I have always thought of myself as a holistic doctor. To many, that means I have exchanged my training in western/allopathic medicine for more alternative, less conventional diagnostics and treatments. However, my definition of a holistic doctor, and how I fashion myself, is one who helps others balance the whole of their health: body, mind, and spirit. Western medicine focuses on the first of these and most conventional approaches start with the notion that disorders of the mind and spirit start with the body. Many who go to their doctors seeking to “be taken care of” are looking for their doctor to fix their lives, by fixing their physical ailments.
I have never felt comfortable with the role of taking care of people. For me, an authentic doctor, a truly holistic one, guides individuals with the tools and knowledge so they can successfully take care of themselves. (Naturally, if you need surgery, you’re not going to do that yourself! So, there are exceptions).
As a doctor, for now 30 years, I find that there are ways to stay healthy in body, mind, and spirit, that are not readily apparent and not made available in a routine office visit.
Here is my list of ten ways to stay healthy.
Over the years, people come to me trying to convince me that they are leading healthy lifestyles. They rattle off the foods they eat, the relationships they have, the money they make, and they can’t figure out what’s making them sick. This is where self-honesty comes in. Are you really making the right choices when it comes to food? Are your relationships really centered on mutual appreciation and respect? Well, if money isn’t really an issue, you are one of the fortunate. That’s because in my practice I have seen financial issues at the center of many illnesses and imbalance. It’s time to come clean with yourself.
Part of making smart choices is understanding that short-term gain quite often leads to long-term pain. Self-control means putting off that instant gratification—allowing for short-term pain in exchange for long-term gain. This comes into play whether you are deciding on foods to eat, people to hang with, how you spend or invest your money, how you spend your leisure time. This is an attribute that takes nurturing and cultivation. Many people have said to me, “I have no self-control.” If that is the case, then, it will take practice every day.
3. Honor your body
You may have heard the phrase, “your body is a temple.” But how many of us really abide by that. Are we cautious of what we put into it or how we treat it? Everything in moderation, we preach, but often that moderation turns into over-indulgence of food, drink, maybe even drugs. Too much of even “good things” can be destructive, such as obsessive exercise. Treat your body as a vehicle for your soul and that can serve as a guide to how to honor it.
4. Avoid Resentment
Often, we harbor deep-seeded ill feedings by not speaking our truth. I recall a situation in my life where I needed to address a wrong that was done to me, but it was very uncomfortable. I felt the turmoil in my gut. But I asked myself, what would I rather have, the short-term pain of addressing this circumstance directly, or the long-term pain of holding it in. Not only would it hurt other parts of my life, but I would resent the individual and that would be very destructive to me. Addressing the problem head on helped me to avoid the resentment and the subsequent constant nagging on the inside that would have eaten at me, slowly and incessantly.
5. Ditch the anger
Surely, I am not saying don’t permit yourself to be angry. Anger is a natural human emotion. However, it is important to understand from where it arises. Anger is the fight reaction of the famous fight-or-flight. When our brain detects danger, threat, or vulnerability it causes us to automatically, instantaneously fight-or-flee. To give us the tools to do that, our brain initiates a neurochemical, electrical reaction that is filled with the stuff that is not good for us—whether it be the stress hormones or the effect on our heart, lungs, or other body systems. You will get angry but allow it to leave your body. How? These hormones and electrical impulses last only a couple minutes, unless you continue to feed them. Give yourself a timeout, take some breathes and return to the situation more peacefully so that you can address it calmly and see through the danger or threat.
6. Stay far from guilt
Our brains detect danger from many different angles, one of which is the threat of losing love. This threat is among the biggest dangers for humans and causes us to do whatever it takes to fight-or-flee the possibility. This can cause us to make poor relationship choices, but in this health example, it can cause us to internalize guilt. We feel guilty when our desires conflict with the desires of someone from whom we don’t want to lose love. Guilt is like resentment because it is a slow and insidious negative emotion. The way to stay away from it is to recognize that nobody can make you feel guilty. If you feel guilty it is because you have allowed another’s needs and wants to overshadow yours. To stay healthy, you must recognize you will need to fully take care of yourself—your body, mind, and spirit, before you can fully take care of another. If you allow guilt to be your guide, that can’t happen, and your health will suffer. And make sure you don’t use guilt on anyone either.
7. Embrace personal responsibility
When we fling blame at our circumstances, it sends a signal that we are not in control. Having a victim mentality rather than a victor mentality allows internal breakdown. On the surface, you may have subtle victories from your victim status. In medicine, the term is secondary gain. This means that one remains sick because it brings them the gain of attention. However, it means you must remain sick; you must remain a victim; you must continue to blame. Not accepting personal responsibility for your actions will prevent you from growing and will ultimately make you sick.
8. Don’t worry
There’s an old adage, “Worry is like sitting in a rocking chair. It gives you something to do, but it doesn’t get you anywhere.” A recent article told of the difficulty parents of adult children are having trying to sleep, still worrying about their children. Obviously, if worry is keeping you from sleeping, it can’t be good for your health. But how do you stop? First you must understand that the future is an unknown. By worrying, we somehow think we will prepare ourselves better for the “danger” of the unknown future. It will make you less prepared, that I can assure. Since the future is truly unknown, to think about what may happen is fantasy. So, if you are going to fantasize, I suggest you fantasize a brighter future, than one about which you need to worry. Don’t worry, be happy! See below for more ideas about this one.
Zig Ziglar once said, “attitude is altitude”. And indeed, it is. Someone once asked me what my secret is to remain young and healthy. I told them it was my positive attitude. Cynics have challenged me on this, as though optimism is unhealthy because blind faith, being Pollyanna, or being a ‘glass half-full’ kind of guy is just not realistic. Yet, I think that most of us wish to increase our chances of a happy and healthy life. That means looking for the positive in every life circumstance; look for the lesson. We really have no idea what the future is going to bring us. When we stress about the daily ups and downs, it wears us down; it drains us. Next time you are caught in traffic, be grateful. Why? Because you have no idea of knowing what circumstance it may be preventing you from facing. Assume it is a good thing and be thankful for that. It will be better for your health.
10. Cultivate spirituality
To develop a strong spirituality, I feel we must recognize its evolution. For me, it is first believing, then it is having faith in my belief, then it is trusting that faith. Our animal nature knows only of the immediacy of the moment. But as humans, we possess a duality of an animal (primitive) nature and our divine nature. The latter is the essence of our spirituality. It allows us to contemplate our own existence and allows us to have a deep relationship with the Divine. It is accepting that there is much more than our material world and what our five senses tell us. This can help to eliminate many fears. Trust in the Divine (in God as I believe) will establish a foundation of peace and calm that will help keep you healthy. Trusting that for you the right things will happen for the right reasons at precisely the right time will help to eliminate worry and will welcome in a new healthier you.
As you may notice, these are not the usual recommendations such as diet, exercise, stress reduction, etc.…If you practice these ten, the usual recommendations will fall into place and you will be able to find the ones that work for you. Once you do this, you will open the door to a healing power that will not only keep you healthy but will give you the necessary strength to get well if you are currently sick.
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