You probably know what it takes to live a healthy life, right? Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, exercise regularly, take vitamins—maybe add in some fish oil for cardiovascular health. Make sure you get enough protein, carbohydrates, and lean fats. Fortunately for many, healthy eating and exercise have become more and more a way of life. You know the list of do’s and don’ts to keep your body strong and fit.
What is less well known is how your thoughts influence your physical, emotional, and even spiritual health. Your mind is an extremely powerful instrument that can be either a friend or foe. For most, left to its own devices, the mind is a foe, and can lead to pain, difficulty, and suffering. With a little bit of effort and awareness, however, the mind can become a friend. As a friend, your mind can be used as a powerful asset to help promote your health and well being on all levels.
Understanding Your Mind: Friend or Foe?
Is your mind your friend or your foe? If you are like most, your mind bombards you with concerns, worry, anxiety, negative self-talk and a barrage of other nonsense.
Your mind may harass you about being good enough or healthy enough. It might critique you for making “poor” decisions. Are you being a good enough mother to your children? Are you a loving enough partner? Are you taking good enough care of your physical body?
And then let’s not forget gnawing concerns about physical appearance. The mind may lament: I have too many wrinkles. How did my butt get so big? What should I do about these sun spots?
Does this list sound at all familiar? You can probably write your own—your unique “flavor” of negative mental messages. These messages range from annoying to downright tyrannical. They are tyrannical because they control your life.
What kind of life can you live when your mind harasses you constantly with these types of concerns and worries?
It is my contention that true health is impossible when you live with a tyrannical mind. And most people do. You can eat all the right foods, do all the right exercises, take all the best supplements, and have a wonderful mix of alternative and conventional medical care. Yet if you are a slave to your thoughts, believing every mental message that the mind produces, how can you be truly healthy?
The mind-body connection is by now well known and documented throughout the scientific literature. If your mind is producing stress, anxiety, and insecurity, whether that is through making you believe that you are not quite good enough the way you are, or that something is wrong with you, or making you worry and stress about situations over which you have no control, this mental turbulence has a very real impact on your physical health and well-being.
The tragedy is that most people live enslaved by their minds – their thoughts, beliefs, mental patterns and emotions. The triumph is that with a little awareness and effort, you can begin to free yourself from the tyranny of your mind and move toward true health and well-being.
Freeing the Mind—Breaking Free from the Thoughts and Beliefs that Confine You
So, how do you break free from this ceaseless and controlling mind-chatter?
Fortunately, there are some steps you can take that will help you find freedom from a controlling, and even debilitating mind.
Step 1: Become Aware of the Thoughts You Think
Before you can break free from your negative thoughts, ideas, and beliefs about yourself, your body, and your life, you must first become aware of the thoughts that you think on a regular basis.
What thoughts and beliefs are being generated in your mind? Everyone has thoughts, messages, “tapes” if you will, that run through the mind. Without awareness, these thoughts control you and dictate your life. Yet as you become aware of the thoughts you think on a regular basis, you can gradually begin to loosen the control they have over your life.
There is no practice more important or more impactful in breaking free from the thoughts that control you than the practice of meditation. Over time, a regular meditation practice makes you more aware of the thoughts that are being generated by your mind. With meditation, you discover that you are not the thoughts you think. You are not the messages and voices inside your head. Over time, meditation will gradually help lessen the grip and hold that your thoughts have over your life. The amazing thing about meditation is that simply by practicing meditation, you will become more aware of the thoughts you think on a regular basis.
Step 2: Recognize That They Are False
Before you become aware of your thoughts, they control you absolutely. As you become aware of them, you can begin to notice that they control you. The next step in breaking free from them is recognizing that they are false. You have to realize that they are simply messages, usually learned in early childhood, and they are false. They are not about you and should not be allowed to control your life.
Step 3: Refuse to Believe Them
The next step is refusing to believe them. As you begin to see more clearly that these false messages run through your mind, you can make a decision to not believe them. You can recognize that they are false—false messages running through your mind. As such, they should not be listened to and should be ignored.
It is like music running in the background. You can carry about your business, go about your life, and ignore the negative thoughts and beliefs. Disregard them, don’t listen to them—completely ignore them. As you practice this, gradually over time they will lessen and recede more and more.
In this way, you can use your awareness to free yourself from the negative thoughts that you think.
As the mind becomes free from these negative messages and beliefs, it can be used as an ally to promote health. When you are listening to the negative thoughts and beliefs that run through your mind, it promotes disease. As you become free from these voices, the energy of your mind is elevated to help you move toward true well-being.