Hippocrates said it more than two thousand years ago: “Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food.” Unfortunately, the Western diet, with its emphasis on sugar, fat, meat, dairy, and processed foods, is directly associated with cancer, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and numerous other serious and often fatal diseases. On the other hand, whole, plant-based foods and organic diets have been shown to reverse many of these illnesses. In fact, making the switch to whole foods saved my life. When I was diagnosed with stage four cancer, my oncologists gave me no more than two years to live. In desperation I shifted from a meat and potatoes diet to vegetarianism. Calling it my “organic chemotherapy,” I lost eighty pounds in the process. It’s now been 16 years since that death sentence and I remain cancer free.
Yet it wasn’t my physical diet alone that helped me heal. I also had to radically alter my mental diet. A twist on Hippocrates’ famous quote could be: Let thoughts be thy medicine, and medicine be thy thoughts. In other words, just as we are what we eat, we are what we think. When I was feeling hopeless, my mental diet was based on self-pity, fear, anger, and anxiety. When I took charge of my life and embraced mind/body/spirit medicine, I replaced those toxic emotions with acceptance, gratitude, compassion, forgiveness, and loving kindness.
Modern science now realizes that our thoughts directly affect our inner chemistry. Negative thinking fills us with cortisol and adrenalin that diminish our immune and digestive systems and deplete our health over time. Positive thinking, on the other hand, creates neuropeptides such as oxytocin and serotonin that support our health.
In an over-stimulated culture dominated by mass media, however, we’ve lost control of our thoughts. As a result our minds chatter like wild monkeys and we are perpetually stressed out. And stress is a killer. Stress leads to poor choices in all aspects of our lives and also is the main contributor to depression and anxiety disorders. It takes devotion and practice to shift from negativity to more positive and affirming thinking, but it pays off.
Being mindful of what environments you choose to be in and what you expose your consciousness to is essential for emotional balance and wellness. I invite you to explore six simple steps to improve your emotional wellness today.
- Turn Off the Tube: TV invades your consciousness and fries your mind. Click it off. Instead, read an inspiring book, listen to soft music, or choose a creative endeavor that you’ve been longing to try.
- Turn on Nature: Get out in nature more often. Her rhythms are soothing and healing. Try to catch some sunrises and sunsets. Go to a beach, a bay, a park, or take a gentle hike in the mountains. This is how you feed your mind nourishing, natural food.
- Avoid Crowd and Loud: Take a break from noisy, crowded environments. They only clutter and cloud your mind.
- Release Dramas: Try letting go of all the opinions, judgments, and dramas that swirl around in your mind. They don’t change much of anything, but they do stress you out.
- Find Stillness and Silence: Teach yourself to “just be.” Sit for five minutes every day and follow your breath. Notice how it makes you feel.
- Affirm Yourself: Tell yourself you are calm and relaxed again and again. Believe in your capacity to take charge of your emotional life, feed your mind nourishing thoughts, and heal.