Have you ever been grossed out by something you heard while you were eating? Someone shares a story over lunch and you can’t eat any more? What happened? Your mind had a powerful response to the pictures and words that were given to it. There was no physical reason to be grossed out. It was just a story. But your imagination caused a physical reaction in your body.
This is how our brains work. Marisa Peer, Britain’s top therapist, explains this as one of the Rules of the Mind. The mind responds to the pictures we give it and the words we tell it. Pictures are powerful. Words are powerful. Enough to cause you to lose your appetite. Enough to cause you to feel anxiety. Enough to cause stress that leads to illness.
‘Stress is a factor in five out of the six leading causes of death — heart disease, cancer, stroke, lower respiratory disease, and accidents. An estimated 75 percent to 90 percent of all doctor visits are for stress-related issues. There seems to be a trend here. Illness and stress.’ (According to stress management expert, Joe Robinson)
These terrible statistics actually provide some good news. Because we have figured out some powerful ways to reduce stress. You have more control over this than you think. You can’t take all the problems out of life. Life is hard sometimes. I love Glennon Doyle’s word. ‘Brutiful’. Because every moment carries both hard and amazing aspects. When you choose to look at the amazing, your mind responds by hitting you with good hormones and decreasing stress hormones. Sounds good right?
So how do the pictures and words you are feeding your mind cause stress? Your mind cannot tell the difference between the images and words you give it, and reality. That’s why you actually stopped eating when your friend (or most likely a family member) told you the disgusting story while you were eating lunch.
Unhappy people have lots of stress because they use lots of negative pictures and words. These words and pictures release cortisol that causes illness. Happy people paint different pictures about the problems. They use better words.
I have a daughter with special needs. She takes longer to learn things than my three older daughters. She thinks about life totally differently and feels her feelings more. She is hilarious and amazing. When I am not intentional, I can think things and use words about this situation like, “Why is it so hard? Other people don’t have it this hard. Why does it take longer to do everything? It’s not fair!” When I use words like this, life is way harder and I feel terrible and behave in ways that are hurtful. This is my knee jerk reaction. To create a picture of what it “should” be and be miserable with what is.
When I say instead, “I am enough. My daughter is enough. She’s a gift. This isn’t a surprise. We all have different challenges. She’s part of our family and needs more. God doesn’t make junk. I’m still learning. I’m doing my best. I don’t have to be perfect. How can I make this fun? Her perspective is amazing. She helps me be more present and I can do this. I know it takes longer to do things with her.” When I say those statements everything changes. When my pictures align with reality, and when I am kind, stress decreases. My mind responds to these words powerfully in shifting my mood and the whole atmosphere.
If you want to feel better and less stressed, sit with yourself for a little while and see what areas of life are driving you nuts or causing you stress, or hurting. Then listen to how you think about it, how you are talking about it and what pictures are in your mind about it. If anything is negative or false, then make some new pictures! Use better words. This process of leaning into the pain and stress is key. When you see the truth of what words you use, what pictures you use, you can change them. There is NO judgement here!! It is human nature to create negative words and pictures.
When you change how you look at things, a lot of things automatically get better. But some circumstances are not going to change. There are some areas of life that are just more challenging. There are seasons of pain. Wanting it to stop being the way it is, is creating a picture where you constantly lose. You want rainbows and unicorns and have cold rain and manure instead! You wish it was different and feel bad for yourself and about yourself when your picture is unrealistic. When you change the picture, the circumstances may not change, but you do. The amount of cortisol, the stress hormone that literally kills you, decreases. Regardless of circumstances.
So again, find some time to get quiet and listen to that still small voice and see what comes up. See what pictures, and words that this voice is offering you. You may be surprised what you hear. You are loved. And you are enough. If you think you don’t have time for this, the truth is you don’t have time not to. You are worth it. You got this!
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