For years holistic health practitioners have touted the benefits of meditation and mindfulness, and the positive effects these processes can have on our mind and our body. More recently, science has started to catch up to these age-old practices. Provided we know how to program them, learning how to change your mind can literally change your physiology.
Your Mind Makes Sense – How We Program Our Beliefs
The way we perceive the world, and our place in it, is a result of a huge array of environmental, societal and economic influences. This perception then forms our beliefs, and these beliefs form a set of guiding principles. They are directly responsible for our behaviour, emotions, actions and thoughts.
The conditioning of our mind to a particular set of beliefs happens from the moment we enter the world. And it is constantly evolving as we grow. It is affected by (and not limited to):
- The people we spend time with, such as family, friends, social circles etc…
- The lessons we learn, and the way we learn them
- The knowledge we accrue
- Our past experiences
- The choices we make- both consciously and unconsciously.
What many people fail to realize, however, is that our beliefs are not static. Rather than being a strictly regimented rule for life, the things we believe in, and therefore the way we direct our lives, should develop as we do.
With this understanding of the mind and its conditioning, it becomes easier to acknowledge that our beliefs are actually a choice. This choice then becomes our reality and affects our daily lives. It stands to reason, then, that choosing a new set of beliefs will also change the way you think, act and perceive.
The Brain Makes Assumptions- and We Get Stuck
The mind, or what we refer to as our consciousness, can be programmed into believing any number of things. The sheer diversity throughout the human race is a testament to this. The brain, however, is an anticipation machine. It is constantly taking the inputs we give it to establish a safe and easy-to-navigate picture of the world.
Whilst this literal function of the brain is great in helping us to avoid stress and harm, it is also directly responsible for causing us to be ‘stuck in our ways.’ That is to say, our brain is designed to put us in a state of routine. This eventually puts most of our actions into auto-pilot.
“Our beliefs guide our habits, and our habits program the brain to perform the same actions time and time again- without conscious input”
In the same way that we form physical habits, the brain also forms psychological and physiological ones. Without knowing, our conscious responses to stressful situations (again- the way we act and think based on our beliefs) can lead to an adverse response from the brain.
We experience this adverse effect as emotion. However, the body experiences this ‘output’ as a physiological reaction, such as the release of cortisol (stress hormones).
These responses can have a negative physical effect on the body, such as increasing inflammation, which will in turn continue to directly affect the way we feel and act. The problem with these responses, then, is that they are reinforcing. Every time the brain anticipates a situation and is trained to perform the same function, it will release the same emotional response. Every time we emit the same emotional response, we reinforce our beliefs (as they are usually what caused the response in the first place), and the cycle continues.
Change Your Mind and You’ll Change Your Life
Your brain is an incredible machine, processing 11 million sensory inputs per second and compressing them into a mere 50 for your conscious mind to take note of. That means that the vast majority of information processing and conditioning we are subject to is unconscious.
Mindful practice, and physical activities like resistance training, help to build awareness and bridge the gap between our brain, our body, and our mind.
By choosing our conscious inputs- such as the activities we perform- we are able to positively affect our unconscious ones. This, in turn, can literally change our physiology, reducing inflammation and stress responses in the body whilst improving our psychological well-being.
The most prolific example of this is the placebo effect, whereby a patient believes that they are receiving beneficial medicine, which is enough to have outstanding efficacy for healing their ailments. Once thought to be a failure of testing, the placebo effect has more recently demonstrated how belief can quite literally change our physical responses.
“The placebo effect is more than positive thinking — believing a treatment or procedure will work. It’s about creating a stronger connection between the brain and body and how they work together,”
—Professor Ted Kaptchuk. Source.
So How Do You Change Your Mind?
We now know that our conscious inputs are a choice. Whether that choice is to go for a run or to sit on the couch, both behaviours will reinforce our beliefs and guide our behaviour. If you tell yourself you ‘don’t have time’ for something, then you won’t make time for it.
Conversely, if you start to tell yourself you love exercising, you will begin to believe it. And you will truly start to appreciate it!
How do you change your body? Put it to work.
How do you change your brain: Put it to work.
How do you change your mind? Put it to work!
The only way we can make real changes in our lives is to continue to push our brain to adapt to new situations- what we usually refer to as getting out of our comfort zone.
Choose Them, or They Choose You
We need difficult things to overcome, or our lives become difficult. That means we get to choose which ‘mountains’ we climb. And the easiest place to start to change your mind is with the physical self.
It is something we were all born to do, and there are countless health and wellness professionals available to guide you on this journey. We recommend starting with physical activity and exercise because it can:
- Give you measurable progress and results
- Improve awareness between the mind and body
- Teach us to set and achieve goals. In doing so we improve the efficacy of our beliefs, which becomes a positive reinforcement of your new love for exercise!
- Educate and encourage you to consume healthier food, so that the body can run more efficiently.
All of these physical behaviours help to reinforce our positive choices. This not only helps to break the bad habits that we are all prone to, but studies have also shown that resistance training and exercise programs can enhance our mental wellbeing.
Moreover, mindful practices such as meditation, controlled breathing and yoga have also been shown to have profound effects on our mental wellbeing. These practices are crucial in developing more positive ‘self-talk,’ but they also help us to build personal awareness and reflect on our choices, thoughts and actions.
In doing so, they grant better control over the way we choose to react to a situation, and in turn, change our beliefs. As this research report states:
“Events are not objectively “stressful” but what is central is how the individual structures the experience he is facing; the thoughts he produces about an event put him under stress”
— Lin et al 2020
The same study looked at a group of 90 patients with heart disease, and implemented a 4-day Rational–Emotional–Education intervention, which taught the group the ‘Relaxation Response (RR).’ Incredibly, the results showed that using mindful techniques such as the RR actually reduced biological inflammation and oxidative stress markers. That is to say- using mindful practice you can literally change the biology/physiological response, and change your mind.
“Our results and the precise design of our study would seem to suggest the existence of an intimate relationship and regulatory action by cognitive processes…on some molecular processes in the human body.”
— Lin et al 2020
The Power of Belief- It Starts With You
Hopefully, by now you are beginning to understand just how powerful and capable the brain is in regulating our physical responses. In order to augment or influence these responses, we need to train our minds into a state of health and wellbeing.
At Turnfit, we specialize in using physical exercise, resistance training and holistic health practices in order to train our bodies and brains into new states of being. You can access our personal training, exercise coaching, nutrition, and mindfulness practices in-person and online via the Turnfit training app.
We can also customize any plan to suit your lifestyle. We will always strive to help you improve your knowledge and understanding of health and states of mind.
If you would like more information about our services or are interested in a custom training program, reach out and connect with us.
This article first appeared on our Trainerize.me blog! You can find it by following this link. Be sure to follow our profile there for the latest health and wellbeing information and insights!
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