Betty W. Phillips, Ph.D., Psychology
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Good Health is a Path to Happiness

  

Good Health is a Path to Happiness

 

The following words from the Life Extension Foundation magazine, July 2011, certainly caught my attention: "If you are over 65, you have an 80% chance of having at least one chronic disease such as type II diabetes, cancer or some form of cardiovascular impairment. Moreover, you have a 50-50 chance of having two chronic diseases that almost certainly seriously compromise your quality of life." As I am of the age described as "going over the hill," this led me to wonder what awaits me on the other side of the hill. Even for those of you who are eyeing the hill from afar, there is no comfort in this article: "Even if you are much younger -- in your teens, 20s or 30s, perhaps -- research shows that you are likely to have already begun the age-related decline that will lead to disease in many systems."

 

The absence of a major disease is a good thing, but absence of anything does not lead to happiness. Feeling healthy, feeling good, approaching the world with a twinkle in your eye and a song in your heart, does lead to happiness. So how do we find good health in this complicated and stress-filled world? You must make this a priority and have a great health advisor. No, I don't mean your doctor; you must be your own best health advisor! You must start now, whatever your age, and continue learning about your health in mind and body. One principle to be followed is to understand how the human body evolved over time and maximize positive influences that will allow your body to function in as natural a way as possible and in the way it was designed. I'll give examples in this article.

 

What are some resources for high-quality and research-based health information? You cannot rely just on information developed by companies with high stake profit investments such as the pharmaceutical industry or the media with its haphazard coverage. I'll mention a few resources I use, and there are many others. Dr. Joseph Mercola provides free daily health e-mails and has an extensive website of research-based information. I also subscribe to monthly newsletters written by medical doctors such as Russell Blaylock, Jonathan Wright, David Williams and Julian Whitaker. Reputable health advisers will guide you to books and other media providing well-documented health information.

 

Although we must use our minds in our health decision-making, we need to approach life with an attitude of joy and heart-based compassion toward mankind. Whether or not you follow a religion, everyone should follow a humanistic and/or spiritual path. It is obvious that the current state of nature and our world is chaotic, tumultuous and destructive, and we must learn how to approach life with a positive spirit of love for mankind instead of fear and other negative emotions. A newly published book, “Wholeiness," Carmen Harrah (Hay, 2011) provides an overview and "Oneness" by Rasha (Earthstar, 2006) provides a transformative perspective as was dictated to her by spiritual forces. The Institute of HeartMath , www.HeartMath.org, is a source of research-based information about the heart centered approach to life.

 

In order to develop a positive health plan, there are problems inherent in modern life that must be mitigated or avoided. Even if you are following an apparently healthy lifestyle, these issues could be undermining your health without you realizing it!  Our environment contains an unprecedented amount of toxins in every aspect of our lives (food, household products, personal care items, clothing etc.) which impact our health significantly. Check out the book, "What's in This Stuff?" by Patricia Thomas (Perigee, 2008). Electromagnetic fields and radiation subject our bodies to modern-day stresses incompatible with healthy body functioning. The book "Zapped" (Gittleman, HarperOne, 2010) provides an overview and explanation of the hazards of everyday equipment from cell phones to hairdryers to baby monitors. Overuse of medical and airport radiation screens can deliver detrimental levels of radiation to the body. Prescription medications, especially long-term medications, come with exhaustive list of "side" effects and negative consequences such as robbing the body of nutrients or harming vital body functions. It's important to realize that side effects are really direct effects on the body, and a recent study documented an average of 70 of these unintended effects per medication. While medications may ameliorate symptoms, realize that the relief may be temporary because the medications rarely address the causes of disease. For a research analysis, see "The Risks of Prescription Drugs" (Light, Columbia, 2010). Dr. Hyla Cass describes problems with common medications and also discusses supplements you can use to help mitigate the negative consequences of these drugs in "Supplement Your Prescription" (Basic Health, 2007.) Dr. Mark Hyman is now describing what he calls "Pharmageddon," stating that separate studies in the June issue of the American Medical Association “underscore that we have come to the end of an era of being saved by medication."

 

What positive steps should we take to avoid these problems and recover good health? Its important to understand how the body is wired to maintain good energy, Too many of us drag our way through life fueled by coffee and other stimulants. Excessive sitting and riding in cars increases body tension especially when it is followed by couch potato behavior at home. The body was designed for movement. You don't have to call it exercise or go to a gym; the important point is to use the body throughout the day, hopefully in a way that builds enjoyment. One suggestion is to walk or jog or garden with meditative music. Yoga is highly recommended as are massage and acupuncture. Dr. Mercola has written about the "Peak 8" exercise plan which has been found through research studies to provide the most efficient and effective exercise routine 2 to 3 times a week for only 20 minutes per session. Energy Medicine routines developed by Donna Eden can be practiced 5 to 10 minutes per day to optimize energy flow within the body. Local classes are being offered at the Joy of Movement studio in Pittsboro (contact teacher Suzi Snyder, 919-533-6052). Our lives in a totally artificial environment cause major problems for our bodies including chronic inflammation and disease.   The book "Earthing" (Ober, Sinatra, Zucker, Basic Health, 2010) should be required reading for everyone. The book presents a rationale and useful products to keep the body grounded to the earth in the way nature intended.

 

Food choices and supplements are an important part of the path to health. Avoiding processed foods in favor of organic fruits and vegetables and home cooking will provide a good start. Most experts agree that supplementation is necessary because of the poor quality of the soil and overuse of toxins and pesticides.  You can consult an authority such as the Life Extension Foundation (www.LEF.org) in order to develop a plan for appropriate supplementation. You'll want to avoid eating animal products saturated with antibiotics and other unnatural substances as well as genetically modified foods. A detoxification and anti-inflammatory plan should be part of every dietary approach. Grapefruit or cilantro are readily available detoxifiers and zeolite is one supplement used for this purpose You can find a 10 day food-based detox plan in the book "Cleanse Your Body, Clear Your Mind" (Dr. Jeffrey Morrison, Hudson Street Press, 2011). There are also more extensive or expensive detoxification systems you can use often under the direction of an alternative or naturopathic doctor.

 

Skin care is often ignored as a part of the health system. The skin is not just a covering for the body; it is in fact the body’s largest organ and participates in vital functions such as respiration, excretion, blood and lymph circulation as well as immunity. We harm this organ by slathering it with chemically based personal care products, approximately 10 per day (126 ingredients) per person. Consult the Environmental Working Group website, www.ewg.org, for their research results to assist you in choosing the most organic and least harmful products. Skin care products don't just stay on the surface of the skin, but penetrate deeply to other organs. You can take advantage of this by using helpful natural products on your skin which can also provide positive effects on other parts of your body. For example, I've been using coconut oil (organic and unrefined) as a skin moisturizer. Interestingly, coconut oil is being studied as a deterrent to Alzheimers disease. You also might tone up your skin health with skin-brushing. You can consult Dr. Bruce Berkowsky "Vital Chi Skin-Brushing System” (Joseph Ben Hil-Meyer Research, 1999).

 

Rest and relaxation are obvious stress busters enjoyed by the body. Appropriate sleep is a necessity but one rarely achieved by the general population, either due to overwork or sleep disorders. Sleep time is used to help the body restore itself and prepare for the next day. You may not know that every hour of sleep before midnight is regarded as worth three hours of sleep afterward. I've written on this website about sleep problems, but would like to add here the importance of avoiding electromagnetic stress in the bedroom. I'll also call attention to the best sleep CD I've reviewed so far, "A Sound Sleep" by Dean Evenson.

 

Aromatherapy is an interesting resource for good health, affecting the mind and spirit as well as the body. Essential oils are commonly used to alter moods; for example lavender oil promotes sleep, rose oil promotes positive feelings and citrus oil increases energy. It's important to buy standard brands of these oils as the preparation of the product is important to the purity and efficacy of these remedies. Most health food stores have testers so you can investigate the effects of the oil upon yourself. You should do some reading about this topic before you jump in wholeheartedly. A basic introduction can be provided by "Essential Aromatherapy: A Pocket Guide to Essential Oils and Aromatherapy" (Worwood and Worwood, New World, 2003.)

 

I've written elsewhere on this website about the importance of nature, music, art, humor, and meditation . When you research these, also look for information about Hemi-Sync music and the Loving Kindness meditation. All these are easily available and accessible and important for your positive health plan.

 

A good health plan is a self-care plan. Some people worry that self-care is selfish. It should be obvious by now that self-care is a necessary part of life. Interestingly , I've heard self-care aptly described as "self-full."  So let's all take good care of ourselves and not join Leon Elred who stated, "If I'd known I was going to live so long, I'd have taken better care of myself!."