Posted by Christiane Northrup, M.D
There are basically two ways to live: in faith or in fear Unfortunately, many people live in fear most of the time. I am not talking about a constant fear of danger, although for some this is true. I am talking about a low level of fear that is present all the time so that it keeps you from living your life and fulfilling your dreams.
At its root, all fear results from a lack of faith—pure and simple.
Fears are often inherited from your parents and their parents before them. (It is well documented that babies can take on the fear of their mothers even in the womb!) You may not realize it, but you were probably taught to be afraid of just about everything. You learned to be afraid of growing older, gaining weight, and being alone. You were taught to fear contracting viruses, such as the flu or shingles. Of course, most of us were taught to fear death.
Living in fear makes no real sense. On a purely physical level, fear lowers your vibration and actually makes you far more susceptible to the viruses you fear you might catch. By contrast, a growing body of evidence shows that having faith can help you stay well and thrive. Of course, the best part is that faith doesn’t require a prescription.
Why Fear Is So Damaging To Your Health
The biochemical state that fear creates in your body adversely affects your immunity and increases your susceptibility to viruses and bacteria that are all around you. For example, most people have the bacterium that causes pneumonia in their respiratory system at all times, but it stays in check until your vibration is lowered in some way.
Here’s how fear lowers your immunity:
- Fear shuts down your gut. When you experience fear, your body releases stress hormones that slow, or shut down, bodily functions that you do not immediately need for survival. This includes your gut where most of your immune system resides.
- Fear short-circuits your brain. The flow of stress hormones creates an overactive mind by flooding the amygdala portion of your brain. This makes you unable to think rationally as you react to signals sent from your amygdala. When in this overactive state, your brain perceives events as negative and stores all of the details surrounding the perceived danger—including sights, sounds, odors, time of day, weather, and so on—as negative memories. Later, those same sights, sounds, and other details can trigger fear by bringing back the initial memory; in some cases, you may feel afraid without consciously knowing why. This can lead to a constant state of fear and anxiety or even PTSD. Fear can also impair formation of long-term memories and cause damage to certain parts of your brain, such as the hippocampus. Finally, fear can interrupt processes in your brain that allow you to regulate emotions.
- Fear can lead to chronic health problems. Living in a constant state of fear can cause gastrointestinal issues, including ulcers and Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). It can increase your risk of cardiovascular damage. And fear has been associated with decreased fertility, depression, fatigue, and accelerated aging. Fear has even been associated with an increased risk of death—you’ve heard sayings such as “She worried herself to death,” haven’t you?
- Fear attracts what you fear most. All emotions including fear are energy. When you let fear run your life, you attract to you more of whatever it is that you are afraid of. If you’re afraid of illness, you will attract it. If you’re afraid of being alone, you will be alone for as long as it takes to get over that fear. If you’re afraid to die, you will never live fully and joyfully.
9 Ways to Cultivate Faith and Improve Your Health
Having faith—whether you go to church or not—is associated with many health benefits including reduced risk of depression, better immunity, lower stress levels, enhanced cognitive abilities, improved fitness, healthier heart, reduced inflammation, a positive effect on your vagus nerve function (which helps regulate your cardiovascular and digestive systems as well as your emotions), and more.
It’s relatively easy to live in faith when nothing really bad has ever happened to you; but sooner or later, everyone experiences something that seriously tests her faith. So, I am not going to tell you to stop being afraid and move into unshakable faith. This is nearly impossible, especially if your nervous system has been imprinted with childhood trauma. The only way to build the muscle of faith is to calm yourself and turn your trust over to God. This requires patience and commitment.
Here’s are some steps you can take every day to turn your fear into faith:
- Notice your fear. Scan your body and figure out where you feel the fear. Say to your fear: “I love you. You are precious. I know you’re afraid. I will take care of you.” This instantly breaks the fear trance.
- Breathe.Begin by taking a long, deep, slow breath through your nose and hold it for a couple of seconds. Then exhale slowly through your nose, allowing your exhale to be longer than your inhale. This way of breathing calms your vagus nerve, which in turn lowers your heart rate and blood pressure and helps your body metabolize stress hormones. Repeat this three times or as many times as you need to fully stop the fight-or-flight fear response in your body.
- Take baby steps. Don’t sabotage yourself by trying to tackle the biggest fear of your life. Start small. Let’s say you’re afraid to ask for help. Think of someone you could call to ask for help. Think of something you’d like help with if the world were perfect and you weren’t afraid of rejection. It could be anything: cleaning out your basement, doing laundry, keeping you company on a road trip, listening to a poem you wrote. Next, pick up the phone and pretend you are calling to ask for help. Make up a script so you know what to say. For example: “Hi, Joe. There’s something I’d like you to help me with, but I’m terrified to ask. Is there any way you’d be willing to help me take a load to the recycling center?” Once you have practiced, try it for real. You will be amazed how often people say yes when you ask for help. Having little triumphs that prove you can have faith in someone or in God begins to build your faith muscle.
- Pray. There are more than 300 peer-reviewed studies on the healing power of prayer, and it turns out that prayer is effective no matter what your belief system or religion. Prayer has been shown, among many other things, to increase conception rates in couples with infertility and also to decrease the number of days in the intensive care unit for heart attack patients. It even helps plants grow better. In general, there is nothing that isn’t helped by prayer. It also doesn’t matter what kind of prayers you use. What matters is your sincere desire to connect with the Divine.
- Know your worth. Lack of faith tends to boil down to a belief that you are not worthy—not worthy of love, acceptance, care, or understanding. Fears are based on the truth of your experiences, but you still have to transform them. And the only way out is to have more faith in God and the Divine than in your own ego. There are many practices you can use to begin to develop a sense of your true self-worth, including affirmations and mirror work.
- Try Tapping. Fear sets up an electromagnetic field that attracts the things you fear most. Tapping—or the Emotional Freedom Technique—assists in removing neuromuscular tension that is being held in place in the body by fear (both conscious and unconscious). As a result, Tapping helps to remove fear from our bodies and, in the process, lowers stress hormones. And Tapping can help you deal with way more than fear.
- Focus on the big picture. There is a much larger picture than the one you’re able to see of your life. When you are up against fear or loss, I can assure you that you are going to have feelings about it—anger, sorrow, sadness, fear. That’s not only okay, it’s the only way for your Soul to do what it came to do. Many times, painful events are actually orchestrated by your Soul to assist you in moving from fear to faith. It’s enormously helpful to realize that, on some level, everything that happens to you is designed to help your spiritual evolution.
- Offer everything to the Divine. Say to the Divine, “Okay. I am yours. And the relationship that’s driving me nuts is also yours. I offer it all to you, including my body, my health, and my lover who just left me.” We all have the ability to do this. You simply need to trust in the part of you that is orchestrating things from a higher perspective. This is not the same as your little self who is down here on earth managing day-to-day business. Remember, faith is a process, not an event. It’s not intellectual. And it requires love and patience. The way to loosen your grip on anything is to realize that none of it really belongs to you.
- Claim your sovereign Divine rights. When you say “no” to allowing fear of a virus control you, “no” to hating other humans despite your vast differences, and “no” to allowing yourself to be pulled into contrived (and paid for) chaos, you are standing in your sovereignty. When you refuse to separate yourself based on your religion, your politics, your race, or anything else, you are tapping into the Divine within you, and that is choosing faith over fear.