Stress Tips: Calm Your Mind, Heal Your Body
Mark Hyman, MD
WHEN IT COMES TO YOUR HEALTH, there is one factor that is more important than almost any other…
If it is missing from your life, it causes or worsens 95 percent of all illness. It has been associated with dramatic reductions in disease and increased longevity.
And it is more important than cholesterol , blood sugar, blood pressure, or any other risk factor in determining whether you will live a long and healthy life. But it doesn’t come in a pill, and it can’t be found in a hospital or in your doctor’s office.
What is this critical factor that determines so much about how healthy or how sick you are?
Your attitude, your social networks, your community, and your spiritual beliefs.
Put another way, the health of your mind and spirit and your sense of connection to your community has an immense impact on the health of your body. In fact, aside from eating breakfast, the biggest predictor of longevity is psychological resiliency — being able to roll with the punches that life throws at us.
There is a dramatic and powerful connection between your mind and body, and between your body and your mind. In fact, it really should not be called a connection because it is just ONE bidirectional system.
Americans live on caffeine and Prozac. We use substances to manage our moods. In fact, the four top-selling items in grocery stores are all drugs that we use to manage our mood and energy: caffeine, sugar, alcohol, and nicotine.
An Epidemic of Stress-Related Disorders
According to Hans Selye, MD, the man who coined the word “stress” and first mapped out its biological effects, “The modern physician should know as much about emotions and thoughts as about disease symptoms and drugs. This approach would appear to hold more promise of cure than anything medicine has given us to date.”
We are seeing an epidemic of stress-related disorders in our society, including depression anxiety, autism , attention deficit disorder, memory disorders, and dementia, and these disorders are making the pharmaceutical industry highly profitable.
But how do we really deal with the root of this problem? You use the MOST powerful pharmacy in the world — which is right between your ears!
95 percent of all illness is caused or worsened by stress.
In school, we all learned how to read and write, but we never learned how to use our minds to help us with the most important survival skills of all: staying happy and healthy!
Other cultures differ in their training. Herbert Benson, MD, of Harvard Medical School, has demonstrated the amazing power that trained Tibetan meditators use to control their physiology by slowing their metabolism, changing their heart rates and brain waves, and raising or lowering their body temperature.
He even documented on film an ancient practice called tumo, the generating of internal heat, performed by initiated Tibetan monks. The monks are wrapped in icy cold sheets and must use their internal heat to dry them, possibly by actively burning something called brown fat. As a result, they can sit naked on a snowy mountaintop all night and not freeze, keeping warm with their internal heat.
That’s something most of us don’t have any consciousness of, or control over. Imagine if you could turn on fat burning and lose weight with your mind! That is how powerful our mind and our beliefs can be.
But in the West we aren’t even taught how to cope with the day-to-day frustrations of life. We live under constant chronic stress and we are not trained to address this stressful psychic load that is the burden of the 21st century.
This is unfortunate, because stress is killing us.
Just consider these facts:
- 95 percent of all illness is caused or worsened by stress. Low socioeconomic status is associated with poorer health outcomes and higher risk of death from all causes. This is not because of poor health habits, but because of feelings of powerlessness and loss of control.Internalized racism and stress are associated with high amounts of belly fat.
- Stress hormones damage the hippocampus — the memory center in the brain — causing memory loss and dementia.
- In a study of people who volunteered to have cold viruses injected into their noses, only people with a high level of perceived stress got colds.Women with metastatic breast cancer survived twice as long if they were part of a support group.
- Belonging to a group — a religious group, a bowling club, a quilting group — reduces risk of death from all causes and increases longevity, despite health habits.
- In a study of doctors, those who scored high on hostility questionnaires had a higher risk of heart attacks than those who smoked, were overweight, had high blood pressure, or didn’t exercise.
So, if you don’t think the mind has the power to influence your body, think again.
The good news is that you can change your beliefs and attitudes and their effects on your mind and your body. You may need to learn a few new skills, like stress reduction techniques, but it can be done.The systems in your body that affect mood and brain function include hormones, immune system, gut, detox system, energy system, nutritional status, and other environmental inputs. By employing the following techniques, you can leverage the power of your brain and body to calm your mind and bring healing.
10 Tips for Calming Your Mind
Here is what we know about how to influence the mind-body and the body-mind system. Consider these essential survival skills. You cannot thrive without them!
- Address the Underlying Causes of Stress — Find the biological causes of problems with the mind by working on the UltraWellness. Mercury toxicity or a magnesium or vitamin B12 deficiency or a toxic gut chemical or a gluten allergy could be changing your brain. So, by changing your body, you can change your mind!
- Relax — Learn how to ACTIVELY relax. To engage the powerful forces of the mind on the body, you must DO something — you can’t just sit there watching television or drinking beer.
- Learn New Skills — Try learning new skills such as meditation, deep breathing, yoga, biofeedback, and progressive muscle relaxation or take a hot bath, make love, get a massage, watch a sunset, or walk in the woods or on the beach.
- Move Your Body — Exercise is a powerful, well-studied way to burn off stress chemicals and heal the mind, so just do it! It has been proven to be better than or equal to Prozac for treating depression.
- Optimize Your Nutrition — Clean up your diet from mind-robbing molecules like caffeine, alcohol, and refined sugars and eat regularly to avoid the short-term stress of starvation on your body.
- Supplement — Take a multivitamin and nutrients to help balance the stress response, such as vitamin C; the B-complex vitamins, including B6 and B5 or pantothenic acid; zinc; and most important, magnesium , the relaxation mineral.
- Try Herbs — Use adaptogenic herbs (herbs that help you adapt and balance your response to stress) such as ginseng, Rhodiola rosea, Siberian ginseng, cordyceps, and ashwagandha.
- Use Heat Therapy — Take a hot bath or a sauna to help your body deeply relax and turn on the relaxation response.
- Change Your Beliefs — Examine your beliefs, attitudes, and responses to common situations and consider reframing your point of view to reduce stress.
- Find a Community — Consciously build your network of friends, family, and community. They are your most powerful allies in achieving long-term health.
The solution is a fundamental change in our worldview about health — a view that helps us get to the core of illness, learn self-care, take control, and empower ourselves to transform our own health and turn our “sick care” system into a health care system.
Each of us can contribute and make small changes that will have a big effect as we move toward vibrant health and vitality as individuals, and as a society.
Take control of your health today using the techniques I have outlined in this series of blogs, and you will become part of a growing movement that is working toward fundamentally changing the way we understand the body and practice medicine in this country.
Article printed from DrHyman.com: http://drhyman.com