Did you know that your thoughts aren’t things that silently and passively happens in your head?
What you think, your mindset, thoughts, and attitudes about things affect your physical health. We’re going to look at the science behind mindset and what you can do to change your thoughts.
As Christians we’ve gotta take this seriously and change the way we think.
You are the temple of God – the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit. You are the person God uses to reflect His love, mercy, and greatness to the world.
That’s a really important and privileged job. To do this well and be the best example possible you and I have to make sure we keep our bodies in the best shape possible. You can read this post here to learn more about this.
Mindset matters because:
“you (your name) are a chosen person, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that (your name) may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light. Once (your name) were not a people, but now (your name) are the people of God; once (your name) had not received mercy, but now (your name) have received mercy.” 1 Peter 2:9-10
Science tells us our thoughts are powerful and affect our physical bodies.
As Christians we’re told to “cast our cares on the Lord”, “be anxious for nothing”, and to “present our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God”.
We’re also told to be good stewards of the things God entrusted us with. Guess what – your body doesn’t belong to you. God entrusted you with it and asks you to steward it well.
“As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace…” 1 Peter 4:10
Ready to dive into the science of Mindset?
We’ve got an exercise at the end so you can start putting your thoughts to good use.
Mindset Matters - the Science
What you think affects your health. Remember that.
Let it sink in deep deep deep and be something that pops into your head anytime a negative thought creeps in.
Because I believe in evidence, we’re going to take a look at what good quality research studies found about thoughts and mindset.
Don’t believe your mindset matters because I told you so. Believe it because God’s Word tells us it matters and science validates it.
Women’s Hormone Health
This study involved a large group of women who had stopped having their period, had extremely high stress hormones (cortisol), and messed up thyroid hormone levels. The ladies were broken into a cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) group or a placebo group.
Leptin is a hormone produced by fat cells. It is known as a “satiety” hormone because when it increases your hunger decreases. Ummm – Anyone want higher leptin levels?
These hormone changes happened because women started thinking differently. These changes also restored the function of their ovaries and menstrual cycle.
The researchers said that “alleviating problematic attitudes not only can restore ovarian activity but also improve neuroendocrine and metabolic function in women”.
Sidenote: CBT has also been shown to reduce stress hormone levels in men.
Truth: Your thoughts matter!
Thoughts and Activity
The above study showed improvements in hormones and metabolism with changed thoughts. This next study takes thoughts to a whole new waist shrinkingly good level.
In this study hotel workers were divided into two groups. One group was told that the work they did was physical activity as defined by our government. The other group was just told to continue doing their jobs.
Here’s the kicker – just knowing their work could be considered physical activity or exercise, the kind that our government says improves health, produced some jaw-dropping results.
After four weeks the employees in this group had:
- decreases in body weight,
- lowered blood pressure,
- decrease in body fat,
- smaller waist-to-hip ratios, and a
- lower body mass index.
All because they thought they were getting more exercise than before. The workers actual activity levels and exercise didn’t change. The only change was in what they thought. Mindset matters.
Truth: Your thoughts have the power to change your physical body.
Your Thoughts About Food
This one is probably my favorite. Why? Because so many people tell me “healthy food doesn’t taste good” or “I don’t like” x,y,z food. But…
What you think about the food you eat affects your body in BIG ways.
People in this study were given two shakes to drink. One shake was labeled as a 620 calorie “indulgent” shake and the other a 140 calorie “sensible” shake.
The people were asked to spend time viewing the label on the shake and then to drink the shake. Researchers were measuring ghrelin during this process. Ghrelin is your “hungry” hormone. It’s supposed to increase when your stomach is empty and decrease as your body gets the nutrients it needs.
That didn’t happen with the shake drinkers…
With the “indulgent” shake the ghrelin levels increased quickly while they looked at the shake and decreased quickly after drinking the shake.
The “sensible” shake didn’t do this. The ghrelin levels remained relatively flat while they looked at and drank the shake. Even worse, when people drank the “sensible” shake their appetite increased and metabolism decreased.
Ikes! This is not what we want to happen.
Here’s the catch (there’s always a catch). These shakes were Identical! They had the same nutrients, calories, flavor, look, taste, everything. Nothing was different except for the label – what people “thought” they were drinking.
The researchers said “Participants’ satiety was consistent with what they believed they were consuming rather than the actual nutritional value of what they consumed”.
This shows people’s perception of the food they’re eating impacts both their satiety (fullness) and their bodies actual hormonal hunger/fullness response.
Truth: Your bodies hunger & fullness hormones change based on what you think about the food you’re eating.
I want to dive into ghrelin just a bit more. This one is big and if you’re struggling with weight, appetite control, never feeling full or satisfied – you might have to change your thinking to change your body’s response to food.
When food intake is low or the stomach is empty, ghrelin moves from the stomach through the bloodstream and into your brain. Once in the brain it makes you think you’re hungry. As you eat food, ghrelin levels are supposed to decrease. This leads to feelings of fullness and a reduced appetite.
In overweight/obese people this process is often absent.
Recent data shows that the obesity rate in America is approaching 40% and over 70% of Americans are overweight. Almost everyone in America may not have properly functioning hunger/fullness hormones.
Gaining weight negatively impacts the hunger-fullness hormone system God created. When ghrelin levels are unnecessarily elevated, this can lead to
- increased body weight, and
- increased fat gain.
All because the ghrelin signal isn’t getting shut off.
Truth: Change what you think about the food you’re eating and you could begin changing your bodies signaling for hunger and fullness.
A Little Extra Food for Thought
There are so many studies on thought I could add but three’s enough for today. I do want to share a few additional study findings for you to think about.
- People eat more or less food depending on how many calories they “think” they’re eating.
- When people think they’ve eaten a high calorie food they report being fuller than when they eat the same food labeled as “low calorie”.
- Yogurt and cheese is enjoyed “less” if they’re labeled as low-fat.
- The pleasure center of the brain changes when wine is labeled as expensive (even when the actual wine was the same as less expensive ones tasted).
- Food companies supplement mandated calorie labeling with health claims that stretch the healthy or hedonic attributes of their product in an effort to increase consumption. These claims are often inaccurate and misleading.
A product might be labeled “low-fat” (because it is lower in fat than a full fat option) but still be a high-fat food.
A food might be a good source of fiber but still have a sugar content that’s monstrously high.
Not only is the product itself unhealthy, but the mindset of “thinking it’s healthy” might result in an “inadequate suppression of ghrelin”, regardless of the foods actual nutrients.
These references are provided so you realize just how important the mind is when it comes to life and health.
What you and I think can have a positive or negative impact on our mental and physical health. If you’re to “declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light” you have to make sure your mind and body are geared up for this and kept in tip-top God glorifying shape. You are the “temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you”.
Ready to put your mind to good work and do something about all you’ve read. I know I am.
Put Your Thoughts to Work
Now that you know how thoughts can affect your health, it’s time to put your thoughts to work for you.
Changing thoughts isn’t easy. This is going to take time and practice but…”practice makes perfect”. Once you determine to change your thoughts and begin putting the next steps to work, you’ll soon find positive thoughts are a way of life.
1.Recognize your negative thoughts.
These thoughts might be about the healthy food you don’t want to eat, the unhealthy food you want to eat, about yourself and how you think you look, things you think you’ll never be able to do, or your life purposes.
Spend 5 or 10 minutes and brain dump them all onto a piece of paper.
2. Replace your negative thoughts.
Consider this a thought game of opposites.
Pretend you’re sitting with a 5 year old and coming up with every positive word that’s opposite of the negative thought words you just wrote. Write those positive words down.
Write as many as you can think of. Write them down even if you don’t believe they’ll ever be true.
3. Put Positive in Action
Pick the area you most want change in. The area that will have the biggest impact on your overall health and life.
You can do this with all the areas you wrote down, I just don’t want you overwhelming yourself. It’s better to start small and see success in small areas than it is to tackle everything, get overwhelmed, and give up.
Print and fill out this card: Positive Action Card with the area you’re going to work on and the positive thought words you wrote down.
Get the idea?
Now the hard part. You’ve gotta put this into practice.
If you’ve got kids, think about the example you’re setting for them. Kids copy-cat their parents and positive thinking is a wonderful thing to have them copy.
Like I said earlier, this won’t be easy. The results won’t be immediate. You won’t think positive today and look in the mirror or jump on the scale and suddenly be a different person.
Stay the course. Change will happen.
It’ll happen inside of you first and then begin showing up on the outside.
Putting positive thoughts into action is connected to living out your purposes. Once you’ve tackled some of the easier things you listed in step one, begin the positive thought process with your purpose(s) in life.
We’d love to know what you decide to work on – drop us a comment below or share it on our Facebook page. We’re always here to help so drop us an email or comment if you have any questions or need some encouragement.
Until next time…