Let’s take a look at how to reduce stress through our thought life.
All my life, I’ve thought of health as a pretty basic equation. Eat well + exercise + enough rest = good health. The thing is, it’s not as simple as that.
But at the same time, it IS simple. Let me explain.
Up until the past few years, I had no idea how much negative stress influenced my health. I mean, I knew that the mind and body were connected, but I didn’t realize how strongly. Look at the research to illustrate this fact:
- The American Institute of Stress states, “3 out of 4 doctor’s visits are for stress-related ailments” and “stress is the basic cause of all human illness and disease.”
- The American Psychological Association revealed in their study Stress in America, “Participants’ responses have revealed high stress levels, reliance on unhealthy behaviors to manage stress and alarming physical health consequences of stress — a combination that suggests the nation is on the verge of a stress-induced public health crisis.”
- Dr. Brian Seaward, a top expert in stress management says in his interview with the Wellness Council of America, “The association between stress and disease is colossal—about 85 percent. If the stress hormone cortisol continually lingers in the blood stream, it will destroy white blood cells. This sets the stage for all kinds of health-related problems, from autoimmune system diseases (such as Lupus, Rheumatoid arthritis, bromyal- gia and Epstein Barr) to cancer… the body’s way of adapting to chronic stress is by developing a chronic disease.”
Understanding these facts is crucial and illustrate that negative stress is a major factor in poor health. The adage is true: “Stress kills.”
This can be very depressing news when we feel victimized by our circumstances. It’s easy to take a backseat approach to stress and start to moan, “Look at what is happening to me! I am so stressed and it’s making me sick!”
But what is the true cause of stress? Is it totally based on life situations, making us victims thereof?
One major cause of stress, besides life circumstances, is our reactions to these circumstances.
In other words, one major factor influencing our health is our thought life.
When we experience trauma, whether physical (sickness, injury) or mental (emotional distress), our bodies react through inflammation. This process is very helpful to the body when it is short-lived for the purposes of healing. However, when we experience inflammation for a long period of time, it causes problems in the brain and body.
So when we meditate (think over and over) about a worrisome situation, our bodies release substances that cause real inflammation in our bodies! If that doesn’t make you realize the power of your thoughts, I don’t know what will.
Also, take note of what God’s Word says in Philippians 4:6-8:
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
I love this beautiful passage and how it encourages us to gain control of our thought life. That said, it doesn’t mean it will be easy.
The other night, I woke up and sensed nasty, panicky thoughts coming into my mind. This could have easily morphed into a panic attack. I prayed and remembered how powerful my mind is. Instead, I chose to deliberately focus on good memories from my past. I thought about my teen years and fun things I was blessed to experience in the youth group, school, etc. I was back asleep not long after!
How to reduce stress when thoughts threaten to turn sour
- Keep a physical or mental list of good memories or plans you have for the future. When those negative thoughts come in, give them to God and start focusing on these good thoughts!
- Another great tip I heard from a friend is to not allow yourself to think about a bad thought for more than 30 seconds. Train yourself to transfer those thoughts to something good instead.
- Memorize several Bible verses about God’s goodness, and meditate on these when bad thoughts threaten.
- Keep a “thanksgiving list” where you write down all your blessings. Try to add things to the list every day.
A word of caution: While it’s super important to take responsibility for our thought lives and think good thoughts, I’m not telling you to ignore or suppress negative emotions or traumas. We all have issues that need to be dealt with! If you don’t pay attention to these things and squash them down, they will erupt eventually. What I am saying is to give these worries to God. He is the only one who can grant true healing. It’s also a good idea to talk to a trusted friend, counselor or therapist – just remember that God’s word is the ultimate authority. If you are ever given advice that doesn’t jive with God’s advice, toss it.
Also, remember that it takes time to form new habits of healthy thinking and meditating on God’s word. So if you struggle with this, don’t beat yourself up. Just keep trying, keep praying, and keep giving those worries to God. Then do your part and do your best to stay focused on good things. In time, you will win if you don’t give up!
Isn’t it exciting and refreshing to know that we have God’s Word to hide in our heart? Our thought life influences our health in a positive way! Positive thinking enhances the efforts you are making in your healthy eating and lifestyle habits.
Knowledge is power. It is important to realize that no matter what physical challenges we face, our soul and mind can help us, or hinder us, in the healing process. We can choose to renew our minds!
Listen to God’s words in Proverbs 4:20-23:
My son, pay attention to what I say;
turn your ear to my words.
Do not let them out of your sight,
keep them within your heart;
for they are life to those who find them
and health to one’s whole body.
Above all else, guard your heart,
for everything you do flows from it.
Keeping God’s words in our heart is healing to our entire body! I pray you will let this truth permeate your being and strengthen your heart today. God has the best answers on how to reduce stress!
If you found this message helpful, please share it with someone who would benefit! How do you keep your thought life healthy?