Our thoughts can be healing or toxic to our bodies. Persistent negative thoughts can contribute to toxicity at the cellular level. When we usually hear about detoxification, we usually think of physical toxins. However, various research studies have demonstrated that repetitive negative thought patterns and emotions can contribute to toxicity in the body.
Negative thinking can create neural pathways in the brain that can cause us to automatically experience those thoughts over and over again. Repetitive negative thoughts can impair your cognitive processes involved in proper planning and focus and even contribute to Alzheimer’s disease. They can contribute to mood imbalances such as anxiety and depression. They can even affect your DNA by damaging your telomeres, the end points of your chromosomes, causing you to age faster.
When it comes to our immune system response, negative through patterns can reduce natural kill cells and lymphocytes, which are two types of immune cells that the body uses to defend against viruses and bacteria. The communication between immune cells can become disrupted when we are constantly in a mental rut and this impairs an effective immune response. Certain hormones that play a role in our immune response are also affected, as their release is impacted by the stress response. Cortisol, our stress hormone, can become elevated with negative thinking patterns, and elevated levels over time can impair the body’s ability to control inflammation in the body.
What can you do about breaking the cycle of negative thinking?
- Observe and challenge your thoughts
- How many times have you thought the worst-case scenario about a situation and it rarely happened? Did you think someone was upset at you or you perceived yourself to perform poorly, but you found out neither of those thoughts were true? Log a week’s worth of your worst-case scenario thoughts and the outcome of each. Observe how many times your thoughts were not truthful and something even better occurred. The next time you find yourself ruminating on a specific thought or situation, remind yourself of all past experiences where things ended up working themselves out and/or weren’t as bad as you thought.
- Use positive affirmations
- Building and integrating a new neural pathway can take up to 63 days. Begin the process of replacing one of your negative thought patterns with a positive and affirming statement. Practice this new thought several times per day until its power is released and you find yourself free from the offensive thoughts. If it rears its head every once in awhile, gently acknowledge it and repeat the affirming statement.
- Practice gratitude
- There is a vast amount of research demonstrating how gratitude has positive effects in your mood and in your cognitive functioning. Over a period of time, practicing gratitude can shift your thought patterns to positive thoughts. Start your morning with at least 1 thing you are grateful for in your life each day and log it in a journal. Review this log every time you find yourself in a negative head space.