Healthy Thinking
Using Your Mind To Help Heal Body, Heart & Soul

May 8th, 2011 Posted by Sarah Maria

Healthy ThinkingYou 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.

Troubled MindYour 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 that 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.

MeditationThere 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.  You can begin to notice how 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

Finding PeaceThe 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 dis-ease.  As you become free from these voices, the energy of your mind is elevated to help you move toward true wellbeing.

Sarah Maria, author of Love Your Body, Love Your Life, outlines her 5-step process for helping you feel great in and about your body.  Her work embraces the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual, for true, lasting healing.  Visit BreakFreeBeauty.com to learn more.

What Your Body Tells You: Objective Feedback vs. Critical Condemnation

March 20th, 2011 Posted by Sarah Maria

What is Your Body Telling You?Can you tell the difference between the objective feedback your body offers versus the critical condemnation of your mind?

Your body’s objective feedback can help you make lifestyle choices that promote your health and well-being, whereas the critical condemnation of your mind creates nothing but suffering.

Our bodies are incredible messengers, powerful gifts on the journey through life.  We can use the constant feedback that our bodies give us to help us make changes and adaptations to promote our health.  If we listen to the criticism of our minds, however, it will sabotage us.  The negative mental messages can eclipse the body’s natural intelligence and feedback, which will prevent us from making the healthy choices we want to make.

The mind opines, while the body illuminates.  The mind makes you mistakenly believe that your body means something about who you are as a person, your self-worth and your value.  It levels judgment and criticism.  It makes you believe that you are somehow not good enough, that something is wrong with you and your body.

Here are some examples to elucidate the point:

Objective Feedback vs. Critical Condemnation

  • “I am holding weight in my abdomen – I can tell I have been under a lot of stress.”
    versus “My stomach is flabby and disgusting – I am out of shape and need to do more sit-ups.”
  • “I haven’t been able to exercise recently and can tell that my legs are weak.”
    versus “My cellulite is disgusting and I cringe when I look in the mirror.”
  • “I notice that when I eat sugar regularly it leads to weight gain and is addictive.”
    versus “Why can’t I control myself?  I am so weak.”
  • “I can tell that my arms are becoming weak – it would be good for me to increase my upper-body strength.”
    versus “My arms are flabby, weak, and I don’t even want to look at them.”
  • “It has been too long without a haircut.”
    versus “My hair is flat, dull, and disgusting.”

The key is to use your body for valuable, useful feedback, and to disregard the worthless messages of criticism that come from mental conditioning.

Critical condemnation is when you use your body and appearance to:

  • Determine your self-worth
  • Use it as a reflection of your “success” or “failure”
  • Use it as a reflection of your “strength” or “weakness”
  • Use it as a reflection of being “good” or “bad”

Here are three helpful steps to help you use your body’s messages for objective feedback, while dropping the mind’s critical condemnation:

  1. Become increasingly aware of the difference between the body’s messages and the mind’s messages
  2. Separate the “wheat” from the “chaff” – use the objective feedback and drop the self-judgment, criticism, and condemnation
  3. Make lifestyle choices based on the feedback, not the condemnation

A key tool to help you learn to differentiate between your body’s messages and your mind’s messages is meditation.

A regular meditation practice is essential to help you break free from the critical mind-chatter that can sabotage your best intentions.

Dancing in the Rain, Standing in the Sun - What is Equanimity?

November 7th, 2010 Posted by Sarah Maria

Cultivating EquanimityI heard a great piece of wisdom recently: “Life gives us situations—we add the anguish.”  If you think about it, this is true.  It is sort of like in the movie Forrest Gump, when he says “Life is like a box of chocolates.  You never know what you are going to get.”  Only he fails to add “Life is like a box of chocolates.  You never know what you are going to get.  Some chocolates are going to be sweet and delicious, decadent and delightful.  Other chocolates are going to be bitter, disgusting, nauseating, and otherwise repugnant.  The sweet ones you will want more of.  You will want the taste and flavor to dance in your mouth endlessly.  The bitter ones you will want to spit out, discard, and wish you never tasted them to begin with.”  I think this would be quite an accurate description of life.

Bottom line, there are a number of situations that we must go through in life, some pleasant, some downright unpleasant.  The question is, how can you enjoy the pleasant without clinging and grasping, and how can you navigate the unpleasant without adding anguish?  How can you cultivate equanimity?

Now equanimity does not mean you don’t experience the emotions that come with life.  It does not mean that you become a robot, immune to the natural human reactions.  When something pleasant comes your way, it is natural to feel joyful.  And when the unpleasant knocks at your door, you may feel frightened, petrified, sad, miserable.  A panoply of emotions are possible.

Cultivating equanimity means that you are able to expand your awareness, that you are able to have a larger perspective.  You begin to see through your own experience that life presents both the pleasurable and the painful.  Both come and go.  Both are a required part of human life.

As you begin to see this, you can begin to create less anguish when you are going through difficult or challenging times.  Before you have this increased awareness, it is easy to feel like difficult times will last forever.  Do you recall going through a painful or unpleasant time and being convinced that it would never end?  Even if it is not fully conscious, this is the outlook that many of us have.

As you begin to increase your awareness, as you begin to cultivate equanimity, you are able to take life in stride a little bit more.  As you realize that everything does in fact come and go, that nothing lasts forever, you are able to enjoy the pleasant without grasping, and you are able to navigate the painful without letting it derail you.  You are able to ride the waves of life without thinking that each time a wave crashes the world is over.  You are able to more easily ride the ups and downs that are part of every human life.

Sarah Maria, author of Love Your Body, Love Your Life, outlines her 5-step process for helping you feel great in and about your body. Her work embraces the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual, for true, lasting healing. Purchase your copy, begin to love your body today.  Visit: breakfreebeauty.com.

Unmasking Negative Body Obsession

October 11th, 2010 Posted by Sarah Maria

What if your Negative Body Obsession had nothing to do with your body?  Or at least, very little?

Unmasking Negative Body ObsessionYou might say, “Sarah Maria, you are totally crazy.  I thought you knew what you were talking about, but this is too much.  Of course my Negative Body Obsession has to do with my body.  I obsess about my body.  My thoughts, beliefs, and feelings about my body are the whole problem!”

Well, maybe not…

I know this might be a lot to consider, but hear me out for a moment:

More times than not, Negative Body Obsession, and most struggles with food and with your body involve something much deeper.  To your conscious mind, it seems like the problem is all about your body, but this is just at the level of your conscious mind.

The fact of the matter is that Negative Body Obsession is often a cover-up, an adaptation, a handy way to keep things simple and avoid dealing with the deeper feelings, fears, disappointments, and challenges that are fueling the obsession.

For some people, the Negative Body Obsession saved the day when you were unable to cope.

For others, it might play a different role.

But the fact of the matter is that Negative Body Obsession is rarely just about the body.

Many times, if you struggle with Negative Body Obsession, there is an underlying issue regarding love:

“I am unlovable.”
“Why does no one love me?”
“Will anyone ever love me?”
“Why can’t I seem to find love? “
“I am too fat to be loved.”
“I am too old to be loved.”

There can be endless variations along this same theme.

Instead of addressing the painful feelings and struggle, the mind starts obsessing about the body:

“I have too much cellulite.”
“My stomach is flabby”
“My butt is too big”

You know endless variations, I am sure.

It is incredibly painful to feel unloved, unwanted, unimportant, and inadequate.  Sometimes pain can feel absolutely unbearable and overwhelming.  There is the fear, conscious or unconscious, that if you allow yourself to feel the intensity of your emotions, you will not be able to survive.

And so the mind develops a very handy way to help you cope.  It starts obsessing about your body and your appearance.

So part of the journey in healing from Negative Body Obsession is discovering more of what is actually going on.

What is fueling your NBO?

Think about this question – let it be an exploration into yourself.  Be willing to unmask the lies of Negative Body Obsession.  Find out more of what is actually going on.  As you trace your way back to the root of your Negative Body Obsession, you will be finding your way to the love and beauty that has been there all along.  It just requires cultivating eyes that are able to see it.

Sarah Maria, author of Love Your Body, Love Your Life, outlines her 5-step process for helping you feel great in and about your body. Her work embraces the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual, for true, lasting healing. Purchase your copy, begin to love your body today.  Visit: breakfreebeauty.com.