Nicole Cournoyer of Anytime Fitness. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Positive thoughts combat the effects of stress

Some tips for a daily routine to alter our lives

Positive mind, positive vibes, that goes without saying, right? One would hope so.

The truth is too often we get caught up with the ‘grind’ of our daily lives, so to speak, that we often do not take the time needed to reflect on all that we are thankful for and all we are blessed with. It is easy to forget what truly matters sometimes as we get bogged down by the drudgery of life.

As a personal trainer, I spend a lot of time talking with people. I hear their stories and I get to know them on a personal level. It is one of the things I treasure most about my work. It can also be one of the things that I find the most challenging. I often hear people’s self talk, the stories they tell themselves and the thoughts they think about themselves.

These thoughts and stories are not always positive ones and this kind of self talk takes a heavy toll. When we start to view ourselves in this negative way it can be debilitating to say the least. It is human to be our own worst critic but when it gets out of control to the point that your mental chatter is more negative than positive it can have terrible consequences on your health in the long run. Negative thoughts cause stress. Stress is one of the leading causes of illness.

I am a mother of two and I have my good days and my not-so-good ones just like everyone else. I, too, have found I tell myself stories, ones I would never tell my children. It is from this motherly perspective I find it the most challenging when I hear people talk poorly about themselves and catch myself doing it also.

We would never tell our children the things we sometimes tell ourselves. This past year I have been undertaking my 200-hour yoga teacher training at Red Door Yoga under the tutelage of Kavita Maharaj. I graduate this month. I mention this because it is through this training I have come to understand, on a far deeper level, the importance of positive thinking and what negative self talk does right down to a molecular level within our bodies. It can hinder so much of our ability to heal and think clearly.

The good news? With simple, daily practices we can alter our lives, mind and body, in a positive way that will set us up for years of good health and happiness.

1) Get a journal and write in it daily the things you are blessed with and thankful for.

2) Spend time thinking about who it is you want to be (not who you don’t).

3) Breathe. Our breathing patterns affect the amount of oxygen we take into our bodies and the state of stress it signals to our brain. Paying attention to how you are breathing is extremely important. Shallow, chest breaths do not allow our diaphragm to fully expand and therefore signals to our brain that we are in a state of stress. By being mindful of taking in deeper breaths and fully expanding our diaphragm we allow our bodies to stay in a state of relaxation rather than stress.

4) Meditate. A meditation practice does not need to be a lengthy one, but it does need to be consistent. Start with allowing yourself one minute a day where you try and turn off your brain. Allow yourself to just sit in peace. Sounds nice, doesn’t it? Slowly over time your practice will build, don’t force it, allow it to lengthen naturally.

The benefits of putting these simple, daily practices to use are far worth the effort.

So, the next thought you have, make it a positive one. You are what you think you are therefore think you are great.

(Nicole Cournoyer is the general manager of Anytime Fitness in Chemainus).

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