Sunday, December 30, 2007

Consider A Mind and Body Health Plan for the Year.

People do not lack strength, they lack the will.

Victor Hugo

When you were kids, a year felt like a century. As you grew older, the days flew bye like the breeze through the trees. Before you knew it, the year had ended with nothing achieved. It is therefore important to take stock of your life and resolve to mend the holes in your sails to give you a smooth sailing to your destination.

Dare to do something for yourself this coming year that can enhance your health and boost your self-esteem to help your mind and body health. These are some recommendations that may help:

  • Find time to pursue any hobby or a project you have been dreaming about but lack the courage to pursue. Unfulfilled dreams have a way of giving you stress and making you sick. If you do what you are passionate about, that will be your source of happiness.
  • You should devote time to control your thoughts as they have effects on your mind and body health. Uncontrolled negative thoughts can make you age prematurely. Through spirituality and participation in religious activities, you can control the storms that can tear your peace of mind apart.
  • Eat healthy food, as food is medicine. Eating the right food will keep you from the doctor's pills.
  • Find time to exercise. Your body thrives on being active. Inactivity weakens your mind and body and opens you up to diseases.
  • If you are married, try as much as possible to keep your marriage on an even keel. Your partner is your best friend who lives with you under the same roof. If you want to stay sane and healthy, you need to keep your home your sanctuary. This will not happen if you are fighting with your best friend.
  • Find a doctor you like and visit her annually so she can unmask any silent diseases like abnormal pap smears, early breast cancer, prostate cancer, diabetes mellitus, hypertension and others.
  • Finally, build a roadmap for your health that is holistic and makes you a well-rounded person. When you are done, you would enjoy the better you.
  • Maintain your profession by life long learning so you do not get rusty on the job. If you sleep on the job, when the time comes to change jobs you may have problems.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

What Does Christmas Mean to Your Mind and Body Health

When I was younger, my siblings and I could not wait for Christmas. A year was too long for us. My parents had to hide our presents and put them under the Christmas tree when we were asleep. As children, the allure of Christmas was the time to receive the toy we had been dreaming about for the whole year. As adults some of us continue to do that and lose sight of what the occasion really means.

God, by giving his son as a gift to us in spite of our shortcomings was signifying that we have to learn from Him. In spite of our foibles, God sacrificed His only Son to save us. This kind of love is what we have to learn from the occasion. Christmas therefore is the time to reflect and take stock of what has happened to you the whole year and bask in the atmosphere of hope and love, because Jesus came to serve and lay down his life for us.

In your day to day life you should be serving with all our heart? Mother Teresa realized that and served with all she had. I am not asking you to forgo everything and behave like Mother Teresa. Whether you heal the sick or haul lumber you're doing God's work. He wants us to approach our job seriously and do it with love.

This is what prompted an Akron cardiologist, Paul A. Wright, MD to seek mother Teresa in search of how he can serve his fellow human being better. In spite of his material wealth and successful cardiology practice he needed something more to help him be at peace. Dr Wright's work with Mother Teresa has been chronicled in his book Mother Teresa's Prescription.

As you enter the New year, I hope you also cling to Jesus' prescription and learn from Him. To serve without counting the cost, to be selfless, humble and love your neighbor as yourself. This is the source of peace which will give you inner strength to live a peaceful and healthy life.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

A Forgiving God is a Balm for Your Mind and Body Health.

Religion permeates our society and is evident in our day to day activities. A belief in a forgiving God gives the individual hope and comfort, especially in times of hardship and illness. However an unforgiving God can cause anxiety and make a psychiatric patient's condition worse. Unfortunately psychiatrists have not recruited this belief system in their patients to help them heal. It looks like the trend may be changing. This quotation from Dr. Eichelman, a psychiatrist, is reassuring:
"As a clinician, I myself have utilized religious exploration in cognitive treatment, encouraging patients, when appropriate, to alter their faith and move from allegiance to a guilt-evoking faith and belief in an exclusively punitive God toward a less punitive belief system more fully embracing such elements as "forgiveness" and "grace." Such a transmuting of beliefs may allow patients to retain elements of their childhood faith, while cognitively altering these beliefs enough so as to allow continued practice or emotional support." Please, read more:

"Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the
kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God
like a child shall not enter it." [Luke 18:16-17

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Eat Foods with Omega 3 Fatty Acids to Prevent Parkinson’s disease-A Prescription for Your Mind and Body Health.

"Let your food be your medicine, and your medicine be your food."

Omega 3 Fatty Acid seems to be a very important food for the brain. Some studies have found that Omega 3 fatty acids prevent Alzheimer's disease. A new study by the NIH published in the online edition of the Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology showed that a brain loaded with Omega 6 fatty acids (found in animal fats and vegetable oil) can lead to Parkinson's disease, heart disease, arthritis and Alzheimer's disease.

In a balanced diet, the ratio between Omega 3 fatty acid and Omega 6 fatty acids should be 4 to 1. However, the average Western diet contains 10 to 20 times more Omega 6 fatty acids than Omega 3 fatty acids. Please, read on:

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Cultivate a Positive Outlook for a Healthy Mind and a Healthy Body.

If you don't like something change it; if you can't change it, change the way you think about it.

~Mary Engelbreit

So often time it happens, we all live our life in chains, and we never even know we have the key.

~The Eagles, "Already Gone"

It is easy to fall a victim to negativity. When you are in the trenches with live bullets whizzing over your foxhole, you may consider yourself a victim and feel helpless. If things are not going our way, the line of least resistance is to fall prey to pessimism. A little stress is good for us. However, unrelenting pessimism, when sustained for a long time produces its own chemicals like the stress hormone cortisol that can shrink our brain, depress our immune system and our way of thinking. Studies in the Institute of Mental Health in the Netherland showed that over a 15-year period, older people with positive attitude to life were half as likely to have heart disease as those who held pessimistic views. This occurred regardless of their initial state of health.

Other evidence in favor of the positive attitudes to life is from the Nun's study. The study of nuns in Minnesota showed the nuns who had positive attitudes to life during their adolescent and young adulthood were the healthiest during their adulthood. The Alternative approach to these difficult interludes in our lives is to "see the bless in the mess." Positive thinking lowers the levels of stress hormone cortisol. The effects of the cortisol on the immune system and the brain are counteracted by the hormone DHEA which starts to decline by age 30, declining to less than 20% of their maximum by age 70. A study at the University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom, reveals that older men with high levels of cortisol have smaller anterior cingulated cortices. Studies have linked the shrinkage of this part of the brain with Alzheimer disease and depression in older people. Researchers think stress causes this.

It appears therefore that a positive attitude is life saving. It reduces the stress hormones, preserves our brains and save them from the devastating effects of Alzheimer's disease. Learning to laugh at yourself and with your friends are positive traits that help the brain fights disease. Hence, try to create humor in your life and don't take everything seriously, for we are not here forever. One day we will go to sleep and not wake up. I do not think it would be any different from having a deep sleep and a peaceful rest. So prepare yourself to welcome it as another phase of your life. That way, you decrease stress in your life.

To reduce further stress, in addition to exercising (which builds the brain cells), find time to meditate and have a belief system that gives you hope. Practicing your belief system regularly will help calm your mind, give you a positive attitude and cut down the production of the harmful steroid, cortisol, which can wreak havoc on your brain. Praying, Yoga, Tai chi, deep breathing exercises with progressive relaxation can produce the relaxation response that can cut down the level of cortisol in your blood stream to prevent it from destroying your brain cells. Concentrate on eating foods that can feed the brain. Hence, eat a lot of fish or walnuts that contain omega 3 acids. You may also take omega 3 fatty acid capsules twice daily to feed the brain as aging decreases this essential brain elixir. This way you can live a healthy and enjoyable life.

"I can't change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination."

Jimmy Dean


Saturday, November 17, 2007

Loneliness is a Toxin for Your Mind and Body Health.

“The person who tries to live alone will not succeed as a human being. His heart
withers if it does not answer another heart. His mind shrinks away if he hears
only the echoes of his own thoughts and finds no other inspiration.”
Pearl S. Buck

We were not created to be lonely. We thrive better on social contacts with friends and groups with whom we can have social intercourse. Many people in more traditional societies like Asia and Africa with meager resources are happier because of the social cobweb they weave around themselves. This cobweb serves as a safety net for these people in times of need and even in their day to day transactions where many battering goes on.

It appears that as far back as 1858, the demographer, William Farr observed this important phenomenon. He wrote that widows and widowers were at higher risk of dying than their married peers. Further studies have showed that marriage can add as much as seven years to a man’s life and 2 years to a woman’s. Of course the marriage has to be a healthy and happy one or else it will cause more stress and cause illness.

A study at the University of Chicago found that a married older man with heart disease can expect to live nearly four years longer than an unmarried man with a healthy heart. Likewise, a married man who smokes more than a pack a day may live as long as a divorced man who does not smoke.

It appears that social interactions can boost the growth of the brain cells and immune system resulting in good health. In supportive relationships, people can handle stress better. Thus if you aim to live a longer life you should aim for a life partner, children and meaningful supportive relationships.

It also appears that church going, with its social networks, helps to boost your longevity. Hence to live a long life, you should have a family life and maintain a healthy relationship with your spouse, your children, friends and church members. This looks like a simple mind and body health prescription that can keep you healthy and give you a meaningful life.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Eat The Right Food For A Healthy Mind And A Healthy Body.

"Man is what he eats"
Ludwig Feuerbach

That we are what we eat is a true dictum. Food is medicine. Thus eating the right food at the right time is important for our health. Unfortunately, many of my patients don't eat breakfast and have barely enough time to eat lunch. Thus they rely on their dinner for most of their nourishment and fill their whole day with high calorie drinks, snacks and junk food. When this happens they perform poorly at work because the brain needs food to be able to function well. It also has impact on their health as their unhealthy eating habits take their toll on them eventually. The following is an article culled from the New Scientist about the importance of healthy eating.

Many studies have shown that skipping breakfast reduces people's performance at school and at work since the brain needs a steady supply of glucose. According to research published in 1993, children eating breakfast made up of fizzy drinks and sugary snacks performed at the level of an average 70-year-old in tests of memory and attention.

Beans on toasts are a far better combination as researchers from the University of Ulster, United Kingdom discovered. Toast alone boosted children's scores on a variety of tests. However, when the tests got tougher, the breakfast with the high protein beans worked best. Beans are also good source of fiber. Researchers have shown a link between a high fiber diet and improved ability to process facts with the brain.

A smart choice for lunch is omelet and salad. Eggs are rich in choline, which your body uses to produce the chemical in the brain called acetylcholine. This is a chemical that transmits information between the nerve cells. Researchers at Boston University found that when healthy young adults were given the drug scopolamine which blocks acetylcholine receptors in the brain, it reduced their ability to remember word pairs. Low dose of acetylcholine is also associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Some studies suggest that boosting dietary intake may slow age-related memory loss.

A salad packed with antioxidants, including beta carotene and vitamins C and E, should help keep an aging brain in good condition by helping to remove damaging free radicals. Dwight Tapp and colleagues form the University of California at Irvine found that a diet high in antioxidants improved the thinking skills of 39 aging beagles.

Yogurt is a good desert after lunch. It will make you alert and ready to face the afternoon stresses. This is because yogurt contains the amino acid tyrosine that is needed for the production of neurotransmitters dopamine and adrenaline, among others. Studies in the US military indicate that tyrosine becomes depleted when we are under stress and that supplementing your intake can improve alertness and memory.

Have a snack in mid afternoon to maintain your glucose levels. However avoid junk foods and especially highly processed foods such as cakes which contain tans-fatty acids. These pile on the fat and have been implicated in many mental disorders such as dyslexia and ADHD (attention deficit hyperactive disorder) to autism. Researchers at a neuroscience meeting in 2005 in San Diego, California reported that rats and mice raised on the rodent equivalent of junk food struggled to find their way around a maze and took longer to remember solutions to problems they had already solved.

Triglycerides, cholesterol-like substance found in high levels in rodents fed on trans-fats might be the culprit. When the researchers gave these rats a drug to bring the triglycerides down, the animals did better on their memory tests.

Brains are about 60% fats. If trans-fats clog up the system. What should you eat to keep it well oiled? Evidence is mounting in favor of omega-3 fatty acids, in particular DHA. Hence fish is the best food for the brain. It lubricates and feeds the developing brain and prevents dementia. Studies published in 2005 showed that older mice from a strain genetically altered to develop Alzheimer’s had 70 per cent less of the amyloid plaques associated with the disease when fed on a high-DHA diet.

Finally, finish your evening meal with strawberries and blueberries. Rats fed on these fruits have shown improved coordination, concentration and short-term memory.


Sunday, November 04, 2007

A Year of Blogging on Healthy Mind and Healthy Body.

"Health is a state of complete harmony of the body, mind and spirit.

When one is free from physical disabilities and mental distractions, the gates of the soul open. " ~B.K.S. Iyengar

The United Nations defines health as "a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity." Most of our healthcare is concentrated on the first part of the UN definition of health. The second part is what is missing in many peoples' lives. Dr Benson calls this second part the third leg of health care, the first two legs being medical and surgical care which treat the sickened body. We all know that medicine and surgery alone cannot cure humanity of all its ailments. There is the need for the mind and body components to complement medicine and surgery to provide the appropriate holistic care.

About a year ago, we started on the journey of exploring the concept of self-care and its importance in our wellbeing. By self-care, I mean the responsibility the individual has on caring for her spiritual and physical needs to prevent diseases. When the body is in tune with the calm, meditating mind, it is able to withstand diseases, be it mental or physical in nature. Minding your mind tames your mind and prevents it from producing stress hormones to harm the body. Nurturing your body through exercising and healthy eating has positive effects on the mind by keeping it young and in good shape. Thus as exercise is medicine for the body and the mind, healthy nutrition keeps both the mind and body strong and shields it from the onslaught of harmful thoughts and microbes.

I wish to thank all my readers for visiting this blog and sharing their feelings through their comments. We will continue to bring you more information and helpful hints to help you live meaningful holistic lives that may be immune to the germ and stress. This way, you can pursue your dreams and contribute to the global efforts to make this world better than we met it. You may register to receive emails when I post new articles on the blog. If you have any ideas to share, we would be happy to read your comments. If you like what you read, share it with your friends.

"Health is a large word. It embraces not the body only, but the mind and spirit as well;

... and not today's pain or pleasure alone, but the whole being and outlook of a man. " ~James H. West

Saturday, October 20, 2007

The Miracle of the Seed is Medicine for a Healthy Mind and Healthy Body.

''Truly I say to you, if you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you shall say to this mountain, 'Move hence to yonder place' and it will move, and nothing will be impossible to you.'' (Matt. 17:20)

Have you ever wondered about the power within the seed? You may call it seed intelligence. The farmer, who lives by the products of the seed he sows, puts the seed anyhow in the soil. The seed knows there is only one way for its survival - to grow upwards or in a particular fashion. The farmer has no doubt that with a healthy environment; the seed would grow and yield its fruits. I sometimes ponder on the seed intelligence that helps the farmer feeds his family. The seed has all the ingredients to fulfill its destiny. It does not matter whether the farmer turns the seed upside down or sideways. It will grow and yield its fruits.

The farmer is able to do this because he has faith in the seed. The power within the seed has kept him alive all these years and he is not about to forget that. All we need is a grain of faith to goad us to plant the tiniest seed on the most rugged mountain. This is because, faith is the most powerful trait we have going for us. The unshakable assurance the farmer has in the power of the seed is what gives him the strength to get up day to day to plant his seeds. In other words, he believes in the power and the miracle of the living seed with its hidden potential that he has witnessed.

I am sure we have all been touched in our lives by the success achieved when we started a project or an endeavor that in spite of all odds against us, we were able to overcome adversities and achieve our goals. However, being human, we tend to forget these moments and slip into the comfort of doubting our capabilities to influence our destiny. When we slip into this slumber of insecurity, these are some of the suggestions that may help:

  • Be a tough-minded optimist. Base your optimism on the miracle of the seed. The seed power is within you. Thus, you have endless potential to manifest any project you set out to do. This assumes that you have done your homework. Just like the farmer who prepares the soil before he plants the seeds, you should immerse yourself in training to acquire the necessary skills that will help your chances of success.
  • You may sometimes meet obstacles and hence you should build resilience within yourself. The most effective way to build resilience and have access to the power in the seed is to tap into the Devine through spirituality. Having the Lord in your boat all the time ready to calm the storms in your life when you call on him has healing effects on you. When you can operate without any stress, there is no seed that cannot yield fruits for you.
  • In your quest for success, do not trample on others to achieve your end. Because every one has the same dreams and rather than trampling on them, help them if you can to achieve their dreams.
  • Remember we are here for a short time. Helping someone believe in his seeds leaves some part of you behind to continue the legacy of planting mystical seeds.

    "A man having planted seed must needs leave it alone. He may tend the field, removing weeds,

    protecting the plants as best he may,

    but the growth itself is dependent upon conditions and forces beyond his power to ultimately control. "

    Author: James E. Talmage, Source: Jesus the Christ, p. 269

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Marriage Maintenance is Medicine for Your Mind and Body Health.

"I now think of marriage like I think about living in my home state of Minnesota.
You move into marriage in the springtime of hope, but eventually arrive at the
Minnesota winter, with its cold and darkness. Many of us are tempted to give up
and move south at this point, not realizing that maybe we've hit a rough spot
in a marriage that's actually above average. The problem with giving up, of course,
is that our next marriage will enter its own winter at some point. So do we just
keep moving on, or do we make our stand now – with this person, in this season?
That's the moral, existential question we face when our marriage is in trouble."
Bill Doherty

Marital health is important for our survival. Marriage creates children, children grow up to create communities, communities create nations and nations create humanity. Hence, the importance of a healthy marriage cannot be overemphasized. A healthy marriage is like a ship on a smooth sea. Let there be a rift in the marriage and the going becomes choppy, unsure, stressful and unhealthy for the couple, the children and the extended family. When marriages become unstable, the couples set themselves up for sickness.

Studies show that when all is well with a couple's marriage, they have enhanced immune system. On the other hand, when the going becomes tough the stress of the strife is enough to dampen the immune system. The rift also takes its toll on sleep, which is a balm for healthy living. The children become pawns on the marriage chessboard. They become victims and invariably suffer in the process. How do you keep your marriage healthy? These are some my suggestions that may help:

  • You should consider marriage as a journey, not a destination. It is a journey to eternity. The first step begins with the tying of the knot that locks you up for life. Yes, for life. This mindset would give you the perspective to settle into your marriage with confidence. The only problem is that it takes two to work out the kinks in a marriage since you are two different individuals trying to live under the same roof.
  • Get to know the type of person your partner is. Is she a socializer, a director, a relater or a thinker? Knowing the personality profile of your partner goes a long way to help you cope with the ups and down of her moods. Your dictum should be to do unto her what she would have done to her. This is where the golden rule breaks down. You will realize that when you base your interaction with your partner on your knowledge of her, she will be your best companion.
  • Compromise, because life is all about negotiations. For any marriage to succeed there has to be compromise. Compromising with your partner does not mean you are weak. It means you have confidence in yourself, a trait that you need for a long lasting marriage.
  • There would be stressful times in your marriage when you may have disagreements. Do not go to bed without talking about your problems. If you do not, you will have a fitful sleep, a prescription for stress and anger in the morning.
  • Do not be selfish. Learn to share and do things together.
  • If your educational level is higher than your partner encourage her to take classes to improve herself. This will increase her self-esteem and make her forever be grateful to you.
  • Have the divine in your life so that when you have children they would follow your example. Spirituality helps us in time of stress as it gives us resilience to withstand life's vicissitudes. When you are spiritual, it is easier to forgive, as you know bearing grudges harm you more than the person who upset you.

"Be on the lookout for strain in each other, and with compassion and
understanding, lend a helping hand and a mature heart. Helping each other
manage emotional strain can yield creative alternatives and build a new
foundation for heart-based communication and hope."
Doc Childre

Monday, October 01, 2007

Control Your Thoughts; They Influence Your Mind and Body Health.

"Watch your thoughts, for they become words.
Watch your words, for they become actions.
Watch your actions, for they become habits.
Watch your habits, for they become character.
Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny."

Author unknown

"Any man will usually get from other men just what he is expecting of them.

If he is looking for friendship, he will likely receive it.

If his attitude is that of indifference, it will beget indifference.

And if a man is looking for a fight, he will in all likelihood be accommodated in that."
John Richelsen

That every thought has its chemical component in our body cannot be overemphasized. When you are happy with your work and or your boss, the workplace is heaven. You enjoy gong to work. You become a team player. Your productivity increases. This is because positive thoughts about your work environment produce chemicals that keep you elated, contented, more productive and healthier. Have a tiff with your boss, or have a mean supervisor and all hell can break loose. Going to work becomes a chore. You sleep fitfully so that you go to work with bags of skin under your eyes.

Stress is part of life. However, when stress becomes unrelenting, the stress hormone, cortisol overwhelms the body, thus affecting the chromosomes. The Telomeres bear the blunt and cause cell aging. This can make you age faster and make you sick. Recent studies have also shown that stress kills the brain cells. Hence, your attitude and approach to your problems should begin with your thoughts. Use your mind to evaluate your problems because you will find that most of your judgments are not real. They are imitations of the reality since you are wearing a pair of goggles called stress. When your stress levels are high, every pin that drops on your foot is a nail pinning your foot down. You have it in you to change your negative attitudes and thoughts so you can have the chance to heal and enjoy life. These are some suggestions that may help you.

  • Get to know your body, because when you are under stress certain parts of your body such as your neck, shoulders and your back may start hurting. When this happens, you should re-examine your thoughts to see whether what is stressing you is worth the pain you are having. This is when you have dialogue with yourself. Watching your thoughts is half the battle won. You become the observer of your thoughts and can train yourself to walk away from any thoughts that trigger your stress-induced pain. If you cannot talk to yourself, with whom can you talk? To live a happy life is to be able to know the real you so you can have conversation with yourself.
  • You should not expect perfection in life. You are human and hence, things may go wrong in your life. So far as you can breathe, eat and drink, you can overcome whatever ails you through your God given ability to get up when fate puts you down. This approach to living requires discipline and demands your watching your emotions and your thoughts so they do not go astray. Your thoughts are like toddlers that are learning to walk. They destroy anything in their paths. Your purpose is to watch them closely and save them from themselves.
  • Be gentle with yourself. Life is not a race you have to win to achieve laurels. It is the reason for our existence and hence we are here for the long haul. So treat yourself with love and kindness. Know your weakness and acquire skills to overcome them. When you see the new You, the skills you acquired on your way would keep your mind and body healthy.

"If you keep on saying things are going to be bad, you have a good chance of becoming a prophet."
Isaac Bashevis Singer, Yiddish-American writer (1904-1991)

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Overcome Procrastination if you want a Healthy Mind and a Healthy Body.

"Every duty which is bidden to wait returns with seven fresh duties at its back."

Charles Kinsley

"Don't wait. The time will never be just right."

Napolean Hill

"Procrastination is opportunity's assassin."

Victor Kayam

On my office desk is often a mound of paper work to be completed, patients' laboratory results I have to sign and personal affairs to attend to. Many times, I become frustrated and in my attempt to clear my desk of unfinished patient's records, I spend several weekends and nights in my office. I reclaim my peace of mind when I am able to complete those unfinished tasks. This is work in progress for me, because as far as I am alive, l will always have some incomplete tasks to perform. I approach this aspect of my life as never-ending, necessary chores like eating and performing ablutions.

Apart from my day-to-day chores that sometimes are difficult to complete, I also have hobbies I want to pursue such as writing, joining the Toast Masters and hobnobbing with my friends. I often ignore the small voice admonishing me to complete what I set out to do because it may not be convenient or I do not have the skills to pursue those dreams. For example, I postponed blogging for two years after I set up my current blog before I forced myself to make the time to write consistently. My excuse was lack of time. Yet when I overcame my inertia, I was able to make time to blog though it is sometimes difficult. What gives me the strength to keep me going is the glee I get when people read my posts and sometimes make comments. The feeling that I am helping people numbs all the pain or discomfort from staying up late to write.

How many times have you not procrastinated and seen your dreams fly away only to land on someone else lap? Remember that if many inventors and doers sat on their dreams the world would not have been in the shape in which it is now. You can join to improve the earth we call home if you quit sitting on your hands. Leave the dreamers and join the doers. These are some of my strategies. Try them. They may work for you.

  • Act on your dreams. Sometimes an idea may pop up in your dream, in the shower or when mining for ideas. When any of these happen to you do not procrastinate. Investigate to see how feasible the idea is and act on it. If you do not, you may someday regret it when you see it manifested in your neighbor's backyard.
  • When you discover your passion, have a plan of how you are going to tackle the project. You may need to educate yourself about your idea. Stick to it and your efforts will pay off. The satisfaction from seeing the manifestation of your idea will give you confidence to tackle projects that are even more difficult.
  • Continue learning because it keeps your mind young and opens you to new ideas. Learning new thighs also keep your mind healthy and sharp. You would be like the athlete who does not wait until the time for the athletic event, but keeps exercising and practicing to keep his skills in perfect form.
  • Believe in yourself like the old explorers of the New World (the Americas). To achieve your dreams, you have to have to have the courage of your conviction. The old explorers with only rudimentary navigational systems and an unshakable belief in their cause were able to discover and explore the New World. Imagine the emotional and financial satisfaction they got from their discoveries. We are all beneficiaries of their discoveries.
  • Take the first step and the subsequent steps may be easier.
  • Always seek to improve on what you do. When you see the product of your industry, you would soar like Bach's Seagull, a recipe for a healthy mind and a healthy body.


    "Take the first step in faith.

    You don't have to see the whole staircase,

    just take the first step."

    Martin Luther King, Jr.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Spirtuality Courses Become Part of medical School Curriculum

The link between the mind and body health has been recognized to be important in enhancing our well being. Physicians as healers should therefore have a working knowledge of what spirituality is and how they can address their patients' spirituality to help them heal. Read on...

Sunday, September 02, 2007

To Have a Healthy Mind and a Healthy Body, Learn to Forgive Yourself.

"We all screw up sometime. Forgiving ourselves is as close as we come to a system reset button."

Sharon A. Hartman, LSW, a clinical trainer at the Caron Foundation

"If you haven't forgiven yourself something, how can you forgive others? "

- Dolores Huerta

You may sometimes do things that bring you shame. Some people hang on to this shame to such an extent that they harm themselves or get sick from the shame. Your peace of mind is worth more than money. When you loose this important asset, your mental and physical health suffers. The ability to forgive yourself is a potent source of healing for you. You may be quick to forgive someone than yourself. However, to be able to forgive someone, you should be able to forgive yourself. This is because when someone hurts you, your natural inclination is to see the offender pay for the harm he caused you. If you hang on to seeking revenge, you suffer yourself. To forgive an offender, you have to let go of the quest for revenge.

As an obstetrician gynecologist, I have had a delivery that did not go well. I have also had complications at surgery. In these cases, the soul searching goes on. I ask myself whether I could have done something to help prevent the unfortunate situation. Most of the time there is nothing I could have done. In some cases, if I had done some things slightly differently, I could have had a better outcome. To be able to continue working, I forgive myself so I can heal and have the courage to continue to save lives and heal the sick.

Forgiving myself is not enough unless I address the deficiency that could prevent further problems. Therein lies attending more courses, searching the literature for answers, discussing with colleagues who have faced these problems before, and finding ways that may improve my skills to better serve my patients. To forgive yourself, these are some of the qualities that may help:

  • Acknowledge the hurt. If it is a flaw in your character, recognize it and forgive yourself. If you are an alcoholic father who is spending all your money on booze and starving your family, then you have a choice of looking at your character flaw, forgiving yourself and walking away from this unhealthy behavior and getting your family back. By forgiving yourself and coming face to face with your demons, you may be able to walk away from your addiction and save your family.
  • Sometimes after forgiving yourself, you may need help. For example, if you are an alcoholic, you may seek counseling and join the Alcoholics Anonymous.
  • Commit to change because it is easy to slip back into your old ways.
  • To change a negative habit you need to replace it with something positive. Remember, you may slip back many times, however if you commit to change, the change will come. You will be like the little girl who is learning to ride a bicycle. She falls down many times and starts bleeding from her bruises. She however forgives herself and jumps right back on the bicycle and tries again until one day she rides with a smile on her face with her scars as her badge of courage, self forgiveness and determination to succeed at all cost.
  • In these stressful situations, spirituality helps. Spirituality will give you the spine, peace of mind and hope to carry on with your search for change when all else seem bleak.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Loneliness is Toxic to Mind and Body Health

"Time alone is often a beneficial time to gather thoughts and reflect. Some view solitude as an important path to spiritual growth. However, when time alone transcends into loneliness and isolation, the stage may be set for an early decline in physical health." Read more.

Alzheimer’s Vaccine is Effective in Mice.

An article that appeared in the Journal of Neuroscience showed a vaccine developed to counteract the substance involved in Alzheimer's disease was effective in slowing the development of the substance involved with Alzheimer's disease in mice. Read more

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Gratitude is the Foundation for Healing Your Mind and Body

"Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn't learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn't learn a little, at least we didn't get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn't die; so, let us all be thankful."


We are so obsessed with attaining a certain status in our lives that we ignore the little things that make life comfortable for us. We fret over our work, the traffic jams as well as the monotony in our lives and ignore what is important to us.

Happiness eludes us when we do not appreciate the little things in our life. Just as the little drops of water can cause a flood, so can the appreciation of little things in our lives bring us happiness. Expressing gratitude for being healthy when we wake up in the morning, for the sun in the horizon, for the red rose in our garden and for the birds chirping on the tree behind our house give us much to distract us from other disappointments that can give us stress and make us sick.

The practice of gratitude in our daily lives is meditation in itself. It is a buffer for self-pity from life's disappointments. There is no life without some unfulfilled dreams. To live is to learn to walk away from those moments of disappointments and take the higher ground. To overcome your disappointments, replace them with the little things that make your life run seamlessly. For, by turning the other cheek towards the sun in the horizon, your tears would dry up. Therefore, in your daily prayers, practice the art of gratitude, the balm that will heal your wounds. This ancient secret of happiness is worth more than gold.

"Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity.... It turns problems into gifts, failures into success, the unexpected into perfect timing, and mistakes into important events. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow."

Melodie Beattie

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Self-care is Your Passport to a Healthy Mind and Healthy Body

"The problem is not
that there are problems. The problem is expecting otherwise and thinking that
having problems is a problem. "
Theodore Rubin

"We must embrace
pain and burn it as fuel for our journey."
Miyazawa Kenji

I see many patients who want pills for weight loss, conflicts they are having at work, home and with their relationships. To these patients the elixir they purchase at the pharmacy is the panacea for all their woes. They perceive the solution for these daily problems to be outside themselves and find allies in their physicians who are ready to give them the most recent pill to dissolve their fat, to solve their workplace crisis, to reset the tepid temperature in their marriage and to give them the applause they never got after their last job performance evaluation. Yet in spite of the pills, the fat does not go away without exercise and mindful eating, the marriage still stays cold. Similarly, the atmosphere in the workplace remains harmful.

You cannot solve these myriad problems with the pill alone. The solution comes mainly from within you. Self-care is your armor for defeating these negative feelings that cripple and sap your energy and prevent you to cope and heal. The following are some of the self-care characteristics that can help you soar like an eagle even when the going gets tough:

  • Develop your self-confidence so that you can stand shoulder to shoulder with your friends without you feeling inferior. There will always be people who are better than you are. However, you should also remember that you might have talents that others do not have. Know them as your strengths and emphasize them. Those special talents will give you confidence, boost your self-esteem and give you wings to fly.

  • Do not be rigid like the branches of the large oak tree that break during the storm. The branches are not flexible and try to stay rigid, defying the storm, which ultimately overcomes the stubbornness of the branches and rip them into pieces. The tall grass, learning from their ancestors, sway in the direction of the wind. They quickly regain their original posture when the storms abate because they go with the flow. While waiting for the storm to abate, they lose none of their characteristics. Flexibility in all your transactions is therefore a virtue that will keep you in the game and give you strength to cope.

  • Continue reading and learning new things, sometimes not related to your profession or your job. This is a source of self-confidence. It also improves the way you look at the world. With self-confidence, your esteem and motivation go up. It is thus easier for you to go with the flow and bounce back when your situation changes.

  • Maintain your social links. Studies show that in time of stress, social support is beneficial.

  • If you have religion in your life, pursue it with all your heart as it is a source of equanimity and peace of mind and gives you a meaning for your existence. However, religion in itself will not help. Religion without spirituality is more harmful. The spirituality gives you the peace of mind and keeps you healthy."
"I'm convinced that we can write and live our own scripts more
than most people will acknowledge. I also know the price that must be paid. It's
a real struggle to do it. It requires visualization and affirmation. It involves
living a life of integrity, starting with making and keeping promises, until the
whole human personality the senses, the thinking, the feeling, and the intuition
are ultimately integrated and harmonized"
Steven Covey

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Stress Can Cause Obesity. Combat Stress to Help You Loose Weight and Keep You Healthy.

Stress can cause many diseases. The ability to manage stress is important to our survival. Obesity is an epidemic in the world. According to the WHO estimates, the number of obese people will double to 700 million in 2012 from 200 million in 2005. It is one of the most difficult diseases to treat. Many patients with obesity have other family members with obesity. During stress, the body releases a chemical called neuropeptide Y or NPY that is linked with appetite, weight gain and obesity. A team of researchers led by Zofia Zukowska of Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington found that neurotransmitter NPY can 'unlock' Y2 receptors in the body's fat cells, to promote growth of the cells in size and number.

During the study, the scientists first stressed the mice, and then fed half of them with a normal mouse diet and the other half with a high fat, high sugar diet, equivalent to human junk food. After examining the mice, researchers found stressed mice gained twice as much fat as those that consumed the same high-calorie diet. Surprisingly, the stressed mice did not store weight when they blocked or removed the gene.

NPY induces the growth of immature fat cells, coaxes mature fat cells to get bigger and promotes blood vessels necessary to sustain fat tissue. The stressed out junk food eaters gained the largest amount of fat, deposited around their abdomen, developed high blood pressure, early diabetes mellitus, high cholesterol and metabolic syndrome. In humans, this type of obesity would translate into the apple shape type of obesity.

How can one fight this kind of disease? The following are suggestions that can help:

  • Find time to exercise. When you are under stress, you tend to lose motivation to do many things that may help you, such as exercising because the stress may cause depression. Exercise is an antidote for stress.
  • Practice mindfulness. This meditation practice will make you live one day at a time so that you do not stress yourself about, say, you job interview tomorrow. This is because being scared about tomorrow is crippling and makes your condition worse. Living moment by moment is not easy to practice. However, like everything else, practice brings perfection. Remember, you are human and will slip many times. However, when you slip gently go back and practice going with the flow.
  • Be flexible and do not be rigid. Be like the water flowing over rocks. The water flows seamlessly and conforms to the shapes of the rocks on which it travels. It does not struggle to maintain its shape all the time. It adapts and cooperates because all it wants to do is to get to its destination without trying to proof anything to anybody. Its motto is "just get me there."
  • If you confront a stressful situation, try to find the meaning in your suffering. That way, you will find it easier to hang in the trenches with the hope that the night would not last forever. If you have the Devine in your life, it helps to talk to Her. Having the Devine on your side helps you build resilience and gives you hope.
  • Watch your diet, because food is medicine. Even if you have stress and you take the right food, you would be healthy.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

In Sickness, Look to Spirituality to help you Cope, Find Meaning in Your Illness, and Heal Your Mind and Body.

"Man is not destroyed by suffering; he is destroyed by suffering without meaning."

Victor Frankl

As a physician, I have seen fear in the faces of the sick. Being human, we are scared when we come face to face with our sickness. However, fear is our worse enemy in times of illness. To give treatment chance to work, we should develop coping mechanisms. The value of spirituality is that it gives us a medium through which we can search for the meaning of suffering, give us hope and help us build resilience. By abolishing stress, we allow our body to heal.

We now know that religion and or spirituality form the basis for meaning and purpose in many patients' lives. Physicians struggle with how to help their patients to find meaning in their illness. This is even worse in terminal illness, especially in the hospital or hospice setting. In the hospitals, there are chaplains who can take care of these patients and counsel them.

In the outpatient setting where time is short, many physicians do not have time to explore their patients' spirituality with them. However, some may gently explore the issue by asking about their patients' source of hope. If they are open to let their healthcare providers discuss their source of hope with them, the physician has the chance to open discussions on the patient's spirituality with her. However, some patients are not comfortable in discussing these issues. Read more

Sunday, July 22, 2007

New Study Suggests Diet and Exercise are Keys to Long Life.

“Our findings put a mechanism behind what your mother told when you were growing up—eat a good diet and exercise, and it will keep you healthy.”Morris F. White

A new study that appeared in the Science Magazine shows that sensible eating and exercises are keys to longer healthy life. Insulin is a hormone that keeps the blood sugar under control. Based on previous studies on fruit fries and round worms that suggested that reducing the activity of insulin in the body can prolong life, Morris F. White and his colleagues from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute decided to investigate the results of removing one or both copies of the insulin receptor substrate (Irs2). The Irs2 governs the activity of the insulin in the cells.

They conducted the study on a mutant mouse that was made to overeat and gain weight. Mice lacking one copy of the gene in the brain lived 18% longer. When the Irs2 was almost completely deleted, the results were similar. Read more and give us your opinion.

Spirituality - A Healing Formula for Your Mind and Body.

Life gets barren without the awe, bliss and comfort that come with the practice of spirituality. I stumbled on this article which is insightful in highlighting spirituality and its importance in our lives. Please, read and share your thoughts with us.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Should Doctors Address Their Patients' Faith to Heal the Mind and Body?

I found this interesting article about a physician who incorporates faith in his medical practice. His patients seem to appreciate that gesture. What do you think?

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Food is Medicine. Eat the Right Food to Keep Your Mind and Body Healthy.

"He that takes medicine and neglects diet, wastes the skill of the physician."
- Chinese Proverb"

The wise man should consider that health is the greatest of human blessing. Let food be your medicine."
- Hippocrates

That we are what we eat is a fact. Many of my patients are trying to maintain their weight or lose weight. Sometimes, they go about it the wrong way, either by not eating or by eating the wrong foods. The original US food pyramid did not help because the base of the pyramid contained foods that are not healthy.

The recently modified food pyramid based on the Harvard School of Public Health’s modification is better. The base of the pyramid recommends daily exercises and weight control. This is an important component of health maintenance. Exercise is an antidepressant and hence in addition to making you physically healthy and helping you maintain or lose weight, it prepares you mentally to follow healthy eating habits through its effect as an antidepressant.

The second level is whole grains at most meals and plant oils such as peanut, olive, corn and granola. The third level consists of vegetable in abundance and fruits 2 to 3 times a day. The fourth level consists of nuts and legumes to be eaten about 1-3x per day followed by fish, poultry and eggs 0 to 3 times daily. Take dairy or calcium supplements one to three times dairy.

The tip of the pyramid consists of white bread, potatoes and pasta that you should take sparingly. Daily vitamin supplements are useful. Drink alcohol in moderation. With this balanced diet and regular exercises, you should live a healthy life.

Reference: Healthy Eating Pyramid

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Exercise is a Vaccine for a Healthy Mind

"Better to hunt in fields, for health unbought,
Than fee the doctor for a nauseous draught,
The wise, for cure, on exercise depend;
God never made his work for man to mend."
John Dryden

On these pages, I have tried to show how the mind influences the body. Thus, maintenance of the mind is important to the well-being of the body. Experimental rats exposed to stress and increased stress hormone corticotrophins have decreased brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and may lead to atrophy of the hippocampus. People with chronic depression have also shown these features.

Studies show BDNF increases in the brain with treatment of depression, exercise and participation in intellectual activities. It now appears that vigorous physical activity in the form of exercise can even be better than drugs in helping the brain maintain its function. A recent study showed that aerobic workout for 3 months in humans was enough to coax an area of the brain called hippocampus, just under the brain, to form new cells. Until now, scientists working in this field thought this phenomenon was impossible. The hippocampus is involved with learning and memory. Thus, the growth of new cells rewires the hippocampus to rejuvenate and maintain memory to reverse the effects of aging on the brain.

During exercise, the muscles send chemicals (IgF-1) that travel to the brain to help produce brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) that causes growth of new cells. Though new cells cannot grow throughout the brain, studies have found that in aging brains some parts of the brain cells rewire themselves with exercises.

Brain scanning studies by Arthur Kramer, a psychologist, showed that the frontal lobe, where decision making and planning take place, increases in size with exercise such as brisk walking. The subjects also improve on psychological tests. Anatomically, what happens is increase in the growth of new blood vessels and increase in the chemicals involved in transmitting information from cell to cell called neurotransmitters such as dopamine, serotonin and nor-epinephrine. These chemicals are involved in depression and may explain why exercise improves depression. Exercising therefore is like taking Prozac or Ritalin.

To benefit from the positive effect of the exercise, you have to continue exercising regularly because the new brain cells will not stay around forever. Neither will the neurotransmitters like serotonin. Studies have also shown beneficial effects in children. At school, children’s test scores have improved before examination after exercising. Hence, physical education should be mandatory for all kids in school as it helps to build their brain.

In Alzheimer disease, the hippocampus is one of the first areas of the brain to suffer damage. Does it mean that regular exercises can postpone or prevent Alzheimer disease? Time will tell. Meanwhile, it will appear that since exercise is an antidote to shrinking of the brain, you should give yourself the benefit of this elixir to fertilize your brain and keep it younger and healthier.

"The doctor of the future will give no medicine, but instead will interest his patients in the care of the human frame, in diet, and in the cause and prevention of disease."
Thomas Edison


1. Wikipedia

2. Newsweek

3. The New Scientist

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Self-Esteem, a Vaccine For a Healthy Mind and Body.

Self-esteem is an important trait that enhances health. It encompasses all the things we do in life to fulfill our ambitions to secure our station in life. This is an interesting discussion on self-esteem from the BBC.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Follow Your Dreams and be Happy

Every invention was once a dream. The idea began as a dream and then moved the dreamer to act to fulfill her dreams that became palpable and concrete. Some of the benefits of following your dreams are the gratification that arises from seeing your dreams in concrete terms, improving your confidence and the financial independence that it may bring to you.

I have a patient who has five children. The youngest is six years old. I recently saw her at the office after 3 years of skipping her annual gynecological examinations. She is a homemaker turned graduate student on her way to becoming a nurse anesthetist. The glee in her eyes was more than anything money could do for her. The following were her secrets for success:

  1. She set new goals and worked towards them.
  2. She had tenacity. The ability to stick to her dreams when conditions were against her was a great factor in her success. With five children, it was not easy to go to college and take care of them at the same time.
  3. Her husband was supportive of her. The social support was a great help that made it easier for her to pursue her academic dreams.
  4. She had commitment to whatever she did.
  5. She had passion to pursue her dreams
  6. She believed she could influence whatever happened to her and set out to achieve her goals.
  7. She took charge of her own destiny and did not consider herself a victim because of her five children and her husband.
  8. She took life as a challenge and welcomed her new situation as an opportunity to learn, grow and develop on a personal level.

Many times we ignore our small voice goading us to pursue our dreams. One day, when we are out window-shopping, we will see our dreams displayed in someone else shop. Sometimes our dreams may be out of our reach because we do not have the skills, or we do not believe in ourselves. Other times procrastination makes an easy victim of us. Whenever your little voice throws you a dream ball and you decide not to catch it, remember the following passage:

"To be happy without desire is to be content.

But content is not happiness.

And in contentment there is no progress.

Happiness is to desire something, to work for it,

and to obtain at least a part of it. In the pursuit of

beloved labor the busy days pass

cheerfully employed, and

the still nights in peaceful sleep.

For labor born of desire is not drudgery,

but many play.

Success brings hope, hope inspires fresh desire,

Gives zest to live and joy to labor. This is true

Whether your days be spent in palaces of the powerful

or in some little green by-way of the world.

Therefore, while yet you have

The strength, cherish a desire to do

some useful work in your

little corner of the world, and have the steadfastness to labor.

For this is the way to the happy life; with health

and endearing ties, it is the way to the glorious life."


Sunday, June 03, 2007

Spirituality and Its Significance.

The importance of spirituality in our lives cannot be overemphasized. This is a pertinent article on Spirituality from Osho.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Be Grateful You Are Healthy. You Can Make It.

It was one of those mornings that I had been up the whole night when I was on call and knew I had a full day at the office. I was debating whether I should call the office and move my patients to the afternoon so I could have some sleep. 

The small voice inside me whispered into my ears about how most of these patients have taken time off work or rescheduled their other appointments to come to the office to see me. The voice also whispered "you're alive and healthy. Believe in yourself that you can make it" into my ears. I reluctantly jumped out of my slumber, had my 15 minutes morning routine, showered and went to work with the insight that I will enjoy my sleep after work.

When you wake up in the morning and you can see, think, hear, smell and move every limb, you have it made. It means you have the building blocks for determining your destiny that day. That is all you can ask for. So embrace the day and give it your best. Remember you only have that day. You don't have yesterday because it's gone. You may not be here tomorrow. Thus you have to discipline your mind and thoughts to such an extent that your gratefulness of being alive and healthy will give you the wings to perform any duties your station in life requires for that particular moment.

Appreciation is the key to going the extra mile when your instinct is to take the easier route. Appreciation of having a job, being alive and well, serving people who have faith in you and having the opportunity to contribute to the global effort to make the world better than we met it should be our driving force. When we are pushed to the corner and all our instincts tell us to take the easier route we should remember:

"What you put out comes back. The more you sincerely appreciate life from the heart, the more the magnetic energy of appreciation attracts fulfilling life experiences to you, both personally and professionally. Learning how to appreciate more consistently offers many benefits and applications. Appreciation is an easy heart frequency to activate and it can help shift your perspectives quickly. Learning how to appreciate both pleasant and even seemingly unpleasant experiences is a key to increased fulfillment."

Doc Childre and Sara Paddision, HeartMath Discovery Program

Sunday, May 20, 2007

For Any Adversity, There is a Miracle of Hope.

"Because the Kingdom is within you,

So too are the beauty and peace of the world you see.

The flowers and the snow,

The brush of the new wings,

The soft kiss of a parent,

All are kept safely in your heart.

Nothing has been taken from you.

Not all the seedling of promise has

perished beneath your footsteps on this earth."

By Hugh Prather, in the "Spiritual Notes to Myself."

In 1976, I graduated from the Ghana Medical School. As an intern I was given free housing but the money was paltry. By the middle of the month I was impecunious. I was frustrated. As a doctor, I had relatives looking up to me to help them. They did not know that life was a struggle for me. My father had been dead for a number of years. After one year, I decided to leave the country for Nigeria that had a booming economy, fueled by oil.

I did not know where to go in Nigeria. At that time, there was a group of Nigerian physicians who had come to Ghana to take the British postgraduate examination in general surgery. I did not know them. I approached one of them called Peter Abwa and discussed my plans with him. Peter was very encouraging and told me that his hospital, Ahmadu Bello University Teaching Hospital in Zaria, Northern Nigeria, had vacancies for residents in Obstetrics and Gynecology. He also assured me that I could join the group in 4 days to travel to Nigeria.

I went home, packed my bag, said my goodbyes and joined the Nigerian doctors in their car for Nigeria on one Friday morning. I had only about $15.00 on me. We had to pass through Lome and Cotonou before Nigeria. I had no problems in Lome. In Cotonou, the border guards asked me to go back to Ghana because I did not have a visa to enter the country. At that time all my hopes were dashed. As I walked away to join a bus to Ghana, one of the guards called me to join the group.

One of the physicians bribed the guard. The bribe was the visa they were looking for. We stayed in Lagos for one night and Peter and I boarded a bus the following morning for Zaria. I stayed with Peter for about one week before I was employed by the department of obstetrics and gynecology. I was able to buy a car and had a foreign account in London. I helped a few of my friends to come and join me at the department of obstetrics and gynecology and general surgery.

Now, if that was not a miracle, what could it be? Whenever we face an obstacle in our life, there are people ready to help. These are some of the characteristics that can help you tap into the miracle of hope:

  • Have the courage of your convictions and pursue your dreams because there are always angels ready to help you.
  • Trust your instincts and remember that sometimes you cannot control what happens to you. Just enjoy the ride and you would get to your destination.
  • Be a tough minded optimist. You cannot be an optimist without tapping into the universal spiritual energy. That unseen but ever present sword carves a path for you when you cannot see any way out of a difficult situation. Yours is to trust and let go of your instinct to control everything that happens to you, because there are many things you cannot control in your life.
  • Prepare yourself so that when the opportunity rears her head, you can recognize her and make her your ally.
  • Remember that you have to continue weaving the tapestry of knowledge, because the successes of yesterday may not be a match for today's challenges. If you sleep on the job without sharpening your skills, opportunities will pass you bye.
  • Finally, when you have been helped by someone to climb a mountain, use the knowledge acquired on your way up to help others. This is the only way we can keep the world a better place than we found it.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Follow Your Dreams and Stumble on Happiness

The pursuit of happiness is one of the cornerstones of your existence. Can you imagine a life full of dark clouds hovering over your head without any ray of sunshine? No. I can’t imagine it. The world was created for you to live in and make it better than you found it. During that process if you play your cards well, you may enjoy the process. However, there is no happiness without sadness. Both emotions go hand in hand.

In 1981, I was riding an elevator at the Ealing Hospital in London on one summer afternoon with a group of nurses who started commenting on how beautiful the weather was. They couldn’t get enough of it and were looking forward to the weekend so they could bathe in the sun. I didn’t understand what they were talking about until January, when I appreciated the effect of the bitter cold winter. Having lived most of my life in Ghana where there was no winter, it was a shocking experience. I was not prepared for it in terms of shoes, clothes and how to drive in the snow. The cold cut through my bones. I nearly packed my bag and left for Ghana.

The stark contrast between the summer and winter made me look forward to summer. I started talking about it like the nurses in the elevator. Hence, to appreciate the summer I had to be exposed to its twin, the winter. In Ghana, I never had to worry about winter and hence I took the warm weather for granted.

In the same vein, you cannot appreciate happiness without experiencing its twin, sadness. The only way you enjoy happiness is that it gives you a break from melancholy. Happiness is therefore something that you have to cultivate. It does not depend on the quantity or the quality of your possessions. Neither does it depend on your station in life. It largely depends on what you are passionate about, your state of mind and your attitude towards life. To my mind, to cultivate happiness, these are some of the important principles to follow:

  1. Discipline and change your thoughts. Thoughts can make or break you. Every thought generated in your mind produces chemicals that can influence your mood, motivation, health and many other aspects of your wellbeing. Positive thoughts produce positive attitudes and negative thoughts, vice versa
  2. Find something you are passionate about and do it with all your heart. The fruits of your labor may contribute to your happiness.
  3. Learn to share. Replacing someone’s tears of sadness with tears of happiness will produce the same chemicals in you and make you happy.
  4. Recognize the importance of the divine in your life. This will help you to discern what is important in life.
  5. Have strong social connections. The warmth and empathy received from your friends or family when you are at the lowest point in your life will be like your warm blanket during the winter.
  6. Forgive and move on. If you bear grudges it is like someone has thrown you a hot potato and you have caught it and held on to it, thus burning your hand.
  7. Remember your possessions will not give you happiness, because the more you have the more you crave. The craving for more possessions is a source of conflict and unhappiness and traps you into a deep hole of misery.
  8. You should appreciate the fact that you cannot be happy all the time. Sadness is part of life. Just like you have to work to put food on the table to satisfy your hunger, sadness is there to remind us to go back to who we really are: children without any fixed agenda, without any properties, without any hatred and without any ambitions. In other words happiness is a byproduct of rightful living and its opposite is there to remind us when we stray from our path.
  9. Take time to visit the cemetery and read the beautiful words on the tombstones. You will realize that they all had the same ambitions and aspirations like you. Unfortunately, we are on a one way journey. We cannot fast rewind and come back to do it all over again, because we have only one life to live. Your purpose in this life is to be able to play your part so you can leave this world a little better than you found it. That is all you can do. So in the process, find a way of enjoying it while you are at it.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

If You Want to Heal, a Healing Journal May Help

Illnesses such as cancer are usually chronic diseases that patients have to learn to live with. These diseases can strike terror in patients' hearts as they come face to face with their mortality. In this country, we have many resources to manage most of the cancers and other chronic diseases if they are diagnosed early. The usual treatment with surgery, radiation or medications may control the diseases or keep them at bay for a long time. Though medication or other treatments may be available the body's ability to heal is also important.

In patients with HIV who are diagnosed in the advanced stage, the immune system is usually destroyed by the virus and hence medications are less effective. This shows that the immune system is important for healing. The therapies for our diseases work only when our immune system is intact. When we are scared we can help ourselves by decreasing stress through spirituality, adequate nutrition and exercise. Journaling can be used as a path to spirituality, self discovery and to come to terms with what matters in our life.

"In the 1950's a former student of Carl Jung and psychoanalyst Ira Progoff hit a rough time in his life. Separated from his wife, and suffering from strain, he began keeping a journal as a way to express himself and alleviate the stress. However he found it did so much for him…It helped him put his problems in proper perspective and in some cases guided him toward solutions to his problems. In other instances he found a way of dealing with them. As a result he reduced his stress level and experienced emotional healing.

He immediately recognized how the journal could help his patients, and so he encouraged them to keep diaries. He wanted them to explore ideas, thoughts and dreams within their journals, no matter how strange or off the wall they may have seemed. He wanted them to recount their emotions in certain situations and then give themselves feedback on these feelings. Using the journals as tool, his patients quickly found the power within themselves to heal psychologically. The journal gave them the means and the space to sort things out, to see things."

Joan R. Neubauer - In "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Journaling."

The benefits of journaling include decreased stress, improved immune system and an outlet to vent and come to terms with your disease. It also gives the patient chance to restructure his thoughts and attitudes towards his disease and come face to face with reality. He may then be able to approach his condition with mindfulness and peace of mind that may give his body chance to heal.

The Journal may be written on paper or on the computer using Microsoft Word or on the Internet. The Internet has many places you can write your journal. One easily available place you can write is any of the free blog hosting platforms. I like Google's free blogger platform. You can write and not make it public so you're the only one who will be able to view it. On the other hand you can register with a different name and open it to the World Wide Web as your writing may help someone. Take the first step and start your writing now.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Omega 3 Prevents Alzheimer’s Disease

A study that appeared in the November issue of Archives of Neurology shows that Omega 3 fatty acids found in fish prevent Alzheimer Disease. This follows on the heals of the data form the Nun Study that showed that the nuns who have high levels of folic acid in their blood had lesser chance of having symptoms of Alzheimer disease in spite of pathologic changes in the brain. Hence as the saying goes, "you are what you eat."

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Your Health is Worth More Than Money

When everything is going well with us we take health for granted. Yet health is worth more than money. What is the sense of having all the money in the world and you are so sick you can't spend the money? This is the mental health month. An article in the Southern written by Mary Rosenberg, a Licensed Clinical Psychologist proposes the following call to action to keep you mentally healthy:

  1. Relax
  2. Exercise
  3. Connect with others
  4. Get enough rest
  5. Help others
  6. Know your limits
  7. Keep a journal
  8. Reduce negative self talk
  9. Be spiritual
  10. Don't go it alone

As the saying goes, "a sound mind in a sound body" is the right approach to a healthy living. Thus as we pay attention to our mind we should also mind the body. Have a great "Mental Month."

Sunday, April 29, 2007

The Nun Study, Lessons for a Healthy and Long Life.

Have you wondered why some people live a long productive life without any touch of senility? Aging gracefully is what we are all looking for. We visit our doctors yearly and undergo different tests to unmask diseases that can be treated before they kill us. In spite of this intense medical care, we fall prey to age induced diseases like Alzheimer's which is predicted to affect about 14 million Americans by 2050.

Much of what we know comes from the Nun Study, conducted at the convent of the School Sisters of Notre Dame on Good Counsel Hill in Mankato, Minnesota on 75 to 107 year-old Catholic sisters. The study on Alzheimer's disease and ageing has given us some insights into ageing and dementia. The following are some of the helpful highlights of the study:

Linguistic performance in early life appeared to help prevent Alzheimer's disease. The greater the "idea density" in early life, the lower the incidence of Alzheimer' disease. Though the brain is physically destroyed by Alzheimer's changes, the people with high idea density maintained the capacity to keep their brains functioning in spite of the loss of the brain tissue.

Exercising the brain helped. Those Catholic sisters who have taught all their lives (most of them have Master's degrees) showed moderate decline than those who have spent their lives in service based tasks. Exercising the brain stimulates new neurons concomitant with the new stimulant. The more we stimulate the brain, the more neurons we produce.

The nuns do not drink, neither do they smoke. They live quietly and communally (and hence have social support).

The Sisters have positive attitudes to life. The positive emotions that come from spirituality is a boost to the Sisters' mental health. They are all loving, happy and hopeful and show gratitude.

Among the nuns with physical evidence of Alzheimer in the brain, physical evidence of stroke invariably showed outward symptoms of dementia while only half of the nuns without stroke had outward symptoms of dementia. Hence Alzheimer has a cardiovascular component.

"If your brain is already progressing toward Alzheimer's," says Snowdon, "strokes or head trauma which can produce similar kinds of brain damage can put you over the edge." His advice: wear a helmet while biking, motorcycling or playing contact sports; buckle your seat belt; and drive a car with air bags. Meanwhile, keep strokes at bay by keeping your cardiovascular system in shape: avoid tobacco, get regular exercise and eat a balanced, healthy diet.

Those nuns with high folate levels in their blood have little evidence of Alzheimer type brain damage after death. Folate reduces the level of homocysteine, a crystal-like substance that damages the lining of the blood vessels. Hence adequate folate levels may decrease stroke and hence protect the brain cells from damage.

Those nuns who live longer without signs of Alzheimer "think no evil, do no evil and hear no evil."

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Everyday is a Miracle. Embrace it and Live like There is no Tomorrow

"There are two ways to live your life.

One as if nothing is a miracle,

The other as if everything is a miracle."

-Albert Einstein

We take the common things in life for granted. For example, we expect the night to come at the end of the day and likewise the day to come at the end of the night. The mystery of the smoothness of the transition is lost on us since we know that as sure as the night comes so will the day. However, if we pause and observe the rhythms of nature such as life and death, day and night, the rise and fall of the tides of the sea, the rhythm of our breathing, the changes of the seasons, we will appreciate the glory of God as the hymnist wrote:

"The heav'ns declare Thy glory, Lord,

In every star Thy wisdom shines

But when our eyes behold Thy Word,

We read Thy Name in fairer lines.

The rolling sun, the changing light,

And nights and days, Thy power confess

But the blest volume Thou hast writ

Reveals Thy justice and Thy grace.

Sun, moon, and stars convey Thy praise

Round the whole earth, and never stand:

So when Thy truth begun its race,

It touched and glanced on every land.

Nor shall Thy spreading Gospel rest

Till through the world Thy truth has run,

Till Christ has all the nations blest

That see the light or feel the sun.

Great Sun of Righteousness, arise,

Bless the dark world with heav'nly light;

Thy Gospel makes the simple wise,

Thy laws are pure, Thy judgments right.

Thy noblest wonders here we view

In souls renewed and sins forgiv'n;

Lord, cleanse my sins, my soul renew,

And make Thy Word my guide to Heaven."

Isaac Watts -1719