Restore Your Health: Love Thy Self
By Cate Reade, MS, RD, SFS ~
The most powerful step to living healthier and happier begins with loving yourself completely. Thoughts and emotions affect gene expression for better or for worse. The mind and body act together as one every moment of every day to sense the environment and respond for survival. Positive, loving thoughts release healing chemicals. Negative, fearful thoughts generate toxic chemicals that raise the risk of disability and disease.
Epigenetics is the study of biological mechanisms that turn genes on or off. The mechanisms include lifestyle, environmental exposure and psychological experiences. “Epi” means above with epigenetics meaning “above the genes.” Research shows beyond a shadow of a doubt that epigenetics is more powerful to health than the genes you were born with.
In Dr. Bruce Lipton’s book, the Biology of Belief, he explains that our genetic material, DNA, lies within cell membranes. These membranes sense external signals and the genes adapt or maladapt based on the messages received. We have trillions of cells that hear signals generated from what we eat and drink, how we move, the air we breathe, and what we think and feel. These signals control gene expression and determine physical and mental health outcomes.
A recent study led by Jennifer Graham-Engeland of Pennsylvania State University published in the journal Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, found a direct correlation between negative emotions and increased inflammation in the body.
Over time, negative emotions raise cortisol levels, disrupts our immune system and chronic inflammation fans the fire of disease. This is associated with a higher risk of health conditions like arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, dementia, depression, anxiety and so much more.
Every day we choose what thoughts we think and whether or not to hold onto toxic emotions and beliefs. If we don’t love ourselves completely, we are listening to a negative soundtrack playing over and over like a broken record, potentially harming health more than any other lifestyle choice.
Are you your own worst critic? Do you beat yourself up with negative self-talk saying things like, “I can’t do it”; “There’s no use”; “I’ll never be good enough.” You can rewire your brain by consciously replacing automatic negative thoughts (ANTs) with positive and empowering thoughts (PETs).
Rewiring your brain is possible because of neuroplasticity. The brain is “plastic” and has the ability to adapt and change with every experience and thought we have. New neural pathways can be created and old ones that don’t serve us can be destroyed. We can wire out worry, comparison, criticism, scarcity, and fear by wiring in presence, mindfulness, gratitude, optimism, patience and love.
When I became aware of my negative soundtrack, I realized that I didn’t love myself completely. I would never speak to a friend as harshly as I spoke to myself. I discovered that the root cause of my selfloathing was an unresolved emotional trauma experienced as a child. My negative thoughts and beliefs were preventing my full recovery from Chronic Lyme disease. Of all the lifestyle changes I made, exploring the emotional side of health was the most painful and the biggest needle mover on my health and happiness meter. And you can do it too.
The first step is to be mindful and aware of the negative patterns of thinking that show up. Dr. Daniel Amen, a psychiatrist, author and brain expert, suggests writing down thoughts that make you sad, mad, nervous or out of control. This way you can identify the distortion and talk back to it. He says, “Don’t believe every stupid thought that you have is true!” Simply identify the thought as just a thought.
Question and begin replacing them with the truth and mindset you desire.
Being present and practicing gratitude is an incredibly powerful way to rewire your brain. First thing in the morning and before bed, think or write down three things you are grateful for. Practice deep breathing and meditate a few minutes each day. Keep a journal about what you are feeling and noticing as your mindset begins to shift.
A simple step I took and still practice today is repeating an affirmation I heard from Dr. Christine Northrup, “I love myself wholly and unconditionally right now.” Look into the mirror and say this or another affirmation out loud before brushing your teeth every morning and evening. Do this every day for 30 days and see what happens. Post a note on your mirror as an easy way to get started.
Loving yourself is the most powerful step you can take to living a happier, healthier and more fulfilling life. It takes time and effort, but you are worth it.
Cheers to your good health!
Cate Reade, MS, RD, SFS, is a Senior Health Specialist who will listen to you. She is
passionate about guiding seniors to restoring their health with the power of lifestyle
medicine. She has the expertise, compassion and first-hand experience after regaining
her health from the ravages of chronic Lyme disease. If you are hungry to live your
best years with greater energy, balance and mobility, 1-on-1 coaching, MoveMor™
exercise instruction and community programming are available. Contact Cate with questions,comments or to schedule a free 15-minute consultation at firstname.lastname@example.org.