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Mindfulness and the Gut-Brain Connection

December 13, 2018

 

 

Mindfulness and Gut Health

 

I never really understood the importance of mindfulness and the gut-brain connection until I started my own gut-healing journey. I was full of anxiety and suffered from years of depression. Looking back, I can see that my inability to cope with anxiety from my past struggles and current career, let to depression, and eventually autoimmune disorders. What I didn't realize then, is that our mind and ability to manage our stress levels can have a huge impact on our health. I grew up full of anxiety and I know now that much of the anxiety I experienced as a child and held onto as an adult, greatly impacted my health.

 

We live in a stressful world. It seems overrun by chaos, where we have to face personal and social challenges on a daily basis. Nearly everyone is affected by it at some point, and everyone experiences it differently. However, we are all also wired to fight back against these foreboding odds and live up to our full potential with love and healing. But this wiring gets shortened due to physical, emotional, and even social factors. As a result, you might feel overwhelmed and ultimately think that you are not capable of handling all the pressure without breaking down.


It is times like these, when you feel restless and uncertain, that staying focused on your core beliefs is particularly essential. It is important during these circumstances of confusion to learn to fight back with consistent positive thoughts so that you can overcome powerful fears and help clarity prevail. It is also important to keep your nervous system and your inner self aligned so that anger and other negative feelings don’t build up by asking for and practicing forgiveness.

 

Ways to be Mindful in a Busy World 

 

  1. Controlling your Thoughts: You can’t always be in control of what happens to us, but you can be in control of how you react to it. Do you replay bad situations over and over again in your head? Ask yourself questions instead. Instead of reacting be proactive. Ask- is my response helping or hurting the situation or how I view this person. How can I help the situation?

  2. Rise early: Rise early and start your day sooner. It allows you some free time to collect yourself, contemplate, the day ahead, and stay connected to your inner self. You can use this time for prayer, deep breathing, stretching, walking, or any other method you feel calms your soul.

  3. Practice deep breathing: Deep breathing balances your nervous system and is transformative in an amazing way. Inhale slowly, pause, and hold your breath for a beat. Then exhale slowly and controlled, with another pause before your next inhale. This breathing exercise will both energize you and bring you better mental clarity.

  4. Take a shower: Massage your body with almond oil and take a short rest. Then indulge in a hot shower and feel your body relax. You will feel refreshed and your senses revitalized the second you step out of the shower.

  5. Take genuine, mindful breaths: If at any time of the day you feel you are losing control over yourself, take a short break and practice slow, mindful breathing for a few minutes. At least take five authentic breaths to feel revitalized again before returning to your routine.

  6. Be grateful: Focusing on the negative can be draining and can negatively affect your health. Choose to focus on your blessings instead. Name 3 things you are grateful for every morning and think on these things. You will begin to see more things that you are grateful for. We bring about what we think about.

  7. Positive words: What we say has a profound impact on our feelings and the people around us. Affirming and positive words promote good mutual feelings and surround you with the positive energy. “As someone thinks within himself, so is he” -Proverbs 23:7

Incorporating these tips and steps into your life can help you live a happier and more peaceful life in the midst of all the chaos in the world around you.

 

Deep Breathing

 

Deep Breathing can have a very positive effect on our attitude toward life. Take some time to quiet your mind. This helps to soothe your nerves and reduce stress. When you don’t internalize stress, you are more likely to perceive good vibes from others and feel happy about life and your relationships. You can also try stretching, yoga, or walks in nature (my personal favorite). Deep breathing can help support your immune system and fend off diseases. Breathing techniques are used to help you focus. Mindful breathing is used to control wandering thoughts and help you relax and focus. Its benefits include lower blood pressure, improved blood circulation, lower heart rate, less perspiration, slower respiratory rate, less anxiety, and reduced stress. It can also help boost energy levels when practiced as part of a regular routine. Here are a few simple ways to start:

  • Sit or lie as comfortably as possible and close your eyes.

  • Breathe naturally; don’t try to control it.

  • Now breathe by focusing your attention on it. Notice how your body moves with each inhalation and exhalation. Observe how your thorax, chest, and abdomen move during breathing. Just notice the movement without controlling the breathing process. Start doing this for 2 to 3 minutes and then increase the duration.

 

Mind Over Matter: How to Transform your Thinking 

 

Transforming your mind is life-changing. Managing your own thinking can have a profound effect on all areas of your life- your health, your relationships, your work. It is amazing how many areas this affects. In fact, I believe it affects all areas of life. We literally attract more of whatever we are dwelling on, good or bad.

1. Awareness: The first step in transforming your thoughts is being aware of them. Are you talking about how bad you feel, how sick you are, or how broke you are?

2. Mind your Words:  Do you use extreme words like never and always? Ex: “I’ll never be healthy.” or “I am always tired.” Even though it may be true some of the time, using these extreme words means that you are solidifying the belief that they are true. Subconsciously, YOU will be supporting what you don’t want. Be mindful of what comes out of your mouth. Your body hears what your mind and mouth says.

 

3. Exchange positive words: Once you have an awareness of your negative thoughts and words, exchange negative thoughts and words for positive ones. Instead of “I’m so tired. I didn’t sleep at all.” - Say “I am thankful that I have energy to get through the day!” Instead of “I am so stressed by____”, say “I am grateful for_____.” The idea is to increase the positive thoughts and decrease the negative.

 

Simple Techniques to Stress Less

 1. Toxic Thinking: This first exercise can be difficult, but well worth it. A lot of the clients I work with struggle with depression, anxiety, and self image. A helpful exercise to negate the negative self-talk is to set aside some quiet time and right down 5 things that you like about you and your life. Focusing on your positive points will help you stop replaying the broken record of what you don’t like. This exercise can be difficult for some, but I encourage you to do it. At first, it may be small things - I like my nails or I have 2 great kids. Write down your 5 things and put it in a place where you will see it often. (bathroom mirror or cell phone wallpaper)

 

2. Breathing Better: If you are in a stressful mode of life, using a simple breathing technique can greatly reduce anxiety. This is simple to do and can be done anywhere, usually without anyone noticing so it is a great technique if you have anxiety around crowds. Breath in for 5 seconds, hold the breath for 5 seconds, and breath out for 5 seconds. Do this as often as needed. Some clients need to do this every hour of the day to help lower anxiety.

 

 

3. Gratitude: Gratitude is essential in changing our mindset and managing stress. Even in the midst of a tragedy, there is always something to be grateful for. If this is new for you, it can be challenging in the beginning but I want to encourage you to right down what you are grateful for. Ending the day in gratitude is a great way to go to sleep in peace and get better rest. I try and begin my day and end my day in gratitude.

 

4. Journaling: This has been a huge part of my personal transformation. Get yourself a notebook, start small, and early in the morning. Grab your pen and your favorite beverage and start with just a short few sentences. I typically only write a short paragraph each day but I am really thankful I have formed this habit because it is especially helpful for stressful situations. A lot of times I find that by the time I am finished journalling, I have worked out a solution or feel better about whatever situation I am dealing with.


Ways to Relax the Mind 

Here are a few ways to cleanse your mind, and relax so that you can lead a happy, healthy, and more peaceful life. I have also found that the following suggestions also help with detoxification and help improve gut health.

  1. Essential oils: Essential oils are great for relaxation. You can diffuse them, apply them to the specific areas, or apply them to your palms and inhale. Here are some of the best for relaxation:

  • Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)

  • Rose (Rosa damascena)

  • Vetiver (Vetiveria zizanioides)

  • Ylang Ylang (Cananga odorata)

  • Bergamot (Citrus bergamia)

  • Chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile)

  • Frankincense (Boswellia carteri or boswella sacra)

This is a link to the brand that I use: Gurunanda Oils

 

     2.  Epsom Salt Baths- Epsom salt baths do wonders for relaxation. Add a few drops of Lavendar essential oil and you will have a very relaxing experience. Epsom salt is a naturally occurring mineral compound of magnesium and sulfate, both which are absorbable through the skin. Magnesium plays a number of key roles in the body including reducing inflammation, helping nerve and muscle function, and preventing the clogging of arteries. Sulfates help with the absorption of nutrients, easing migraines, and flushing toxins. They can also help with constipation because your entire body becomes “relaxed”- including the bowels. I recommend adding Epsom Salt baths to your weekly routine.

 


Ways to Simplify Your Daily Activities to the Essentials

Making our life simple can helps in various ways, but leading a simple life in today’s busy world is often easier said than done. The following ideas can help simplify your life and slow down your pace.

  1. Take it slow: Try to take life a bit more slowly. Instead of moving at a sporadic, frenetic pace, move consistently and steadily to make progress and accomplish things effectively and smoothly.

  2. De-clutter: Try to de-clutter your mind as well as the physical space around you. This can help you remove things that don’t have any meaning in your life anymore and let you focus on things that do.

  3. Focus your choices: make informed choices and strive for the things you actually want and need to stay in your life. Try to limit the number of choices you make at a given time in order to pay full attention to each one and achieve them in a healthy way.

  4. Learn to say, “No”: it is important for you to learn to say, “No,” if you really want to simplify your life and focus on your actual purpose. “No” doesn’t have to be a bad thing and “No” does not need explanation. If it doesn't positively impact you, your family, or your spirit, say, “No.”

  5. Make time: Make time for your priorities and the activities that energize you. Make the time for what is important to you, what motivates you, and what feeds your soul.

  6. Say “No” to stress: Stress has a negative impact on the health of your mind, body, and soul and can severely complicate your life. Just relax, try to be flexible, and avoid stress as much as possible.

  7. Get enough sleep: Getting enough sleep is critical in supporting your mind and has a direct effect on your body and soul. When you do not sleep enough, you get annoyed at every little thing and do not feel good about anything. This may, in turn, affect the people around you in a negative way. Try to get 7-8 hours of good, quality, restful sleep to feel fresh and healthy when you wake.

  8. Exercise: Many people exercise to stay physically fit; little do they know that exercise has a lot of mental benefits as well. Make a habit of exercising regularly to keep both your mind and body fit.

  9. Spend time with your loved ones: Spending time with your loved ones is food for the soul. You feel refreshed and happy when you get enough attention, love and time from your loved ones, and they can experience the same thing from you.

 

How to Let Go When You Feel Out of Control

We often overdo things while trying to keep in control of everything. We need to understand the importance of letting go of that control at the right time to save yourself from embarrassment, stress, and wasted time or energy. Letting go doesn’t also mean that you are giving up on your desires; it simply means that you are being more flexible. Don’t get attached to specific ideas or routines and try to let go when you feel out of control. Here are three ways to rescue yourself when you feel out of control and let go at the right time to move with the flow.

  1. Step away: Step away from the person, situation, or event to avoid any disappointments. This will give you a chance to calm down, find some clarity, and go with the natural flow of the things while leaving the control behind.

  2. Stop looking around: Stop worrying about everything that is happening everywhere else, and stop worrying about trying to seek or maintain a certain image to please someone else. Allow your expectations to change and be flexible in your approach to things.

  3. Listen to your body: Your body is an amazing machine that transmits different signals throughout the day. Pick up on those signals, interpret what they are or mean, and try to give your body what it needs.

Follow these steps to let go of unnecessary things and opt for new challenges rather than clinging to the older things and expectations. The mind-body connection plays a huge part in our physical health. 

 

In a nutshell, stress feeds illness and disease and can destroy our emotions, relationships, and our physical health. I am passionate about restoring people's gut health, and managing stress and letting go of past hurts and pains are a key part of healing that is often overlooked. 

 

Did you find value in this post? Check out my free 7 Day Gut Healing Challenge for more Gut -Healthy Tips!

 

 

To your health,

 

Kimberly

 

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