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RESEARCH HAS LONG HELD that positive thinking is not only spiritually beneficial; it’s good for our bodies. Replacing negative thoughts with positive ones can lower your susceptibility to depression, distress, the common cold, and cardiovascular disease. “The mind is our most potent weapon in the battle for health,” says Lyn Freeman, a researcher of mind-body therapies for chronic diseases. “It can be both a slayer and healer.”

When the casting call for The Biggest Loser came to Atlanta, I decided to go. Dragging my husband along with me, I was chosen (out of 300,000 people) to be on Season 6 of the show. But I had made a decision that – with or without the show – I desperately needed to make some changes. I realized that people already know that they need to eat less and exercise more. So why aren’t we all healthy? The reason is: There are some mental and spiritual lessons that we must learn in order to transform from “fat” to “fit.” Here are a few essentials that I learned on my journey to becoming a “former fat girl.”

According to MayoClinic.com, “Positive thinking doesn't mean that you keep your head in the sand and ignore life's less pleasant situations. Positive thinking just means that you approach the unpleasantness in a more positive way.”

Here are a few ways to change your thoughts, and augment your health!

Negative Thinking

Encourage Yourself

It’s difficult to change the way you think without first becoming aware of what you think. Therefore, the first step is becoming aware of the thoughts that pass through your mind. Anytime you catch yourself saying “I can’t,” ask yourself, “Why can’t I?” Also make a deliberate effort to work on your weaknesses, while always reminding yourself of your strengths. Positive self-talk will improve your state of mind, and subsequently increase your ability to manage the pressures of everyday life.

Enjoy the Present Moment

Sometimes we can miss the joy in the present moment, because we are so focused on past failure and future plans. Enjoying the present moment means that we no longer dwell on what we “would have” done, “could have” done, or “should have” done. It also means that we completely surrender our anxieties about the future to God. The past is gone, the future is unknown, and the present is all that we have. Each day, we must find joy in life’s simplicities, and remain focused on our present opportunities. This will foster fewer headaches, more energy, better sleep patterns, and healthier blood pressure.

Maintain a Happy Heart

Proverbs 17:22 teaches that “a happy heart is good medicine and a cheerful mind works healing, but a broken spirit dries up the bones” (Amplified Bible). In essence, laughing is a good thing!

Bertrand Russell, the philosopher and Nobel Prize winner, once stated, “Laughter is the most inexpensive and most effective wonder drug. Laughter is a universal medicine.” When we laugh, powerful chemicals called endorphins are released in the brain. The chemical acts like morphine, and triggers a feeling of happiness through the entire body. Studies have shown that laughter is an antidote for stress and high blood pressure, boosts the immune system, improves brain functioning, and protects the heart. It’s believed to be a key component to living a long and satisfying life.

Negative Thinking

Practice Gratitude

Anyone can give God thanks when things are going “great.” The true test, however, is in our ability to give thanks in all circumstances. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 instructs, “Be cheerful no matter what; pray all the time; thank God no matter what happens” (The Message).

Grateful people –– those who perceive gratitude as a permanent trait, rather than a temporary state of mind –– are generally healthier than their ungrateful counterparts. According to Robert Emmons, a University of California Davis psychology professor, "Grateful people take better care of themselves and engage in more protective health behaviors like regular exercise, a healthy diet, and regular physical examinations.”

Gratitude is appreciation for what you have. This does not only apply to tangible things. It refers to everything (seen and unseen, held and not held) that God has given you. For example, instead of voicing frustration when delayed in traffic, you can choose to thank God for your car. Instead of wishing that you had a better marriage, you can choose to be grateful for the opportunity to improve the one that you have. Gratitude helps people cultivate positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, cope with adversity, and build strong relationships. It can be applied to the past (being thankful for previous blessings), the present (appreciating one’s current life and opportunities), and the future (maintaining a hopeful and optimistic attitude).

Filter and Reframe Your Thoughts

We don’t have to accept every thought that enters our minds. We can filter and reframe them. Reframing means that we consciously choose to see a situation or person from a new (and more positive) perspective. Dr. Don Colson, author of The Seven Pillars of Health, states, “When you experience stress and negative emotions such as anger, frustration, fear, and anxiety, your heart rate variability pattern becomes more erratic and disordered, and it sends chaotic signals to the brain.” This results in excessive stress, mental fatigue, and physical exhaustion. On the contrary, reframing negative thoughts into positive thoughts can contribute to a healthy heart and reduced stress.

Meditate on the Word of God

Meditating on the Word of God is the most effective way to control negative thinking. Try writing Scriptures on note cards, and pondering them throughout the day. In addition, consult and reflect on the Word of God (instead of your emotions) when responding to life’s challenges. As we replace negative thoughts with God’s thoughts, transformation will take place in our minds, emotions, and bodies. c