Philippians 4:8 is one of the most powerful, emotionally healing verses in the Bible. One of the cornerstones to success on The Daniel Plan is to reign over your moment-by-moment thoughts, so that with God’s help you can stay in control of your behavior.
Neuroscience teaches us that every time you have a thought, your brain releases chemicals that make you feel good or bad. Thoughts exert a powerful influence over your life and body. Whenever you have a happy, hopeful, or optimistic thought, your brain releases chemicals that raise your spirits and encourage you to feel good. Positive thoughts exert a physical response and have the power to immediately relax and soothe your body. They tend to warm your hands, relax your muscles, calm and soothe your breathing, and help your heart beat in a healthier rhythm.
Try this exercise now: Take a minute, close your eyes, and think of the last time you felt truly loved. When most people do this exercise, they feel a deep sense of happiness and physical relaxation.
The opposite is also true. When you have an angry, anxious, hopeless, or helpless thought, your brain releases chemicals that stress your body and disrupt how you feel both physically and emotionally. Take a minute, close your eyes, and think of the last time you felt really angry. How did that make you feel? Most people feel tense, their breathing becomes shallower, their hands become colder, and they feel angry and unhappy. Now go back to the first exercise before you continue reading!
Thoughts are automatic. They just happen. They are based on complex chemical reactions and information from the past. And what most people don’t know is that thoughts are sneaky and they lie. They lie a lot. It is often these uninvestigated thoughts that provide the emotional fuel for anger, anxiety, depression, and unhealthy behaviors such as overeating.
Plus, if you never question your erroneous, negative thoughts, you believe them 100 percent and then you act as if the lies in your head are true. For example, if you think your husband never listens to you, even though he has on many occasions, you act as if he doesn’t, and you feel justified in yelling at him. If you think you are a failure, even though you have had many successes, you are more likely to give up easily.
Over the last forty years, mental health practitioners have developed cognitive behavioral therapy to help people rein in and control their erroneous thought patterns. When you correct negative thought patterns, it is an effective treatment for anxiety disorders, depression, relationship problems, and even overeating. Researchers from Sweden found that people who were trained to talk back to their negative thoughts lost seventeen pounds in ten weeks and continued to lose weight over eighteen months, proving this technique works long term.
To get and stay healthy, start by noticing your thoughts and questioning them. Whenever you feel sad, mad, nervous, or out of control, ask yourself if they are really true. It is often the little lies we tell ourselves that keep us fat, depressed, and feeble minded. Being overweight or unhappy is as much a “thinking disorder” as it is an eating or mood disorder.
Is it true?
“Is it true?” Carry these three words with you everywhere you go. They can interrupt your thoughts and short circuit an episode of bingeing, depression, or even panic. One of our participants weighed 425 pounds when he first joined The Daniel Plan. When one of the doctors asked him about his weight, he said that he had no control over his appetite. That was his automatic response, “I have no control.”
“Is it true?” the doctor asked. “You really have NO control over your eating?”
The man paused then said, “No. That really isn’t true, I do have some control.”
“But just by thinking that you have no control, you have just given yourself permission to eat anything you want at any time you want,” the doctor replied. It is the little lies that you tell yourself—such as “I have no control” or “It is my genetics”—that steal your health.
One of the most important steps in getting healthy in a lasting way is to get control of your mind. Whenever you feel anxious, sad, obsessive, or out of control, write down the thoughts that are going through your head. Recording thoughts helps to get them out of your head. Then ask yourself if the thoughts make sense or are really true. For example, if you hear yourself thinking, I have no control, write that down. Then ask yourself, “Is it true? Is that thought really true?” If not, replace that negative, false thought with correct information.
When you stop believing these lies and replace them with accurate thinking and God’s truth and promises, your response to life events will shift, and you will feel less stressed and more hopeful. Instead of worrying about tomorrow, you can linger on truths such as Jeremiah 29:11: “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Watch this video by Dr. Daniel Amen on how to control your negative thoughts: