What if I told you that eating healthy and exercising more won’t make you healthy? It’s sacrilegious to suggest such a thing, I know. I am a health coach, after all.

The wellness industry is saturated with meal plans, and calorie restriction, and ‘eat this not that’. We know that being sedentary increases our risk of ending up sick and that we must exercise to be fit and healthy.We are hyperfocused on food and exercise as a way to be healthier.

While these things can be helpful as part of an overall wellness strategy, most health plans lack a critical component: healthy thinking.

Just like the standard American diet, full of processed junk food, our culture is on a junk thought diet when it comes to our internal dialogue. Internal negative talking is an issue that is sabotaging our health, and it’s so sneaky it goes unnoticed by most of us.

Living on a diet of junk food thoughts will keep us malnourished, because whatever we are processing in our minds will eventually show up in our lives. To see our greatest health potential, we must include nourishing thoughts as part of our strategy.

Many studies show that being intentional about positive internal dialogue leads to positive outcomes in health. A recent study shared in the Harvard Gazette shows that optimistic women had a 30% lower risk of early death from diseases such as cancer, stroke, and infections. Positive thinking isn’t just a fancy in a fool’s paradise, its scientifically viable for creating health!

Case in point: I had a severe stroke 5 years ago. I was in the hospital for a month, and had to relearn how to walk. I suffered vision and balance impairment. This was a really hard thing I had to deal with in my life. No amount of positive thinking could change that this suffering happened to me, but it did change my overall experience.

Living life to the fullest post stroke.

I used positive affirmations and imagery to support my recovery. I put a picture up on my hospital wall with statements written out “My body and brain know perfectly how to heal.” I fed myself positive thoughts and images, especially on the days I didn’t want to get up and face the day. Without this strategy, I could have easily succumbed to despair and depression. Positive thinking isn’t a magic pill that will keep bad things from happening, but it will give you the mental resilience to come back from challenges more gracefully and with less distraction.

Here’s the thing, you cannot stop your thoughts. Your mind will wander and your habitual thinking will show up. You can’t just command your brain to think only beautiful thoughts, and that’s ok! What you can do is be intentional about feeding yourself positive statements every day.

Powerful positive statements, sometimes called affirmations, can be written out, said out loud, and posted where you will see them. If you need some ideas, check out Louise Hay’s 101 Power Thoughts (she is the queen of affirmations, may she rest in peace).

Remember, what you write and verbalize is more likely to stick in your thinking, and frequency matters. You don’t just go to the gym once and expect a body transformation. You create a pattern of exercising and the benefits follow. When you create a pattern of positive internal dialogue you will see a transformation in thinking.

In a world of marketing experts and media feeding us junk food statements all the time, be the one who breathes life into your thoughts. Be the one to nourish your thoughts, and be healthier than food and exercise alone can accomplish.