Today, I want to share some of the major points I've learned via my research and from treating patients in a clinical setting. The experts seem to agree that many of our illnesses have a psychological component. In the acupuncture clinic, many patients complain of some level of stress that affects their daily life. For instance, often a patient will initially seek treatment for elbow or back pain, but during further discussion will ask if acupuncture can help with the stress they are feeling. Indeed, to heal the body a holistic approach of also tending to the emotions is just as important as the foods we eat or do not eat or medications we take. Stress elevates cortisol and stimulates adrenaline production. Chronic stress has been linked to a number of disorders, such as heart disease, diabetes, and even infertility. So, what can we do to optimize our health?
The Seven Keys for Staying in Balance: Healthy Bodies and Minds
Whole health stems from first recognizing the body-mind connection. Dr. Mark Hyman, MD, one of my favorite authors, encourages us to optimize brain functjion by improving nutrition; stabilizing immune function, hormone and neurotransmitter balance; enhancing detoxification; normalizing digestive function; and boosting energy in our cells (The UltraMind Solution, Mark Hyman, MD). His seven steps are:
1. Calm the mind - learn to relax, don't worry, be happy, learn to express emotions in a healthy manner, cultivate your spirituality, and connect with compassion (develoip inner qualities).
2. Optimize your nutrition - eat fresh and whole foods.
3. Balance hormonal levels - increase intake of essential fatty acids, also known as EFAs.
4. Cool inflammation - consume EFAs, herbal teas, and avoid or reduce spicy foods and caffeine.
5. Promote good digestion - take proteolytic and other digestive enzymes, fiber, and flaxseeds.
6. Detoxify as needed - detoxify with foods such as lentils, mung beans, celery, and lemons.
7. Boost your metabolism - take a Vitamin B complex and Vitamin C; exercise regularly.
To optimize our health and balance the body-mind, we need to connect to positivity and reduce stress. Positivity is something we can all cultivate and increase, even if it is not our natural tendency to be a "positive" person. Stress often comes from lacking the tools to deal with life’s challenges and is also something we can learn to manage. However, sometimes stress can be so overwhelming, we may even need to seek professional counseling.
We’ve all heard that our outlook on life matters. When we are experiencing good fortune, it is easy to be happy and positive. While it is easier to be positive when things are going our way, to really experience better health, we must learn to be positive when life is more challenging. According to the experts, we can begin by asking ourselves: "When was the last time I felt positive about life? Where was I? What was I doing? Can I think of still more positive triggers? What can I do now to cultivate a positive feeling?" Sometimes, we are not even sure what positivity feels like. The following list isn't exhaustive, but it can still help us understand more about the characteristics of positivity, such as:
It is helpful to look inward but don't over-analyze because as Barbara Fredrickson, PhD., author of Positivity, suggests: "overanalysis kills positivity." She also warns not to look for positive experiences through bodily pleasures or material things, which is what our spiritual teachers have been telling us for centuries. According to Fredrickson:
"Bodily pleasures and positivity influence our minds differently and operate on different time scales. In some ways, bodily pleasures are more akin to negavity than positivity. They narrow your focus (toward the object of your desire) and help you to meet a current survival need. Of course, bodily pleasures differ from negativity in that they draw you toward certain circumstances, not away from. But their narrowed mindsets and in-the-moment payoffs, set them apart from true positivity, which broadens the mind and pays off down the road."
So, what can we do to be more positive and begin balancing the body and mind? Here are just a few suggestions:
#1 - Meditate or pray daily. According to Dan Buettner the author of The Blue Zones, those who pray or have cultivated a lifelong spiritual connection, tend to live longer.
“All happiness comes from wishing others to be happy.” – Shantideva, 8th Century Meditation Master
#2 - Look at the back of your hand. What do you see or think about? On each finger, list something you are thankful for.
#3 - Free write with your non-dominant hand. What is your inner voice saying? Listen to the other hand. Often doing this activity will help you identify repressed feelings or subconscious thoughts.
#4 - Cherish others. Volunteer your talents to help others. Visit a sick person, or do something as simple as visit a local animal shelter and love on animals waiting to get a home. It’ll make you feel better.
#5 - Spend some time in nature. Studies have shown that connecting with nature reduces stress and helps improve our physical, as well as our emotional health.