The human brain is a funny thing. In Dr. Betsy Rippentrop’s Yoga for the Mind class, I learned something that massively shifted my perspective. The human brain is like Teflon for the good stuff and Velcro for the bad stuff. The good flows right on by, and the bad just sits there and festers. This is a handy feature when the bad stuff can kill you, but in modern times, that “bad stuff” is often comprised of less deadly things such as your computer re-booting while you’re in the middle of crafting a nasty ol’ spreadsheet with lots of formulas and data that you have not yet saved, or getting (what you think) is a frustrated look from your boss in a meeting, or making a post on Instagram and getting only crickets in return. Yet, our mind fixates on those things, and we can quickly spin off into stories about how the world is crumbling and everyone and everything sucks, especially us.
So, what to do?
We must consciously focus on what is going well. Recognize that our brains have this tendency to catastrophize, so intentionally pro-tastrophize or opportunitize or miracalize. I cannot find an antonym to catastrophize, so I’m just making words up. But you get the picture.
Spend time thinking about what DID go right, what COULD go right, what IS going right in our day, in our body, in our life. Our body is constantly releasing a slew of chemicals in response to our thoughts that changes the soup in which our cells live, and that soup determines what our cells do and what genes are activated within them. We are not at the total mercy of the genes we carry. The genes that get activated are determined by the signals they get from their environment.
Want some proof of the importance of mindset? Check out this study: Mind-set Matters; Exercise and the Placebo Effect. Here’s a quote form the Abstract (underlining is mine):
In a study testing whether the relationship between exercise and health is moderated by one’s mindset, 84 female room attendants working in seven different hotels were measured on physiological health variables affected by exercise. Those in the informed condition were told that the work they do (cleaning hotel rooms) is good exercise and satisfies the Surgeon General’s recommendations for an active lifestyle. Examples of how their work was exercise were provided. Subjects in the control group were not given this information. Although actual behavior did not change, 4 weeks after the intervention, the informed group perceived themselves to be getting significantly more exercise than before. As a result, compared with the control group, they showed a decrease in weight, blood pressure, body fat, waist-to-hip ratio, and body mass index. These results support the hypothesis that exercise affects health in part or in whole via the placebo effect.
What the?? If we BELIEVE that what we are doing is good for us, our physiology changes to make it so!!! This is mind-blowing. Let’s say you are a person who feels as if you never get enough exercise. However, every morning, you walk down the stairs to brush your teeth, you bend over to get coffee out of the cupboard, you reach up to get a coffee cup, you let the dog out in the yard and toss the ball a few times and maybe chase the dog when it won’t give you the ball back. You walk back inside and go upstairs to get dressed, reaching to the top shelf in your closet for your sweater and squatting down to get the socks out of the bottom drawer.
Well, look at that. You actually got in a lot of movement – shoulder stretches, squats, a little cardio, some incline and declines. What if you started noticing all the ways you DO get enough exercise instead of telling yourself you are failing because you don’t go to the gym a few times a week. How would your body change?
What other stories could you tell yourself differently to shift how your body reacts to them? As I’ve mentioned, I’ve been working with a coach, Ariel Kiley. I email her my Wins whenever I think of them (e.g. I am winning at Sober October because I haven’t had a drink yet, or I am FULLY BOOKED this week, or my body told me to quit obsessing about WHAT SHOULD I DO WITH MY LIFE and just take a bath (which I did)). This is helping me counteract that negativity bias, and it’s also providing an electronic, searchable record of my Wins, so that I can pull them up when I feel poorly about myself. SO HELPFUL.
I hope you are having a great day!! If you need a Miracalize or Opportunize Partner, feel free to shoot me an email when you get a Win. <3
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