The art of medicine consists of keeping the patient amused, while nature heals the disease.
An ideal level of health and wellness involves achieving a balance between our mind, body, and spirit (self-awareness). This balance recognizes that we are not just a physical collection of living cells. Our minds are powerful – ignoring our subconscious can create enormous stress in our bodies and lead to various dis-eases. There is also growing awareness that our connection to the universe is not passive, but quite active. Some scientists even believe in a unifying concept of the universe (Zero Point Field) that is supported by quantum physics, reconciling mind with matter based on energy.
Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, and countless others have studied our minds and helped us gain insights on why we act out and do things that are not always healthy. Increasingly, science has shown a link between how we feel and what we believe, and the state of our physical health.
In his book The Biology of Belief, Bruce Lipton, a former medical school professor and research scientist, shares some compelling evidence that our genes are affected not just by our heredity, but by our beliefs as well. The science, known as epigenetics, studies changes in gene expressions caused by mechanisms other than our DNA. Lipton’s research shows that genes and DNA do not control our biology; instead, our DNA is controlled by signals from outside the cell such as the energetic messages from our negative and positive thoughts.
Another best-selling author and internationally renowned pioneer in bridging science and spirituality, Gregg Braden, explains that a shift in our beliefs may hold the timeless secret to healing in The Spontaneous Healing of Belief. He states, “We tend to live our lives based in what we believe about our world, ourselves, our capabilities, and our limits. With few exceptions, those beliefs come from what science, history, religion, and other people tell us. Historically, we have been taught that we are passive observers in the universe. What if those beliefs are wrong? How differently would we live if we discovered that we are born with the power to choose our relationship to longevity, health, and even life itself?”
A common, but obvious, example of the power of our mind and belief systems is the placebo. This effect is well known in medical trials, where people experience improvements despite being given a simple sugar pill and not the actual medication being studied. The effectiveness of placebos and the growing evidence in epigenetics are just two of many examples that our mind is more impactful on our health than what we may have believed in the past.
Nationally, an increasing number of hospitals and universities have sponsored integrative medicine clinics and programs. Locally, Crain’s Business Detroit reports that Beaumont, Crittenton, Henry Ford, University of Michigan, Botsford, and St. John Providence have created integrative medical clinics. These clinics “integrate” conventional medicine and holistic and alternative medicine practices such as nutrition and herbal medicine, acupuncture, massage, guided imagery, yoga, meditation, and chiropractic. One hospital official said “We were looking at how to provide holistic care for patients, not just for the body but also for the mind and spirit.” A key limitation to wider use, however, is acceptance and financial support from health insurance companies.
Academic institutions are also supporting a more holistic approach to health. Duke University created its Integrative Medicine program to focus on the whole person, recognizing that the “subtle interactions of mind, body, spirit and community have a direct impact on vitality and well-being.” Their “Wheel of Health” incorporates conventional and complimentary approaches, as well as prevention and intervention. Key components include:
- Mind-body connection
- Movement, exercise, and rest
- Personal and professional development
- Physical environment
- Relationships and communication
- Mindful awareness
In our next blog, we will explore the consequences of an imbalance in the framework of our mind, body, and spirit. For example, some people have a strong focus on toning their bodies, but ignore the impact of their thoughts, emotions, and belief systems on their total health, leading to numerous physical problems eventually.
Stay tuned and stay healthy.