The following is adapted from my book, Healing Hacks.
We’ve all heard about six-pack abs, but what about a six-pack heart?
Many people are willing to work out to improve their bodies, but they’re much less active when it comes to their mental and emotional health. Here’s the thing: they have far more to do with each other than most people acknowledge.
Take, for example, the way that emotions directly affect the heart. Sandeep Jauhar, the director of the heart failure program at Long Island Jewish Medical Center, has described their interconnection this way: “Fear and grief can cause profound cardiac injury….Blood vessels constrict, causing the heart to gallop and blood pressure to rise. In other words, it is clear that our hearts are extraordinarily sensitive to our emotions.”
Once you accept that your thoughts and physical health are deeply interconnected, you have a profound opportunity. You can actively use your thoughts to improve your health.
Below, I reveal several important ways you can change your attitude, and in doing so, make a positive, lasting impact on your body.
Find Your Frequency
Every emotion you feel creates a cascade of physical effects in your body. Some emotions, like fear or love, make your heart beat faster. Others, like anger or stress, can raise your cortisol levels. Your pulse and blood pressure are literal energy waves, and your brain has measurable electrical surges. Your emotions don’t just affect major organs like the heart; they also create ripple effects that resonate down to the level of your mitochondrial DNA and chromosomes.
Put simply, your thoughts have a very tangible frequency. They send signals to every part of your body, telling them how to respond. They also send signals to the outside world. All those bodily changes have outward manifestations. Smiles, knit brows, hunched posture—your body sends its energy out into the world like a radio signal.
One of the best ways to change your thoughts (and your body) is to figure out which frequency you’re on. Pay attention to your energy, thoughts, and feelings throughout the day. Take an inventory of the different emotions you experience and the energy that comes with them. When do you feel heavy, frustrated, or angry? When do you feel peace, love, and lightness?
Sometimes you’ll be able to identify your frequency because you’ll feel the emotion, but sometimes your body will tell you. In your baseline state at work, do you have shallow breathing? If so, your body may be signaling stress.
The more “tuned in” you are to your frequency, the easier it will become to change it. If you notice that you tend to experience negative emotions when you first wake up, try to tune in to a different frequency. Think positive thoughts about a person you love, or even use your body to change the emotion. Breathe deeply, smile, or envision a golden light spreading itself through your body.
By observing the frequencies you’re picking up on, you can tune into the broadcast you want.
Change Your Thoughts with Gratitude
From approximately ages 15 to 22, I was at a point in my life where I felt spiritually and mentally bankrupt, and I was searching for something to make me feel whole again. I had a tendency to internalize negative feelings. I used alcohol to numb myself from feeling these negative emotions, and the alcohol acted as a depressant as well.
I got myself out of depression by finding what foods cause inflammation and bringing my negative emotions to the surface. When I stopped drinking, I had no choice but to be confronted with negative feelings and deal with them.
One of the ways I changed my life was through a gratitude practice. Every day, I would start with a “daily dozen.” I’d write down a list of twelve things I was grateful for at that moment. Gratitude has the power to transform our mood and outlook because it fires up different parts of the brain than where negative thoughts of guilt, shame, and anger originate.
Each day after writing my list, I noticed a shift in my energy, and even in my perception of my environment and my day. Over time, I consciously began to shift my thoughts and feelings.
I rewired my brain and body to have a different experience when I get in the shower. It was a skill that took conscious attention. Now, I get into the shower and think, “Thank you, God, that I am lucky enough to live in a place where we have hot running water.”
Complaining is easy; finding the silver lining takes character. If we let our environments dictate our emotions, we become victims of our circumstances, but if we rise up and let our emotions and feelings dictate our environment, we have now made a conscious choice to take control of our environment, life, and health.
Choose Your Reality
A friend of mine, Frank, tells a powerful story about gratitude and perspective. At one time in his life, Frank had a problem with alcohol, and he was frequently on and off the wagon. One day, he was at a support group, and he started giving excuses for why he’d begun to drink again: he had too many chores; work was demanding; his car broke down and he had to walk to work; he had problems with the wife…the list went on and on.
The next day, an old-timer in the group handed Frank a list that said, “Home. Wife. Job. Car. Health. You can walk. You can talk. You can dream. You can believe.” The old man told Frank, “All those things you complained about? That’s your gratitude list. Your glasses are on backwards.”
The world can only be a reflection of the feelings we hold in our bodies. We are choosing our reality by the attitude that we carry around with us day by day. Positive emotions fire up different parts of our brains and change the way we carry ourselves.
To change your perspective is to change your reality. By learning to improve your thoughts, you can—and will—improve your health.
For more advice on changing your thoughts, you can find Healing Hacks on Amazon.
Ian Hart is a fitness expert who has dedicated his life and his career to helping others heal naturally. He’s the owner of Back Pain Relief4Life—the simplest and most effective way to eliminate back pain naturally and fast—and the co-founder of My Back Pain Coach. He also owns and operates EarthFIT, a top-rated group training facility with three locations. Ian’s work has been featured in Men’s Health Magazine and he’s appeared as a health expert on New York 1 News. In addition to his work, Ian also hosts regular wellness retreats at his treehouse in the Costa Rican rainforest.