Have you ever noticed that after a day of dealing with annoying family members or arguing with a loved one, that parts of your body ache?
This is because negative emotions and thoughts affect you physically. In fact, they can be downright deadly.
Negative thoughts create a chemical reaction in our brain.
When someone constantly thinks negatively about what they are doing, or about the people they're around, their immune system weakens and their physical wellbeing deteriorates over time. But how could a simple thought in your brain have physical consequences?
Dopamine and serotonin are chemicals that flow through our body and turn thoughts into physical feelings of euphoria. This happens when we fall in love, accomplish a big goal, or simply eat a piece of chocolate.
The exact opposite happens when we feel angry or depressed, because adrenaline and cortisol (the fight or flight hormones) are released throughout the body.
Specific pains in our body can tell us how we're feeling.
In fact, studies have shown that a lack of serotonin actually lowers our pain tolerance so any small body ache will seem even worse. This is because emotional pain messages and physical pain messages in your brain overlap.
Emotions can be so precise in how they affect our bodies that some physicians believe certain pains can tell us a lot about our current life issues.
For example, chronic neck pain could possibly indicate an inability to see different perspectives. Unexplained pain in the hips could be a sign that we're overrun with fear and unable to make important decisions.
Upper back pain is associated with heartbreak, middle back pain is related to the inability to let go of the past and lower back pain is connected to financial stress. Experiencing pain in the knees can mean lots of fear, too much pride and lack of control over the ego.
And it goes beyond just surface aches and pains. In fact, depression can increase your risk for certain physical illnesses or conditions. The most common are chronic fatigue syndrome, insomnia, lack of sex drive, and decreased appetite.
The power of positive thinking
When we experience stress and adrenaline starts pumping through our bodies, the brain actually remembers this feeling and will associate all future situations similar to it with a negative connotation.
This is where positive thinking can be used as a tool to cope.
Try writing down your negative thoughts on a piece of paper. Then, next to it, write a positive counter-argument. This exercise gives you a way to push those negative thoughts aside by replacing them with more positive ones.
If the negative thoughts continue, you can try to contemplate where they came from, and whether there's any actual truth to them. As you look more deeply, you'll find that usually, there isn't any real evidence to back them up.
If your inner critic won't shut up, ask yourself, would you ever talk to a good friend, in the same way you talk to yourself?
You can even try recording yourself reciting positive affirmations, that make you feel good and play them back when you feel down.
Another technique to replace negative thoughts is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, a type of therapy where negative thought patterns about the self and the world are challenged, in order to change unwanted behavior patterns. CBT also helps treat mood disorders like depression.
So the next time you feel like Negative Nelly, you don't have to try become a fake Pollyanna, but it wouldn't hurt to try some positive thinking. Countless cancer survivors have said having a positive mindset helped them make it through painful treatments. Several studies studies have shown, that it works!
It's important to stay positive, no matter how hard the situation is. How we think, actually affects our physical health.
While it may take some practice to get used to shifting thoughts from negative to positive, stick with it: your mental and physical health depends on it.