If there is just one concept I’d like for you to take from this blog, it is that MINDSET is the primary determinant of your health.
Let’s analyze this in terms of something we are all familiar with — computers. People are essentially biological computers, with the brain as the processor and mindset as the operating software. Whenever there is a bug in computer operating software the computer malfunctions and the “blue screen of death” awaits. It can also cause slower speeds, crashes, flickering screens and other problems; analogous to to how a “bug” in your mindset (thoughts that drive unhealthy behavior) eventually lead to body dysfunction such as fatigue, pain, and heart attacks.
Mindset drives behaviors that have a direct impact on your health. And not just in food selection. Negative thoughts can lead one to neglect his health as they consume his attention and envelop him in a self-imposed bubble that prevents change from occurring.
If you are overweight and/or sick, tune in to your mindset. The good news is that, as hard as it may seem, it is possible to transform one’s mindset and have a change of attitude. That is the first step towards eliminating a diseased state and achieving optimal health.
But What About Brain Health?
The brain is an organ, just like your liver and kidneys are, and can therefore also become “sick.” If you have bad habits, can it be blamed on brain dysfunction?
Using brain scan technology, we have a good idea of which parts of the brain control various functions such as reward, pleasure, and other emotions. We know how neurotransmitters work—the molecules that enable communication between nerve cells. And, scientists are learning more about the “wiring” of the brain and therefore how learning and dementia develop (TIP: “use it or lose it” is the over-arching rule of brain function). But how does all this information help with mindset?
While brain health is important, mindset is something that most people can influence on their own and is typically independent of physiological brain function. For example, a person with brain cancer can have a more positive mindset than a person who has a healthy brain but one that contains psychologically harmful thoughts.
If you are struggling with mindset issues that are impacting your health, for example, sugar bingeing, overeating or smoking then realize that there IS a path out of it; one that doesn’t require surgery, drugs or any other medical procedure. Yes, it sounds harsh, yes the thought is averse to you since those activities likely give you some sort of psychological reassurance or gratification. But this is a fact– you can change if you desire it enough, have a plan and execute it.
When you attempt to put an end to your vices there may be withdrawal but withdrawal symptoms, while unpleasant, do not kill you. You just need to realize that it is your unhealthy habits that are killing you, and stop fearing the consequences of stopping.
We All Have Internal Struggles
Human behavior is a complex, fascinating subject. EVERYONE has behavioral issues or challenges that they struggle with; it is human nature and is nothing to be ashamed of. Every person you pass on the street, every person you meet during your day is experiencing some kind of internal struggle, whether they are rich or poor; healthy or sick; young or old. That is why we have clergy, motivational speakers, counselors, gurus and others. The business of self-improvement will thrive as long as humanity exists!
The point I want to leave you with is that, if you are struggling with bad habits that you KNOW are taking a toll on your health, there is a way out. Understand that there is no physical barrier in the brain that prevents you from doing so. The reason why changing your behavior may seem insurmountable is that people naturally cling to what they know, what they are used to, and avoid the unfamiliar. It can be a good instinct, but it can also be bad. In regards to bad habits, some event or occurrence from your past set you on this path, and with each repetition of the behavior, your brain–you–got accustomed to it and now cling to it.
New Paths Can Be Created
A good analogy to describe my point is the formation of a footpath in the woods. As people walk through thick brush in the woods, pushing away the thicket as they move forward, a path gradually forms. The more people walk through it, the clearer and wider it gets. So, when someone reaches that part of the woods (analogous to an instance where you face the choice of engaging in the bad habit or not), the natural inclination is to take the path that is there (the bad behavior), which happens to lead to a patch of poison ivy.
However, just a hundred yards to the right of the path, obscured by the thick brush is the world’s most beautiful waterfall surrounded by berry bushes (analogous to health). It is being missed because of the natural tendency to take the beaten path. But just as the path to the poison ivy was formed, a new path to the beautiful waterfall can be formed in a similar way. You may get cuts and scrapes (withdrawals, willpower struggles) as you beat a new path to the waterfall, but once you’re there and repetitively walk on that path (engage in healthy activities), it will soon be effortless (no willpower needed; no sense of feeling deprived).
Choose the unbeaten path. Get out of your comfort zone; make a change. Do the opposite of what you’re used to doing; mix things up a bit in your routine and don’t be afraid. Use the nervous energy to drive you, not stop you. Seek out that unknown, and go for it. Learn how to thrive in uncertainty. This is how people successfully overcome their fears and limitations. It is a way to catalyze a change in mindset and transform health.