There’s a growing body of research today that is beginning to associate the way we think with our physical well-being. Although we’re just now beginning to hear more about this in the news and media, the fact is, plenty of our forefathers knew all about the detrimental effects of a hurried lifestyle, the way we perceive events as being stressful or relaxing, and how all of this can wreak havoc on our emotional, physical and spiritual health. Let’s face it, stress has become a “way of life” for most of us in America.
Speaking of stress, let’s take a moment and actually attempt to “define” what this word really means. According to Wikipedia, “Stress typically describes a negative concept that can have an impact on one’s mental and physical well-being, but it is unclear what exactly defines stress and whether or not stress is a cause, an effect, or the process connecting the two.” It goes on to say, “In the 1920s and 1930s, the term was occasionally being used in biological and psychological circles to refer to a mental strain, unwelcome happening, or, more medically, a harmful environmental agent that could cause illness.”
Well, we can all admit to experiencing what we’d call “stress” on pretty much a daily basis. The kids moved at the speed of molasses this morning, the dog pooped on the living room carpet again, the dishwasher broke for the second time this year, and the cost of braces could buy you a decent car these days. We’re all familiar with the fact that stress can be related to disease, right? The news tells us stress is related to heart attacks, high blood pressure, cancer and on and on. But if we refer back to Wikipedia’s definition, folks over 80 years ago were talking about stress in terms of mental strain and unwelcome situations bringing forth illness. So it made me start to wonder: who decides then what stress actually is. Turns out, you do.
Dr. Carolyn Leaf, author of Who Switched Off My Brain, holds a Masters and PhD in Communication Pathology, and specializes in teaching the science behind controlling what she refers to as “toxic” thoughts and emotions. Prior to coming across Dr. Leaf’s book, I don’t think I’d have associated the word “toxic” with my mind or my emotions. Rotten eggs in my garbage can on a hot summer’s day – toxic. The smell of my husband’s feet after a late night soccer game – most assuredly toxic. But my mind and my emotions toxic? How could that be?
Well, I discovered a WHOLE lot of what I tell and allow myself to feel ain’t so great. After being “awakened” so to speak to this idea, I knew I had to begin sharing what I had learned. So how can you tell if your thoughts are toxic or healthy? According to Dr. Leaf, toxic thoughts actually trigger negative or anxious emotions and produce biochemicals that cause the body stress. In fact, toxic thoughts and emotions can actually be “poisonous” to your body. Interestingly, these toxic thoughts are not only stored in your mind and your memory, but are stored in your body’s cells as well.
At this point, you might be wondering, “She’s a nutritionist. What does all of this have to do with nutrition and weight loss?” A lot. A WHOLE lot, in fact. To be honest, this can be a very rewarding job at times, and at others, it can be very difficult. Not at all because of who I work with, but because I have such a heart to help people feel better. Sometimes I just can’t figure out why some people start this program and feel better in one week, and why others stick with it for months and don’t see the improvement we were hoping for. So naturally, I began to wonder….maybe there’s more to this than just what people are putting into their mouths. Maybe what goes on in their minds and then comes out of their mouths matters too – far more than I ever thought it did.
According to Dr. Leaf, “Research shows that fear triggers more than 1400 known physical and chemical responses. This activates more than 30 different hormones and neurotransmitters combined, throwing the body into a frantic state.” As I began to read statements like this, it slowly started to shed some light on why perhaps so many of us have hormonal imbalances.
Well there’s some food for thought. Now, this does not mean you should go out and buy stock in Ho Hos and Doritos just yet….or ever, for that matter. Because what you eat and where it comes from is and always will be important. But there is far more to it than I realized.
This month I encourage you to think about…what you are thinking about. Do some of your toxic thoughts need to be taken out to the trash?