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“The vast majority of drugs are prescribed late in the disease process, a stage you don’t have to reach if you act early enough.” The Healing Self by Deepak Chopra, MD, and Rudolph E. Tanzi, PhD (Harmony Books, 2018)

The Healing Self

Having long believed that we can do more for our health than any doctor or drug can do for us, I was immediately drawn to the new book by holistic medicine pioneer Deepak Chopra, MD, and Harvard professor of neurology Rudolph E. Tanzi. They tell us that lifestyle steps taken early in life can ward off most maladies late in life, including type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease and many forms of cancer. That healing begins decades before the first symptoms arise.

Having just written about a report in The Lancet that education to age 15 and beyond can help ward off dementia, I knew that lifestyle factors early in life can have powerful impact many years later. Continued education and other mentally stimulating tasks bolster cerebral networks allowing the brain to function at a higher level even if it starts to decline later in life. http://www.cbass.com/FAQ(12).html

Wanting to learn more about the sweeping benefits of lifestyle factors, I placed my order straight away.

Self-healing is mandatory for optimum health. The details are eye-opening and empowering. Two core ideas—one structural and the other educational—show how self-healing works.

The Bodymind

“Thirty years ago, doctors were suspicious of the mind-body connection, which aroused skepticism because, unlike the heart or a flu virus, the mind is invisible and nonphysical,” the authors began explaining their approach. “Today, thanks to decades of research into how the brain communicates with every cell in the body, trying to find a bodily process that isn’t influenced by the mind has become a real challenge,” they continued.

We’ve written here about how muscles cells and fat cells communicate with other parts of the body. This appears to be an overarching explanation of that concept, spreading the “mind” throughout the body. Body parts don’t speak in words and sentences, but send and receive complex chemical messages.

Chopra and Tanzi continue: “The bloodstream, along with the central nervous system, is an information superhighway teeming with traffic as 50 trillion cells contribute to a unified goal: remaining alive, healthy, and thriving.”

They include a full page illustration of the “information superhighway” showing the pathways from the brain to every organ in the body, and then back again. The pathways are what keep the body in balance. Without the brain there is no body, only a collection of detached independent cells, “like the ones that make up a coral reef or a jellyfish.”

They drop the “artificial” division between body and mind, and speak in terms of the bodymind.

Importantly, this includes the immune system, which the authors refer to as a “floating brain,” made up of a vast network of chemical messages spread throughout the body.

“There are enough chemical clues to convince anyone that mood, beliefs, expectations, fears, memories, predisposition, habits, and old conditioning—all centered in the mind—are critical to a person’s health.”

Which brings us to the core of The Healing Self.

It’s you—and the lifestyle choices you make.

Immunity is a built-in response, with a gaping flaw. Unlike breathing, you can’t step in and make it voluntary anytime you want.

“Choices matter, and thus the healing self comes into play,” Chopra and Tanzi tell us in introducing their book. “On its own the body knows how to survive, it’s up to us to teach it how to thrive.”

*  *  *

The authors devote ten chapters to explaining various aspects of “The Healing Journey” and then offer a seven-day action plan using the key tools needed to develop your own path to self-healing. One section in the first part of the book lays out a way to deal with a stressful situation that most of us have encountered at one time or another. Importantly, it applies far beyond the specific situation. It shows how a healing lifestyle can help neutralize everyday stresses.

The “Airport Solution” for Everyday Stress: The Epidemic of Civilization

Stress can be defined as any input that triggers the body’s stress response. Psychologically, stress results whenever anxiety about the future or regrets about the past are invoked.

Putting up with stress—adapting to it—is not good enough. That’s because stresses build up, accumulate; there’s always something stressful lying ahead.

“So dealing with stress involves two things,” Chopra and Tanzi explain: “Clearing from the system the residue of old stressors and preventing the impact of new stressors from being too severe.”

Both steps figure prominently in life management.

The authors say that we are not equipped to react to stress constantly. “If a certain stressor, like a loud neighbor, is happening every day, chronic inflammation can be the result leading to heart disease, cancer, or other disorders.” (You’ll find many more details in the book.)

“We don’t offer any of this information to alarm you,” the authors tell us, “only to show that low-level stress deserves to be called the epidemic of civilization.

“The dilemma,” they continue, “is that…experts have found no single remedy that can cope with the unpredictable outcomes brought about by everyday stress.”

”Let’s see how a healing lifestyle can do better,” they add.

Enter the “Airport Solution” for a low-level everyday stress. One of many.

Surprise, surprise. You’re at the airport and your flight has been cancelled. You are told that there won’t be another flight for five hours. What do you do? How do you react?

The first thing to realize is that worry, complaining and pessimism are self-defeating.

Worry is self-induced anxiety. It solves nothing and blocks the possibility of dealing with things more positively.

Complaining increases tension and anger. As a display of hostility, it encourages other people to act hostile in return.

Pessimism induces the illusion that the situation is hopeless. It fosters the belief that expecting a bad outcome is always realistic, when in fact it isn’t.

All of these responses cause more stress. You become your own stressor.

Here’s the self-healing way—and how it applies beyond the airport.

Detach yourself from the stressor. At the airport people do this by reading a book or finding a place to be alone. From day to day it means making time to kick back and be alone.

Become centered. At the airport people do this when they shut their eyes and breathe deeply to relax. The same thing can be done a home or at work. The authors recommend breathing in to a count of 4, and out to a count of 6.

Remain active. At the airport this means walking around instead of slumping in a chair and waiting. At home or on the job it means standing up and moving around throughout the day. Taking the stairs instead of the elevator.

Seek positive outlets. At the airport this might mean shopping, getting a chair massage, or going to a restaurant. Outside it means anything that makes you happy. “Happiness is the philosopher’s stone for turning a stressful situation into a healing one,” the authors tell us. “In psychological terms, this is why the best way to build a happy life is to build happy days.”

Rely on emotional support. At the airport the usual way is to call a friend or family member. “The key is a conversation with someone meaningful in your life that lasts at least half an hour.”

“Modern society is more and more isolating,” the author lament. “There is no substitute for emotional bonding…The happiest people spend an hour or even more per day being in contact…with friends and family who mean the most to them.”

Escape if you must. At the airport it’s sometime best to reschedule and go home. That, of course, is not always practical or affordable. The key is to keep in mind that escape is an option.

“This is generally the hardest choice for most people, who will endure stressful situations long after it is evident that escaping and walking away is the right choice…Significant life changes like divorce or switching careers must take many factors into account. However, on an everyday basis you should give yourself the freedom to walk away from heated arguments, malicious gossip, rude e-mails, perpetual complainers, worrywarts, and anyone who is openly criticizing you.”

The authors call getting out from under chronic stress “the most important single decision you can make, because the benefits to the whole system are lifelong.”

My Take

I admit to stressing myself out from time to time. I did it this morning when I went in for my regular checkup by my long time dermatologist—only to find out that my appointment had been scheduled with another doctor. I was mad and I let the staff know it. I should’ve kept in mind that the staffer I was berating probably had nothing to do with the mix-up. I finally settled down and let them reschedule my appointment.

I felt bad afterward.

The other thing that comes to mind is my decision long ago to leave the law firm where I was a name partner. I had no way of knowing how I would do practicing law on my own and devoting part of my time to a career in fitness. It turned out to be the best decision I ever made. http://www.cbass.com/outlookmatters.htm

(The only exception was marrying Carol, which was the best decision I ever made.)

The need for emotional support also hits home. Working at home, I’m along during a good portion of the day. We have friends all over the world, but not a lot of direct contact.

A saving grace is my contact with wonderful neighbors. The neighbors on both sides of us are good friends. They moved here at about the same time as we did—and we talk often.

I also speak to everyone I see during my walks. We sometimes stop and talk. And those in cars wave as they go by.

Carol and I just spoke to a man who lives around the corner from us. I’ve said hello to him many times but never really engaged him in conversation. Carol broke the code by asking him how long he’s been living there. He started by explaining that he doesn’t hear very well, which explains why he never says much when I say hello or something about the weather.

Who we learned about him is fascinating. He’s quite a talker once you get him going. He’s been living here for 25 years.

He bought the house from a lady who was nervous about living alone and put bars on the windows and doors.

He’s 96! Has been living alone since his wife died 20 years ago. He doesn’t drive any more but walks some in the neighborhood. I’ve never seen him walking, but he’s slim and moves pretty well. Doesn’t use a cane. I would never have guessed his age. I’m going to talk to him some more. Try to find out how he gets along living alone.

So we’ve made an amazing new friend. From now on I’ll speak up when I talk to him.

I make it a point to speak to strangers. It always amazes me how they often light up when I speak to them. Surprisingly, the women are more likely to smile and respond in a friendly manner. (Guess I don’t look threatening.) It makes me feel good to see strangers smile and respond in kind.

This includes workmen in our neighborhood. I make it a point to speak to them. Used to being ignored most of them do a double take and respond in a friendly manner.

One fellow who does yard work for many of our neighbors stands out. I let him know how much I admire his work ethic—and we talk often. He never fails to wave when I go by. We’ve become good friends.

I’ve also been stranded in an airport overnight. The airline put me up in a motel and, as I recall, I took it in stride. I don’t remember being stressed out.

I always walk around in airports. Lots of interesting people and things to see. Surprises me how many people just plop down and move as little as possible.

 

 This photos was taken 30 years ago, during my first visit to the Cooper Clinic.
 My latest trip to the Cooper Clinic was disrupted when my return flight was delayed due to weather, first for 90 minutes and then 3 hours.
With the "Airport Solution" in mind, I read my book and listened to people passing the time on their cell phones--and airline representatives
franticly juggling departure times and gates. I also walked and observed people rushing down the concourse.
I made the best of the delay and arrived home in good spirits.

Photo by Justin Joseph

*  *  *

Chopra and Tanzi have made me more aware of the need to neutralize stress. I’m glad I bought their book.

May 1, 2018

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