Scientific research increasingly shows that negative thoughts and emotions can make us ill and positive thoughts and emotions help to keep us well. Happy, contented, emotionally well-adjusted and optimistic people have more energy and get ill less often. They also live longer. How, then, can we use these insights to heal our bodies and stay healed?
The starting point is self-awareness. Every great teacher, from Lao Tsu, the Buddha, Socrates, King Solomon to modern day gurus like Dr Deepak Chopra and Osho have agreed.
Most illnesses arise from miscommunication between the body and unconscious mind, telling us that some issues in our lives need to be addressed. Often, when we address an issue, the problem clears up without further intervention.
Correctly handled, illness can be the trigger for personal development and the gateway to spiritual growth. Along with the pain and suffering comes the opportunity to change. Many health problems are primarily due to poor self-management.
If you think this is an exaggeration, here’s an example. Mick was a wealthy businessman, forty-three years old. He was diagnosed as suffering from gout, a disease in which an excess of uric acid in the blood causes excruciatingly painful swelling in the joints. On some days, he could only walk using crutches.
For several years he relied on medication but had no idea what was causing. Then one day a health practitioner told him the main cause of gout was opulent living – especially a poor diet. Mick was certainly guilty of that. His alcohol consumption was well over the recommended limit, and he loved high fat, sweetened, refined foods, especially generous helpings of meat, blue cheeses and desserts.
The practitioner gave him a diet sheet which prohibited (among other things) red meat, dairy foods and alcohol, and advised an increase in salads, fresh fruit and vegetables. ‘Sod this,’ he said. ‘I’m not a flamin’ rabbit! If I follow this I’ll starve.’ So he carried on as before. Needless to say, the condition did not improve.
In time the agony got worse and he came round to following the practitioner’s advice. He made a full recovery.
Mick’s was a very obvious wake-up call. Usually, though, the problem is not so apparent. The sufferer may have adopted a lifestyle that harms them physically, mentally, emotional and/or spiritually without being aware. But if they ask themselves, ‘What could I learn from this? What needs to be addressed? What is it telling me about my lifestyle, my way of thinking, my hopes and fears, beliefs, values and personal relationships?’ the answers may be revealing. Then changes can be made.
- Intention: Do you want to be well? To be healed? If this sounds like a silly question, be aware that some people would rather stay ill! Why? Because illness can itself be the solution to other problems. It can provide justification for failure, avoiding responsibility and inability to cope. It attracts sympathy and attention. Practitioners can quickly spot such people because they know that if the patient does not want to be healed, their healing efforts will be in vain.
- Habitual thinking patterns can block the healing process. Every thought you entertain affects every cell of your body and can weaken the healing process.
- Beliefs are powerful thought-forms that deliver a direct command to the nervous system. Author Norman Cousins (who cured himself of a terminal illness after doctors had given up on him) wrote: ‘Drugs are not always necessary. Belief in recovery always is.’ Beliefs do not have to be conscious; they continue to influence you even when you’re not thinking about them and affect us whether they are true or false.
- Recurrent emotions that need to be addressed.
- Faith: another word for total belief. People with faith in a positive outcome are often the best fighters.
Self-awareness and mindfulness are the starting points for all progress, from confidence building and self-esteem to physical wellness.
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How to Books, 2007