InsideOut Empowerment Principle #6: Much of our health, both physical and emotional, is strongly affected by our actions and our thoughts, both of which we have the power to change. If you don’t like the emotions you are experiencing or your current state of health, you can indirectly affect change by changing your actions and/or your thinking.

I am not a physician or a psychiatrist. My degree is in counseling. But it doesn’t take a doctor to study the research and know a person’s habits—both behavioral and cognitive—have much to do with influencing the state of their physical and mental health. There are many accounts of people being able to cure “terminal” cancer by changing their thinking or sometimes their diets. Doctors will tell you that stress is a contributing factor to many illnesses, such as headaches, including migraines; pain without a medical cause; heart disease; cancer; insomnia; ulcers; digestive problems; asthma; autoimmune disorders; obesity; and some skin conditions, such as eczema (see http://www.helpguide.org/mental/stress_signs.htm).

When you begin to see stress as a chosen behavior rather than something that just “happens” to people, then it becomes clearer what to do to reduce it. Most stress comes from our behavioral choices e.g. overcommitting, perfectionism, poor time management skill, etc. and our cognitive processes e.g. negative self-talk, pessimism, unrealistic expectations, etc. all of which are within one’s power to control.

Have you attempted to change your habits and found it difficult? For those new to these concepts, it usually is. It sounds like something that will take years to perfect. I’m here to tell you, this isn’t rocket science. What it takes is a sincere commitment to living your life differently, being willing to examine your current thinking—strengthening what works and eliminating those thoughts that don’t serve you, opening your heart from a position of strength rather than vulnerability, staying vigilant during the process, and making corrective actions as you go.

Does this sound hard to you? It does require effort, especially in the beginning. You need to be committed to your path even when your self-sabotage tries to pull you from it. You must continue to practice your newly acquired skills and give yourself permission to not be perfect at it but to be persistent. It can be helpful to have a guide/mentor/coach to show you the way. But, despite the challenge, it’s much more effective than the alternative of seeking the “quick fix.”

What’s the “quick fix”? Usually, it involves medication of some sort—the shortcut to health and happiness. The only problem with this approach is that it rarely gets at the underlying causes for your symptomatology—it only treats the symptoms on the surface. That is similar to attempting to treat a tree by removing the spoiled fruit instead of treating the roots or going to the dentist with tooth decay and being treated with Novocain.  Both solutions solve an immediate problem—you get rid of the spoiled fruit and you no longer have pain, but the underlying causes still exist and the problem will likely recur or get worse.

I would never advise a person not to take medical advice. However, I do encourage patients to be fully informed. Check out the side effects of any medication you are prescribed. Remember these are not just “side” effects . . .  they are effects of the drug you are ingesting. If you choose to go the medical route for immediate relief, then don’t stop there. Continue to heal yourself by getting to the core of the problem. Locate the cause and work to eradicate it by changing your habits, both physical and mental. Is there something in your life preventing you from enjoying the physical and emotional health you would like? What are you willing to change to move in the direction of better health?

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