How Pink Taught Me
©2021 By Nancy Gordon, LCSW
“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response, lies our growth and our freedom.”
~Victor Frankl, Austrian neurologist, psychiatrist, philosopher, author, and Holocaust survivor.
When Pink, my Hairless service dog, at the age of one, required her left hind leg amputated, I thought she’d never be the same, fully functioning and “normal,” happy dog. Pink taught me that not only was she not the same after this, she became my mentor about how to face one’s health challenges and still be full of love and most of all, joy-filled with a palpable love of life itself!
Dogs have the capacity to feel, perceive, think, judge, make decisions, and so importantly, to learn and grow by using their minds to change their thoughts, feelings, and therefore their experience. As I watched Pink adapt to her “health challenge and limitations” I noticed that after she got over the shock of it, Pink’s attitude became one of figuring everything out with a positive approach of how to “just do it differently.” (it took her about a week, no kidding, whereas it took me YEARS after my car accident, which resulted in fibromyalgia and a mild traumatic brain injury, to catch up to Pink!)
It’s common scientific knowledge that when we have negative thoughts, our brains produce adrenaline and cortisol in levels that can cause muscle tension, high blood pressure, anxiety, and depression. These high levels incite a stress response of fight or flight, and we all know that stress has a negative effect on mind/ body functioning. In contrast, when we perceive things in a positive way, our thoughts and emotions unite together to cause our brain to release endorphins, creating a sense of well-being.
Science proves the theory that our perceptions affect what we think (believe) about things and that we can change our beliefs through our thoughts, feelings and thus our experience. When we do this, we are retraining our brains to hold positive thoughts, generating positive feelings and behaviors, which lead to better choices, creating a positive impact on our health. It’s that simple to go from hurting to healing!
By being willing to let go of daily habits of negative thought, feelings, and actions, we can practice new habits that create a positive impact on our health. Here are three powerful practices that will make a positive difference in your health:
- Practice of Surrender: When we accept what is, and focus our attention, thoughts and feelings on the positive aspects of any potentially “negative filled” experience, such as a major health challenge, we free up our minds to heal our hearts. We feel the peace of trusting that we can rely on to help us through this challenge. Surrendering isn’t giving up; it’s an allowing, a moving forward by letting go and giving over. Prayer is one way of surrendering.
- Practice of Being MindFULL: Our brains are the mechanism by which we process everything, but our minds are where the true magic happens because they enable us to positively “recharge” our mind, body, and soul. Our mind, which is composed of thoughts and feelings control our reality, not our brains. What we think becomes our truth, our beliefs. Utilizing your mind to hold positive thoughts, feelings, and attitudes allows you to manage your condition, instead of allowing your condition to manage you. Practicing meditation (including guided meditations) is one way of being MindFULL.
- Practice of Gratitude: One of the most powerful interventions in our thought habits creating a positive impact on our health is gratitude. Expressing gratitude, especially out loud results in an immediate mental and emotional reward: endorphins released in the brain! Reminding yourself of a few things, especially related to any positive aspects of your health, that you are grateful for each day will benefit your mind, body, and spirit.
*Excerpts from the upcoming book “From Hurting to Healing Chronic Illness and Disability:
7 Powerful Practices to Manage Your Mind and Heal Your Heart.”™ ©2021 by Nancy Gordon, LCSW All Rights Reserved