Sunday, March 25, 2007

Journaling May Be Good For Your Health

Journaling has been found to improve health. The art of pouring your thoughts unto paper has healing properties. It is like catharsis and makes the writer comes face to face with her feelings.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

No Time for God?

Our ancestors lived at the mercy of the elements and were unable to control their environment as we do now. However with all the economic advances and our conquests of the elements, are we any better off? This is an interesting article I found on this subject.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Is Happiness An Illusion?

The pursuit of happiness is man's quest in the world. However, happiness becomes an illusion when we do something just because we think it could bring us happiness. This is because our conquests become moving targets. When we achieve our goal, true happiness eludes us because our happiness is temporary, making us crave for more acquisitions to satisfy our inner yearnings for bliss. Does it mean happiness is an illusion?

"Keep in mind that happiness is mostly dependent on our state of mind, not on our status or the state of our bank account. Barring extreme circumstances, our level of well being is determined by what we choose to focus on (the full or the empty part of the glass) and by our interpretation of external events. For example, do we view failure as catastrophic, or do we see it as a learning opportunity?" by Tal Ben-Shahar in 6 tips for happiness.

In Britain, studies show happiness levels are low. This is similar to the happiness levels in the US. It therefore appears that happiness does not wholly depend on affluence as both these countries have become more affluent since 1953.

"From the Buddha to modern gurus of self-help, there have been more than 100 exercises proposed which are alleged to increase lasting happiness, says Professor Martin Seligman a contributor to BBC Two's The Happiness Formula."

Professor Seligman has used positive psychology to help his patients to be happy and be less depressed. Hence, happiness depends on the state of mind. Positive thoughts improve your outlook on life and make you happier. You may have all the riches or have all the promotions and if you do not cultivate happiness in yourself, happiness will elude you. Always remember the following quotation in your pursuit of happiness:

"Standard of living has increased dramatically and happiness has increased not at all

Professor Daniel Kahneman, University of Princeton."

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Exercise to Keep Your Mind and Body Healthy

"If exercise could be put in a pill, it would be the most widely prescribed pill in the world." –Robert Butler

I see many patients in my office who wish they could find time to exercise, but they claim they do not have time to exercise. Some of the excuses they give for their tardiness are lack of time, bad weather, back pains, my neighborhood is not safe and others. However, without exercising, our body starts to show its wear and tear and invites many diseases to make us sick. Lack of exercise is one of the factors that can cause heart disease along with cigarette smoking, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

Exercise has many benefits including improved immunity. Moderate amount of exercise can boost the immune system of women with breast cancer. In the elderly , exercise improves their immunity. To these older people, exercise is the closest thing to the fountain of youth. People who exercise modestly have less flu attacks than their counterparts who do not exercise. On the other hand, strenuous exercises depress the immune system and increase the occurrence of flu. Exercise can give a psychological boost and hence improves depression and cognition probably through increased cortical plasticity

"Those who think they have no time for bodily exercise will sooner or later have to find time for illness." –Edward Stanley, 15th Earl of Derby, 1873

Hence, do moderate activities for about 30 minutes most or all days of the week. Remember that all sorts of activities such as formal exercises, daily activities, sports and recreation count. This may amount to between 150-200 calories per day and 1000-1400 calories per week. The activities may include walking, stretching, home care, carpet sweeping, general cleaning, mowing lawn and power mower.

"When exercise is done properly, it integrates mind and body, it stops being something you have to do, it becomes something you want to do, it becomes part of who you are." Jim Huddleston, MS, PT

Follow the physical activity pyramid for your physical activity plan

To Forgive is Divine

This is an article on forgiveness by Mary Jane Holt. I particularly like this quotation in her article:

It is said that he who would seek revenge, should dig two graves. I cannot more readily, firmly, and passionately agree. The Universe misses nothing. Somehow, someway, always… what we send out (spiritually) into the lives of others comes back into our own."

Monday, March 05, 2007

Six Factors That may Boost Your Immune System

An article written by Linn Branson proposes six emotional areas that research studies have recognised as key factors in building your immune system.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Resilience, Your Armor for Health

In my last post, Dr Specter's study on working class twins showed they aged faster than their affluent counterparts did. The explanation given by Dr Spencer was

"The greater psychological stress of being in a low social class, with more people above you in the food chain and less control over your life is the unseen hand that might mean more stress at the cellular level," and the "oxidative stress make telomeres shorten."

Does it mean that people under chronic stress are condemned to a life of unrelenting stress with no relief in sight? Is there a way out for these victims of stress? Fortunately, there is hope in resilience. Resilience is the ability to withstand life's ups and downs with equanimity. It appears that any thought we generate has its concomitant chemical and immunological components. If you have positive or negative thoughts you produce chemicals that have effects on your immune system. Some people who survive the onslaught of day to day invisible attacks on their psyche develop this buffer, resilience, which helps. The following are some of the helpful traits:

  1. Social support is important in developing resilience. The relationship of give and take helps all the participants as they share happy and sad moments together. Social support is like a spider's web. When a rent occurs, within a short time, the spider repairs the rent. This is seen even more in the Amish communities and African societies where the extended families live closer together and help each other in times of need. In our western world, where people may live far form their families, friendships developed at work, church and in their neighborhood may help to buoy them in times of need. Social support by itself may not be useful unless it is empathic and compassionate.
  2. We spend a lot of time thinking about our hurts yesterday and the uncertainties of our future. Resilient people let go of yesterday, because they know "today's seeds are tomorrow's flowers." If they worry so much that they are not able to seed their garden today there will not be flowers tomorrow. Thus they forgive, practice mindfulness and plunge all their energies into constructing something for the moment. This frees them from the arrows of tomorrow and the chains of yesterday. In other words, they develop flow and "wherever they are there they are."
  3. Resilient people realize they are the masters of their own fortunes and misfortunes. Every so often they look at their life to see whether there are things they can improve to enhance their health, relationships, promotion at work or qualify for a better job. Everything degrades in life and hence there is a constant need for maintenance to improve their coping skills and their employability in the job market. Being their own CEO's, they do SWOT analysis, looking at their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Where they are deficient, they take steps to improve themselves. They believe in James Allen's saying that "You cannot travel within and stand still without." Travel within today and your outer world will open up for you tomorrow.
  4. Jane had 3 girls and was happily married. Her husband had his own construction business. They were doing fairly well. I recently saw her at the Community Health Partners in Lorain doing her clinical training to be a registered nurse. Her husband's business collapsed and he became a drug addict. She was determined that she was not going to fall into the poverty trap so she started working in a nursing home and took classes at the local community college. For the past three years, she has been struggling to make ends meet but she said "His eyes are on the sparrows and I know He watches me." Her husband is nowhere to be found. Every so often she will get a call from him. She seemed calm about her situation as she has developed resilience and has come to terms with her life. I congratulated her and tears rolled down my cheeks as I left the floor. She has taught me a great lesson in resilience.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Meditation and Heart Disease

That stress can have effect on the heart cannot be argued. A recent article that appeared in the Archives of Internal Medicine showed that depressed patients with heart failure have worse outcomes. It is interesting to know that another study at the University of Pennsylvania showed meditation can reduce heart failure. This is another weapon in the fight against heart disease.