Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Ten Tenets of Wellness

[The following article is reprinted with permission of Michael Arloski, PhD from the AHHA Self-help Articles Collection: ]

The Ten Tenets of Wellness

By Michael Arloski, Ph.D., PCC

Wellness always seems to be working at answering one critical question: Why don't people do what they know they need to do for themselves? Providing people with good information about physical fitness, stress management, nutrition, etc., is important, but insufficient. It is not a matter of lacking information.

When you look at living a healthier life, there seem to be certain factors that have emerged from the last twenty years or so that the wellness movement field has identified.

1. Wellness is a holistic concept. Anything short of that is incomplete and ultimately ineffective. We need to look at the whole person and plan lifestyle changes for mind, body, spirit and environment. Just working at the dimension of wellness that you already like, such as exercising and minimizing the others, like stress management or nutrition, doesn't work in the long run.

2. Self esteem is the critical factor in change. Wellness is caring enough about yourself to take stock of your life, make the necessary changes and find the support to maintain your motivation. Heal the wounds. Find what is holding you back from feeling good about yourself and work through the blocks, not around them. Acknowledge your achievements and express the "real you."

3. Who we surround ourselves with either helps us stretch our wings and soar, or clips them again and again. We tend to follow the lead of our peers and find it hard to "go against the grain." Positive peer health norms encourage wellness lifestyle changes. Mutually beneficial relationships with friends, lovers, family and colleagues who care about us as people are what we need to seek and create in our lives. Rather than being threatened by our personal growth, they support it. Do your friends (partners, etc.) bring out your OK or NOT OK feelings? Giving and receiving strokes are what it's all about. Friends keep friends well.

4. Break out of the trance! Conscious living means becoming aware of all the choices we have and acting on them. It involves a realization that we don't have to run our lives on automatic pilot. We can turn off the television (remember TV stands for "time vacuum"), read labels, turn off the lawn sprinklers when we have enough rain, notice how our food tastes, notice how tense and contracted we are when we drive fifteen mph over the speed limit, etc. It means consciously working on our relationships, life-goals, and maximizing our potential.

5. A sense of connectedness to other people, other species, the earth and "something greater" grounds us in our lives. We are all of one heart. Much of this sense can come out of the land we live on. By identifying with where we live, getting to know the plants, animals, weather patterns, water sources and the landscape itself, we develop not only a love for it, but feel that love returned. Through our commitment to our place on earth we value and protect our environment by the way we live our lives, and by how we speak at the ballot box. Through our contact with the natural world we experience a solid sense of belonging, peace and harmony.

6. We are primarily responsible for our health. There are the risk factors of genetics, toxic environments and the like, but our emotional and lifestyle choices determine our health and well-being more than anything else. As much as we'd like to cling to blame and cop-outs, we must be honest with ourselves. The flip side is the empowerment this realization gives us.

7. From increased self-sufficiency comes the confidence and power that overshadows fear. The Australian Aboriginal people say that when a person cannot walk out onto the land and feed, clothe and shelter themselves adequately a deep, primal fear grips their soul. Recognizing our interconnectedness, we grow tremendously when we can care for ourselves on many different levels. Skills, information and tools that enable us to: choose our food wisely (or even grow it ourselves); become more competent at our career; adjust the shifter on our bicycle; take a hike into a wilderness area; bake bread from scratch; etc., all increase our self-respect and self-confidence. We need to learn these skills and teach them to others, especially our children.

8. As much as we all need time with others, we all need time apart. Solo time, especially in the natural world, helps us relax, de-contract, and get beyond the distractions of modern life that prevent us from really knowing ourselves. There are some powerful reasons that peoples from all around the world have spent time alone (usually in a wilderness setting) in order to gain vision about the direction and meaning in their lives.

9. You don't have to be perfect to be well. Perfectionism often pushes us to feel ashamed and feeds a negative view of ourselves. Workaholism, anorexia and other addictive behaviors can result. Wellness does not mean swearing off hot-fudge sundaes. It just means not b.s.'ing yourself about when you last had one!

10. Play! We all need to lighten up, not take ourselves (and wellness) so seriously. Remember the lessons of the coyote and be playful, even ornery in a non-malicious way. Let the child within out to play. Give yourself permission.

Even with these tenets there is no concrete wellness formula. You have to discover what works for you and add your own tenets to the list.


AHHA Editor's Note: A version of this article appeared in Wellness Management Vol. 10, No. 3, a publication of The National Wellness Institute, Stevens Point, WI.


Michael Arloski, Ph.D., PCC is a licensed psychologist, consultant and wellness coach with over 25 years in the wellness field. Michael has presented seminars, keynotes and consultations on four continents, pursuing his mission of taking the concept of wellness worldwide. Dr. Michael is fascinated with how behavior, the environment and the human heart interact. In his newly published book, Wellness Coaching For Lasting Lifestyle Change, he shows coaches and wellness professionals how to work with their clients to achieve actual behavioral lifestyle change. Dr. Arloski is founder and CEO of Real Balance Global Wellness Services LLC. or 970-568-4700.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Scientists identify mechanism behind mind-body connection

Science has found a solid mind-body connection after all! I can't say I'm surprised they found the connection, but what took them so long?!

However, there is both good news and bad news.

Good news: they found a mind-body connection!

Bad news: they want to develop a drug to mask the effect of the stress hormone cortosol instead of reducing stress! You can be totally stressed out but not be affected by it - but wait until you see the list of side-effects (which might be revealed a year or two after you start taking it) from the drug they develop!

Doesn't that sound just yummy?

Well, read on. . . . .news story reprinted from PHYSORG.COM

(Immune cells (stained blue) end in protective caps called telomeres (stained yellow) that are shorter in the elderly -- and in persons suffering chronic stress. A new UCLA study suggests cortisol is the culprit behind premature aging of the immune system in stressed-out people. Credit: UCLA/Effros lab)

Every cell contains a tiny clock called a telomere, which shortens each time the cell divides. Short telomeres are linked to a range of human diseases, including HIV, osteoporosis, heart disease and aging. Previous studies show that an enzyme within the cell, called telomerase, keeps immune cells young by preserving their telomere length and ability to continue dividing.

UCLA scientists found that the stress hormone cortisol suppresses immune cells' ability to activate their telomerase. This may explain why the cells of persons under chronic stress have shorter telomeres.

The study reveals how stress makes people more susceptible to illness. The findings also suggest a potential drug target for preventing damage to the immune systems of persons who are under long-term stress, such as caregivers to chronically ill family members, as well as astronauts, soldiers, air traffic controllers and people who drive long daily commutes.

"When the body is under stress, it boosts production of cortisol to support a "fight or flight" response," explains Rita Effros, professor of pathology and laboratory medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, and a member of the Jonsson Cancer Center, Molecular Biology Institute and UCLA AIDS Institute.

"If the hormone remains elevated in the bloodstream for long periods of time, though, it wears down the immune system. We are testing therapeutic ways of enhancing telomerase levels to help the immune system ward off cortisol's effect. If we're successful, one day a pill may exist to strengthen the immune system's ability to weather chronic emotional stress."

The research was published in the May issue of the peer-reviewed journal Brain, Behavior and Immunity.

Source: University of California - Los Angeles


Michelle here. . .

Folks, according to The average person in the US between the ages of 19 and 64 take 10.7 drugs already. No wonder the immune system is shot. The drugs may be causing more stress than the stress!

This "potential drug target for preventing damage to the immune systems of persons who are under long-term stress" goes right back to a recent post here (10 things doctors must do to truly earn the respect they crave) about doctors perpetuating a ' "Disease Industry" -- designed not to eliminate disease, but to perpetuate the management of symptoms' through the increasing use of pharmaceuticals; they don't treat patients any more, they push high-priced, often unnecessary drugs.

Do you really want them to give you another drug? Isn't 10.7 enough for you?

If you're not careful, you'll start to resemble the not-so-handsome fellow below!

I really don't understand the mentality behind these choices when there are so many great alternatives to reduce stress!

If you truly want to be stress free, send an email to me at and we will work together to find the best holistic practices that will help you toward true Wellness, not another drug!

Monday, July 21, 2008

The 10 things doctors must do to truly earn the respect they crave:

Below is an excerpt from the newsletter article World's Greatest Medical Failures

Date: 7/21/2008
Posted By: Jon Barron

[Michelle says: I have inserted my own comments in red. To read Jon Barron's full article and subscribe to his newsletter, click the title above.]

The bottom line is that the average number of prescriptions per senior citizen has grown from 19.6 in 1992 to 28.5 in 2000, an increase of 45 percent. The average number of prescriptions per person 65 and older is projected to grow to 38.5 by 2010, an increase of 35 percent over 2000. From 1992 to 2010, then, the average number of prescriptions per senior citizen will grow by 96 percent. Stunningly, only the first 1 or 2 drugs actually deal with the symptoms presented by the original medical problem. The other 17-36 drugs are all required to deal with the negative side effects of the original 2, plus the interactions of all the other drugs being taken. [Michelle says: This is absolutely true. One of my uncles is around 75 years old and has been prescribed about 17 different drugs. He takes two medications that address his diseases and the other 15 to manage the side effects that have been perpetuated. My cousin said he acts like a zombie, can hardly carry on a conversation, can't even think straight, but they keep adding drugs to his regimen. Is this really where you want to end up someday?] And the really sad fact is that in over 95% of all cases, the original problem could have been resolved by merely changing diet and lifestyle -- with no side effects.

Somehow, along the way, we have created a major industry centered around disease and manipulating the symptoms of those diseases, and everyone wants a piece of the action -- from insurance companies to doctors, administrators to state legislatures, lobbyists to hospitals, drug companies to researchers, medical device companies to universities, and even all the non-profits that collect millions and millions of dollars to support this massive system of dysfunction. Make no mistake, this is not a wellness industry, but as Paul Pilzer states in The Wellness Revolution, it is a "Disease Industry" -- designed not to eliminate disease, but to perpetuate the management of symptoms. [Michelle says: This is true. I watched the Montel Williams show one afternoon when he did a program on the disease he has: Multiple Sclerosis. All through the program, Montel spoke of the need to cure the disease. At the very end, a guest doctor said, (this is not a direct quote, but the gist of what he said): 'No, Montel, not cure: control. If we can make drugs to control it, we don't need a cure.' That comment just shocked the hell out of me and certainly proves that the medical community is on exactly the "Disease Industry" track that Jon Barron describes.] And the really sad fact is that in over 95% of all cases, the original problem could have been resolved naturally -- with no side effects.

Do you understand the implications of that statement?

Disease can be averted, treated, and in many, many cases even reversed -- naturally, with no side effects…and at little cost!

The 10 things doctors must do to truly earn the respect they crave

Look, modern medicine and the doctors who practice it have much to be proud of. As we discussed earlier (and last issue), there are many areas in which they have made great progress -- and areas in genetic and stem cell therapy and prosthetics that are likely to be transforming over the next 10-20 years.

But that said, there is much that modern medicine has to apologize for. And if doctors ever truly want to be the all around healers they claim to be, they will have to change some fundamental paradigms.

In the last newsletter, I listed the 10 greatest advances in medical history, according to doctors surveyed in the British Medical Journal. Let me wrap up this two part series by giving you my list of the 10 things doctors must do if they truly want to earn the respect they crave. Medical doctors must:

[Michelle says: This is what real HEALTH-CARE is all about!]

  1. Start thinking of the human body as an integrated whole, not a machine with separate parts that can be treated independently.
  2. Start treating underlying causes, rather than merely managing symptoms.
  3. Actually learn the real role that diet and lifestyle play in optimizing health. A total of 6-8 hours of study in medical school does not make one an expert.
  4. Accept the fact that the proper use of the right supplements can improve health.
  5. Accept the fact that exposure to over 100,000 untested toxins released into the environment is going to have an impact on health -- and that it is indeed possible to detoxify many of those toxins even after they have entered the body.
  6. Stop accepting perks (essentially bribes) from the pharmaceutical companies, which then influence subsequent treatment decisions.
  7. Stop accepting simultaneous positions with drug companies and on FDA advisory boards. Quite simply, it is unethical to pass regulatory decisions on drugs in which you have a financial interest.
  8. Evaluate alternative therapy treatments on a level playing field. Stop insisting that alternative health treatments must undergo rigorous peer reviewed study before they can be used, and yet allow 85% of all medical treatments to used untested.
  9. Stop being so arrogant as to think that if treatments don't come from within the medical fraternity, they have no value.
  10. And stop being so arrogant as to think that alternative health treatments and supplements can be evaluated without the active participation of alternative healers. Going to medical school grants no expertise in alternative health -- none! (I once had a medical doctor announce to me with great pride that he had become an expert in alternative health the previous weekend under instructions from the head of his hospital. Considering that it's taken me over 40 years to develop a passing understanding of the field, with expertise in just one or two small areas, his achieving mastery of the entire field in just two days was truly impressive.)

When all is said and done, I have been fortunate to travel the world, to meet and spend time with dedicated men and women within the medical community whose work in the field of healing has distinguished them as miracle doctors. Not once or twice, but every day, over and over, they perform miracles.

But when it comes to the major diseases of our time, they can do better. And when you consider the alternative, we can only hope they do.

Michelle says: Pharmaceutical drugs put a lot of stress on your body, from compromising the immune system to overloading the organs, especially the liver, with chemicals that your body just can't handle, and that don't even effect a cure. (If your body could handle these meds, there would be no side effects, and if they effected a cure, you would be able to stop taking them eventually instead of being on drugs for the rest of your life, right?)

The next time you visit your doctor, hand him or her a copy of the list above and tell him or her how important it is to you and how vital it is to your health and wellness that he or she comply with these items. You will be doing yourself, and all the rest of us, a great service. If enough people demand it, it will happen!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

It's All In The Mind:Think Yourself Into Good Health

The thing that got me onto the mind-body bandwagon was a story a decade or so ago about an experiment involving three groups of basketball players. The researchers wanted to know if visualizing basketball practice would be effective in keeping the player's skills honed even if they didn't actually get onto the court. One group practiced daily. The second group visualized practice daily. The third group went fishing. Well, I don't know what they really did, but it had nothing to do with basketball.

At the end of the experiment, the daily-practice group had excellent skills, the group that was disconnected from basketball experienced a significant drop in their skill levels. The players who visualized practicing basketball – much to everyone's surprise – were nearly as good as the players who had actually played.

There is one rub in all this that allows the non-believers to point fingers and scoff at the process: you have to believe it works; belief is the backbone of mind power, it holds it up and gives it strength. There is a saying that demonstrates this: "If you think you can, or you think you can't, you're right," meaning that your ability is dependent upon your belief.

There are many stories like the one about the basketball players that show the power of the mind to do many things, including healing from serious, chronic health conditions. However, if you are fighting your own skepticism, you will spend more time trying to convince yourself that it works than you will letting it work for you.

I have written quite a bit on the topic of mind-body healing, and here are links to just two of the articles posted here at Live Stress-Free ~ Naturally!

Daoism on Healing Requires a Flexible Mind

Your Mind: The Natural Cure For What Ails You

You will also see mention of the benefits of Progressive Relaxation, and preparing for sleep, so here is a link to my Progressive Relaxation "how to" articles and an article on holistic techniques to counteract insomnia:

Have a look at those, and then put into practice the great advice given by Christina Laun in her article:

It's All in the Mind: 75 Ways to Think Your Way Into Good Health

Fitness isn’t just about working out and eating right– the way you think and feel can have a big impact on your health as well. Studies have shown that Buddhist and Hindu monks tend to live longer and happier lives and the reason has to do more with how they think than how they eat or keep healthy. You don’t have to be a monk to enjoy these kind of benefits of putting mind over matter, however, as research is showing a powerful connection between mind and body that can be accomplished by anyone determined enough. Here are some ways that you can use your brain power to make you happier, healthier and more fulfilled every day.


Here are a few simple ways you can change your thinking in a way that can have a positive impact on your health.

  1. Get out negative emotions. Letting negative feelings and emotions build up can cause negative health effects as they stress you out and make you feel bad overall. Give yourself an outlet to think about and deal with these emotions rather than just ignoring them.
  2. Try hypnotism. Many people report that hypnotism allows them to change their thoughts and behaviors. While it may not work for you, it doesn’t hurt to try it out to see if it can’t help you to change your thinking about bad habits and negative attitudes.
  3. Realize change is possible. When reflecting on things you want to change in your life, don’t get discouraged by goals that seem far off. Remind yourself of things you’ve changed in the past and use that to motivate you to change things from unhealthy habits to the way you deal with stress.
  4. Think about things that energize you. If you’re feeling run down you may be able to use your brain instead of caffeine to give yourself a jolt of energy. Try thinking about things you love to do or that you’re excited about taking on. This may wake you up enough to get you started on your day.
  5. Imagine yourself aging more slowly. They say you’re only as old as you feel, and that can be true if you think young. Visualize yourself aging more slowly and staying healthier longer and you may have a better chance of actually doing so.
  6. Feel in control. Don’t let things in your life override the way you feel or think. Use your thoughts to figure out a way to get control of a situation whether it’s at work, at home or your entire life.
  7. Embrace your faith. Studies have shown that having faith can have a big impact on your recovery from illness and possibly your overall health as well. If you do have a faith that you follow, make it a part of your mental wellness routine.
  8. Trust in yourself. You won’t be able to change much with your thinking if the first thing that comes to mind is how you’ll likely fail. Trust that you can make a difference in any aspect of your life you want to bring more happiness or well-being to and chances are you will.
  9. Be honest. There isn’t much use in trying to think yourself healthy if what you’re thinking is a lie. Be honest with yourself about your past, good or bad, and commit yourself to thinking about making realistic, healthy choices.
  10. Live consciously. Don’t blindly go through life eating what is put in front of you or doing things just because they may be easier even though they may harm you in the long run. Follow your own thinking and make your own decisions about everything that comes into your life.
  11. Accept what comes your way. There are some things in life that there is no way to change, no matter how much you think about them. Learning to turn your thoughts to acceptance rather than forcing things to change is a big part in maintaining mental and physical health.
  12. Forgive yourself. We all make mistakes, do things we regret and go back on our word sometimes. Don’t let minor setbacks destroy the positive thoughts you have for yourself. Forgive yourself for these transgressions and start over fresh the next day.

Dealing With Stress

Stress can have a big effect on physical and mental health. Here are some ways to think yourself free of it.

  1. Meditate regularly. Numerous studies have shown that meditation can have a very beneficial impact on the brain and even change how your brain processes things over time. Make time in your schedule for meditation and you may learn to control your stress and your mind.
  2. Relax and let stress go. You can use your thoughts to help rid yourself of stresses. When you’re feeling overwhelmed take a minute to relax and focus your thoughts on something else. Over time, you may be able to better handle the big and little stresses that come your way.
  3. Think about each breath. It can help to focus your thoughts and draw stress away if you make a conscious effort to think about each breath as you take it in and out. It will help relax you and bring you more in touch with your body’s rhythms.
  4. Control your thoughts at bedtime. For many who are stressed, getting to sleep at night can be a challenge. Use your thoughts to shove out all the worries and tasks that are floating around and to concentrate on relaxing, restful thoughts even if that means just counting sheep.
  5. Prepare mentally for bed. Before you ever hit the sack, make sure your mind is ready to sleep. Start creating a thought routine that will get you ready both mentally and physically for bed and help you get the sleep you need to be happy and healthy.
  6. Revise your dreams. If you find yourself haunted by bad dreams or awoken multiple times throughout the night by them, learn to use your mind to control them as they are happening. This lucid dreaming will allow you to turn nightmares into happier dreams and allow you to get the rest you need.
  7. Concentrate on each muscle individually. One way to relax is to concentrate on each muscle individually in your body and relaxing them, bit by bit. By the time you’re through you should be in a completely restful state and you’ll have your mind power to thank.
  8. Allow yourself to daydream. Daydreams are often are body’s way of taking control when we need a break from the stresses of our busy lives. Give yourself a chance to daydream now and then without interrupting with thoughts of things you should be doing.
  9. Stop worrying. Many people fall into a mental pattern of worrying constantly about things to the point that it causes them a great amount of stress and anxiety. When you feel worries coming on, train your brain to start thinking about other kinds of thoughts.
  10. Set aside time to think. With busy lives it can be hard to find time to just think, let alone organize your thoughts and prepare for the next day. Give yourself a few minutes each day, whether it’s during your commute or before you go to bed, to let your mind wander and think about your future, your relationships or whatever else it wants.
  11. Write in a journal. It can be helpful when trying to direct your thoughts and emotions to write them down in a journal. This can be a great way to vent out negative feelings and emotions and to let you track your progress in making changes in your life.
  12. Use color to control your thinking. Having trouble relaxing or waking up in the morning? Colors can have a big impact on how we perceive things. Make your bedroom full of soothing colors like greens and blues to help you get to sleep and try wearing a bright color when you wake up to see if it gives you a little extra pep. By using your natural associations with colors, you may be able to change your thinking.

Illness and Disease

If are you are faced with potential illness or disease here are some ways you can use the power of your brain to improve your chances of recovery.

  1. Don’t think about the pain. Studies have shown that when people are distracted from a pain source they feel it much less intensely than when they are concentrating on it. Use your brain to distract yourself away from your pain whether it’s a simple headache or something more serious so you can feel better and get through your day.
  2. Concentrate on getting better. This may sound like something your mother would say to you to keep you from jumping back into work or taking care of yourself but it can actually be true. Those who focus their thoughts and energy on getting better more quickly are actually more likely to do so.
  3. Believe in your treatments. If you go into a treatment, whether it’s for something serious like cancer or something more innocuous, thinking that it won’t work you’re actually lowering the chances that it will work. Patients who go into treatment with a positive outlook have a better chance of a positive outcome so try changing your thinking. After all, it can’t hurt.
  4. Imagine you have a strong immune system. Some studies have shown that you may be able to stimulate your immune system simply by thinking about it. If you feel a cold coming on, try picturing your immune system putting up roadblocks to stop the infection. It may sound silly, but it just might work.
  5. Picture your body fighting off infections. Along those same lines, whether you have a sinus infection or a serious illness, you may be able to take a shot at helping clear it up by concentrating on eradicating it with your mind. Imagine your body fighting off the infection bit by bit and it might do just that.
  6. Listen to your body. Because people are often so busy they may fail to notice signs from their body that something is wrong until it’s too late. You know when something is wrong with you and you don’t feel normal. Don’t put these thoughts aside, instead, listen to them and try to figure out just where they’re coming from so you can get help for whatever may be troubling you.
  7. Find a positive and friendly doctor. Patients who have a doctor with a positive outlook on their recovery and who treat them with a friendly and understanding demeanor are much more likely to positive outcomes from their treatment than those that do not. Find a doctor that can help you go into treatment with a positive outlook and you may improve your health in the process.
  8. Believe in miracles. Crazy things happen every day and there is no reason to think that they can’t happen to you. Believe even when there is little hope that there is still a chance for a cure or treatment of your illness. While there is no guarantee, thinking positively may have more of an effect on your wellness than you realize.
  9. Don’t fear treatments. If you go in for medical treatments fearful and scared you may be causing yourself more of a chance of future complications. Find a doctor you trust and bring along a family member to help keep you calm and in a good state of mind before you go under.
  10. Relax to save your gums. It has been shown that stress and worry are a major cause of gum disease or at least exasperate existing cases. To avoid this sometimes painful and dangerous condition, allow yourself to relax and think more positively about your life in general.
  11. Tell yourself you will get pregnant. Many women who have trouble conceiving may find that they finally do after they imagine the process happening. While it certainly isn’t a guarantee of success, giving your body a little vote of confidence and positivism may be just what you need to finally become pregnant.
  12. Take time to deal with negative things. Finding out you have a serious illness or a potentially fatal disease can be heartbreaking and any person would be upset. Give yourself time to fully think through and deal with these feelings until you find that you can think about them rationally. Only then will you be able to adapt a truly positive outlook and influence your wellness in a genuine way.
  13. Stop thinking of yourself as a sick person. When you are constantly thinking of yourself as being sick you may be resigning yourself to that fate not only mentally but physically as well. By thinking of yourself as becoming well again you may motivate your bodily systems to kick into gear and give whatever’s plaguing you the boot.
  14. Don’t milk injuries. Along those same lines, if you are hurt don’t pretend to be more hurt than you really are to get sympathy. You may end up actually causing yourself to be sicker than you were in the first place by convincing your body that you’re unwell.
  15. Understand that sometimes its all in the mind. Not all illnesses have a physical cause, some are the result of built up negative feelings, stress, and thoughts that you are carrying around. If you can’t find the reason you’re in pain or don’t feel well, try changing the way you’re thinking to see if that can make an impact.
  16. Don’t expect pain. When you expect something to hurt or to have a negative side effect you increase the chances that it will. Studies have shown that patients who were told a treatment would hurt or who were advised it may cause headaches were more likely to experience these side effects than patients who were not. So allow whatever treatment you’re going in for to be whatever it will be and deal with it as it comes.
  17. Don’t place blame for illness. Many patients sabotage their ability to think positively about their illnesses by blaming themselves for getting them in the first place, feeling that they could have had less stress, eaten better or done a number of things to prevent them. While this may or may not be true, it doesn’t change the present. Don’t wallow in the past, instead turn your thoughts to how you can positively deal with the present and make an impact on your future.

Emotional Health

A big part of your overall health is your happiness. Here are some ways you can boost your mental outlook just by changing your thoughts.

  1. Concentrate on happiness. Want to be happy? Then start thinking happy. Focus your thoughts on things that make you smile and blessings in your life and you’ll see a turn around in your mood in no time.
  2. Focus on positive aspects. There are always going to be situations in our lives that seem downright rotten at first. But you can help make them more bearable by focusing on the positive and when you feel yourself getting down training your brain to go to these kind of thoughts instead of those that make you feel worse.
  3. Start each day with optimism. It’s easy to roll out of bed in the morning because you feel you have to or you are afraid of the negative consequences if you don’t. This starts your whole day on avoiding bad things instead of seeking out the good. Remind yourself of a positive thing you want to get up for each morning and focus on that.
  4. Smile. You may be in a bad mood but if you force yourself to appear like you’re in a good one you may actually start to be.
  5. Change your inner dialogue. If all your thoughts about things involve negative terms, worst-case scenarios and doom and gloom you’re not doing yourself any favors health wise. Change the way you talk to yourself to a more positive, motivating voice. You’ll be happier and in the long run healthier too.
  6. Reverse thoughts. If you catch yourself heading down a path to negativity stop yourself in your tracks and turn those negative thoughts into positive ones. Over time you’ll improve your mood and make it easier to get through your day.
  7. Give yourself compliments. Do something great today? Looking sexy in a new outfit? Give yourself a compliment and acknowledge your accomplishment. Do this often enough and you may be able to influence your self esteem and think about yourself in a whole different light.
  8. Use positive words in your thoughts. It’s very easy to fall into the habit of using negative words in your thoughts, but it’s also just as easy to replace those negative words with positive ones. Instead of saying "I’ll never be able to do this" think "This will be hard, but I know I can do it."
  9. Put positive energy out there. Some people believe that you get back what you give out. Whether you subscribe to that theory or not, you won’t be hurting yourself any by taking on a more positive and upbeat attitude and making others around you feel good.
  10. Expect the best. When you expect the worst to happen sometimes you get your wish. Always assume that the outcome of a situation will be a positive one. You may not always be right, but you won’t have to spend hours moping about how you knew you wouldn’t be.
  11. Think of happy memories. You may be in the middle of the worst day of work ever and all you want to do is crawl under your desk and cry but you can help make a little bright spot in all that horribleness by thinking about things that you’ve done that have made you happy. Maybe a great trip with friends, watching your children play or special moments with a spouse or loved one.
  12. Be friendly to yourself and others. Sometimes when you think the best of others you help them to see themselves in that light as well. You’ll feel better about having positive relationships with others and who knows, maybe your kindness will be returned just when you need it.


Help yourself stick to a healthy diet with these mental exercises.

  1. Control your cravings. Want to get your cravings under control? Try to think about how you’ll feel if you indulge them. LIkely you’ll feel guilty and beat yourself up about it. Focus instead on how you’ll feel if you don’t cave. Probably pretty good. Give yourself that positive mental reinforcement and you’ll be able to more easily stay on track.
  2. Actively remember your last meal. Studies have shown that when people take the time to actively recall what they had at their last meal that they actually felt fuller and snacked less than those who didn’t. See if this method can work to help curb your desire to snack away, even if you don’t need it.
  3. Concentrate on food while eating. You may find that you’ll eat less overall if you concentrate on your food at every meal and enjoy it slowly. This concentration will allow you to get more joy out of eating as well as help you to feel more satisfied at the end.
  4. Visualize yourself as slimmer. Want to shed a few pounds? Then stop thinking about yourself as a fat person. Visualize yourself as the slim, trim person you want to be. The more you concentrate on that person, the harder you’ll work to attain that goal.
  5. Understand your hunger. Not all hunger is based on a true need to eat. It can be caused by loneliness, anger, sadness and a variety of other emotional and psychological issues. When you feel yourself getting the desire to eat, take a minute to think about whether or not you’re truly hungry or if you’re just trying to fill some other kind of need.
  6. Don’t beat yourself up. When making any big change in your life you’re bound to have relapses and fall back on your old ways. The same goes for eating well. Don’t be too hard on yourself for these occasional slip ups. Remind yourself of all the times you didn’t cave and simply start over again.
  7. Reward yourself mentally. Not all rewards have to be physical. If you’ve done a great job keeping up with eating healthy foods give yourself some credit. Think about how much better you feel and all the benefits you’re getting from this new, healthy lifestyle.


Help yourself meet your fitness goals by changing your mind set with these suggestions.

  1. Think about exercise. Studies have shown that you may be able to get some moderate physical benefits from just thinking about working out. So if you can’t make it to the gym, try concentrating on thinking about all the exercises you would have done. While it’s no real substitute, it beats thinking about cupcakes and french fries to keep you in shape.
  2. Get into the right frame of mind. If you go into a workout thinking it’s going to be terrible and not being able to wait until its over the experience will be miserable and you’re likely to get little benefit from it. Change your mind set before you hit the gym and focus on all the good you’re doing yourself by working out as well as the long term benefits you’ll reap.
  3. Think of yourself as healthy. Imagining yourself as a lazy bum isn’t going to motivate you to truly be healthy. Sometimes thinking about yourself as a happy, healthy person can be all you need to make that a reality.
  4. Make it a game. You can use your thoughts to make working out a game. Make bets with yourself as to how much you can do, challenge yourself mentally while on the treadmill and even use the people working out around you to keep you entertained.
  5. Think of exercise as fun. If you think of exercise as a chore it very likely will be. Think of it instead as an opportunity and one that is giving you the chance to live a longer, healthier life. Try working out during your favorite TV show or listening to a great song while running to make working out more closely associated with good things in your mind.
  6. Envision the negative effects of your bad habits. Can’t seem to stop smoking or eating poorly? Take a moment to focus your thoughts on the possible negative outcomes of these behaviors. Is it really no big deal if you can get cancer or have a heart attack? These kind of thoughts can help you get serious about changing these habits.
  7. Celebrate small victories. Are you finally able to run a mile without having to stop? Can you now touch your toes? These little steps in fitness should be a big deal to you. Give yourself a mental party for your accomplishments and share them with whomever is willing to listen.
  8. Think of your body differently. Many people avoid gyms because they feel they are too fat or because they have low self-esteem. Get your mind to start thinking about your body in a positive light, whether you’re just starting out or well into a fitness program. When you’re happier with the way you look you’re actually likely to make more progress and feel more confident at the end of the day.

Personal Development

Help yourself meet your own goals and be happier and healthier overall with these mental tricks.

  1. Visualize yourself meeting goals. Whether you want to quit smoking, lose ten pounds or get the promotion you have a better chance of doing so if you visualize yourself reaching the goal. It may sound silly but you may work harder once you have a clear image of what success looks like.
  2. Downplay cynicism, ill will and envy. These kind of negative thoughts won’t bring anything good your way. Instead, turn your thoughts about others into a more positive light and remind yourself that no one controls your happiness but you.
  3. Remind yourself of your successes. Even in the face of a total failure don’t allow yourself to wallow. Pick yourself up and start thinking of all the times you have succeeded at something rather than failed. This can help you get back onto the saddle and on the road to future successes.
  4. Visualize the future. Do you know where you want to be in five years? If it isn’t working at your current job or even in the city you’re living in then it may be time to sit down and have a good long think about how you can start heading your life in the right direction. Once you’ve got a goal in mind you can start thinking about ways to meet it and focusing your thoughts on this instead.
  5. Think about what means most to you. Many people do things simply because they are convenient or easy without really considering what the most important things in life are to them. Focus your thoughts and energy on those things that are most important and you’ll start leading a happier and more fulfilling life.
  6. Make your goals realistic. While it’s good to be ambitious, there are some things that may be setting yourself up for disappointment. Set goals that are realistic for yourself and set your thoughts to meeting these goals.
  7. Fake it until you make it. Sometimes all it takes to be successful is to pretend that you are already are successful. By believing that you will meet your goals one day, and acting the part, you may actually be setting yourself up for future success.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Daoism on Healing requires a flexible mind

This is one of the articles I wrote for my "Illuminating the Dao" column in the Qi Dao newsletter.

Healing requires a flexible mind

By Michelle Wood

Today's quote teaches us why flexibility is crucial for life. This lesson should be applied to the power of the mind in healing as well. When you read the verse, substitute the word "mind" for "body" and you will see what I mean.

Verse 76 of the Tao Te Ching (Skylight Illuminations) courtesy of and translated by Derek Lin.

While alive, the body is soft and pliant
When dead, it is hard and rigid
All living things, grass and trees,
While alive, are soft and supple
When dead, become dry and brittle
Thus that which is hard and stiff
is the follower of death
That which is soft and yielding
is the follower of life
Therefore, an inflexible army will not win
A strong tree will be cut down
The big and forceful occupy a lowly position
While the soft and pliant occupy a higher place

When we talk about self-healing, there is nothing worse for curing a chronic illness than a hard and rigid mind. An inflexible mind doesn't like change, and healing is all about change…changing from illness to health!

There are two main types of inflexibility when it comes to the perception of the mind in healing; self-defeat, and doggedness.

Self-defeat, the idea that your illness is incurable, the idea that you will just have to "live with it," is the single, most influential thought that keeps people from healing. You simply believe that you are doomed to bear your illness for the rest of your life. By thinking this way, you lock yourself into the box of chronic illness.

Even worse is when medical professionals tell you that there is no cure for you. You often take their word as the ultimate truth because they are the professionals. They know the score. They know what can and can't be done. But, the thing they don't know is the amazing power of the mind to heal. You can easily entertain thoughts of self-doubt which impair your self-healing ability in the face of a negative professional opinion.

But, look at the other side of that coin. How many times have you heard of the "miracle" cure, usually of a popular sports figure told by medical professionals that he would never even walk again, never mind play his game, run his race, stay his course? However, he is eventually able to participate again in his sport because his mind wouldn't give up. If he had believed what others told him, that he wouldn't walk or participate in his sport again, his mind would have gone rigid with a negative belief, and he would not have recovered….just as they predicted. Believing in illness and defeat can be a self-fulfilling prophesy.

Doggedness means sticking with a course of medication or other therapy because you know (or were told) that it worked for someone else even though you gave it a fair trial and it is obviously not working for you. Sticking with something that isn't working is not only contrary to what we know about healing – that each person is unique and must be treated individually – it has the potential to allow your condition or illness to become worse because it isn't being treated properly, as well as having that deterioration in your health adversely affect other organs or body systems.

Here is a look at Verse 76 in the context of the way you can school your mind for flexibility and self-healing.

While alive, the body is soft and pliant
When dead, it is hard and rigid

A hard and rigid mind is the epitome of the doggedness mentioned above. When dead in this way, the mind cannot see in any direction but straight ahead on the same narrow road it presently travels. There are no turns or detours into new thoughts or ideas. The dead, self-defeating mind often goes to the place of "nothing has helped; nothing will help." There is a rejection of anything new or innovative because the past therapeutic experience has so far been ineffective.

You know the saying: "whether you believe you can or you believe you can't, you're right!" That is especially true in the area of the healing power of the mind. It is important to understand that even though you agree to try a new idea or therapy, if you go into it with the belief that it won't work, it won't work.

Carrying the belief in your mind that a new (and hopefully, holistic) therapy is beneficial goes a long way toward making it beneficial for your body.

"Belief" in the context of self-healing means your emotional intensity of desire. It helps you determine what is true and what is false, what will happen and what won't happen. Emotions are the bridge between immaterial thought and material manifestation. Emotions are the tool the mind uses to get things done.

You can have a million thoughts in a day of things you would like to do or to be – and it often seems as though most of us do, which can be quite distracting! – but unless your emotions are involved, those thoughts will drift away, never to be seen again.

Whatever health and wellness goal you have in mind, the greater the intensity of your desire that you dedicate to the outcome, the more likely you will do it, and that you will succeed.

All living things, grass and trees,
While alive, are soft and supple
When dead, become dry and brittle

Just as there is little hope for the leaves at the end of the dry and brittle tree limb, the blossoms at the ends of dead flower stems, the brown and withered grasses, dry and brittle thinking does not have what it takes to nurture new ideas and let them grow. Dry and brittle thinking can't even entertain new thoughts or ideas just as a dead tree limb can't grow new leaves. It has lost the energy to live.

Self-healing requires thoughts and ideas and energies that are alive, that can flow with the waters and wander with the winds. This is especially important in the use of meditations that employ healing imagery and symbolism. These meditations often use the imagery of water and light which the power of the mind directs through the body, removing disease and restoring health. The mind and the body must work together to effect this healing.

Thus that which is hard and stiff
is the follower of death

Following physical death, it takes a while for the body to reach rigor mortis which literally means "stiffness of death." Rigor mortis is the result of "the unavailability of energy needed to interrupt contraction of the muscle fibers." [rigor mortis. (n.d.). The American Heritage® Science Dictionary. website:]

Rigor mortis of the mind can happen instantaneously and without warning. It can be caused by almost anything; a chance comment, an upsetting encounter, a traumatic experience. Often it takes the form of repetition; you get stuck in a program of replaying over and over again the comment, encounter or experience. It freezes the thought process, making self-healing impossible.

Additionally, if your thought process becomes stuck in constant worry over a chronic illness, it certainly isn't moving toward ways to alleviate it. Stagnant thoughts contribute to stagnant energy, and can actually make an illness worse.

That which is soft and yielding
is the follower of life

Thoughts and beliefs that concentrate on change are the promoters of health and wellness.

One of the best things you can do when working toward health is to get your disease off your mind by engaging in a variety of activities that raise your spirits and make you happy. Joy and happiness, and laughter, send very powerful messages of wellness throughout the body through various chemical and muscular pathways.

In the practice of self-healing, emotional joy should never be underestimated. Laughter itself is one of the most powerful healing methods you can practice.

Therefore, an inflexible army will not win

An army is basically a body made up of multiple parts that must act in unison to win its engagement. If a commander goes into battle with a wedge-shaped frontal assault but doesn't adjust his plan when he sees the enemy start to flank him on both sides, the inflexibility of his plan will allow the enemy to surround and defeat his troops.

Any body, including yours, will not win if it isn't flexible enough to adjust to changing circumstances.

A strong tree will be cut down

The big and forceful occupy a lowly position
While the soft and pliant occupy a higher place

You know what they say about strong trees; they are more vulnerable to damage from storms because they can't bend in the strong winds, they break, and their branches end up scattered on the ground. Bamboo, hollow and supple, survives due to its flexibility. It can be bent almost in half, but it won't break.

Don't be so inflexible that you break. Be like bamboo; keep a flexible mind and bend with the winds of changing thoughts and ideas so that at the end of your illness, you'll be vibrantly alive and standing tall.

Derek Lin's translation courtesy and Tao Te Ching: Annotated & Explained, published by SkyLight Paths Publishing, 2006, ISBN 1594732043

You can enjoy both of Derek's books:

Read my review of The Tao of Daily Life.