How Your Mindset Affects Your Health

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Are you a complainer? Do you frequently have a negative mindset? Here’s how you may be harming your health – and what to do about it…

In the West, we tend to think of our physical health as separate from our mental health and wellbeing. However, Eastern philosophies and mystics have recognized for centuries how closely these two aspects of our health are connected. In fact, the health of one can definitely impact the health of the other.

For example, research has shown that your mindset – the way you think – affects the way you feel – not just mentally, but on a physical level.

You have probably experienced this many times. You’re feeling stressed about a big presentation, and you find yourself popping antacids to cure your raging case of heartburn. Or you’re worried about your teenager, and you feel a tightness in your chest or stomach.

It’s common knowledge now that mental stress manifests in tangible physical health problems such as high blood pressure.

Believe it or not, even simple complaining can harm your health! (You may not think you complain a lot, but you would probably be surprised to learn how many negative thoughts truly go through your head every day.) Luckily, as with many aspects of your health, complaining is a habit you can change.

This interesting article by Travis Bradbury, author of Emotional Intelligence 2.0, explains why complaining is so harmful for your health – and what you can do about it:

Research shows that most people complain once a minute during a typical conversation. Complaining is tempting because it feels good, but like many other things that are enjoyable—such as smoking or eating a pound of bacon for breakfast—complaining isn’t good for you.

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Repeated complaining rewires your brain to make future complaining more likely. Over time, you find it’s easier to be negative than to be positive, regardless of what’s happening around you. Complaining becomes your default behavior, which changes how people perceive you.

And here’s the kicker: complaining damages other areas of your brain as well. Research from Stanford University has shown that complaining shrinks the hippocampus—an area of the brain that’s critical to problem solving and intelligent thought. Damage to the hippocampus is scary, especially when you consider that it’s one of the primary brain areas destroyed by Alzheimer’s!

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While it’s not an exaggeration to say that complaining leads to brain damage, it doesn’t stop there. When you complain, your body releases the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol shifts you into fight-or-flight mode, directing oxygen, blood, and energy away from everything but the systems that are essential to immediate survival. One effect of cortisol, for example, is to raise your blood pressure and blood sugar so that you’ll be prepared to either escape or defend yourself.

All the extra cortisol released by frequent complaining impairs your immune system and makes you more susceptible to high cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. It even makes the brain more vulnerable to strokes.

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The Solution to Complaining

There are two things you can do when you feel the need to complain. One is to cultivate an attitude of gratitude. That is, when you feel like complaining, shift your attention to something that you’re grateful for. Taking time to contemplate what you’re grateful for isn’t merely the right thing to do; it reduces the stress hormone cortisol by 23%. Research conducted at the University of California, Davis, found that people who worked daily to cultivate an attitude of gratitude experienced improved mood and energy and substantially less anxiety due to lower cortisol levels. Any time you experience negative or pessimistic thoughts, use this as a cue to shift gears and to think about something positive. In time, a positive attitude will become a way of life.

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Just like smoking, drinking too much, and lying on the couch watching TV all day, complaining is bad for you. Put my advice to use, and you’ll reap the physical, mental, and performance benefits that come with a positive frame of mind.

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Check out the full article on LinkedIn.com

 

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