is that your affirmation?

Dwaine Allison has magic hands. At least that’s what his chiropractic patients claim. Doc has extremely limited vision and seems to have balanced that out with a peculiar gift of using his hands to see what most of us cannot. My son-in-law Lee Wilson says that Doc can feel around on his back and neck for a couple minutes and then ask him things such as what major decision is he trying to make, or “Oh, I see that you’ve made your decision.” Lee says that whatever the question or comment, it’s always right on so, as I said, magic hands.

Though Doc has the vision problem, he decided to accompany Lee and me to a University of Alabama football game a few weeks ago. Though we were on the fifty-yard line and the 11th row (Thanks to our friends, Glen and Marsha Crow), when I asked Doc how much of the field he could see he replied, “What field?” Because Doc is one of the fastest wits in the nation, I can’t always tell when he’s kidding, but I was pretty sure that summed up what he could see. Doc went for the enjoyment of the road trip and his intellect and quick mind made sure that it was a great trip for all of us.

We found a parking spot some distance from the stadium. We were on a residential street and I think in someone’s yard, but others were parking there as well so we followed blissfully along. I checked my GPS before we left the car and it said that we were a little over a mile from our destination. Lee and I hedged Doc on both sides so that someone didn’t run into him (or he into anyone) and made our way to the game.

We walked more briskly on the way back because it had gotten quite cold. I led the pack as we neared to car so that I could start the engine and get the heater on. Doc complimented me on how fast I walked and inquired as to whether I walked daily for my health. I replied, “Nah, I don’t have any discipline.”

He replied, “Is that your affirmation?”

Doc hit directly on a truth I’ve known most of my life but seemed to have forgotten in the last couple decades. The “self-talk” we generate affects the way we think and act, not just consciously, but unconsciously.

Interestingly, just the other day as I flipped channels, I ran across a program about the human brain. Part of the program focused on the Navy volunteers who wish to become SEALS. A small percentage of those accepted into the program actually make it all the way to graduation. The instructor they interviewed said that it wasn’t physical brawn that made the difference in those who made it and those who didn’t. He said it was the way they think. For example, one of the most difficult tests is the “underwater pool competency test.” The aspiring SEALS submerge in a pool wearing SCUBA gear and then come under repeated attack by instructors who cut off their air in various ways. To pass, they have to figure how to get their air working again and not panic or lose composure and surface.

The Navy found that those who succeed in becoming SEALS practice the “big four.” They are goal setting, mental rehearsal, self talk, and arousal control.

1. Concentrating on specific goals helps the brain bring structure to chaos and keep emotions in check.

2. Mental rehearsal is visualization, continually running through an activity in your mind so that when you do it for real, it comes more naturally.

3. Self talk helps focus thoughts. According to the program, “The average person speaks to themselves at a rate of 300 to 1,000 words a minute. If these words are positive instead of negative, can do instead of can’t, they help override the fear signal coming from [the panic button in the brain].”

4. Arousal control centers on breathing to offset negative emotions such as panic. Controlled breathing helps relax the body which helps the brain keep calmer.

Though I’m likely not going to join the Navy to try to make it as a SEAL, I can see that those four methods can and will affect my mind and, therefore, my actions. A person who uses them faithfully toward any goal — from losing weight to being successful to overcoming a handicap — would have far more likelihood of doing the right things and avoiding the wrong things. S/he would be less likely to experience negative emotions such as anxiety, fear, or even panic, and more likely to be calm, confident, and in control even when surrounded by chaos.

The problem, as Doc pointed out with his question to me, is that we too often use negative self talk. Why? Maybe it’s because we either have no genuine goals, or at least don’t have goals that are emotionally important to us. If we do any mental rehearsal, we think of all that could go wrong. Well, now that I think of it, too much of my visualization isn’t about what I want to achieve but instead a reliving of things that went badly in my past. If others do the same thing, it is no wonder that we have such difficulty with arousal control. We worry. We concentrate on the bad that could occur. We become timid instead of brave. And, yes, we can become overweight and out of shape. If someone asks why, we respond with the self talk we hear inside our heads all the time, “I can’t…I don’t…I’m not…”

If that kind of process negatively affects your weight, your health, your success, your parenting, your marriage, or your spirituality, then examine your affirmations. What are you telling yourself?

So, I’m going to find out if I will indeed use these “big four” to change my physical condition. What do you need to apply them to in your life?

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