Mind over matter: our thoughts affect our physical reality


The human body is a magnificent example of intelligent engineering. We are our own living, breathing pharmacy, creating and timing the secretion of various hormones, neurotransmitters, and enzymes…we’re a living construction company, with specialized teams of genes composing proteins for the building and repair of organs and bones. The environmental cues we process per second, and the tasks our body accomplishes in response, 24 hours a day…are simply astounding. And to respond to our ever-changing needs, the body stays highly attuned to our thoughts, as these thoughts signal what chemicals are needed in any given moment. An example:

You: “Whoa, that’s a lion!” Body: “Adrenaline, STAT!”

So for good reason, the body is always listening. It never misses a thought, even the negative and subconscious ones we think, which reflect our limited beliefs and perceptions of ourselves. And just like the universe, the body responds to our ongoing internal narrative, no matter what it is. If we accept the idea that “thoughts become things,” and that we most easily manifest what we are resonant with, then we have to accept that thinking negative, self-deprecating thoughts about our bodies creates a physiological cascade of the unwanted, such as stress hormones, anxiety, or depression.

But what about thinking positive, self-loving thoughts? They help us lay down the neural networks needed for physical improvements. Here’s a concrete example: peonies are my favorite flower (not much of a surprise). Several years ago I was given a gorgeous bouquet of peonies. I really wanted to enjoy them, because it was the end of season and they were a color I’d never seen before. So every day as I walked by, I’d gaze at them, caress the petals, inhale their perfume, all the while admiring them, saying “oh, so beautiful, so beautiful.” Do you know those flowers lasted almost 3 full weeks without dropping a single petal? I was amazed. No other cut flowers, including peonies, had ever lasted so long and stayed so vibrant. What was different? Only this: how I responded to them and what I expressed. I spoke lovingly to them. I really looked at them with admiration, every day, certainly more than once a day. 

When I realized this, I thought of Masaru Emoto’s book, The Hidden Messages in Water. In essence, I’d conducted a similar experiment without trying. It seemed like what I said to the flowers, the loving and appreciative energy directed toward them, had the effect of extending their freshness and vitality.  Weird? Well, I repeated the experiment. And flowers (of any kind) to which I pay positive, loving attention last significantly longer than those I simply water and let be.

Is it possible to have this effect on our own bodies through our self-talk and our thoughts? Yes, if we can let go of our negative stories and judgements, and learn a new internal narrative.

A quantum field is one which connects two seemingly separate physical systems through the exchange of subatomic particles. And although we have not been taught to see our bodies as quantum fields, the very tiniest particles that make up the universe also make up our bodies. Science has demonstrated that merely observing electrons will influence the behavior and movement of electrons. So why wouldn’t our thoughts, especially those we direct at ourselves, impact our bodies, right down to cellular function and structure?

There is ample evidence that they do. Hundreds of studies have proven the effects of transcendental meditation on objective markers of cardiovascular disease and brain function. And even if you don’t buy into the idea of a quantum connection, science has demonstrated a direct neurobiological feedback loop between your mind and body. It’s called the vagus nerve. Extending from the gut to the brain, the vagus nerve is part of the parasympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system. Through secretion of neurotransmitters, the vagus nerve affects heart rate, breathing, the gut-brain axis, and the microbiome. Vagal nerve tone is modulated in part by our thoughts and emotions, and this influences our physical state and perception of being stressed.

Your thoughts are the charge that activates the particles which make you up. Your feelings act as the magnet which puts tangible things like hormones and neurotransmitters into motion. And together, your thoughts and feelings act to build you up or break you down, not just mentally, but physically, in manifest form.

Therefore, your thoughts don’t just matter, they actually become matter. And their effects only grow more pronounced with time, as we say the same things to ourselves and lay down our preferred neural tracks over and over again. With our thoughts, we have the capacity to influence our present-day physical experience, as well as our future physical manifestation. 

So how do we produce a better future outcome, physically? We must work to build a repertoire of mental hygiene practices and kinder self-talk. Ultimately, if we spend less time comparing ourselves, focusing on imperfections, and telling ourselves negative stories about our bodies…and more time appreciating how amazing they are, we’ll create a new feedback loop that encourages physical health and emotional well-being. Feeling healthier and stronger reinforces all the other healthy habits like eating well and exercising. Feeling more resonance with our desired habits and desired self makes us happier in the now, which helps us to accept ourselves even as we strive to improve. We may even grow to accept ourselves well enough to transcend our fixation with the way our body looks.

Thinking thoughts of self-acceptance leads to gratitude for the beautiful gift that is your body. Seeing your body as a gift makes you feel worthy of the effort you’re making to take great care of it. And taking great care of it pays dividends into the future, producing better health and resilience on all levels.

Just like the peonies, you may manifest things you didn’t know were possible, both in physical form and in life.










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photography by Kelly Heck Photography 

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