The biggest myth of the century is that you and me – indeed all individuals – are made up of a mind, a body and a soul. In other words, we are a sum of three distinct parts. This myth is most evident in the way we treat our illnesses.
When it comes to health and healing, the modern approach has always been to treat ailments in isolation. The emphasis on treating illnesses in a purely physical or mechanistic way continues even as new research gives overwhelming evidence of the connection between our intangible aspects and our physical health.
Granted, there is a lot of talk about the mind-body-soul connection and most modern physicians understand that intangibles like stress play a role in aggravating certain symptoms. Yet, few physicians offer lifestyle changes as the first course of treatment, proving that they pay only a lip-service to the idea of what we call complete wellbeing.
For example, did you know that depression might be linked to nutrition? Recent research suggests that depression may be caused by inflammation in the brain as a direct result of an imbalanced diet! In fact some psychiatrists are treating depression successfully by getting their patients to increase their intake of Omega-3 Fatty Acids. Yet, anti-depressant pills are prescribed by many doctors at the drop of the hat.
Take another example – of skin care. Skin care is considered to be purely a physical phenomenon. Skin problems are also usually dealt with either physically or physiologically. The idea that our psychology might affect the health of our skin is not so popular. But psycho-dermatology is a bona fide field of medicine that is based on the evidence that our emotional states affect our skin directly. So, does this means that your stubborn acne might be better managed by altering your emotions? Yes it does! And why just your skin? Evidence is springing up about how emotions are responsible for healing or preventing even critical illnesses such as coronary heart disease, cancer and diabetes.
So why should you be concerned about this myth? The number one myth is a cause of much suffering of humankind. Critical illnesses are being addressed purely physically. Little, if any, emphasis is given to the role of intangibles such as love and intimacy in treatment of such illnesses.
World renowned cardiologist Dean Ornish, MD, has directed clinical research demonstrating, for the first time, that comprehensive lifestyle changes may begin to reverse even severe coronary heart disease, without drugs or surgery. Recently, Medicare [Health Insurance Plan] agreed to provide coverage for this programme, the first time that Medicare has covered a programme of comprehensive lifestyle changes.
The incontrovertible truth is that we are not sum of parts. You and me are not a mind + a body + a soul. We are an integrated whole. The mind, the body and the soul are terms that only describe the various dimensions of an individual and his/her life and experiences.
Did you know?
A little known medical specialisation called psycho-neuro-endocrinology, studies hormone fluctuations and their relationship to human behaviour and psychiatric illnesses. It is playing an increasing role in the diagnosis and treatment of mood and anxiety disorders.
What does that mean? It means that what we feel, what we think, and what we do make up what we are in totality. It means that being fit and healthy is not just about maintaining a good diet, exercising regularly, and staying in a hygienic environment. To be sure, these are necessary conditions. But by no means are they sufficient. That is because our life on planet Earth is three-dimensional. However much we want, we cannot separate out these dimensions. Emotional health, mental health or physical health are misnomers. Health is singular. An illness, whether emotional or physical, is an illness and must not be treated uni-dimensionally.
The irony is that each of us knows this instinctively through our individual experiences. We know that when we are stressed because of problems at work – or sad because of a difficult relationship – we don’t feel well.
Our experiences are now corroborated by numerous studies by progressive scientists and doctors across the globe that our emotional states, our lifestyles, our relationships and our thoughts are responsible for creating illnesses as well as for healing them.
In spite of our instinctive knowing, and our experiences, why is it that we find it so difficult to embrace this philosophy? One reason is the deep-rooted conditioning of our minds, which is so strong that we ignore the signals we receive from our own body and mind. The information we are exposed to, especially in the media, is also largely responsible for preventing us from listening to our own instincts. For example, most health, fitness and beauty products usually focus exclusively on the physical benefits, indirectly telling us that if we take care of our physical aspects, we will be all right. Certainly, physical care is important. In fact it is necessary. But it is NOT enough alone.
Great physicians such Dean Ornish, Andrew Weil and Mimi Guarneri have known about this connection, not because of any formal education – because there are hardly any – but because of their own vast experiences in dealing with all kinds of illnesses. These physicians are aware that popping pills is not enough. Even the World Health Organization defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” So, a complete treatment is that which includes lifestyle changes: changes in the way we think and process events in our life, changes in our attitude, changes in our temperament and other similar mental and emotional changes.
This has been driving philosophy behind Complete Wellbeing too. We have, from the very first issue, been proclaiming that individuals are not sum of parts but an integrated whole that is much larger that its sum. Complete Wellbeing is not a magazine that promotes good health. It is an attitude, a philosophy of life that recognises and respects life in its entirety. It’s about having fulfilling careers, happy relationships — with self and others, and about having a purpose in life.
The first step towards living a happy life is to break out of the conditioning that we are sum of parts. Purge this myth from your life and acknowledge your instincts of being a living, breathing miracle that medical science is only beginning to understand, but which you have known all along.
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