Food & Health

The Key to Good Health: Change Your Mind

Posted in - Food & Health on January 28th 2011 0 Comments Encouraging Positive Thoughts

What does it take to maintain good health? Eating right? Exercise? Supplements? Stress management? The answer to all of these is yes, but where does the change between healthy and unhealthy practices begin?

Many people find it increasingly difficult to maintain good health habits. Constant bombardment from media and advertising combined with poor habits passed down from our families has trained many of us to live a lifestyle that is self-detrimental.

The Foundation for Success: Change Your Mind

Though all of the practices needed to achieve good health are important, most of these habits and practices cannot be achieved without a fundamental change of attitude. There is a growing wealth of research that proves a positive mental attitude in your habitual thoughts and feelings can not only determine your state of health, but the quality of your life as a whole.

Unfortunately, changing your mind can be just as (if not more) challenging than changing your actions.

Who You Are & What You Do

It’s important to understand that who you are and what you do are not necessarily one and the same. You might say, “I’m a marketing director, father and republican.” or “I’m an alcoholic smoker.” These are very literal perceptions of WHAT you are, and in some instances, can be in complete conflict with WHO you are.

If you understand the differences between what you do and who you are, you have the power to succeed at the goals you set out to achieve. These goals could be a change in health habits, lifestyle changes, attitude changes or even a career change.

Maybe you drink too much, or you work a job you don’t like, or you have poor health habits, but these are things that you do, and these actions do not define who you are or how you should perceive yourself. Being introspective and having a sense of self-actualization is fundamental to changing the way you think. Changing the way you think is fundamental to changing what you do.

Maslow’s Theories of Self-Actualization

Psychologist Abraham Maslow believed that studying people who are healthy would provide a firm foundation for understanding what it takes to be healthy. In his research (of over thirty years) Maslow discovered that people who were the healthiest also had an ongoing drive for self-actualization. Meaning they were constantly practicing their talents, considering new potentials or capabilities and setting goals. Basically, healthy people are driven to be all they can be.

Maslow defined how to achieve self-actualization based on human needs. He believed that an individual has 5 steps to achieve self-actualization, starting with having one’s basic physical needs met (food, water, shelter, etc.), then one’s needs for safety, love, self esteem, and finally the 5th step of self-actualization.

Here are some of the characteristics found in people defined as self-actualized:

  1. They perceive reality more effectively, they can easily detect dishonesty in other people and situations, and they are able to be objective about their own strengths and weaknesses (making it possible to clearly define their own goals, desires and feelings).
  2. They are very accepting of themselves and other people (even with an awareness of their own and others shortcomings). They don’t lack guilt, shame or anxiety, but they do not feel these emotions in unnecessary situations or to unnecessary degree.
  3. They are often spontaneous in life and their thoughts. They are not nonconformists, but they will not let convention keep them from doing what they consider important.
  4. They solve problems based on life and not on themselves. They usually have a mission or some problem outside of themselves that they focus their energy on. Usually this mission is based on philosophical and ethical reasoning.
  5. They often see quality in detachment and have a need for privacy (which makes it possible for them to remain undisturbed by that which upsets others). They find meaning in self discipline, rather than being a helpless person guided and ruled by others.
  6. They have a capacity to not only appreciate, but fully experience awe at the simple things in life such as nature, children, music and sex.
  7. They often have intense emotions of limitlessness while simultaneously feeling powerless. These feelings usually end with a conviction that something powerful has happened and that the person has been changed by the experience.
  8. They usually have deep feelings of sympathy and affection for others despite occasional impatience or disgust.
  9. They are usually capable of deeper relationships, with more closeness, love, identification and less ego. They usually have a small, close group of friends who they are very tender with, but are not afraid to speak harshly when they feel it is necessary.
  10. They are very humble and maintain an understanding that they know very little in comparison to what there is to know. A self-actualized person believes they can learn from anyone (meaning they have no prejudice against class, education, religion or race).
  11. They are nearly always deeply moral and ethical, but not necessarily according to convention. For instance, even though slavery was once legal and considered ethical, a self-actualized person would probably still be strongly against it. This is because self-actualized people are moral and ethical based on a self realization and not social convention.
  12. They usually have a very unhostile sense of humor. They are keen, but will not laugh at jokes that could be hurtful to other people.
  13. They are usually very imaginative and creative. This creativity may not be a well-toned one like a professional painter, but is more like the imaginative qualities of a child.

Changing Your Mind: Steps to Positive Thinking

According to Martin Seligman (Ph.D), humans are optimistic by nature. How you judge situations and circumstances is key to changing they way you think and feel about them.

Pessimism Vs. Optimism

I hesitate to even use the phrase optimism because optimism only implies the idea of changing your views. It’s important to realize that being optimistic isn’t just about being positive, it’s about opening the doors to achieving goals that you would not have even tried with a pessimistic view.

Pessimism in itself prevents people from attempting to achieve goals and following through with them. That is why maintaining an optimistic outlook is so important. Not only will you feel better, but you will do the things you always could do, (but never really believed were obtainable).

Pessimists will often respond to bad situations with a sense of permanence. A pessimist might have a bad experience with their boss, and automatically assume that their boss is just a jerk, and that they are permanently stuck in a job that they despise. An optimist might experience the same situation and understand that their boss could just be having a bad day (or might even be having problems in his or her personal life). This understanding promotes positivity and a realization that the negative situation is temporary or can be changed.

Understanding that you have the power to change circumstances is key to maintaining a positive outlook.

Being Aware of Self-Negativity

We all talk to ourselves. We are constantly considering our situations and our own character. What are you telling yourself? How many times have you considered attempting a new goal or change, and convinced yourself you cannot do it? Habits and actions will only change if you decide to change them and realize that they can be changed.

Being aware of your negative self-talk is very important to maintaining a positive attitude. You should be realistic about what you can and cannot do, and who you are as a person. If your self-introspective thoughts are negative, your attitude will be negative, and if your attitude is negative, you will most likely struggle to achieve any of your goals.

When presented with a situation, pessimistic people may be quick to think, “Why always me?” or “Why am I so stupid?” It is important to ask realistic questions to yourself about what can be done to change or improve the situation you are in. Try asking yourself, “What can I learn from this situation?” “What can I do to change or improve this situation?” “How can I prevent this from happening again?”

Don’t be afraid to affirm yourself either. If you have achieved something, or you are happy about something, accept and affirm those positive feelings. There’s nothing wrong with being excited, or having a sense of joy about experiences and successes (even if those experiences are temporary). Don’t be afraid to laugh, chill-out and have a good time. Life is short!

Setting Attainable Goals

One of the easiest ways to lose site of your goals, is by setting goals that are lofty or unattainable. It’s important to understand your own limitations and set goals accordingly. If you’ve lived most of your life eating at Mcdonalds and stuffing yourself with Doritos for lunch, it probably isn’t realistic to plan to wake up the next morning and suddenly be a practicing vegan.

Maybe your ultimate goal will be to achieve the Vegan status someday, but you have to start somewhere. Try setting a goal to eliminate soda and sugared drinks. Once this goal is no longer a challenge, you might consider eliminating sugary foods from your diet altogether.

Creating New or Fun Experiences

It’s easy to get wrapped up in the grind of day-to-day life, but it’s important to seek out new experiences and opportunities. Creating new or fun experiences in your life will help prevent you from getting too wrapped up in poor habits and may inspire you to learn and try new things!


Being positive may sound like a cliche’ solution to achieving a healthy lifestyle, but it is only cliche’ because it works and people have known this for centuries. It’s also important to know that even as difficult as it is to change your thoughts, it becomes much easier as you practice it. In fact, research showed that people who are depressed have a tendency to remain so because their brains have become accustomed to firing a certain way. This same researched showed that if a person focused on positive thinking often enough, these tendencies in their brain patterns could be changed.

For example, when you first place a droplet of water on your arm, it will make it’s own path. Once that path is made, the next droplet of water is much more likely to follow the same path. Your brain functions the same way. If you are accustomed to negative thinking, your brain is inclined to promote negative reactions and emotions. However, if you can force the path of those thoughts to change for a long enough period of time, you can eventually encourage your brain to easily follow a positive path on its own.

This is scientific proof that you can change your mind and your habits!

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