Holistic Lifestyle - Cognitive Restructuring through Yoga

Updated: Nov 5, 2020

Cognition is "the mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the senses.

How I moved house, quite my job and relocated with a sense of calm. My old self would have had a panic attack of the unknown but this time I had a relentless drive. What changed? Yoga!

First up, let me say I don't believe in a positive or negative mindset because as humans we get both thoughts daily. It is not possible to eliminate all negative thoughts from our mind, however we can learn to accept and choose again. When something triggers us into a negative mind frame, we can take a step back to view and gain a new perspective or focus. It's important to remember that, thoughts are not facts! So if you get negative thoughts, acknowledge it for what it is, a simple thought and it can be changed by shifting our focus.

We all have come from different backgrounds and had different experiences, these experiences shape the way we feel and act. Our minds are programmed at a young age and these can shape our thought processes. The way we think about ourselves, others and situations. This is called COGNITIVE BEHAVIOUR.

90% of our happiness is to do with how we see the world. Is your "physical environment supporting our mental health"? And what can we do to change it. Sometimes we need to change our physical environment and sometimes we need to change our perspective. Shifting your cognitive behaviour in a more productive way will produce more Dopamine (the happy hormone), resulting in reducing blood pressure, improving the immune system and becoming more productive.

3 Quotes to help perspective -

"Without rain there are no flowers"

"Like the moon, It's just a phase"

"The sun will pass through the clouds and shine again"

These are all reminders that life is not black or white, good or reminds us that time like seasons pass.

Where does yoga come in?!

Yoga is not just a physical practice but also a philosophy. By physically moving our body in and out of Asana, we can shift our mind. Movement releases neurotransmitters such as endorphins. Physical activity also stimulates the release of dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin. These brain chemicals play an important part in regulating your mood.

By releasing these positive hormones we can then gain a new perspective; which relates to the philosophy of yoga. The philosophy guides us to release control of the ego and become more intuitive to our authentic self. This therefore builds self confidence within, rather then looking for outward pleasures or conformations. Knowing ourselves and being present in the moment, stops us from worrying about the past or future. It allows us to take in what is happening in the now, evaluate and choose where we want to focus.

Reconditioning steps:

1) Identifying the feeling, acknowledging when you're feeling anxious and why.

2) Accepting the feeling lead us to understand why we feel a certain way. This often takes courage because once we acknowledge what we don't like, we have to change it or live in self denial which will tear your soul apart.

3) Choosing again, choose to be in control of your emotions instead of being reactive. Almost everything in life is uncertain, so unless we restructure our minds we will always be in a state of anxiety. The key is to program our minds with a feeling of hope, faith and choice. So even if we find ourselves in a uncomfortable situation, we know that we have the choice to leave the situation and that it will not last forever. Some might say, it happened for the greater good.

Daily Steps:

1) Keep a journal

Writing things down can be very therapeutic. It helps you take a step back from things and gives you some perspective. When you write something down, it allows your brain to consider your thoughts in a more objective manner.

Writing things in your own handwriting also helps you to take ownership and allows you to be completely honest about a situation (what’s the point of lying to a piece of paper after all?). Once written down you can take a break from the situation and return back to it when or if you need to.

It’s also good to record positive thoughts, situations or comments so you can refer back to them when you need some encouragement. It’s best to keep the positive things in a separate part of your journal so you can find them easily, for example, put all your thoughts and feelings at the front of the journal and record the positive affirmations and encouragements at the back.

2) Acknowledge the good

It can be easy to fall into the trap of seeing the glass half empty, of always expecting the toast to fall butter side down, of expecting every cloudy day to bring rain! Trying to see the positives in situations is a really proactive way of protecting our mental health. It may take a bit of practice at first and we may have to learn some new language, but it is something that is worth learning as it can transform our view of the world.

When things aren’t going to plan, it can be easy to fall into the trap of thinking negatively about everything which can lead to feelings of hopelessness and despair. Try to find some things you are thankful for, however small or insignificant they may be. This simple act of gratitude can help draw your mind into a more positive frame and encourages you to see the blessings in your life.

3) Eat well

A diet rich in nutrients, fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grains and rainbow colours helps to maintain our blood sugar levels and avoid the peaks and troughs which can lead to us feeling sluggish. When our body feels healthy and energised, we are much more inclined to feel positive about ourselves and have a greater zest for life.

Drinking plenty of water and keeping well hydrated can also help us to feel more energetic.

If you are feeling tired, try not to reach for a sweet fix to pick you up. Instead get up, take a walk around the room (outside is even better) and have a glass of water. You’ll be surprised at the difference it makes.

4) Do something you’re good at

Sometimes we need to focus on what we can do, not what we can’t do. Doing something we are good at brings feelings of fulfilment, pride, achievement and wellbeing. We should also celebrate these things and shout about it!

5) Have some ‘me’ time

It is really important to spend a little bit of time on yourself doing what you want. Sometimes, when we get the opportunity to have a bit of time to ourselves, we have forgotten what it is we enjoy doing…so make a list!

When you think of something you enjoy doing, write it down. Over time your list will include some of the big dreams that may take time and effort to bring to reality, but it should also include some of the smaller things that give you pleasure like a simple walk in the park, a luxurious bath or a good book. Self-care is not selfish, it is really important for keeping mentally well.

6) Sleep

There is a vicious cycle around sleep and mental health which can be hard to break. If you are having more than an occasional disturbed night (and you don’t have small children!) you may need to seek some extra support around this.

7) Be Active

Move your body, do yoga, shake, jump around, run, dance, climb or ride. Which ever best suits you, find a way to be active to generate those positive hormones in the body. Ironically the more we do, the less tired we feel. This is because the blood is circulating in our body and allowing oxygen to reach the brain, making us feel more awake and alive.

8) Network

Having a sense of community can lift your spirit, talking to like minded people can become both an outlet of expression and understanding. Knowing you are not alone can make you feel safe and secure. It can also inspire and motivate you to do something you enjoy and feel passionate about.

9) Meditation

Breathe and focus, take deep inhale and exhale. This will give you a sense of relaxation, clearing your mind and being present in the moment. Focus on the breath so not to get distracted. Feel your chest move with the inhale and exhale as the oxygen calms the mind.

10) Laugh

Find a reason to laugh....

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