Dress for stress

We have far more control over our thoughts and feelings than we may want to admit.  Granted, life has this way of taking over our thoughts,  but we can teach ourselves to respond differently if we are willing to do the work of reprogramming our brains.  After all, it is not what happens that deeply affects us but our reactions and responses to what happens.  

I found a meditation that shared the story of a woman who suffered from debilitating anxiety and depression.  She and her doctors tried everything.  Finally a friend suggested that she keep a gratitude journal and each morning repeat the words from Ephesians 6:11-17 as she dressed herself.  Her friend asked her to make a commitment to do so for at least three months.  The whole point of this exercise was to reprogram her brain and muscle memory, which seemed stuck in a bad place. Her friend claimed that by practicing gratitude and dressing for stress each day, she’d eventually begin to feel better.  And she did!

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 I am fully aware that meds provide needed help for many people, but combining meds with a program of gratitude and positive thinking simply combines the best of both worlds.  Taking meds is the easy and necessary part, while changing our thinking is the difficult part.  

At any rate, this woman decided she had nothing to lose, so each morning, as she got dressed, she went through the motions as she said out loud: 

  1.  I gird my loins with truth.  I am confident that God wants me to be happy and optimistic about life.
  2. I strap on the breastplate of positive thinking, confident that God’s love can and will stop harmful thoughts and feelings from overwhelming me.
  3. I will wear the gospel of peace on my feet today, allowing me to stand firm on God’s word.
  4. I will take hold of the shield of faith so that I am protected from negative feelings and temptations.
  5. I will wear the helmet of faith.  God’s promises and healing cannot help me if I doubt God’s ability to heal me.
  6. I grasp the sword of the spirit, which is the word of God.  Later,  as she recognized some gradual shifts in her thinking,  she added the 12 steps to her daily program of dressing for stress.

One of the things science has discovered about how our brains work is that the more we reinforce something, the more it takes hold.  Changing from a glass-half-empty to a glass-half-full approach to life takes hard work and time, but the interesting thing about dressing for stress is that it involves using our entire body to do so. By reading the words, then speaking them aloud, plus going through the motions of girding one’s loins with truth, strapping on the breastplate of gratitude and positive thinking, etc., she involved different areas of the brain, thus reinforcing these new concepts in several different ways.

This is also the reason why we are encouraged to read our gratitude lists out loud…to involve our entire being in practicing gratitude.  

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