The relationship between the mind and body is very complex. The mind itself is very complicated – that’s why psychology is its own science.

Most of us are aware of the powerful relationship between the mind and body, but not to its full effect. We don’t necessarily think of how it relates to our own life, or why we might do the things we do.

Maybe it’s because you think you can’t change the way your mind works – but this is not true. We can change our attitudes and mindset, which can ultimately impact our lives in a positive way – it just takes time, practice, and being easy on ourselves throughout the process – as with anything else.

How Your Thoughts and Attitude Affect Your Health

We’re all human, and we all have different experiences that have shaped who we are today, the thoughts that we have, etc. For the most part, we have been the way we are for many years and have had the thoughts we have had for many years. Does this make them difficult to change? Yes. Does this mean it is impossible? No.

It’s essential to realize that what you think causes you to feel a certain way. That in turn causes you to do certain things that ultimately lead to specific results (negative or positive results). It’s a cycle that we don’t necessarily realize is happening: your thoughts lead to your feelings, which lead to your actions/behaviours, which lead to your results.

Your results reinforce your initial thoughts, so they become self-fulfilling prophecies. After proving yourself right over and over again, your thoughts become beliefs. Beliefs then become automatic thoughts that drive your behaviors. In other words, habits.

By changing our thoughts, we can change our attitude and our habits, which will ultimately change our results.

It’s common for people to try to change the actions and results they don’t like without first recognizing and dealing with the beliefs, thoughts, and feelings that led to those unwanted actions and results in the first place. This may work for a while, but it doesn’t necessarily ‘fix’ the underlying issues.

How to Change Your Thoughts

Affirmations are positive statements that, if repeated over and over, are proven methods of self-improvement because of their ability to rewire our brains. Much like exercise, they raise the level of feel-good hormones and push our brains to form positive thoughts, feelings, and actions.

Health affirmations are statements that, when repeated over a period of time, help reshape internal motivations for adopting healthy behaviours. The result is that the subconscious mind begins to actually want to do these things and starts working with you instead of against you!

When we say negative statements such as “I can’t”, or “it’s too hard”, this can actually demotivate us and hinder our results. The subconscious mind reasons that even though the desire to be healthy is strong, it is too hard and cannot be done; therefore, there is no use in trying.

Health affirmations seek to change that thinking by replacing those thoughts with a positive attitude and motivation. These new inner beliefs of the mind lead to a permanent, lasting, and healthy lifestyle.

Below are some tips to keep in mind as you prepare to repeat your health affirmations:  

  • Take a deep, slow breath in through the nose and hold it for a second or two. Let the breath out slowly through the mouth.
  • Repeat the health affirmations first out loud and then in the mind.
  • Continue repeating the affirmations throughout the day, several times a day. They are also helpful to say when struggling with making healthy decisions.

Here are some examples of what health affirmations you can say. Pick the one’s that resonate most with you. You can even combine two or three and say them all at once. 

  1. I am strong. I have been through a lot. My body is the only one I’ll ever have, and it deserves love and respect.
  2. I love my body the way it is today, because happiness can exist at all sizes.
  3. I have the desire and power to eat health-giving and nutritious foods.
  4. My worth isn’t defined by my weight. I determine my worth, and I am worthy.
  5. I feel good about myself as I am now.
  6. I am taking steps towards my health.
  7. Today, I abandon my old habits and take up new, more positive ones.
  8. Others’ opinions of my body do not affect or involve me.
  9. Society has taught me to hate my ______. Today, I declare that I love my _____ because of its ______.”

How Stress Can Affect Your Health

Another type of mind/body connection, is that our body responds to the way you think, feel, and act by manifesting physical symptoms, and sometimes illnesses.

We all have a system that guides our daily habits, helps us make snap decisions and reacts instantly to dangerous life-and-death situations (such as crazed mountain lions) through the fight or flight stress response. While it helped us survive in the past, the fight-or-flight response is not a great fit for modern life.

We have many small stresses that are not life-threatening, but our system can treat them as if a lion is attacking. This can cause a couple things to happen: 1) our body manifests physical symptoms and illness due to the stress (if it is consistent and excessive stress; and 2) can cause us to want to counteract that feeling with something ‘feel good’ and that lights up the pleasure centres of the brain, which is what highly flavourful food does. The thing is, most quick and easily accessible highly flavourful food is high in calories, and low in nutrients – thus can lead to health complications if we eat too much.

So how do you determine whether your urge to eat is driven by real hunger or something else?

We were all born with physiological mechanisms to determine whether we are hungry or full. Over time, easy access to highly tasty foods has caused us to ‘lose touch’ with some of these mechanisms in our bodies. However, with practice, we can take the control back.

Put your mind down to your stomach. Do you feel your stomach rumbling? If you don’t maybe you should take a walk, drink some water or chew some gum. Those things can eliminate false signals.

Beyond that, you can also try some mindful eating techniques:

  • Rate your hunger on a scale of one to 10 to determine how hungry you really are.
  • Try eating something healthy, with protein, fibre, and/or healthy fats that will give you some sense of fullness.
  • If you decide you’re not really hungry, try to distract yourself by going out for a walk, calling a friend or finding something else to do while you wait for the emotional trigger or craving to pass.
  • If it’s a craving you want to satisfy, find something that tastes like what you desire, but is lower in calories. For example, yogurt flavoured with cocoa, a cocoa flavoured smoothie, or a ‘healthier’ protein bar.

And remember, it’s OK to treat yourself once in a while. We’re all human and we all enjoy indulging on certain foods that may not be healthy for us. However, if it is a habit for us it is important to work towards developing healthier habits that fuel our mind and body.

When to Seek Help

If you’re not sure if mindset, fatigue, or stress is the cause or if you’ve taken steps to control your stress but your symptoms continue, see your doctor.

Your doctor may want to check for other potential causes. Or, consider seeing a professional counselor or therapist and registered dietitian, who can help you identify sources of your stress, learn new coping tools, and develop a healthier relationship with food.

About the Author

Felicia Newell is a Registered Dietitian (RD), Nutritionist, and Health Coach. She is also the owner of Sustain Nutrition, and helps clients from all around the globe fight through the misinformation in the online world, and master their health goals in a way that also allows them to also enjoy life. After many years in practice and through extensive research, Felicia knows that the ‘restrictive dieting’ technique never works long-term, and she takes the realistic approach of the ‘80/20 rule’, as well as working with clients to find the specific strategies that work best for them. You can download her FREE Meal Planning Starter Kit to help get you on your way to crushing your health and wellness goals.

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