Getting to the heart of true health

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I was shocked to think that my decision to cycle on the shared bike path rather than the (admittedly wide and free of traffic) road caused a man’s angry reaction, as he had to reign in his large dog to get past me. I was perplexed that my decision to do what I considered best had annoyed him so much.

When I thought about it, though, hadn’t I displayed just as much annoyance sitting behind motorists as animated conversations with their passengers hindered them from making thoughtful and timely manoeuvres?

We have every right to be angry and stressed, and to let the other guy know about it – and then to stir ourselves up about it again (and again) as we tell our friends or publish it on social media. Right?

Well, research pointing to the effects of stress on our health suggests we probably need to think again about this “right.”

It finds that stress can lead to elevated levels of the hormone cortisol which, in turn, can lead to stress-related illnesses ranging from heart disease, GI distress, diabetes, headaches, disordered eating, depression and anxiety.”

However, there’s a significantly positive finding from this research, too. Empathy for the other guy helps. It often resolves the situation, and is actually good for our health.

So, is it possible to foster empathy? Dacher Keltner, who runs the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, reports that various kinds of contemplation — prayer, meditation, yoga, feelings of awe for nature – boost empathy.

You have to chuckle at how The Message puts into everyday language Jesus’ no-nonsense approach to practising empathy, “Here is a simple rule of thumb for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you; then grab the initiative and do it for them! If you only love the lovable, do you expect a pat on the back?”

As Jesus raised the mental bar from empathy for the other guy to full-on compassion (love) for him, so today’s medical research is following suit. It finds that the higher mental state of compassion (or its absence) fundamentally alters the biochemical in which your body is steeped.

Advancing from a state of self-focus, a preoccupation with “me, myself, and I,” we feel rejuvenated and depression and anxiety begin to diminish.

To accomplish this, “Jesus prayed; he withdrew from the material senses to refresh his heart with brighter, with spiritual views,” wrote Mary Baker Eddy, my favourite author on how best to connect with that “something bigger than me.”

Learning about my spiritual side and adopting a healthy spiritual practice, has moved to the top of my list of priorities over the past years.

I’ve found that keeping in mind compassion for the other guy really helps how I handle people, deadlines and even the traffic. Come to think about it, stress-induced headaches are also a thing of the past.

You’d have to wonder if the hopes of millions now riding on “precision medicine,” extracting genetic data in order to tailor medical treatment, can actually be realised since compassion research seems to indicate that health is not a linear engineering exercise. Treatment tailored to the idiosyncrasies of genes and diseases cannot get to the heart of true health.

Eddy shared an important observation, “Not muscles, nerves, nor bones, but mortal mind makes the whole body “sick, and the whole heart faint;” whereas divine Mind heals” (Science and Health).

Compassion heals.

February is all about the heart – Heart Research Month, Heart Kids, Harmony Day and Valentine’s Day. We’re encouraged to make our heart health a priority.

You’ll be adding to your heart health as you courageously tackle these messy problems as they crop up – mistakes, anger, ignorance, don’t care attitude, difference of opinion, passions and misunderstandings – with compassion.

This article was published on LinkedIn. And also on these APN news sites: Sunshine Coast Daily, Coffs Coast Advocate, Northern Star and Fraser Coast Chronicle.

Is there a daily diet that curbs perfectionism, eating disorders?

A daily diet that feeds our famished affections

Four ‘trick or treaters’ knocked on our door on Halloween evening. Somewhat unprepared and surprised to experience this novelty in Australia I managed to locate a few sweet treats for each of them, and they left happily bubbling with excitement.

Was I frightened of their costumes or weird masks? Of course not. And I’m sure they didn’t believe for a moment that they’d suddenly morphed into ugly, wicked or ghoulish creatures, either.

Sometimes, though, people do put on an emotionally draining mask as they strive to feel accepted and loved. Over time they may come to accept the charade as part of themselves.

For instance, they may act out the role where they have to be the best … at everything. They can’t abide mistakes and feel it’s a badge of honour to say they’re a perfectionist. Ever in fear of failing, they may be chronic procrastinators. They don’t like themselves very much either, because they rarely live up to their own expectations.Continue Reading

Genealogy – a record of who we are, or not?

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It is fascinating to trace your family history back through the generations. Millions agree, considering the popularity of TV programs such as Who do you think you are?

I find it amazing that the well-known personalities who delve into the past are quite emotional about the heartbreaks, injustices and challenges experienced by their forebears, who they have only just discovered existed. On the plus side, this has led to healing in families when today’s standards and insights about race, religion, circumstances and nationality have been brought to the table.

Genealogy websites are just as popular. My cousins had traced our family tree back several generations. So, earlier this year we visited a family estate in Ireland and our namesake town in England and felt the warmth of belonging, despite never having visited before.

On the downside, shocking discoveries about forebears, such as a relative who promoted slavery, or great, great-grandparents who included criminals, prisoners, millionaires and paupers, all pepper family histories. Not to mention records of disease and mental illness resurfacing over the generations.Continue Reading

Healthier views are springing up amidst the well-meaning daffodils

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Whether you buy a bunch or two of gorgeous yellow daffodils on Daffodil Day to support the Cancer Council’s objectives or not, you might let this explosion of colour in our shops stir you to take charge of how you think about your health.

If you do, you won’t be alone. There are an increasing number of medical voices speaking up for a new view of health and healing, based on the integral nature of our thoughts and beliefs to our state of health.

For instance, Dr Lissa Rankin has reviewed the research, and is vocal in naming some of the fears that make us sick and prevent disease remission, like thinking about sickness all the time, believing that we’re victims of our genes, and adhering to false programming about health and hygiene.Continue Reading

Buying or selling? You don’t have to be stressed

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At last I’d found the perfect new home after weeks of searching and it ticked all the boxes!

The thing was, it would cost every dollar we had and more, and my joy in finding it was causing my long-suffering husband to experience horrific stress with the thought that we would be forever chasing our tails in financial hardship.

Tension was escalating between us, as circumstances dictated that a decision had to be made, and that very weekend!Continue Reading

Full recovery from PTSD is possible

PTSD sufferers address spirituality to rebuild lives © Glowimages
PTSD sufferers address spirituality to rebuild lives © Glowimages

Last week’s ANZAC Day commemorations highlighted the best of human conduct – servicemen’s and servicewomen’s courage, mateship, decency and willingness to lay down their lives for country and comrades in battle.

At the same time though, and in a quieter way, there was mention of those suffering from trauma as a result of seeing the devastation and brutality that go hand-in-hand with war. During the panel discussion on ABC Big Ideas ANZAC Day Special: Boys Don’t Cry, it was stated that 8% of serving Australian defence force personnel experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). But it was also pointed that that figure indicates only those who have been diagnosed and there could be upwards of 30% of all who have served.

Not only Australian Defence Force personnel but also other first responders like ambulance personnel, fire fighters, police officers and hospital staff are all too often confronted with devastating accidents, natural disasters or and the basest of human behaviours, leaving them with recurring images of the carnage and devastation. It also often leaves them numb and detached, and sometimes suicidal.Continue Reading