I bought a body thermometer over a year ago. It’s this little device I got on Amazon for like twenty bucks. You tape one end to the back of your hand and it reads your outside body temperature. This is different from your inside temp. The outside body temperature is directly related to the amount of stress you are feeling. If you are highly anxious or worried about something, then your body temperature will be lower. People with cold hands and feet, whether they like to admit it,(their body doesn’t lie) are stressed.
The interesting thing is that our thoughts are directly related to our feelings and our feelings effect our body and all of this effects our behavior. For example, let’s say I enter a home where a party is going on and I don’t know anyone. I open the door and my thought is, “Oh crap, I’m definitely wearing the wrong thing and they are probably going to be judging me all night, what if I have no one to talk to I’m going to feel so uncomfortable.” I do feel uncomfortable because my thoughts have triggered an uncomfortable feeling, my outside body temperature drops, my heart starts beating, I start sweating and feel like running away. I slowly enter the party and head toward the snack table. I grab myself a plate and think, “No one is talking to me, this is awkward, oh crap oh crap, I am so ugly and stupid and I don’t know why I even came here, the whole point was to meet new people, but I am so weird no one would ever want to talk to me.” I put my head down and devour a bowl of pita chips and hummus. I make no eye contact, no effort to meet anyone, and feel really anxious. Cold hands, you betcha. I go to the bathroom, there is a line, a couple of ladies are ahead of me who know each other; they are talking and I feel invisible because they don’t even notice me, until… one of them turns around and says, “Hi I’m Sarah.”
“Um.. Hi, I’m Amy, nice to meet you.” I smile, she smiles.
“Where are you from”, she asks me.
“I’m, um, I’m from Burbank.”
“No way, me too! Where do you live?”
“Hollywood Way and Burbank Blvd.”
“I live right there too. Do you go to Mosiac?”
“Um, yeah, do you?”
“Yeah, which service?”
“The morning one.”
“It’s so nice to meet you Amy.”
“Thanks, it’s nice to meet you too, I really like your dress.”
And guess what happens. I take a deep breath. I think, “She’s really nice and friendly. Hey I’m meeting someone new and I’m not dying!”
She goes into the restroom, and when she comes out she asks me, “Are you here with anyone?”
“No, I came alone.”
“Well when you get out of the bathroom come find me and I’ll introduce you to some of my friends.”
I smile and say, “Ok.”
I go into the bathroom and look into the mirror. I think, “I made a friend, I can make friends I’m nice, I am good at meeting new people.” I stand up tall, another deep breath. Hands, getting warmer. I’m feeling more confident, less worried. My thought life shifted completely and this happens all the time.
As a therapist, using the body thermometer is a great tool to help me know just how stressed out my client is at the beginning of the session. We watch the numbers go up as they talk about their feelings and become more relaxed. When I first bought it, I wore it for a week straight. I wore it at work, driving, at home, and at parties; I put it on random people. Some really liked it and some didn’t want me to know if they were anxious or not. I suppose some people are embarrassed that they don’t have their thought lives in order. That’s the whole point though, our feelings and behavior are all connected to our thought life.
The bible says to hold every thought captive (2 Cor 10:5), to think of things that are lovely and good (Phil 4:8). It says to be anxious for nothing but in everything pray and be thankful (Phil 4:6). The bible is talking about our thought life- it’s something God really cares about! There is a great reason we shouldn’t worry – it effects our entire being and it makes us less available to do God’s will. When we worry, it stresses out our system, we get cold hands and feet and then we behave in avoidant ways. On the contrary, when we pray and are grateful, it warms our body and we act in open ways, moving towards others and God.
The reason why our hands and feet get cold when we worry is because our body thinks it is in danger when we think thoughts of fear. When our body thinks danger is lurking (whether that’s a mean boss, or fear of not being able to meet new people at a party) it goes into fight or flight mode. All the blood rushes to our internal organs so that we can prepare to run from a big scary bear. The interesting part is that our brain doesn’t know the difference between seeing a big scary bear or thinking that there is a big scary bear. Whatever we think, the brain thinks is real and it communicates that to our bodies which respond accordingly with behavioral changes. So first decide how you’d like to act, and then choose your thoughts wisely to make that happen. If you’d like to feel confident, think confident thoughts. If you’d like to feel more attractive, think positive thoughts about your looks. If you’d like to love others better, think loving thoughts about them. If you’d like feel closer to God, talk to Him in your thoughts, ask him questions, and pray.
I’ve realized through doing therapy with people over the last year that many, many (most) people have out of control thinking habits. And that’s what they are, they’re habits. I used to have them too, automatic thoughts that told me I was ugly and had no friends. Guess how that felt? Awful of course! Guess how I behaved? I’d isolate and never reach out to connect with others. Thankfully, I got my thought life in check. Today I read scripture to change my thinking, and I take an honest look at my life. My new thoughts are, “I like myself, and I have friends that love me for me.” Even just writing those positive thoughts made me take a deeper breath and made me feel good.
The words we choose to think in our heads affect us deeply. Get your thought life in check! Capture those thoughts, pin them down and take an analytical look at them. Are they true? Are they old? What would you rather think regularly instead? We have the ability to change our thought patterns one thought at a time. Your brain can only think one thought at a time! Repeat truthful thoughts in your head. Our brain is filled with grooves, old thought patterns and that’s where our mind goes when we aren’t in charge of it. I pray that God shows you where you are thinking faulty things that don’t match His truth for you and that by changing your thought life, you are able to change how you feel, and that finally you will have positive behavioral changes.