Your calendar age doesn’t define you

Break free from the birthday shackle © Glowimages – models used for illustrative purposes

Break free from the birthday shackle © Glowimages – models used for illustrative purposes

Do you believe that you are you are ‘as young as you feel’? That you’re free to take charge of your own health, happiness and wellbeing, no matter what your age?

In frustration at some of the ingrained beliefs about aging that he saw shackling his colleagues and friends as they grew older, an American baseball legend asked, “How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you were?” implying that you need to break out of the mental conditioning that makes you think you are defined by your age.

The calendar is a useful way to let you know the date, but if you let yourself be hemmed in by your chronological age, you may lock yourself out of potentially valuable opportunities.

Nextgen population researchers have recognised the greater import of health, cognitive function and life expectancy rather than age data as they plan for future populations. “We should not consider someone who is 60 or 65 to be an older person,” said researcher Sergei Scherbov. “Saying that ‘40 is the new 30’ .. is truer than people know.”

We’ve heard how our health age can be years younger than our calendar age, if we’re active and eat sensibly. Now, research into the mind/body/spirit connection in several fields, including neuroscience and meditation, adds evidence to the claim that it is our mindset, more than the food we eat or the exercise we do, that affects our physical body.

Excited by the health implications of the mind sciences, a Cleveland Clinic Foundation exercise psychologist compared individuals who worked out at a gym against another cohort who just visualized working out. Not surprisingly, the gym-goers experienced a 30 percent increase in muscle. However, the ones who only thought about working out also experienced a 13% increase in muscle strength, urging us to think beyond the physical to mental attitudes and capacities.

Many integrative health practitioners take this a step further, asserting that it is spiritual thoughts and practices that make a significant difference to better health and longevity. Mary Baker Eddy, an early researcher into this connection in her book, Science and Health, suggests that we “…. shape our views of existence into loveliness, freshness, and continuity, rather than into age and blight” for a longer, healthier and happier life.

She also suggests that it’s time to stop focussing on the body so much, and be aware of the myths about aging that are constantly influencing us. Be aware that “timetables of birth and death are so many conspiracies against manhood and womanhood”, and stop keeping a record of ours or others ages; or at least dispute the assumptions of debility and aging every time you buy a birthday card.

Healthwise, it’s worth acknowledging that spiritual, mindful or positive thoughts bring vitality, freshness and promise to each day.

Some have broken free from the belief that they’re ruled by an aging body. You too can adopt a mental attitude of ageless being, and look forward to experiencing the health benefits.

This article was first published by the Fraser Coast Chronicle and Bundaberg News Mail.

Working with the Whole Person: Interview with Petrea King

Petrea King talks to Kay Stroud for Holistic Bliss Magazine

Petrea King talks to Kay Stroud for Holistic Bliss Magazine

Read this cover story article where it was published in the February 2014 issue of Holistic Bliss Magazine….

Put simply, the standard prescribed way of treating disease needs to be reviewed and reworked.

This was the message that Petrea King and many of the health practitioners conveyed at the AIMA 19th Integrative Medicine Conference held at the Gold Coast late last year.

Following her workshop, King agreed to talk with me about her work and what she sees as the future of healthcare in Australia. Qualified naturopath, herbalist, clinical hypnotherapist, yoga and meditation teacher, author, founder and CEO of the Quest for Life Foundation, she has been instrumental in healing individuals and communities after tragedies such as the Queensland floods and is regularly sought after as a counsellor and commentator on integrative therapies on ABC Radio.

“… the whole relatively new science of epigenetics shows us that we have to move from treating diseases to treating people”, she explained. “I think we’re at a time where we have to take on board the whole person … which encompasses their story, what they’ve made of their story, as well as obviously their nutrition, exercise and sleep and all of these very practical things.”

She went on to say, “It’s something I’ve been puzzling over for many years. Will our health system evolve into a more compassionate person-centred holistic environment or will it collapse… and out of the ashes will come a more humane and integrated way of treating people.”

Strong words from the recipient of numerous awards including the Centenary Medal and the Advance Australia Award, as well as being amongst the nominees for Australian of the Year each year since 2003.

To understand her story, we need to go back 30 years when she experienced a life-saving event. She was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia and given months to live. “I don’t know why I didn’t die, except that I do know that I healed a lot of the things that caused me great distress and pain,” she shared with me.

Anguishing alone in a cave in Italy, “for the first time I integrated a lot of the trauma that had happened in the past and forgiveness was a huge part of that integration. The more peace I found, the more strength I found”.

Since then, she’s seen many other people’s life-threatening diseases spontaneously go into remission as they find a sense of connectedness to their innate spirituality, regain control over their responses to life and recommit to living.

From childhood years spent in hospital and extremely difficult times living with a brother who had mental issues and eventually suicided, to failed marriages and then her spontaneous remission of leukaemia, King speaks from her own experience when she says that “medical practitioners can help patients to a degree with drugs and surgery, but what is always healing is compassion.”

She explains, “I’ve been treated by many people and felt worse for the treatment; and healed by many people who didn’t treat me for the ailment but just shared that loving touch – whether by word, or a moment of compassion, or care, or concern.”

We agreed that often semantics are a hindrance to understanding our spiritual nature. Some terms she used were consciousness, Soul, Spirit, Life, Being, energy.

For many, health has a deeply spiritual element and is tied to a relationship we each have with the divine consciousness. We agreed that recognition of our true selfhood brings both healing and “the peace that passes all understanding.”

Petrea King is constantly refining the words and the concepts – so that they’re readily accessible and simple for everyone, as she works in disparate arenas such as the corporate world, the backblocks of Queensland after floods and even in jails.

“There’s much greater openness now to having conversations about the invisible world because there’s a realisation especially in quantum physics that the visible world isn’t as it seems.”

Mary Baker Eddy, another woman whose own miraculous healing caused her to research the powerful link between spirituality, consciousness and health, also took an unconventional approach. In the 19th Century, she led the way in establishing a system of health care, still practised today, based on love, inspiration from a book of great wisdom, the Bible, and the realisation of our unity with the divine consciousness.

She repeatedly healed others through her ideas in her seminal work, Science and Health. Her ideas such as, “The scientific government of the body must be attained through the divine Mind” and only “unselfed love” can heal the sick and transform the man, have a growing number of supporters today.

These days, many medical practitioners openly espouse the benefits of holistic, patient-centred care. King is now running 6-week programs for people with cancer at the Adventist Hospital, Wahroonga, and will do so at other hospitals that are developing an integrative approach to the care of people with cancer.  This was unheard of when she started practicing holistic medicine 30 years ago. She’s regularly invited to present Grand Rounds alongside medical specialists in the hospitals in Sydney, as they steadily become convinced of the benefits of a holistic approach. And the winners are the patients.

She spoke of the relevance of spirituality to the wellbeing and methodology of health practitioners, as well. The Hearts in Healthcare community that Dr Robin Youngson founded operates in stark contrast to a sometimes unthinking attitude imposed by the pressures of the current workplace model.

“Of course we get emotionally involved with our patients. We love them, we care for them. To be emotionally aware of what’s going on within yourself in the care you’re extending to another is very fertile ground for our own growth in wisdom, compassion, insight which are all assets so valuable in the health arena.”

She doesn’t think of herself as a healer, but as providing an environment where people might find healing.

I asked her what drives her passion for Quest for Life. “When you nearly die and then you don’t, you know that happiness is not about the stuff of life. What gives me joy is seeing people move from fear and anxiety, panic and distress to feeling empowered and capable and able to embrace whatever the challenge is they have and make meaning of it. I think when you liberate yourself from these distressing feelings, you’re actually changing your physiology at quite a profound, indeed epigenetic level.”

She was offered help when she was at her lowest point, and she has since always wanted to provide a safe haven where people could come and unburden themselves. The Quest for Life Centre now conducts retreats where people find a listening and skilful heart that gives very practical skills and strategies so people can reclaim their life, regardless of whatever their suffering might be.“

Rather than adopting a “grin and bear it attitude” amidst our own mental and physical suffering, we may all need to adopt this new/old approach of seeking out sanctuaries in order to heal.

What needs to change in today’s health care system?

Petrea King reiterates: “We have to move from treating diseases to treating people. We’re bringing habitual ways of thinking and doing things when we need to bring compassion, creativity, knowledge and love to the moment.”

There is more than a little evidence that the holistic and integrative health movement, with professionals like Petrea King’s input, is quietly helping our health system to evolve into a more compassionate person-centred, holistic environment.

Want better health? Resolve to ‘think positive’ in 2014

How to become a change-agent in 2014 © Glowimages
How to become a change-agent in 2014 © Glowimages

Have you been following The Paradise on TV? Maybe you went to see the second movie in The Hunger Games trilogy or The Book Thief during the holiday season?

Some of us identify more intensely with the characters on the big screen, but it seems that we all love following an intelligent, positive hero as he or she conquers fear, stays cool and becomes a change-agent in the world.

Their success begs the question: Is it good luck, good genes, ‘right place, right time’ or positive thinking that makes the difference?

And how about in real life?

Digital natives lead way to an ‘unselfie’ New Year

Digital natives lead way to an ‘unselfie’ New Year © Glowimages – model used for illustrative purposes

Digital natives lead way to an ‘unselfie’ New Year © Glowimages – model used for illustrative purposes

“Our generation doesn’t send Christmas cards”, asserted my 30-year-old daughter when I complained about writing them. She followed up with, “I’ll be sending an e-card like last year”.

Whatever your position about handwritten Christmas cards versus e-cards (I’m in both camps this year), you’d have to admit that for most, it’s not so much about having a physical item or possession that counts.

In a digital age, we no longer need to possess an object to give and receive cards, listen to music, to watch videos or to read a book. Things are disappearing right before our eyes, as the dematerialization of society escalates.

Young people view ownership and the act of consumption as far less important today than being part of the perpetual feedback loop of social media and online personas, reports a paper published in the Journal of Consumer Research.

Let’s celebrate the ‘spirit’ that’s disabling limitations

Celebrating the ‘spirit’ that disables limitations © Glowimages

Celebrating the ‘spirit’ that disables limitations © Glowimages

“Break barriers and open doors: to realise an inclusive society for all”, urges the United Nations in its brief for International Day of People with Disability, celebrated earlier this month.

Well, those doors are opening at  Aware Industries in Albury-Wodonga. Aware’s best practice tools, procedures and support mechanisms enable people with disability to work productively and effectively. Similar to Endeavour Foundation services in Queensland and western Sydney, their strong workforce manufacture and distribute timber products and offer mail/despatch services, as well as food, light engineering and packaging services for the community.

My niece really likes working on the marketing team there. She says that the love and support for her from the workers there is palpable.

Spiritual intelligence now the gold standard for success in business

SQ: The gold standard for success in business © Glowimages – models used for illustrative purpose

SQ: The gold standard for success in business © Glowimages – models used for illustrative purpose

It was entertaining watching advertising executive and media personality Tod Sampson try to ramp up his ability to process and retain information and react quickly in the ABC’s recent Redesign My Brain series. As the weeks progressed, these skills, as well as his divergent and lateral thinking improved impressively.

However, as Neil Levy, Head of Neuroethics at The Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health suggests “it’s not obvious that enhancing lateral and divergent thinking actually leads to an increase in the kinds of creativity we value”, at home or in the workplace. He admits that there is evidence though that some of the skills learned can combat age-related decline.

Many individuals and businesses are seeking ways to enhance abilities, find the key to creativity, open the door to better relationship management, and get worker buy-in to the business.Continue Reading

Movember declares all men have capacity for better health

Spirituality positively impacts men’s health © Glowimages – models used for illustrative purpose

Spirituality positively impacts men’s health © Glowimages – models used for illustrative purpose

I’m re-posting this 2012 piece for Movember 2013. It’s been published in this format on Noosa NewsFraser Coast Chronicle and Coffs Coast Advocate.

Love and devotion just shone from my son-in-law’s face as we watched him gently bathe his new daughter for the first time in the hospital. When so much attention is focussed on mum and bub it’s so important to celebrate the indispensable supportive traits and contributions of the male of the species.

During November each year, Movember “is responsible for the sprouting of moustaches on thousands of men’s faces around the world” with an aim to raise funds and awareness for men’s health, specifically prostate and testicular cancer and male mental health.

According to the statistics listed on this website, it’s expected 1 in 2 Australian men will be diagnosed with cancer by the age of 85; around 1 in 5 men experience mental illness in any given 12 month period; and, over 85% of suicides are men – that’s 5 every day in Australia. Dire statistics indeed!

So many of my male family members and friends share dynamic focus, an uncomplicated life direction, unswerving loyalty and a commitment to and love of science. But could it be a sole focus on physical science that hinders men’s quest to be healthier?Continue Reading

Care that brings deep change

@Glowimages 060201a0012.

Dementia Dogs help the “deeply forgetful” to reconnect © Glowimages – model used for illustrative purposes

People are living longer and enjoying better health, and today’s 90 year olds are mentally sharper than their predecessors, reports the Lancet. This is great news for many!

What’s more, the numbers of over 80s with dementia in Australia may be set to fall (currently stats stand at 25%). A new study has found that dementia rates among people 65 and older in the UK have plummeted by 25 percent over the past two decades, a trend that researchers say is probably occurring across developed countries and is linked to a healthier and better educated population.

These findings dispute the alarming predictions by advocacy groups and some public health officials of escalating numbers of dementia sufferers, as baby boomers age.Continue Reading

Women opt to take a different sort of health pledge

Women find a spiritual approach to wellbeing

Women find a spiritual approach for wellbeing © Glowimages

Picture this. A young mum powering around the front lawn behind a lawn mower, baby in the pouch on her chest screaming his head off.

Reserve your judgement, because in a very short time he has calmed down owing to the monotonous noise and rhythm. The mother has used her wisdom, love and creativity to avert several hours of frustration for them both.Continue Reading

Do this one thing on Daffodil Day

© Stock photos/Glowimages – model used for illustrative purposes

© Stock photos/Glowimages – model used for illustrative purposes

Like me, you too may choose to support Daffodil Day, the annual event to raise funds to help support the Cancer Council’s research, prevention and patient support services. I usually can’t resist the temptation to buy a bunch or two of daffodils as I pass through the supermarket checkouts lined with buckets of them.

By all means, go ahead and buy some, but whatever you do, do this one thing.

Take charge of how you think about your health.Continue Reading