‘Food’ for your mind that can heal
Have you ever heard that love can heal? With Valentine’s around the corner, it seems like the right topic so let’s talk about one of the most important type of loves: self-love. What comes with it is happiness. Believe me or not, but no matter how perfect your diet and lifestyle is, if you are missing those two – there are 90% chances that you’ll struggle to regain full health.
As a nutritionist I can’t agree more that you are what you eat but also as a holistic health practitioner, I believe that there is much more to that. You are actually what your thoughts are and there is a real science behind it! Your thoughts can impact your physical body and can influence your genes, disease and healing processes. Let’s dig into it and explain common misconception about self-love, healing, placebo effect and things you can apply today to improve your wellbeing.
Common misconception about self-love. Difference self-love vs self-care
Bubble baths, new outfits, massages, manicure and working out – that’s all self-care, not self-love. Self-love is showing kindness to yourself every second of your day. No matter if you succeeded or failed in doing something, no matter if you ate donut while being on keto diet or if you got up late and missed your morning yoga class. I’m not encouraging you to negative behaviours – not at all! I’m just saying that we are human beings and we are not 100% perfect 100% of time.
Plus living in a fast-paced environment called modern society is adding extra pressure on over-performing, over-possessing and over-controlling everything around you. You can easily get hung up too much on wanting more and getting more and punishing yourself for little mistakes or by not meeting these goals. That’s more self-destruction and being perfect is not self-love either. In terms of ‘treating yourself’, we tend to focus too much on external indulgments and less on internal. In other words, think about self-care as something external and self-love as something internal. The problem with externals is that they come and go but what’s inside you, it lasts.
What self-love really is?
It’s a state of mind. The state where you cultivate your happiness and wellbeing and you value it so much that nothing from outside can’t really affect the way you feel in a negative way. It’s a state when you feel good just by ‘BEING’ not ‘DOING’ and ‘HAVING’ or even worse impressing others. Getting new dress (self-care) will look good on you but only for few hours maybe one day top. The essence of self-love is awareness and the way in which you experience yourself no matter of what you are wearing or where you are and what you are doing. If you experience your life from a place of enough-ness/worthiness your perception of the world will be more positive and nothing will be able to disturb it – not an action, an event or people.
How you can practice self-love?
Embracing positives, not allowing negative-self talk to take over, setting boundaries, acknowledging your needs and desires, being more mindful and rewarding yourself with words of gratitude and appreciation for small wins are some of examples how you can practice self-love. Self-care helps with self-love but it won’t fulfil you. If you don’t know where to look or what to do, always look inside.
Think of yourself as someone that deserves the best just as you are. We are born as a full human being, not a human being with missing parts that need to be filled along our life. Growth mindset and being better version of yourself – yes but ‘no’ to needing X, Y, Z to feel good. Don’t condition yourself and your happiness on your achievements, new haircut, new job, new house or new clothes. Whatever comes and whatever you achieve in your life, treat it as an ‘add-on’ or enhancement, not an ‘essential’ or ‘condition’ to become you or become happy. Self-love is unconditional. As long as anything material can be taken from your, nobody can take love from yourself.
If it sounds too complicated just remember those 5 rules:
- Always put yourself first
- Know yourself
- Trust and value yourself
- Accept the situation
- Live in the present moment
Power of brain and impact on our body
Now we come to the most exciting part: mind -body connection. Our body is basically a system of various organs interconnected with each other that communicate through neurons and chemical messengers called ‘hormones’. What makes us a live human being is vital energy that flows through all these organs. You can think about it as a type of energy that glue our body, mind, and spirit. Chinese call it Chi or Qi, science call it electrical or nervous impulses. Whether you believe in the concept of Chi or not, the fact is that your thoughts generate nerve impulses that create activities affecting our brain, nervous system and consequently your entire body.
Without going much into science, positive thinking can switch on healthy gene expression and ‘self-healing’ while negative thinking can activate ‘bad’ genes and increase risk of developing diseases. Our body is naturally equipped in various mechanisms to cope with dangers and threats. If you contact bacteria, your cells will send signal ‘hey I’m in trouble’, then your body will mobilize white blood cells to come, fight the invader and fix whatever was damaged. Whatever happens, your body will always try to heal and repair.
Instagram filters makes you look better. Don’t forget to use ‘mind’ filters to make yourself feel better too.
Nature was really smart and gifted us with this very advanced engine called ‘brain’ that fuels all activates that our body performs, from very basic physiological functions to more complex like thinking, decision making and learning processes. Often, we just don’t appreciate its true power and limit its use to very basic everyday tasks. What’s worse we often live on an ‘auto-pilot’ defaulting each day to certain activities, behaviours and patterns because we are so busy with everything that we don’t have time to actually process and reflect. All would be good if everything we default to were positive behaviours and positive patterns. Unfortunately, quite often for most of our day we are surrounded by negatives. Negative news, toxic work-mates, unhappy friends, annoying lady in a grocery shop or grumpy neighbours.
This negative environment can actually impact your physical wellbeing. It’s impossible to disconnect from all negative but you can filter out a lot of it from your life and you can also impact how you react to it. Instead of defaulting to your regular habits and patterns just stop for a bit and think – what influence it has on me? Why I’m doing this? Is this the right way for me or is the way everyone thinks is right? Is this my choice or what media advertised to me? And most important how I can make it better? Whatever is around you or in your head has an impact. Filter out negatives and focus on positives. This is because…
Are you making yourself sick unconsciously?
Negative thoughts can generate negative feelings and this is a warning sign for our body that something is wrong. Whatever danger your body senses (actual or the one made up by your mind) it will get ready to fight. It will actually switch on your ‘survival mode’ and release cortisol – your stress hormone. Chronic stress is the one of the main causes of most of diseases. Stress is great coping mechanism with real life threats but 95% of the time we don’t face actual life threats and we just tend to feel stressed over an idea of something or overthinking something over and over again. I’m sure you have experienced that feeling of stress or anxiety, just by thinking about potential problems or something that happened in the past, right?
Every time you do it, you are making one step towards getting sick or one step backward from getting better. Again, there is a science behind it. Stress triggers immune response called inflammation, it can also shut down your digestion, nutrient absorption (stress decreases stomach acid), it throws your hormones out of balance (cortisol is made at the expense of progesterone i.e), it can supress your thyroid , disturb gut microbiome, destroy your gut lining and even makes you gain weight.
What prevents your from healing?
The more you are caught up on negative thoughts, the more you trigger your stress hormones and ‘bad’ genes that prevent you from healing. It doesnt have to be any extreme negative thought or memory. Anything like anger, fear, worry, sadness, jealousy, self-criticism or even boredom can move you away from space of self-love and positivity. Instead, try to experience more positive emotions like joy, gratitude, kindness, curiosity, hope, amusement or inspiration. The more you practice it, the more you will trigger ‘heal and repair’ buttons in your body.
How self-love and your mind can help you reverse disease?
Loving yourself will help you pay attention to the signals from inside you. Being aware of what’s good for you and what’s not will help you to manage external world better and maintain your state of peace and wellbeing. Our mental perception of the world and ourselves constantly inform and guide our immune system. Staying in a ‘happy state’ upregulates your good genes and allows your body to heal. Your body will start healing as long as you encourage it with positive signals and don’t disrupt it by negatives.
True strength comes from learning how to love yourself unconditionally, no matter of the situation. The results dont’t come overnight but if you struggle with any health problem, you tried everything and it didn’t work, then look at your mind! In my practice I always encourage my clients to feed the body with quality food but also to feed the mind with positive thoughts. Both are very powerful and imagine what could happen if you combine them together!
Placebo, religion and mental health crisis.
Final thoughts and placebo! Placebo – a fancy name of something that’s been around for thousands of years. It’s really based on similar concept: triggering certain processes in your body by just thinking about it or thinking about positive effect of it. You probably heard about stories how people healed without any medical explanation or all these experiments where people were receiving ‘sugar pill’ instead of actual medicine believing that it will heal them.
Here we touch on important word ‘believe’. Back in the days, religious rituals and prayers were very common in people’s everyday life. No matter of religion or what people believed in, it was based on repetition of certain word, sentences or activities and guess what? That constant repetition is how you wire your brain. If you wire your brain on positive, you will be favouring your ‘good’ genes and switching off stress and ‘bad’ genes. Obviously, when people pray, they express gratitude and pray for good stuff not bad. Nowadays, with religion crisis and people praising technology more rather than their believes, we leave our thoughts and patterns unattended. At the airports you often hear ‘don’t leave you luggage unattended as it will be taken’. Same happens with your brain, if you leave it unattended it will be hijacked by negatives.
The main reason why people with perfect diets and active lifestyle still feel unwell is lack of self-love and wrong mindset. Quality food is expensive, gym membership might be too, but positive thoughts are free. Learning how to truly love yourself only depends on you. If you practice it everyday, it will shift you to more positive state of mind. Self-care practices are temporary ‘mood boosters’ but self-love is lasting no matter of situtaion and this is where magic happens. Positive thoughts can translate to actual biochemical changes. That’s how you instruct your body to heal and stay healthy.