Most of us have heard of horse and dog whisperers, right? These are the people who seemly without saying a word can “talk” and gain a connection with these animals. These whisperers can tame the animals so they can be trained for a specific purpose. Well, what if I were to tell you that we are all “whisperers” to ourselves? Wait… what?
What we think matters
Ok, here it is. Have you ever been sick and the cause of it was stress-related? Sure, we all have. Well, where was the stress happening? No, it’s not your job, boss, or spouse. It’s happening in our heads. It is our thoughts that is creating the stress and then our bodies manifest into a migraine, stomach ache, or my personal favourite, a sore lower back.
You see our thoughts are predictive machines as they are the catalyst for how our bodies respond to what we are thinking. There’s an example in the UK where researchers tested people’s bodily responses after a writing intervention. Interestingly, they found people who reported higher stress-related thinking while writing about a stressful or traumatic event, showed higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol after 4 weeks. Moreover, these people more often came down with upper respiratory infection symptoms 6 months following writing. These results imply that chronic and persistent worrying has a significant effect on the stress and immune system, and leads to longer-term health consequences.
So if you can get sick through worrying, can you also get better through positive thinking? You bet, this is what happens with the placebo effect. The moment we believe something to be true our body responds positively to the thought stimulus.
“Nurture your mind with great thoughts, for you will never go any higher than you think.” ― Benjamin Disraeli
Ways to nurture the mind
Our minds are so powerful yet we don’t take the time to learn how to get it under control. Nurturing our minds is the key to taking control of our egos. Starting a meditation practice is a powerful way to bring nourishment to our minds and is a proven method for reducing stress.
As a beginner meditator, I could barely sit for 5 minutes without getting fidgety and my ego running wild thoughts through my mind. I know there are ideas out there that espouse doing 5 minutes of daily meditation is all we need but let's face it. Do anything for 5 minutes a day and you don’t build any real strength or skill. We need to push ourselves past the uncomfortable chatter and fidgetiness and just sit.
One way that helped me get started in my meditation practice is to chant a mantra. Now, there are many out there and each mantra has a specific meaning to it. A simple mantra that I use is “Om-Tat-Sat.” This mantra comes from the Gita and means “absolute truth” or “all that is.” I recite this mantra out loud or in my head until I just stop and drift into a meditative state. Each time my mind wanders, I come back to the mantra.
Another way to nurture our minds is to play board and card games. These activities stimulate the frontal lobe and increase the part of the brain responsible for cognitive function, including our memory. When you're not enjoying a card game with family and friends make sure to get enough sleep.
Sleep helps regulate mood and emotions. When we are tired we are likely operating below our optimal best. Not getting enough sleep also lowers libido and can lead to having sexual problems like ED. Getting enough rest increases testosterone which increases the sex drive for both men and women. Sleep plays such a critical role in many facets of our lives especially our brains and minds that it needs to be a priority.
And finally, it might be time to declutter your office, your home, the garage anywhere that you spend time in. Clutter has been shown to lead to unhappiness, stress and even depression. By decluttering our physical spaces we create “space” for our creative expression to come into play. Don’t stop there what about the clutter in your mind? When our minds are full we tend to get tired and stressed. Relieve yourself by taking a sabbatical from your phone and social media. What about bad habits and toxic relationships? Declutter your life from these items so you can live more authentically.
When we take the time to embed practices that go toward nourishing our minds, we are taking responsibility for all aspects of our lives. It allows us to live authentic and purposeful lives. When we do that we are living our highest selves.