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Can Positive Thinking Reprogram Our Genes?

Research proves genes can no longer be blamed for the skyrocketing disease statistics—and the answer to long-term vibrant health may be closer than you think.

We’re a society addicted to fast-paced living, negative thinking and junk food fuels—a recipe for disease acceleration that means we’re set to live shorter lives than our ancestors, say many holistic health experts.

Yet, while many blame the rise in cancers and heart conditions on their genes, scientific research proves only five to 10 percent of all disease is hereditary—far less than many have been lead to believe, according to leading stem cell biologist, Dr Bruce Lipton.

It’s now a global discussion that’s being heard by those seeking another way: health, or lack thereof, doesn’t always begin with our parents or our bad habits alone. Rather it’s collaboration between the environment and our lifestyle, as well as our mind, and the thoughts we generate within it.

“If genes are only responsible for five—at most 10—percent of the illness on our planet, what about the other 90 percent of the illness?” asks Lipton, who is also bestselling author of The Biology of Belief, a book that details how genes can be turned on and off by environmental signals, including thoughts, feelings and emotions, from outside our cells.

It has nothing to do with genes and everything to do with lifestyle… The concept genetic determinism—(that) genes control your traits—makes us victims of our heredity.

“The answer is that it has nothing to do with genes and everything to do with lifestyle… The concept genetic determinism—(that) genes control your traits—makes us victims of our heredity. So if there is cancer, Alzheimer’s, diabetes running in your family, we have a belief, ‘Oh these genes control these traits and I am a recipient of these genes and my future will have these diseases in them’—and we buy into that belief, when it turns out to be totally false.”

Stress a Disease Trigger

Western society’s preoccupation with wanting more, achieving more and being more is the ideal breeding ground for stress, which researchers now know is a leading cause of dis-ease within the body and mind.

Stress disrupts the body’s natural rhythm, which is designed to heal and return to balance when given the right conditions. While in some situations stress can serve us, a constant state of discord can only lead to illness, explains scientist Gregg Braden. Recovering from illness requires cessation of stress and emotional triggers, as well as a nutritious diet, exercise and a healthy chemical-free environment.

“Chronic, perpetual stress (and) chronic, perpetual fear shuts down the ability to create the healing in our bodies because we are in what is called fight or flight,” Braden says. “And that kind of experience signals our heart to tell our brain to create the hormones cortisol, for example, and high levels of adrenaline, that prepare us for the fight or flight that we are perceiving.”

Lipton agrees: “You cannot sustain life in protection because of the chemicals of protection short circuit the growth of the body to use that energy for running away; in the world of the old days we used to just use that occasionally. In the world today we use it 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year… we were never designed to be that long in a compromised growth state and that’s why the health issues in our world are going out of control because the fear is causing chemical to be released into the culture medium of the body that shuts down its growth—and the stress hormones shut off the immune system.”

When Thought Creates Form

Self-help movement veteran, the late Louise L. Hay, was one of the first modern teachers to bring light to the fact our state of mind is very much connected to our state of bodily health, with her 1976 book Heal Your Body awakening thousands to their own healing potential. In the film, spiritual teacher and author Marianne Williamson, echoes Hay’s teachings, explaining that every thought very much creates form on some level.

“All that our physical experience is, is a reflection of our thoughts,” says spiritual teacher and author Marianne Williamson (The Age of Miracles).

Internationally recognised cancer expert Dr Bernie Siegel adds that positive affirmations and regular meditation are “great tools” for changing inner weakness and replacing them with physical strength.

“If you repeat an affirmation over and over again, it becomes embedded in your subconscious mind and eventually becomes your reality,” he says. “Studies show that optimists live longer, healthier lives than pessimists, even when the pessimist view of life is more accurate… your attitude determines what you see, so always look on the bright side. The choice is yours.”

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Begin with Forgiveness

While positive affirmations have been proven to change one’s thought patterns and create a more vibrant health state, nothing can truly affect the body more positively that releasing toxic emotions such as resentment and anger. It’s forgiveness, says Williamson, which frees the mind and the body of emotional upset and potential ill states.

All that our physical experience is, is a reflection of our thoughts.

“When the heart is softer, it doesn’t just serve the other person, (the forgiveness) also serves us,” she says. “I was once doing an AIDS support group and a young man said to me, ‘I have to forgive everybody?’ and I remember my response to him was, ‘I don’t know, do you have the flu or do you have AIDS?’”

A Journey of Discovery

According to Williamson, there are documented cases where there is a “seemingly miraculous cessation of symptoms”.

“We know these things happen,” she says. “We know that there are people who were told that they are going to die within a week who live for another 30 or 40 more years… What happened in that place where a miracle occurred?”

Finding a way past negative thinking and deeply ingrained emotional upsets may not be as difficult as it seems, says Lipton.

“Anything you struggle with, anything that you have to work hard to overcome, anything that requires a lot of effort in your life, requires that effort, requires that struggle, because you have beliefs in your subconscious that don’t support that end,” he explains.

“So, basically, it says, you look at your life and see the things that work—good, I have beliefs that support those. The things that don’t work right, whether it’s health, relationships, job, is because there are beliefs in the subconscious mind that are sabotaging you… So, the fun part is you can say, well, what are the things that are not working and I say take those, make statements of belief out of them, see if your beliefs support you in the things you are looking for.”

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How do we change our language from negative to positive? Try these tips:

Language starts with thought

Pay attention to your thoughts, and whenever you catch yourself in a negative thought pattern, immediately say out loud, “delete, delete”. Break the pattern by speaking or singing something to distract yourself from the negative thoughts.

Start your day with verbal intention

When you wake up, go to your mirror. State out loud your intention for how your day will proceed. For example, say something like, “I intend to have a joyful, fun and productive day filled with positive and successful interactions and events.”

Disengage from negative conversations

When friends, family or colleagues start whining, politely excuse yourself from the conversation. If that’s not possible, do what you can to steer the conversation in a more positive direction. Whatever you do, don’t participate. There is nothing positive that will come from it.

Express gratitude

Several times a day, take a moment to look around and verbally acknowledge what you are grateful for. Good things are all around us— if we take the time to see them and offer thanks for them, we begin to feel uplifted and happy.

Follow difficult words with action words

There are times when we do have to speak about negative, painful or unpleasant things. During these times, speaking about our pain helps us unburden ourselves from it. It is a necessary part of healing. But once the burden begins to lift, follow up with words and discussion around healing and action. Speak about feeling better and moving forward even before you feel ready to do so.

Start writing

If you really want to give your brain a double whammy, write down your affirmations, words of gratitude or positive thoughts, before you speak them. Writing about these ideas is another reinforcing action step that sends signals to the pre-frontal cortex, stimulating feelings of joy.

Do the work consistently

Strengthening your brain and transforming your thoughts and feelings takes practice. Like exercise, the work must be done regularly and with intensity if you want to see results.

Commit to pro-actively speaking positive affirmations and words of gratitude at least three times per day. Pay attention to your thoughts and words all of the time. Regularly remove yourself from negative conversations. Rate your level of happiness and contentment on a scale of one to 10 as you begin this work, and then rate yourself again after a month or two to see how you are progressing.

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