In today's fast-paced world, we all experience stress. We are constantly challenged to get more done, faster and with fewer resources. The harm stress can cause in our lives reaches far deeper than what we can see and feel. Although our bodies are built to defend against anything that causes us harm, stress triggers physiological changes in our bodies which can manifest into lasting physical damage.
Cortisol is a hormone that is often referred to as the "stress hormone". Our body secretes it at high levels when we react with a "fight or flight" response to our environment. High and prolonged levels of cortisol in the bloodstream has been shown to be related to many negative effects in our bodies. When I talk about stress I generally hear people relate it to feelings of anxiety, headaches, muscle tension and irritability, but stress actually takes on many more forms and they are not always what you would think. Symptoms such as depression, indigestion, lack of motivation, increased abdominal fat, and decreased muscle tissue are just to name a few.
It's hard to pinpoint what causes stress as it is different for everyone. Some people may experience sporadic stress through a challenging period in their life, while others may experience ongoing stress due to troubled relationships or circumstances involving their spouse or children.
The best test to tell if stress is negatively impacting your life is to take inventory on your emotional state of mind. Stress is not always obvious, but if you are living day-to-day in a negative mindset, chances are you are allowing stress right in through the front door. Negative emotions create an inability to cope with the demands of our environment. You just can't think bad thoughts and achieve positive results in your day-to-day life. As the saying goes…where the mind goes the man follows. Personal development is not something that we work on for a short period of time. It is an ongoing process.
If negative emotions cause us harm, it stands to reason that positive emotions should do the opposite. Scientific studies have actually shown that positive emotions result in the production of DHEA (the anti-aging hormone) and it's interesting to note that DHEA and cortisol are made from the same place in our body. Your emotions dictate which of these hormones is produced at the expense of the other! Responding to a stressful situation by transforming negative emotions into positive ones actually results in the production of more DHEA and significantly less cortisol. Anti-aging serum over fat stomach serum? I think the choice is obvious.
Now you may be be thinking to yourself…."Well that's all well and good, but you don't know what I'm up against. My husband is having an affair, my kid is getting expelled from school and I'm 40 lbs overweight. How do you expect me to think positively?!" Under these circumstances it would seem having stress in your life is simply inevitable. If you can't change your circumstances, how can you can your negative thinking? And if you can't change your negative thinking, how are you ever going to get the stress out of your life? This is where I would like to provide some perspective with a single word.
Peace of mind is single most important thing to your life. By actively seeking peace you can achieve freedom from negative thinking. This, of course, will translate into even greater freedoms. Freedom from physical pain, emotional eating and mental anxiety. Freedom from wanting what you do not have. When you have peace, it doesn't matter what's going on around you and when it doesn't matter what's going on around you, you are free to enjoy your life.
As is true with attaining anything of value, achieving peace will require some effort. The cost will be continual and consistent maintenance of positive thoughts. If you are willing to pay this price, the benefits are far reaching.
Here is some advice to get you started:
Stop talking down to yourself. Eliminate the following thoughts as soon as you hear them creeping into your head - "I never do anything right", "People think I'm stupid", "I'm always going to be fat". Would you say these things to your best friend? Then don't say them to yourself. Replace negative self-talk with positive self-talk and you will start to feel the difference.
Don't let your mind wander. If you catch yourself thinking about how your husband never helps out around the house or your boss is so condescending, stop yourself immediately. It's easy to let our minds wander down the path of least resistance when we are driving to work or taking the dog for a walk. Positive thinking requires effort. Don't ask me why, but as human beings we seem predisposed to negativity. Think about the last time you saw a good news story on the front page of the newspaper. Thinking positively means you have to make the effort to renew your mind everyday to keep negative thoughts at bay.
Start your day with a smile. I currently live in the north and its hard to feel positive when you wake up to cold dark mornings from October until April. Getting out of bed can be a challenge when you are going through a tough time in your life, but you can make your day a whole lot easier just by taking some time first thing in the morning to set yourself in a positive state of mind. Think about plans you are looking forward to or someone special you can't wait to talk to. Think about how cute your baby is. Remind yourself how it felt when you were first dating your husband. Life doesn't stop just because we want to have a bad day.
If you've spent most of your life complaining about everything that is wrong, keeping a positive attitude will feel like a full time job in the beginning. Peace is not easy to find and it can be hard to hold onto. The good news is that once you've found it, you'll be willing to do everything in your power to keep it. Peace be with you....
"Everything will ok in the end. If it's not ok, it's not the end." ~ unknown
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