Have you ever struggled with self-doubt and anxiety? At some time in our lives all of us has faced a stressful situation that has affected our health as well as our relationships with others. The stress of worrying is as bad as other unhealthy lifestyles- it even been linked with shorter telomeres, a chromosome component that’s been associated with cellular aging and risk for heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
I introduced the first step in how to move away from the stressful overwhelming negativity in my article Nutrition for Brain Health. A healthy lifestyle filled with nutrient rich foods, fresh water, and good fats go a long way to improve brain health, help us think more clearly and positively and reduce stress.
The second step is about how we react to the events happening around us. Most of us don’t make a conscious choice on how we react- we are guided by our belief systems that have been passed on to us by our parents, our peers, and frequently by life-changing events. We see this in our political environment today. No matter what side of an issue we are on, we will fight to the end that our beliefs are the correct ones.
One well known example of perception is the picture of the young woman…. or is that an elderly woman?
Our belief system guides us through our daily life, as we make choices that either increase our success and happiness or bring us to defeat and increased stress. Memories that include strong emotions are stored in the midbrain and become a reflexive part of our reaction to certain situations, often causing extreme feelings of stress.
Triggers of these feelings can be from any of our senses: sounds, scents, touch, sight. Think about that bully from grade school. If you met someone with the same name, would you automatically react positively or negatively? How about if you have been in a terrible accident? A sudden screech of tires, or a truck’s backfire can cause an immediate adrenaline surge, bringing on a cascade of stress hormones that leave you feeling shaken.
It may not seem easy to train your brain to reduce stress, but it can be done. Become consciously aware of how you are thinking each time you feel a reaction. Realize that no one is perfect. Treat yourself like you would your best friend and stop beating yourself up!
“Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny.”
Our thoughts become habits, so why should we habitually perceive the negative? My son’s brain injury caused him to see the negative in nearly every event. One of his most frequent sayings was that “the negative overpowers everything”. It was only through the combination of a change in diet and constant reinforcement of positive thoughts that we succeeded in changing K’s outlook on life, and therefore reduced the daily stress that had severely compromised his health.
We have the power to make our own happiness. You’ve heard it said many times that we make our own happiness not through the external world, but how we see that world.
But for most people this takes work. Take the time to watch the TED talk by Dr. Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage, where he suggests ways to train your brain to see a more positive pattern.
Train your brain for the positive, and you will begin to see that you can reduce stress and live a more balanced and fulfilling life.
More articles of interest on this topic:
Lu, S. How chronic stress is harming our DNA, American Psychological Association. October 2014, Vol 45, No. 9 http://www.apa.org/monitor/2014/10/chronic-stress.aspx
Minnick, C. Midbrain Storage of Memories as Feelings. http://minnickskleinacademy.com/module-1/midbrain-storage-of-memories-as-feelings/