Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Health
Updated: Nov 28, 2022
Words have power – power to encourage movement forward, hinder progress, elicit tears and generate laughter. We have all been affected by the words thrown our way. Yet, many of us forget that the words we tell ourselves (our thoughts) have power too. These thoughts - our internal narrative - directly impact our ability to build relationships, accomplish tasks and even manage health crises.
Time consuming and emotionally burdensome - navigating a health challenge requires us to organize, research and trust; And our word choice or internal thoughts can significantly impact our ability to do so.
Consider this - individuals with a family history of heart disease AND a positive outlook on their future, are ⅓ less likely to have a heart attack as compared to those with a negative outlook and similar family history.
Despite this, approximately 80% of our internal thoughts remain negative. If our feelings and actions are manipulated by our thoughts and thoughts are made up of words we tell ourselves, then we have the power to choose better. But how? How can we change the dialogue and overcome health challenges?
Step 1: Fact vs Fiction
Obsessing over mistakes is human nature. Generally, however, we assign meaning to these mistakes as if they are an indication of our future outcome or capacity. Forgetting to take your medicine or skipping the gym, for example, doesn’t mean your illness will worsen or you are a quitter. It just means, you forgot. Remember in grade school, when one bad grade meant the world was ending? It wasn’t and it didn’t. So, determine what is true, what is supported by facts and what you can do next time to avoid the challenge. Don’t assign false meaning to thoughts that don’t require it.
Step 2: Change the Script
The recommended negative to positive thought ratio is 1:5, meaning each negative thought we have should be balanced by 5 positive thoughts. For most of us, however, this is tough to achieve. In fact, the average woman criticizes herself at least 8 times a day, without the 40 compliments to accompany it. While self-criticism is human nature, we have the power to recognize the pattern and change behavior.
Using words like “challenge,” “strength” and “bravery” encourage entirely different thoughts than “failing” and “weak.” So, next time you start the negative self-talk, recognize the pattern, pause and choose differently.
When you leave your doctor’s office and realize you forgot to share an important update, call them and share. You didn’t fail. You forgot, and that’s okay. Mistakes are learning opportunities. Notice the pattern, focus on the positive outcomes and avoid berating yourself.
Step 3: Unravel the Stigma
Biases originate inside, as judgemental thoughts. We turn them into stigma when we choose words to perpetuate those thoughts, outside our heads. Be mindful when the stigmatized thoughts occur and focus on changing the direction of that internal conversation.
If you are suffering from anxious or depressive thoughts and have historically judged others for these same struggles, you will be unable to seek treatment or even recognize your challenge
Like many, you may not have the language for your new script. That’s okay. Start asking those around you (who are comfortable sharing) how they feel. Engage with compassion. Recognize what those struggles look like and start unraveling the bias which may be preventing you from seeking appropriate treatment
Our path to wellness relies on more than a prescription. It relies on the words in our heads - the words that form our thoughts and inform our interactions with others.
Need more help with your word script?? Reach out today.