Do You Believe in Mind Over Matter?

 

I just started a new book titled, “Cure: A Journey Into the Science of Mind Over Body,” by Jo Marchant. The “Wall Street Journal” writes about the book: “‘Cure’ is a cautious, scrupulous investigation of how the brain can help heal our bodies. It is also an important look at the flip side of this coin, which is how brains damaged by stress may make bodies succumb to physical illness or accelerated aging…’Cure’ points a way toward a future in which the two camps [mainstream medicine and alternative therapies] might work together.”

The author attempts to separate fact from opinion. She makes reference to another book I read called “The Biology of Belief” by Bruce Lipton. In his book, Lipton presents research showing actual physiological changes in our cells that occur when we think positively. This is good news, because it dispels the old belief that if a certain disease “runs in our family,” if a predisposition is carried in our DNA, then it’s basically pre-destined and there’s nothing we can do about it.

Lipton argues that there IS something we can do about it. Clearly we are products of nature AND nurture, and our DNA (nature) is only a set of instructions. Something (nurture) has to turn the instructions “on.” So even if, say, I had a hereditary predisposition to heart disease (which I do), if I eat healthy, exercise, avoid smoking, etc., the instructions for heart disease may never get switched on.

I’m a believer. And I would argue that even if the instructions were triggered, and a disease process was initiated, our attitude toward it would make a huge difference in our outcome.

I see it time and time again in my office. A positive attitude makes all the difference when a client is facing a major surgery, for example. Those who go in believing firmly that the procedure will go well, their recovery will be swift and complete, and who commit to doing everything in their power to support their own healing and rehabilitation, have a much higher success rate than those who worry and complain and make excuses or resist making healthy behavior choices.

Here’s an example of how much our attitude can affect our wellness. Let’s say someone experiences back pain and is diagnosed with something like degenerative disc disease. While it’s true that our soft tissues do deteriorate over time, and there’s nothing we can do about the fact that our bodies are not designed to function indefinitely, there IS something we can do about keeping our backs as healthy as possible as we age.

There is a big difference between “I have a bad back and there’s nothing I can do about it,” and “My back may be vulnerable, but I’m going to learn how to safely strengthen my core and stretch; eat well, stay hydrated and get enough rest; and recruit help like physical therapy, massage therapy, chiropractic, acupuncture and reflexology to stay active and support my strong, healthy back.”

The first attitude leads us to limit activity, be fearful and maybe even sad, and baby our “bad back”—which leads to a downward spiral of further diminished health due to lack of exercise, stretching and self care.

The second approach leads to increased vitality, even given a condition we must be mindful of.

Study after study is confirming that some of the most important factors to good health and long life are feelings of connectedness and purpose—healthy relationships, including being at peace within ourselves.

I can honestly say that I see this in my practice, and in my own life. My family is predisposed to heart health problems. We all tend to hold on to extra pounds, have high cholesterol, and develop high blood pressure. I went through a lot of therapy during my “mid life crisis,” and tried my hardest to come to terms with my baggage. I’m in a much better place now mentally and emotionally, and I’m changing a lot of old patterns. The weight is coming off. I’m the only one of my siblings not on high blood pressure medicine.

In my opinion and experience, there is truly a mind-body-spirit connection. Taking care of our mental health and nurturing our spirit is every bit as important as taking care of our physical being.

There is an old Cherokee legend of a grandfather teaching his grandson about our inner struggle between evil—anger, jealousy, greed, arrogance, etc.—and good (joy, peace, love, hope, kindness) as if the two forces were literally two wolves fighting. The boy thinks for a moment about this very human inner conflict and asks, “Which wolf will win?” The grandfather answers, “The one you feed.”

If you are facing a health challenge, you get to choose between feeling defeated and feeling empowered. I hope you “feed” the more positive approach (lots of healthy nourishment!). Please let me know if I can help!

Category : Blog &Health &Personal Growth Posted on May 31, 2017

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