To be healthy – focus on HEALTH, not disease

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If your test comes back negative, you’re glad because “They found nothing.”

Is that really true?  Was nothing found?

Yes, the diseased condition or problem they were looking for isn’t there.  Then what is there?  Health.  And health is not nothing, it’s something.  Something was found.

It’s popular to think of health just as the absence of disease.  I remember being struck by this years ago while in a “health” food store.  Every product was geared not on wellness, but on treating or warding off sickness.

Most agree that our health care system is primarily designed for the treatment, management and sometimes prevention of disease rather than establishing and maintaining health.

Recent efforts to promote healthy lifestyles as a path to wellness mostly emphasize nutrition and exercise.  There’s been little shift in how we think of health.  People still see these lifestyle changes as strategies to evade disease.

Accepted logic says that disease is inevitable and you deal with it either through mainstream or alternative treatment, management and prevention.  But that’s upside down.  What about gaining a better understanding of health itself?

Health and wellness are our normal state of being.  Shouldn’t we begin with health as inevitable, lasting and powerful and disease as a detour?  Or at least with health as the rule and sickness as the exception?

Does it even matter how we think about health?  Yes it does.

In a 2012 study by Dr. Ted Kaptchuk, director of Harvard’s Program in Placebo Studies and the Therapeutic Encounter, patients were informed in advance that pills were made with inert ingredients and yet they still benefited.

In trying to understand why, Dr. Kaptchuk mentioned expectations influencing the results.  People simply expected there to be a healthy effect and there was.

Here’s the bigger picture.  By improving mental expectations for our overall wellbeing, we can be healthier.  If we shift our basic expectancy from disease to health, we influence the outcome in the right direction.

The goal is to have our mental focus be on something (health) rather than looking for the absence of something (disease).

Mary Baker Eddy, an early researcher in this mental approach to health care, wrote in her major work, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, “Hold thought steadfastly to the enduring, the good, and the true, and you will bring these into your experience proportionably to their occupancy of your thoughts.”

Staying with the idea that good health endures, instead of just trying to keep disease at bay, our thinking naturally focuses on health.  We expect it instead of disease.  And that helps us experience better health.

People may have different reasons for accepting health as something lasting.  Isn’t it possible that our Creator endows us with health as a permanent part of being, something that can be learned and lived?

It’s a right side up approach to life and health that takes our thinking’s effect on the body to the next level – health.

Owning our Health: Time for a little Ecotherapy?

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In Minnesota, we’re just emerging from a winter of winters.  Twin Cities statistics (kept since the 1870s) rank 2013-2114 the ninth coldest average temperature from December-February (9.7 degrees) and the fifth highest number of sub-zero days (50).  It’s time to warm up to the concept of being out in nature again!  My colleague from British Columbia, Anna Bowness-Park, shares how the great outdoors is great for our inner and outer health.  (Spoiler alert:  there are terrific quotes at the end!)  Here’s Anna…

The understanding that nature benefits our mental and physical health seems obvious.  However, the outdoors is now being touted as a new therapy called “ecotherapy” – or restorative contact with nature.  What scientists have been studying is what our mothers and grandmothers already knew – that being outside is good for us.  In fact, being out in nature, according to studies, is as good for us an anti-depressant or some other medications.

And, there’s another new term coined by scientists who are studying the effect of a lack of nature in our lives.  It’s called “nature deficit disorder”, which of course ecotherapy is called upon to correct.

What these new names do for me is to complicate and medicalize what should be a natural and simple activity.

For many people, being outdoors can be a restorative – even spiritual – experience, whether it is conscious or not.

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To forgive and to be forgiven each benefit our health

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Thoughts of unforgiveness aren’t good for us.  They affect us like water in our car’s gas tank – we don’t run right.  And those we won’t forgive can be affected too.

The health-giving effects of forgiving have been well documented, to the point of becoming common knowledge.  Back in 2004, a Harvard Medical School publication summed up:

“Researchers found that mentally nursing a grudge puts your body through the same strains as a major stressful event…a link between forgiving someone for a betrayal and improvements in blood pressure and heart rate…those converting anger to compassion felt less pain and anxiety than those who received regular care.”  (See also 11/23/11 report by the Mayo Clinic staff)

And that’s just about the body.  Of course forgiveness can heal relationships and bring more peace and happiness.

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What stops you from being healthy?

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TV news anchors announced that a higher percentage of Minnesotans watched the Olympics’ opening weekend than in any other US state.  From our warm living room, with yet another sub zero night outside, my wife and I helped create that statistic.  It was inspiring, as we saw people break free of limits — sometimes in ways they’d never even tried before.  My Texas colleague, Keith Wommack, tells us how barrier breaking can also apply to our health.  Here’s Keith…

Will World-class competition and the medaling of champions keep you watching the 2014 Winter Olympics? Or will you watch in anticipation of barriers and limitations being shattered?

When it comes to breakthroughs and victories, though, you don’t just have to witness Shaun White pull off a Double McTwist 1260 (a snowboarding feat), you too can be an achiever, a champion.

Yes, your victories may start out smaller than Sochi gold, but in the long run, they may actually be more beneficial to you.

While practicing the guitar and learning languages, I’ve noticed a phenomenon that might help explain how you can shatter limiting expectations.

In order to master a guitar riff or learn a phrase, I sometimes struggle for days or weeks with no progress. Then, out of the blue, I experience a breakthrough. One minute I can’t, and then the next, I can. What couldn’t be done before now seems natural, as if I’d always had the know-how.

How does this happen? Well, I’m learning that each of us has conscious control over our experience; I was simply failing to recognize and use it.

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Bonnie Horrigan: Health Care Transformer

shapeimage_2“I was aghast at how mechanical health care was.  The person was being bypassed.  It was as if people were cars – you know, you go in and fix the brakes or replace the oil.  I knew that people were much more than machines,” says Bonnie Horrigan, describing to me what drew her to become a pioneer publisher for the now burgeoning field of integrative medicine.

Horrigan is an enlightener, educating and encouraging the public and those in health care to see that health is about more than just bodily components.

She came to that realization after publishing reports and papers for The American Association of Critical Care Nurses.  Those nurses, on the front lines of caring for people, gave her a grant to start one of the first integrative medical journals:  Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, which she co-founded in 1995 with Dr. Larry Dossey and Dr. Jeanne Achterberg.

Anyone interested in a “mind-body-spirit” approach to health owes Bonnie Horrigan a huge debt of gratitude that this concept is now accepted in today’s health conversation.

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What word will inspire you to keep your resolutions in 2014?

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New year celebrations have come and gone, resolutions have been made.  Now what?  How do we turn those resolutions into an actual fresh start in our lives?

My Canadian colleague up in Ontario, Wendy Margolese, shares a really helpful way of doing it.  And she invites you to visit her blog site.  Here’s Wendy…

It’s that time of the year.  We make all kinds of promises to ourselves to be healthier – more exercise, better diet – and to spend more time with the family and be kinder to our neighbors.

I find that it helps me to choose a word that creates a theme or a framework for the year and acts as a kind of touchstone to remember my promises and resolutions.

My word for 2014 is simply focus!  Some may call that being more mindful, more focused or less scattered.

I am a hopeless ‘multi-tasker’.  Multi–tasking is when you try to do many things at once – the drawback being that not all of them is done well.   Have you ever talked on the phone while checking your email or tried to make a dinner, carry on a texting conversation and help with a school project at the same time?

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Are withdrawal symptoms or even recuperation absolutely unavoidable?

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My mom smoked two packs of cigarettes a day for almost 30 years.  Then one day she quit – cold turkey – and never had a single symptom of withdrawal.  No cravings, no anxiety, irritability or depression.  No weight gain, headaches, insomnia – nothing.

After struggling to breathe all weekend with a cold, she decided on Monday, “That’s it.  I’m quitting now.”  When amazed people would ask how she did it, she’d always respond, “I just decided.”

Her story is uncommon but not unique.  My dad’s more common smoking saga involved a struggle with cravings that lasted several years before he could kick the habit.

So, what was the difference?  Why was she able to quit quickly, without withdrawal, while he wasn’t?  Could it have been that her decision – that firm, mental resolve – actually affected her physical responses?

And why is this such an important health question?Continue Reading

Thanks To Gratitude You’re Healthy!

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So now that Thanksgiving day is over, are we done with giving thanks?  My British colleague Tony Lobl shares the powerful benefits to our health and happiness of being grateful on the other 364 days.  Here’s Tony…

In case you’re struggling to keep hold on the meaning of gratitude following Black Friday’s efforts to wipe Thanksgiving from our collective consciousness, here are some thoughts about gratitude and health.

‘Stay grateful and gracious’.

As life tips go that’s probably not one you’d readily associate with a high-powered business woman who’s a mover and shaker in A-list celebrity circles. Yet it’s one of ‘the key pieces of advice’ that fashionista-to-the-stars Rachel Zoe would ‘drive home to my younger self’ if she was able to turn back time and do so. It was, she told LinkedIn, something she regretted not having known at the start of her career.

Sincerely feeling thankful is a good idea. It tends to make us happier and it tends to make us better company. But to do so it has to be more than just skin deep, which is not always the case nowadays, according to an article that has made the rounds on the internet, called ‘An Epidemic of Gratitude’.

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Dr. Eben Alexander Says It’s Time for Brain Science to Graduate From Kindergarten

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In a previous post I wrote:  “I didn’t use to have any belief in spirituality….it was very upsetting for me to think about the possibility of death.  What bothered me most was the fear that I wouldn’t be able to think anymore….I’ve wrestled with the question of whether my consciousness is in my head, or something higher…and gained a conviction that whatever happens to my body or my brain, my conscious life will continue.”

What follows is an interview by my colleague, Ingrid Peschke, with Dr. Eben Alexander — a man who actually experienced my conviction.  What he says about God, unconditional love and immortality, has paradigm-shattering implications for healing and health.  Here’s Ingrid…

Anyone who openly declares that consciousness is not brain is going to get some attention. Especially when it’s from an established neurosurgeon whose knowledge of brain science includes 25 years of clinical practice, including 15 years at the Brigham & Women’s and the Children’s Hospitals and Harvard Medical School in Boston.

Dr. Eben Alexander has collected his fair share of skeptics over the claims he’s made in his New York Times bestseller, Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife.

After a year of being on the shelves for public consumption, his book has sometimes taken a beating from critics who have poked holes in his story of surviving a very rare case of meningitis, which virtually destroyed his neocortex (the side of the brain that makes us human) and nearly left him dead or at best a vegetable.

Still, no one can dispute the proof that he’s alive and well today.

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What’s in a name?

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This blog title is from the famous line in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet:  “What’s in a name? that which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”  Shakespeare also wrote in Hamlet, “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”  The following guest post from my colleague, Rich Evans in Arizona, focuses on the discovery that a medical diagnosis — being labeled with a name — can affect our thinking and in turn our health.  Here’s Rich…

Names are powerful.  Lincoln, Mount Everest, the Yankees, bring forth strong associations for each of us, depending upon what we have learned and accepted from the opinions of others and from our own experiences.  On July 29th, in The New York Times, Tara Parker-Pope reported on a rather courageous research report by medical scientists recommending changes in the approach to detection and treatment of cancer, including “eliminating the word cancer entirely from some common diagnoses”.  A significant point in the report was that too often the “cancer” label led the patient to an assumptive conclusion: if the word cancer was mentioned in the patient’s diagnosis, then the probability of death was assumed.  As a result, often more drastic procedures were undergone than were necessary.

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