Saturday, August 20, 2011

Happy Thoughts

Two important factors that affect our health are stress and negative thoughts.

Sometimes we can't change the stressful circumstances, but we can always change our thoughts.

Now, I'm not someone who believes you can "think positively" and no longer be sick. But I have learned that negative thoughts do make things worse.

Several years ago a friend told me I was the most positive person he knew. But after years of chronic health, I became the least positive person I knew. The constant stress, pain, and hardship, had caused chronic negative thought patterns, such as - "I'm so tired. I feel awful. I can't do this anymore. This is never going to end. I just want to breathe normally! Things will never get better." etc, etc.

Two years ago I did EEG (neurobiofeedback) therpay, where my brain waves were monitored while I was supposed to think "happy thoughts" for 15 minutes. Well, I barely made it for 30 seconds without a negative thought. But as I kept doing it every week, it really made a difference.

The reality is that our thoughts create literal physical pathways in our brain. (For more info about the brain I recommend two books by Dr. Caroline Leaf - "Who Switched Off My Brain?" and "The Gift In You.")

Unfortunately, chronic pain can cause an unconscious pattern of negative thoughts. Then we have to consciously "rewire" those pathways with positive, truthful, uplifting thoughts.

A good exercise is to spend 5 minutes a day thinking only positive, "happy" thoughts. If you can't make it that long without a negative thought, it's ok. Just keep practicing. =)

For me, this was a hard change to make, even harder than changing my diet. But the Lord reminded me that "the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace." (Rom. 8:6)

God wants us to have thoughts directed by the Spirit, even in our pain. And in turn, it will promote life and peace in our bodies. Some good ways to do this are - meditating on a Psalm, recalling happy memories, reading jokes, giving thanks, and especially speaking out loud in praise to God.

Sometimes it helps to find a positive statement to have ready to substitute for negative thoughts. For example, when I start to think "I feel so awful," I try to stop and purposefully think, "I'm so loved by God" or "God will bring me through this," etc.

Thinking "happy thoughts" consistently is still a challenge for me. I'm thankful for God's power displayed in my weakness and His continual loving thoughts toward me.

"How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
   How vast is the sum of them!
Were I to count them,
 they would outnumber the grains of sand.
When I awake,
   I am still with you."
-Psalm 139:17-18

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