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As a board member of the American Holistic Health Association, as well as a holistic practitioner, I am both intrigued and pleased with the current increase in scientific studies on the body/mind connection.
The research of biochemists such as Dr. Candace Pert is proving that there is a connection between our thoughts and emotions—even the words we speak— and our physiology. Her fascinating work is substantiating that our feelings can stimulate certain hormones and chemicals in our body that can enhance or suppress our immune system; that a negative attitude, for example, can literally lower our metabolism. It is not surprising that dieting does not work when we’re depressed!
The first step to a more holistic lifestyle begins with being aware. Just by being aware of our thoughts, our state of mind, and our attitudes, we can make a subtle but conscious shift. The body, an obedient and faithful servant, is listening. When I was a child growing up in Chicago, my family started stocking the medicine cabinets, during the fall season, with cold pills and aspirin. The flu season would soon be upon us. Alas, our bodies obeyed (self-filling prophecy), and sure enough, we would spar with a round or two of the flu. The body was indeed reacting as we expected.
Similarly, as we indulge in a marvelous hot fudge sundae, we often say, “I’m going to gain ten pounds!” And maybe we do. The body is always listening. Think about all the negative and often erroneous information we “feed” our bodies on a daily basis. Review your belief systems to determine if what you tell your body is true. Think about the dialogue, the positive as well as the negative things you convey to yourself. What is your belief about your health? What do you tell yourself about the foods you eat, the liquids you consume, the exercise you do or don’t do, your sleep patterns, and any aches or pains you experience?
We have the power to control our thoughts, adjust our attitudes and outlook. And slowly, I believe, the body is “given the permission to heal.” We can gradually give the body the freedom to mend, and function, as it was meant to, in a healthy manner. This, indeed, can be the result of our own self talk. Slowly, the body will respond to our verbal or mental affirmations.
The second step in this journey of health is belief. Modern science is continually baffled by the phenomenon of the placebo effect. When we believe that a certain procedure or medication will be effective, it usually will. Increasing the efficacy by 50 to 60 percent, I believe our positive self talk to the body is working.
Decades ago, during the Vietnam War, ill prepared for the enormity of the conflict, medics found themselves too often tending to the severely wounded with no morphine. Time after time, they would administer an IV saline solution, the only thing they had, telling the soldiers that it was morphine and that their pain would soon subside. Within a short time, the pain was alleviated. How? Sugar water is hardly an analgesic. Did their belief that it was morphine literally trick the body into producing the endorphins necessary to block pain? Lab tests taken on these soldiers who had been given only saline, but who had been told it was morphine, revealed morphine in the blood. Where did it come from? The body was listening indeed.