Friday, March 14, 2014

Is it possible to think your way to better health?

It's no secret that eating organic fruits and vegetables, and making other healthy food choices, is good for your body. Exercise certainly helps too. But add to that the power of positive thinking, and you just may be on the fast track to staying even healthier.

According to a Psychology Today article, " . . . research has revealed that mental practices are almost effective as true physical practice, and that doing both is more effective than either alone."

In fact, a study conducted by a Cleveland Clinic Foundation exercise psychologist in Ohio compared individuals who worked out at a gym against those who only visualized doing so. The surprising result? Understandably, the gym-goers experienced a 30 percent increase in muscle. The ones who thought about free weights and elliptical machines? That group actually experienced an increase in muscle strength that was almost half that of the other group (13.5%).

This isn't to say we should all forego our gym memberships and yoga pants. However, it does illustrate the power our thoughts have when it comes to our health.

The power behind positive, concentrated thinking

Consider another study in which a group of Tibetan nuns were able to raise their core body temperature (to the point of being able to dry the wet sheets that were wrapped around their bodies) in -25 Celsius weather. Amazing! The study was published in PLOS ONE in 2013 and detailed how the nuns used a meditation technique called "g-tummo" that focuses on breathing techniques and "concentrative visualization."

Jeffrey Rossman, PhD, who is the director of life management at Canyon Ranch in Lenox, MA says, "Vividly imagining your body healing itself while in a relaxed, altered state of consciousness causes changes in blood flow, hormone production, and the release of neurotransmitters. Practicing this technique consistently can produce remarkable results." In fact, he explains that many hospitals and even insurance companies are giving patients healing visualization CDs.

Visualize your way to better health in ways that are best for you 

Developing and concentrating on positive thoughts is a very personal experience that everyone engages in differently. For some who need to heal after surgery, they may choose to visualize their body's tissues being knit together perfectly in orderly, healing patterns. Others may visualize a favorite vacation destination, imagining their particular health issue being nurtured back to normal again as it gently sways back and forth in a hammock.

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