable social interactions have a proven positive effect on our physiology, longevity, and overall health. Increased serotonin is associated with more positive mood states and improved memory.
Many folks struggle with emotional and physical health issues and find it very difficult to feel grateful. If this is the case for you, here is really good news: all you have to do is ask the question, “What am I grateful for ?” to get the inner health pharmacopeia stimulated!
Let me say that again.
Just asking the question “What am I grateful for?” has been demonstrated in scientific studies to get these beneficial physiologic processes started.
More good news: It is NOT necessary to maintain a steady state of gratitude and happiness to get access to these fabulous health benefits. We just have to add some into the mix of our day, and here are some suggestions on how you can get started.
- The tried and true journal method: Get that little journal out and jot down 5 things you are grateful for each night, then read it in the morning. Classic.
- I like things that are quick, easy, and come with built-in reminders. When you’re stopped at a traffic light, waiting in line at the grocery store, waiting for your turn at the barber, or anywhere else you have to wait … count your blessings. See how many things you can come up with before it’s your turn.
- When you are about to pick up your phone to check Facebook, take a moment to pause. First, ask yourself- “What am I grateful for?”; come up with one thing, then go ahead and check Facebook (if you still want to).
- At night, when you hit the pillow, think back over the day and bring to mind any positive interactions you had. It could be as simple as a stranger who smiled at you or the genuinely friendly clerk at a convenience store. Feel the appreciation.
- Notice those around you and pay attention to what you appreciate about people. Then, once a day, vocalize that appreciation directly to the person. (I suggest you watch what happens in your life after practicing this for a little while).
As I wrote this, I pondered what I was grateful for and the following came to mind: The roof over my head, my eyesight, another day with my son, a good joke, and food on my table. Maybe some of these resonate with you, and maybe you have completely different things come to mind. In the end, it matters most how you feel when you think of what you are grateful for. May this help support your journey to optimal health and wellness.