Using Mental Practices for Enhanced Health

The mind and body are intensely connected. A bright mental outlook and healthy emotional behaviors can affect your physical health and overall well being positive. We’ve found some reliable mental practices that can improve your health greatly.

Positive Affirmations

Positive affirmations are hopeful and positive statements confidently proclaimed aloud. These types of statements can help you significantly to make changes in your life and conquer situations with which you’ve previously struggled. Tia Walker, the author of “The Inspired Caregiver,” wrote, “Affirmations are our mental vitamins, providing the supplementary positive thoughts we need to balance the barrage of negative events and thoughts we experience daily.”

My first encounter with positive affirmations was while I was preparing to give birth to my first child. My husband and I took a hypnosis for the childbirth class. One of the CDs I was given was full of positive statements I had to repeat, out loud, several times each day. Those statements truly helped me to overcome the fears I had about giving birth naturally. I began to see my body as strong and prepared for childbirth as I repeated the positive affirmations. The affirmations were what helped me the most to calmly give birth to two children without the use of pain medication.

How to Use Positive Affirmations

First, make a list of fears, worries and negative thoughts about yourself. Take each one and dwell on it. Then, counter it with a positive statement. For instance, if you’re afraid of being alone, the affirmation could be, “I will find and make friends easily.” If you have always felt self-conscious about your height, your affirmation might be, “My body is strong and well-made. I have many excellent physical qualities.”

Speak your affirmations for a few minutes several times a day. When you feel negative thoughts or fears, speak out your affirmations.

Enlist a trusted friend or family member to speak some of these affirmations to you. Ask them if they have anything to add or change in the affirmation. Then, accept these words from your loved one as you would from a loving parent. If you don’t have anyone who you trust to do this, then stand in a mirror and speak these affirmations to yourself. Watch your reflection and receive your own affirmation.

As you are repeating the affirmations, if there are any parts of your body that concern the particular affirmation, place your hand on that part of your body. This action helps you to embrace and believe the statements further.

Visualization

Visualization is allowing your mind to form mental images of your goals, then seeing yourself accomplish the goals. Jack Canfield, psychologist, success coach and author of “Chicken Soup for the Soul” book series says, “The daily practice of visualizing your dreams as already complete can accelerate your achievement of those dreams, goals, and ambitions rapidly.”

How to Use Visualization

Canfield recommends a technique he calls “mental rehearsal.” The first step is to imagine yourself sitting in a movie theater. You picture yourself up on the big screen doing something you want to do. As you watch it, you see yourself completing the actions perfectly. Pay attention to every small detail of your movements.

Secondly, Canfield advises to then get out of your seat in the audience. Walk up to the big screen, enter into the screen through a door and become yourself on the screen. Experience the entire activity again in detail from inside your body. Canfield says this practice is called an “embodied image.”

The last step Canfield recommends is to exit the screen through the door and go back to your seat while the image of yourself performing is still playing on the screen. Then, reach out with your hands and take the screen. Shrink it down to a few inches, put it in your mouth, chew it up and swallow it. Imagine each piece of the screen with the complete image of you performing well on it. Also, imagine each of the screens traveling throughout your body and to each cell in your body. Visualize each cell in your body lighting up with your perfect performance.

Canfield says, “If you make this part of your daily routine, you will be amazed at how much improvement you will see in your life.”

Meditation

Meditation is the act of spending time in quiet reflection. It’s an excellent way to clear your mind or focus your thoughts inward. Meditation enhances your physical health in multiple ways.

When you meditate, your parasympathetic nervous system is stimulated. The parasympathetic nervous system is the part of your nervous system that brings calmness to your body after the stress has occurred. When the parasympathetic system is stimulated, your body is free to repair and heal itself.

Practicing meditation also slows your body’s respiration and promotes deep breathing. Deep breathing strengthens your heart, improves the circulation and quality of your blood.

Meditation benefits the immune system by slowing the body’s production of cortisol, which is the stress hormone. It also lowers blood pressure and relieves anxiety.

How to Meditate

There are many forms of meditation. We’ll go over the simplest and most basic method here.

  1. Find a comfortable and quiet spot where you won’t be disturbed. An empty guest room, a bedroom closet or just a quiet spot in the house will work. Sit down on the floor, on a cushion or in a chair with good posture.
  2. Set a timer for 10 minutes.
  3. Close your eyes and breathe normally. Focus on your breath until your breathing begins to deepen. Don’t rush yourself or force your breathing. Just allow it to become deeper and deeper.
  4. Now, focus on your deep breaths. Become aware of each breath you take in through your nose and exhale through your mouth. If you find you lose focus and your attention has strayed from your breaths, bring your focus back gently. This may happen repeatedly at first. Just continue to refocus each time. Don’t be discouraged. Your focus will come easier each time you practice meditation.
  5. When your timer goes off, open your eyes and stretch. You’re finished and ready to approach the rest of your day with mindfulness.

If you’d like to experiment further or find a meditation form that suits you better, look at the blog post Our Top Relaxation Tips, Tricks, and Resources. This post outlines several ways to meditate with step-by-step instructions.

Setting Goals

Melody Beattie, the author of “The Language of Letting Go: Daily Meditations on Codependency,” wrote, “Goals give us direction. They put a powerful force into play on a universal, conscious and subconscious level. Goals give our life direction.”

Research has shown that setting goals increase the chances that we can achieve what we desire. It’s also been established that goal setting is good for mental health and fosters a sense of happiness.

How to Set Goals

George Doran first wrote the SMART mnemonic as a guide to setting goals. Doran wrote that to set successful goals, each goal should be:

  • (S)pecific: Be clear and free from ambiguity
  • (M)easurable: Something you can quantify and evaluate
  • (A)chievable: Be realistic
  • (R)elevant: It needs to work for your benefit
  • (T)ime bound: Give yourself a timetable

It’s also helpful to create a large-scale goal of something you want to accomplish in the next decade. Then, break it down into smaller goals that you need to hit to reach the large-scale goal.

Hope

Hope is a desire accompanied by expectation of fulfillment. Hopefulness is incredibly important to mental health and wellness. David Agus, professor of medicine and engineering at the University of Southern California said, “There’s no question that the mind-body connection is real, even if we can’t quantify it. Hope is one of the greatest weapons we have to fight disease.”

A review of 16 studies done across 30 years, published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal showed that patients who were hopeful for a good outcome after surgery did better, overall than patients who didn’t expect to do well. Also, patients who hoped for the best had less pain and healed faster after surgery than the others.

How to Be More Hopeful

It isn’t easy to be hopeful when you’re facing a stressful or difficult situation. However, there are some things you can do to get yourself out of a rut and into a more positive attitude.

  1. Consider all of your accomplishments. Take some time to write out some of the things you have survived or accomplished during your life.
  2. Engage with people who are hopeful and positive. Stay away from people who do nothing but complain.
  3. Dig into your faith. It’s easy to rely more on our strength in times of hardship. However, many difficulties are bigger than we are. Tap into your higher power for help and to find comfort during hard times.

Naturopathic practitioner Loretta Lanphier says, “The cells in your body react to everything your mind says. Negativity brings down your immune system.”

Using Mental Practices to Enhance Health

Overall, your mentality can have positive or negative effects on your health. It takes a commitment and daily practice of mindfulness to experience good results.

“As a single footstep will not make a path on the Earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives.” — Henry David Thoreau

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