iD magazine - - Body & Mind -

An Amer­i­can study has shown that peo­ple who are re­laxed and think pos­i­tively get sick less of­ten than those who are tense and think neg­a­tively. “Psy­cho­log­i­cal pro­cesses play an im­por­tant role,” says en­docri­nol­o­gist Christo­pher Berger. But just how do you turn a pes­simist into an op­ti­mist? The fol­low­ing mind tricks can help you outsmart a neg­a­tive mind­set.


Up to 50 mil­lion dam­aged cells are re­placed with fresh ones dur­ing sleep. This cell care serves as a re­ju­ve­na­tion pro­gram— not only for the body, but also for the mind. Sleep is there­fore in­cred­i­bly im­por­tant, and very few of us can get by on less than six hours. If you sleep less than that, your abil­ity to con­cen­trate no­tice­ably de­creases.


Not only does a hud­dled-up body re­flect neg­a­tive thoughts— it re­pro­duces them. Stand­ing up straight so the body forms a 90-de­gree an­gle with the floor has a pos­i­tive ef­fect on our con­scious­ness. Psy­chol­o­gist Sascha Topolin­ski ex­plains: “Those with an up­right pos­ture not only seem more con­fi­dent, they also feel it.” It there­fore fol­lows that men­tal strength also in­creases.


We use up to 80 mus­cles when we laugh. They stim­u­late cer­tain neu­ro­trans­mit­ters in the brain that in­crease our willpower. On av­er­age adults make use of these laugh­ter “power packs” just 15 times per day, while chil­dren will laugh up to 400 times per day. But it doesn’t take a fit of gig­gles or side-split­ting guf­faws to yield a pos­i­tive ef­fect: In a study, so­cial psy­chol­o­gist Fritz Stack asked his test sub­jects to put a pen­cil in their mouths. Re­sult: The pen­cil was enough to trig­ger the bio­chem­i­cal re­ac­tion. Ap­par­ently the brain doesn’t care why you’re grin­ning, the main thing is to just do it.


If you see your­self as a vic­tim of your fate, you’ll feel like you’ve been cast adrift at sea— ba­si­cally, a feel­ing of loss of con­trol. It’s bet­ter to main­tain a point of view that fo­cuses on what can ac­tively be af­fected. You should train your thoughts at least three times a day with this ques­tion: What can I do to­day to im­prove my life? It can even be small things like tak­ing a walk. Pas­siv­ity weak­ens the will, while con­trol strength­ens it, de­spite all the ad­ver­si­ties of life. Avoid state­ments like “Had I just…” or “If only I could…”

90 x 12 FOR­MULA

To stim­u­late the chem­i­cal “ded­i­cated line” be­tween the body and brain, thoughts can be di­rected to­ward bod­ily re­gions or se­quences of move­ments. One tech­nique that has been used for thou­sands of years for this pur­pose is yoga. A study at Canada’s Univer­sity of Cal­gary demon­strated that just 90 min­utes of train­ing per week for 12 weeks pro­duced mea­sur­able ef­fects in the sub­jects’ bod­ies. A blood test showed: Telom­eres, the re­gions at the ends of each chro­mo­some, were longer in the yo­gis than in con­trol group mem­bers. Telom­eres get shorter with each cell divi­sion, thereby giving a clue about a body’s bi­o­log­i­cal age. The shorter they are, the lower the life span.


To strengthen the psy­che and the will in a tar­geted way, doc­tors rely on so-called neu­ro­feed­back: train­ing “good” thoughts. Or­di­nar­ily, peo­ple are not ca­pa­ble of rec­og­niz­ing their own brain waves— the elec­tri­cal ac­tiv­ity among the neu­rons that be­comes thoughts and feel­ings. Neu­ro­feed­back changes that: By means of elec­trodes at­tached to the head, brain waves are mea­sured and trans­mit­ted to a com­puter, which then “for­mu­lates” feed­back from the data— e.g., as a sound or an im­age. It takes about 0.2 sec­onds for a hu­man to calibrate a thought. So when the de­vice warns of a neg­a­tive thought, the pa­tient can take coun­ter­mea­sures. Through hun­dreds of rep­e­ti­tions of this “re­ori­en­ta­tion” ac­tion, the brain learns to al­ways think on a pos­i­tive level.

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