Retrain Your Brain For Health

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A while ago I went through a tough time. It wasn’t something I could medicate for, to make go away or to cope with – I had to drag myself through instead. I was emotional, joyless and pretty much hopeless. The stuffing had been knocked out of me.
During this time I came across affirmations. ‘This situation is for my highest good’. ‘Today will be a gorgeous day to remember’.
Well what a load of tripe! How on earth was I to repeat this to myself and feel amazing?
Well as it turns out affirmations are pretty powerful!
We are very capable of tricking ourselves. Watch a movie and notice how you can create feelings of fear or sadness or happiness – while you are sitting on your own couch, in your own house, simply watching something on a screen. The same if we really get into a book. And the same if I ask you to imagine a lemon, imagine smelling it, feeling the smooth but bumpy skin, biting into it and the juice squirting all through your mouth. What happens? You really need to take a swallow don’t you!
Affirmations do the same thing, but a lot slower. If you are telling yourself over and over that something good is happening, that there is a silver lining, that you are doing OK, then your brain and body will start to actually believe it and behave as if that were true.
Affirmations tap into your really strong mind power. What you think about, you create. Scientific studies have even shown that positive or optimistic thinking makes a person more lucky! New neural pathways are set up in your brain and body that get stronger and stronger.
It is the same if you turn it the other way around – tell yourself how crap you feel, how all you feel is pain, remind yourself how constantly tired you are, how you are likely to fail. Now speaking to ourselves like that is really effective and we have all had times when we are not being our own best friend. Those neural pathways are possibly already quite strong, but the more we do the positive piece, leaving the negative piece out of it, those pathways will be ‘pruned’ off and away from their miserable influence.
You see, our conscious thoughts mould or unconscious beliefs, thoughts and behaviours – and by behaviours I love to refer to health. Health is something that our body is doing so that makes it a behaviour. If your thinking is a mess, the acting out that your body does will reflect that.
This little experiment can show you how…..
  • Think about something that you felt stressed about – really get into the memory of it. Notice who or what was there, notice what you heard, and then notice what you feel inside.
  • Where in your body do you feel it? Is it in your chest, your gut? Maybe a pressure in your head or an unpleasant sensation or tingling somewhere. Now think about something you can easily recall that made you happy. Notice what or who was there, what you could hear and then how that feels your body.
  • Compare the two different feelings. Which was nicer? Made you feel better?
  • See how your body can IMMEDIATELY respond to your thinking? This is how quickly the mind and body system can be influenced. So imagine over time how your thoughts can influence your health in the negative or even positive way.
With a little bit of practise you can alter your focus, change your mood and therefore your ability to enjoy life. Your body will respond favourably and give you even more reasons to enjoy life. Even your brain will unconsciously look around for more to be positive about – that is your Reticular Activating System working for you to bring to your consciousness that which you want to seek. (You know that saying that if you look hard enough for something you will find it? And that seems to happen even when you are not looking.)
So start to retrain your brain for health. Grow the neural pathways that make a positive difference to your whole body. Actively change your thinking. Every couple of minutes say to yourself the affirmation that works for you. Have it/them stuck on the mirror, in the car, on the kitchen doors – where ever you will see them and be reminded to say it to yourself again. Set the alarm on your phone as a reminder.
This is a tremendous start to restoring your health and wellbeing. Of course there is more to do and a multidisciplinary approach to your health is best, but affirmations and positivity is well studied and proven to make a difference.
Note: You will feel a fake to start with. You will think it is bullshit because at the start, it is not ‘true’. You will be likely to feel nothing.
Keep doing it. After 7-10 days you will start to feel a little glimmer of something. Your heart may come on board and whisper to you about something positive you may have forgotten. Then you will slowly keep finding things that are truly positive and affirming.
Affirmations became my only way out of the low that I was in. I had to convince myself that all would be well and something positive was going to come of this. I gave myself hope. It took me about 10 days of constant effort then one day the positivity of life and a certain amount of luck seemed to fall down upon me. It was like the sun turned on and showed me the sunny side of life. My heart was lighter and my head was more free. My posture felt more upright and there was a smile on my face. Others commented that I looked different.
So how about trying some positive thinking? Positive affirmations? Play the game for a week or two – see if you feel differently. Then repeat. Then repeat.
Paula Ralph is a pharmacist trained in mindbody techniques, neuroscience and human behaviour – all the aspects of health that are left out of medicine! She is a coach for those preparing for surgery, recovering from surgery, birth trauma, hysterectomy and endometriosis – she has a particular interest in women’s health.

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