By Lily Spechler, The Vermont Cynic
According to Buddha, “all that we are is a result of what we have thought.”
When we experience negative emotions over and over again, we are affected on a physical level.
Anxious thoughts are rooted in fear, whether it be fear of the future of fear of the past.
When we feel fear, our brain is alerted and stress hormones like cortisol and glucocorticoids are released, while happy hormones like oxytocin are blocked.
News flash: your body is not separate from your mind. Consider any action you take: going to the bathroom. Lifting your arm. Using your fingers to send a text message.
Every single action taken in a day is a result of a chemical reaction in your brain. Your brain is your master; when negative emotions become the master of your brain, your brain will respond negatively in your body.
Chronically elevated cortisol levels are linked to lower immune functions, obesity, high blood pressure, insomnia and heart disease.
This condition also negatively affects every single cognitive ability that you have.
According to Livestrong, chronic stress can also lead to lasting damage in your hippocampus, which is the part of your brain responsible for emotion and memory. Literally, you are stimulating your brain to death.
Think about any injury you have ever had from a repetitive activity, such as a swollen ankle from long distance jogging, a loose rotator cuff from pitching or back pain from sitting at a computer all day long.
The cure is not continuing the repetitive activity – the cure is addressing the problem and reversing the cycle. Your brain is no different.
Realizing that certain negative thought patterns trigger certain chemical responses can help one reverse the negative feedback cycle.
I challenge you to think back to when you were a young child. Children have an unparalleled ability to think creatively, and they instinctively seek activities that make them feel good.
They are generally unashamed, not yet afraid of rejection and fearlessly genuine. According to Psychology Today, many psychologists believe that the root of all suffering is fear and shame.
We are programmed to fear rejection and being alone.
We feel shame because we want to feel accepted, and we want to be perceived as successful by those around us.
Next time you realize you feel anxious, try pausing and asking why; break down the thought pattern to its root cause. Ask yourself why you might be experiencing a negative emotion. Perhaps you are feeling attached to past and fearful of the unknown future. Perhaps you are feeling ashamed and insecure of yourself, and are seeking acceptance and validation.
When negative emotions rise to the surface, don’t passively allow the negative hormone-release cycle of the brain to occur.
Because just as our negative thought patterns breed negative chemical responses, positive thoughts cultivate the release of positive hormones, such as serotonin, the key happiness hormone, or dopamine, which is the pleasure hormone that is released when you are trying to reach a goal.
Set a new goal for yourself: the cultivation of peace from within.
The moment a negative thought enters your brain, become aware of the way you physically feel. Release your jaw. Relax your face.
And say to yourself: I am in control of my body. Within myself, I have all the tools I need to obtain happiness.
When asked what surprised him the most about humanity, the Dalai Lama responded, “Man…he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.”
Don’t suffer injury from repetitive behavior. Take control of your mind, reverse your thinking cycle and take control of your entire life.