This week, psychotherapist Jane Faulkner joins us once again with another valuable post. Seeing as winter is ahead of us here in Australia, I thought I’d start sharing some practical tips and strategies to stay well and support your immune system to over the coming months.
The media is once again bombarding us with news of a new ‘super flu’ threatening this winter. I believe there is no single herb, vitamin, pill or potion to reduce your susceptibility to infection – rather many complex factors impact the immune system’s vitality. Your bodies immune army needs to be nurtured and strong, period!
Many lifestyle factors impact the immune systems vitality (I’ve written about some of these in detail here). As a general rule four key factors which help to keep yourself and your family well include:
- good hygiene,
- eating a variety of whole foods (to ensure your macro and micronutrient needs are met)
- heading outside and moving your body regularly (gentle, regular movement and sunlight)
- and finally managing your stress levels, which is what Jane is here to discuss today…
Words by Jane Faulkner
Thought body connection
I am always amazed at the human body and how interconnected every part of us is. We can think a thought and this is enough to send chemical reactions throughout the body to help us to react, respond or relax. Unfortunately, so many of us don’t realise the powerful impact that our thoughts have upon our body and our entire sense of well-being. Our thoughts and where we choose to place our attention has a huge impact upon our health.
You see, even though our world has changed dramatically, evolutionally, our brain is very old and parts of our brain are still operating as if we are cave men and women. These parts of the brain are trying to keep us alive which means that they are keeping an eye out for life threatening events, they are pattern matching and they are often looking for the negative in everything.
Now back in cave man time this was fine, we had to survive lions and bears, the stress was sudden and intense and then we could move on. Nowadays, the stressors are different, instead of worrying about a lion jumping out from behind a bush we have constant concerns about money, job security, raising children, relationships and keeping up with the Jones’s. Our body doesn’t get a break from the constant barrage of stress hormones and from our ongoing worries and thoughts. This negatively impacts our health, especially our immune system and our hormonal balance.
Try something right now…think about the most recent negative experience that you have had and notice how your body starts to feel. Do you get tense, sweaty, agitated, sad? Now, think about a recent positive event and again watch how your body responds, do you start to feel lighter, less tense and more open? My point is that our ability to decide where we focus our attention has a direct impact upon our physical health. You decide your thoughts and energy flows where attention goes. Sounds woo, woo I know, however, it is life changing.
You decide your thoughts… energy flows where attention goes.
Supporting your health via your thinking
Science is now proving that our state of mind impacts our state of health and vice versa. So if we feel good about ourselves, generally we make healthier choices. The use of mindfulness as a practice has exploded due to the link between being mindful and aware of the present moment and increased health. When we are present, we are less likely to be dwelling on the past, panicking about the future or stuck in old negative, self-destructive ways of thinking. We are actually rewiring our brain and shifting out of the oldest part of our brain, the part that does fight , flight, freeze really well, to the newest part of our brain that is able to see the bigger picture, solve problems and find solutions.
My top 5 helpful tips to support your health through your thinking:
- Train yourself to keep coming back to the present moment, notice the simple things that are surrounding you.
- Tune into your senses, be aware of what you are smelling, touching, tasting, seeing, hearing in each moment
- Keep it simple. If your mind is going nuts with loads of thoughts; practice taking a big breath out- like a sigh. It’s amazing how much tension a good sigh can release.
- Learn to get in touch with your feelings and express how you feel. This is so liberating and it’s a very grown-up practice. When you express how you feel and own your feelings, everyone knows where they stand with you. No more guess work for friends and family and you get the chance to get your needs met- double bonus!!
- Talk your problems through with a trusted friend or mental health professional. Talking through your problems often helps you to come up with solutions. Seek out counselling or professional support if you have a habit of always seeing the negative in everything.
YOU have the power to choose your thoughts and to impact your health and well-being every moment, of every day! I hope this post helps you.
Jane Faulkner is a psychotherapist, registered nurse, yoga teacher and the founder of Equine Assisted Therapy Australia, an organisation that provides training, retreats, programs and individual sessions that aim to provide individuals with new and authentic ways to grow and learn more about themselves. Connect with Jane HERE.