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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Mind Matters

BY ELLEN HAINES

In our quest for wellness, we meticulously scrutinize our diets, obsess over skincare ingredients, and purify our living spaces. Yet how often do we pause to consider the invisible pollutants clouding our minds?

Here’s a revelation: Toxic thoughts are the silent contaminants of our mental well-being, often overlooked yet profoundly impactful.

MY JOURNEY TO MENTAL CLARITY
Years ago, my mind was a battleground of self-doubt and worry, sprinkled with a nasty fear of judgment. My thoughts ran wild, and I felt powerless to rein them in. This personal struggle led me to explore the depths of my mind, eventually guiding me toward a career in hypnotherapy. In my practice, I’ve witnessed the transformative power of detoxing our thoughts, purifying our internal narratives, and cultivating a space within ourselves that radiates positivity.

THE STRUGGLE WITH THE INNER CRITIC
If you find yourself caught in a relentless cycle of overthinking, self-comparison, or doubt, you’re not alone. Many of us grapple with a persistent inner critic. This voice amplifies fears and insecurities, leading you to question your decisions and worth. This inner critic can trigger defensiveness and irritability, fuel procrastination and a reluctance
to embrace growth opportunities, and weave false narratives about how others see us. When the voice inside your head creates all of this strain, it’s not just mentally draining; it’s bad for your health.

THE NEUROSCIENCE OF NEGATIVE SELF TALK
Consider this: Every thought triggers a biochemical event in the brain, which creates a ripple effect within the entire body. Over time, certain pathways in the brain become more traveled, making negative thoughts feel almost automatic.
On a physical level, this floods our bodies with cortisol, the stress hormone. This means your thoughts aren’t just happening in your brain. Your thoughts are communicating with every cell of your being, creating physiological shifts in the body.
If a cell has been exposed to a certain chemical consistently, it will adjust its chemical receptors to expect more of the same.

BREAKING THE CYCLE OF STRESS ADDICTION
So, over time, if not addressed, our bodies begin to crave this state of stress. Stress becomes an addiction that leaves us feeling perpetually distracted, foggy, or like we’re stuck in overdrive. But here’s the empowering part — we can change this. By intentionally focusing on different thoughts and emotions, we forge new pathways in our brains. To be clear, this isn’t about ignoring our challenges and pretending everything’s okay when it’s not — that’s not helpful. It’s about honoring our feelings and choosing empowering thoughts to help us navigate the challenges we’re facing.

THE POWER OF POSITIVE SELF-TALK
As a hypnotherapist, I’ve witnessed the remarkable transformations that occur when individuals shift their inner dialogue from being their own harshest critic to their biggest cheerleader. Such changes can have profound effects on both mental and physical health. I’ve seen mothers break free from the grips of postpartum depression, individuals find significant relief from chronic pain, and others overcome addictive behaviors. These examples highlight the power of positive self-talk and the deep impact it can have on overcoming personal challenges. The bottom line — there is vast potential for healing and growth within us all. This Mental Health Awareness Month, why not start with a simple practice? Pay close attention to how you talk to yourself for one week. Whenever doubt or fear comes up, acknowledge it. Use daily life as an opportunity to become curious about what’s driving your thoughts and feelings.

GETTING TO THE ROOT OF IT
Neuroscience reveals that 90% of our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are subconscious patterns learned from our experiences. Behavioral psychology, along with the biology of brain development, indicates that our subconscious programming is primarily established from birth to seven years old. For example, a persistent fear of failure might stem from having a parent who was difficult to please. Similarly, difficulty letting go of control could trace back to a chaotic or dysfunctional childhood. With this in mind, we can attempt to understand the core beliefs that are fueling any destructive, critical, or fearful thoughts. The subconscious mind, in its attempt to protect us, often clings to limiting beliefs such as “I’m not good enough,” “I’m unworthy,” or “I’m different.” These beliefs, generalized from specific past experiences, significantly influence how we interpret and react to current situations. As you begin to understand the deeper limiting beliefs sitting beneath your thoughts and feelings, you can begin to question their validity. Getting to the heart of the core beliefs holding you back is more effective than just trying to tweak your thoughts and emotions on the surface. Imagine the core belief as the root of a weed and your thought as the part of the weed you see above ground. To really make a change stick, you’ve got to yank it out by the root.

PRACTICE MAKES PROGRESS
As you engage in this process, it’s vital to practice self-compassion. Treat yourself with the same kindness, understanding, and support you would offer a good friend. When you notice self-critical thoughts or harsh judgments, remind yourself that everyone has flaws and makes mistakes, and it’s okay to be imperfect. The journey towards detoxing our minds is ongoing, demanding patience, practice, and sometimes, guidance. As we navigate this path, we get better and better at silencing the critic within. Slowly but surely, the uplifting and supportive voice grows louder and becomes stronger. As this unfolds, relationships improve, stress levels decrease, physical ailments vanish, and we find greater joy in the simple moments of life.

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