Hi friend, how's your line of thinking lately? I know many are struggling, and understandably so, given the state of the world. But our outlook on what’s happening—now and always—affects our experience.
I’ve talked before about how drastically our health can be affected by our optimistic or pessimist outlooks.
Since immersing myself in mindfulness in graduate school, I’ve become fascinated with research about our thoughts and feelings impacting our physiological health.
One very powerful thought pattern that’s shown to impact health is that of self-efficacy, which is a belief in your ability to exert control over specific events in your life. This includes your own motivation, behavior and social environment.
This does not mean you can control what is happening externally (remember, you can only affect YOUR business). Rather, it represents a confidence in your ability to do things and make things happen, even when facing stressful and unpredictable situations.
Dr. Albert Bandura and colleagues at Stanford University Medical School demonstrated that the most consistent predictor of positive health outcomes in many medical situations was in fact self-efficacy. Your thinking affects everything!
For instance, people recovered more successfully from a heart attack, coped better with arthritis pain, and were able to effectively make lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking.
This means that a strong belief in your ability to succeed (thinking you are capable) actually influences the kinds of activities you’ll be drawn to. It also influences how much effort you’ll put in before quitting, and how stressed out you become amidst inevitable adversity.
The good news is, we can increase our self-efficacy by succeeding at something we feel is important.
For instance, if we want to be physically stronger, sustainability and long-term change is not just about going to the gym and being active. Rather, it's about acknowledging how we feel after we workout, and taking time to reflect and notice our small wins and achievements.
We must engage with self-appreciation to grow and find confidence.
The more we find this confidence through ourselves and others, the more likely we will continue practices that build our self-efficacy.
It’s like a hamster wheel that we can actually benefit from, but we have to choose to step onto it.
Once we dip our toes into practices we want to try, we can reflect and build confidence. This in turn encourages us to keep going and trying.
Back to Dr. Bandura at Stanford—he studied a group of men who were undergoing cardiac rehabilitation after experiencing heart attacks. His work demonstrated that men who had a strong conviction that their heart was strong and capable of fully recovering were less likely to quit their exercise and recovery programs than those who were less confident, even though the severity of the heart disease in the two groups was the same.
The group with high self-efficacy would get on the treadmill without worrying about (or being defeated by) discomfort, shortness of breath or fatigue; they were able to accept their discomfort, without thinking it was a “bad sign,” and rather, focused on the positive benefits of the program.
The men without such conviction tended to quit, and often mistook those feelings of discomfort, shortness of breath and fatigue as a “sign” of an inadequate heart.
So, are you aware of how your thinking is affecting your experience—whatever that may be? Have you noticed your thoughts lately to be having a positive or negative impact?
Of course, it’s hard to change our thinking, but it can be done!
Light and love,