American Indian Traditions
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American Indian Traditions

Although the modern Native American population might not initially seem to be an exemplar of good health practices, it's important to separate the tradition and potential of Native American culture with its current situation. Adopting the traditions of gratitude and reverence for nature is a great way to begin adopting a Native American attitude toward one's health. Several mental exercises to cultivate these attitudes are presented below.

Fostering Positive Thoughts

Just as Native American tribes have rituals for cleansing the mind of negative thoughts and feelings, which predispose to disease, we can develop our own rituals to modify unhealthy thinking patterns. Negative thinking not only occurs in our brains, but it also occurs in our bodies; negative thoughts cause instantaneous chemical changes in every cell. Continuous cellular disruption may contribute to the onset of illness and disease. To counteract negative thinking, you may find it helpful to look at yourself in the mirror and say aloud, three good things about yourself. People might say, "I'm a good friend," "I'm an honest person," "I'm a caring person," "My hair looks beautiful today," "I am becoming healthier every day," and so on. The goal is to say different positive qualities about themselves each day. Keeping a journal about feelings immediately after the exercise and feelings throughout the day is helpful in evaluating the impact of positive statements on negative thinking.

Positive affirmations are another way to counteract negative thinking. Make a list of positive things in your life, including things you would like to occur. Affirmations are always stated as if they were a fact, even when they are still a dream. For example, if you have financial problems, instead of thinking "I'm never going to get ahead. My debts are just too big," you might make affirmations such as "I am financially secure," "I pay my bills easily," "Money comes in when I need it," "I am at ease about the subject of money." Affirmations can be made about work, school, relationships, feelings, commitments, future goals, and even pleasurable activities. Write your list of affirmations over a period of several days, then find a time and place to say them aloud every day. You may want to tape record them and listen to the tape every day, perhaps to make a commute to work more pleasant. Since people tend to live their lives according to their expectations, changing expectations from negative to positive can improve the level of wellness.

Banishing Negative Thoughts

Often we endure such runs of negative thoughts that we are unaware of the process until we have been "beating ourselves up" for 10-15 minutes. To become more aware of this habitual process, tap your left finger on a firm surface for every negative thought. When your finger becomes quite sore, you will have another level of awareness of your negativity. Negative thoughts can be countered with positive ones. When you catch yourself thinking and feeling a negative thought, such as how fat your body is or how dumb you are, STOP. Now look for and substitute a positive thought or feeling in the place of the one you removed, such as how lovely your hair looks or how well you have succeeded at something. Now listen to yourself saying the positive phrase out loud. Continue in this way, adding other phrases and wishes.

Although it might not be easy to find a stream of flowing water to take away your angers, fears, sorrows, or troubles, you can visualize that process. Relax yourself with deep breathing and by banishing negative thoughts, then mentally walk into a stream or actually stand in a shower that is comfortable in temperature and flow. Visualize the water washing out all their physical, mental, emotional, or relational problems. Feel a Native-American-style gratitude toward nature and creation, and feel grateful to yourself, for spending time and energy on this ritual healing.

In essence, banish the bad and nourish the good, and you will be on the road to great health.

About the Author

Angela Abbette is an enthusiastic writer for and is an avid user of the Alternative Medicine information found at