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Treat the Person, Not the Body!

Treat the Person, Not the Body!

Have we Been Missing the Point?

    For all our research, resources, technology and collective intelligence there’s still way more that we don’t know about managing the human body, than we do. We like to think we’re more enlightened than ever but in many ways we’re still failing miserably when it comes to creating optimal health; just take a look around at our fat, stressed, addicted, depressed, unhealthy society. Could it be that we’ve been looking in the wrong place, using the wrong approach or maybe missing the point altogether?

    Stumbling in the Dark

    In the big wide world of health science (medicine, exercise, nutrition, disease prevention, immunology) we’re still in the dark about many things. While plenty of experts talk as though they have the final word on the human body and how to manage it (feed it, exercise it, treat it, heal it), the truth is we’re all still learning on the job; we’re students. Or at least, we should be. As an exercise scientist with vast practical experience, a reasonable academic background and a good aptitude for this stuff, my knowledge, understanding and skill level are constantly improving (because I work at it) and at the same time, my beliefs and thinking are always evolving because I’m learning (and un-learning) things daily. My thinking about what I do and how I do it, and my practical approach to my work have changed over the years because I have grown, adapted, learned by doing and made numerous mistakes. My “what I don’t know” list is still way bigger than my “what I do know” list. And always will be. I don’t aspire to know it all, just more.

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    Knowing what we don’t Know

    Aside from what we know we don’t know about the human body (with me, here?), there’s also what we think we know but actually don’t. Then there’s the mountain of conflicting (research-based) information available to you and me, and last but not least, there’s the widespread professional and philosophical disagreement between not only the individual experts in each field, but also between the various professions. Ask the same question to ten experts and you’ll probably get ten different answers. And a headache.

    Scientific Embarrassment

    Some experts don’t want you to know that much of what was scientific ‘fact’ only decades ago is now scientific embarrassment. In the next few years we will discover that a percentage of what we currently consider to be ‘absolute’ is either partial truth or completely wrong. On many levels we assume, hypothesize and guess but we don’t know for certain. There is still much sickness and disease, and at the other end of the scale, health and healing, that doesn’t actually make ‘sense’ according to our current scientific knowledge. We all know stories of people (friends and family perhaps) who have recovered from an illness that they shouldn’t have. Or people with medical conditions that just don’t seem to make sense (within the confines of our walls of current understanding). Or the person given three months to live five years ago who is still living a functional, happy, healthy and productive life today.

    Choosing Health

    For the last few years I’ve worked with a lady who isn’t meant to be here – according to the doctors. All the ‘medical intelligence’ says she should have been dead years ago. Someone was wrong. And the science was wrong. Perhaps she determined her own destiny rather than having it forecast by a stranger or a set of mandatory rules that predicted her imminent death. Perhaps she chose to live and by making that choice something happened on a physiological level. Perhaps her psychology changed her physiology. And maybe her thinking produced biochemical changes which lead to changes in her immune system, improved health and ultimately, life not death.

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    The area of Psychoneuroimmunology (PNI) is a relatively new field of study (born in the mid-seventies) which looks at how our thinking affects our immune system, how our mind affects our health. We now know that our mental and emotional states have a significant (and often under-estimated) impact on our physical health. Although other cultures have known and benefited from this understanding for centuries. People who dwell on the negative will have a suppressed immune system and will be more predisposed to illness, while their more positive counterparts will be less likely to fall ill. We know that prolonged mental and emotional stress (a form of illness) will invariably lead to physical disease just as we know that, happy people will typically outlive their stressed neighbours and have a better level of health doing it.

    “For this is the great error of our day, that the physicians separate the soul from the body” – Hippocrates

    Yep, an old Greek bloke figured this stuff out 2,500 years ago… Some of us are a little slow to catch on.

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    Miracles

    The cool thing is that when we look beyond that ‘part’ of the person (in this case, the body) and start to treat the ‘whole’ of the person (body, mind, spirit) we begin to move beyond logic, science and our own understanding. That’s often where freedom is and where the miracles happen; a miracle being something that we can’t explain with our humanistic, Western, self-limiting mindset. Sometimes the very things which stand in the way of our health, healing and happiness are in fact science, logic and our erroneous beliefs and understanding of what’s possible for us. Sometimes what works for you won’t make sense in many people’s eyes and won’t be particularly scientific. And that’s okay. Your mind, body and spirit are in constant communication but the question is, are you paying attention?. When we step out of the “I am a body” mindset and into the “my body is not who I am, it’s where I live” paradigm, then the term complete health takes on a totally new meaning.

    Treating the Person, not the Body.

    By and large (whatever that means) Western medicine is the only medical system in the world which treats the body in isolation rather than treating the entire person as an integrated unit. In most non-Western medicines (for want of a better term) the person is treated as the multi-dimensional, amazing creature that they are, whereas in our culture we have traditionally treated the body, not the person. In many cultures (some would say, more evolved cultures), the mind, emotions, body and spirit are treated in unison because it is understood that when a part of the individual is unwell, the whole of the individual will be unwell. If not right now, soon.

    The Black Sheep of the Scientific Family

    I’ve just read what I’ve written so far and I guess this message could sound somewhat contradictory coming from a scientist (of sorts) and I can understand why many people would think that. On many levels I’m not very good at the ‘science thing’ because I find some of it to be limiting, wishy-washy and conflicting. Having said that, I still believe it should play (and continue to play) a role in the overall health management process, keeping in mind that it is constantly evolving and flawed; just like the people who create it and teach it. Including me. When we take away the scientific arrogance and the need to be right (we love being right in our culture because we have our ego attached to our triumphs), then we open our mind, body and spirit to a world of possibilities; a world of healing, happiness, harmony and health that lays beyond our understanding, logic and often beyond anything we’ve ever known or experienced.

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    When we (you and I) stop treating the body (in isolation) and start treating the person, we begin the move towards enlightenment, a shift in consciousness and complete health. Health like we’ve never known.

    So my friend, look after not only your body, but your head, your heart and your spirit too.

    More by this author

    Craig Harper

    Leading presenter, writer and educator in the areas of high-performance, self-management, personal transformation and more

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    Last Updated on January 21, 2020

    The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

    The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

    Creating a vision for your life might seem like a frivolous, fantastical waste of time, but it’s not: creating a compelling vision of the life you want is actually one of the most effective strategies for achieving the life of your dreams. Perhaps the best way to look at the concept of a life vision is as a compass to help guide you to take the best actions and make the right choices that help propel you toward your best life.

    your vision of where or who you want to be is the greatest asset you have

      Why You Need a Vision

      Experts and life success stories support the idea that with a vision in mind, you are more likely to succeed far beyond what you could otherwise achieve without a clear vision. Think of crafting your life vision as mapping a path to your personal and professional dreams. Life satisfaction and personal happiness are within reach. The harsh reality is that if you don’t develop your own vision, you’ll allow other people and circumstances to direct the course of your life.

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      How to Create Your Life Vision

      Don’t expect a clear and well-defined vision overnight—envisioning your life and determining the course you will follow requires time, and reflection. You need to cultivate vision and perspective, and you also need to apply logic and planning for the practical application of your vision. Your best vision blossoms from your dreams, hopes, and aspirations. It will resonate with your values and ideals, and will generate energy and enthusiasm to help strengthen your commitment to explore the possibilities of your life.

      What Do You Want?

      The question sounds deceptively simple, but it’s often the most difficult to answer. Allowing yourself to explore your deepest desires can be very frightening. You may also not think you have the time to consider something as fanciful as what you want out of life, but it’s important to remind yourself that a life of fulfillment does not usually happen by chance, but by design.

      It’s helpful to ask some thought-provoking questions to help you discover the possibilities of what you want out of life. Consider every aspect of your life, personal and professional, tangible and intangible. Contemplate all the important areas, family and friends, career and success, health and quality of life, spiritual connection and personal growth, and don’t forget about fun and enjoyment.

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      Some tips to guide you:

      • Remember to ask why you want certain things
      • Think about what you want, not on what you don’t want.
      • Give yourself permission to dream.
      • Be creative. Consider ideas that you never thought possible.
      • Focus on your wishes, not what others expect of you.

      Some questions to start your exploration:

      • What really matters to you in life? Not what should matter, what does matter.
      • What would you like to have more of in your life?
      • Set aside money for a moment; what do you want in your career?
      • What are your secret passions and dreams?
      • What would bring more joy and happiness into your life?
      • What do you want your relationships to be like?
      • What qualities would you like to develop?
      • What are your values? What issues do you care about?
      • What are your talents? What’s special about you?
      • What would you most like to accomplish?
      • What would legacy would you like to leave behind?

      It may be helpful to write your thoughts down in a journal or creative vision board if you’re the creative type. Add your own questions, and ask others what they want out of life. Relax and make this exercise fun. You may want to set your answers aside for a while and come back to them later to see if any have changed or if you have anything to add.

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      What Would Your Best Life Look Like?

      Describe your ideal life in detail. Allow yourself to dream and imagine, and create a vivid picture. If you can’t visualize a picture, focus on how your best life would feel. If you find it difficult to envision your life 20 or 30 years from now, start with five years—even a few years into the future will give you a place to start. What you see may surprise you. Set aside preconceived notions. This is your chance to dream and fantasize.

      A few prompts to get you started:

      • What will you have accomplished already?
      • How will you feel about yourself?
      • What kind of people are in your life? How do you feel about them?
      • What does your ideal day look like?
      • Where are you? Where do you live? Think specifics, what city, state, or country, type of community, house or an apartment, style and atmosphere.
      • What would you be doing?
      • Are you with another person, a group of people, or are you by yourself?
      • How are you dressed?
      • What’s your state of mind? Happy or sad? Contented or frustrated?
      • What does your physical body look like? How do you feel about that?
      • Does your best life make you smile and make your heart sing? If it doesn’t, dig deeper, dream bigger.

      It’s important to focus on the result, or at least a way-point in your life. Don’t think about the process for getting there yet—that’s the next stepGive yourself permission to revisit this vision every day, even if only for a few minutes. Keep your vision alive and in the front of your mind.

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      Plan Backwards

      It may sound counter-intuitive to plan backwards rather than forwards, but when you’re planning your life from the end result, it’s often more useful to consider the last step and work your way back to the first. This is actually a valuable and practical strategy for making your vision a reality.

      • What’s the last thing that would’ve had to happen to achieve your best life?
      • What’s the most important choice you would’ve had to make?
      • What would you have needed to learn along the way?
      • What important actions would you have had to take?
      • What beliefs would you have needed to change?
      • What habits or behaviors would you have had to cultivate?
      • What type of support would you have had to enlist?
      • How long will it have taken you to realize your best life?
      • What steps or milestones would you have needed to reach along the way?

      Now it’s time to think about your first step, and the next step after that. Ponder the gap between where you are now and where you want to be in the future. It may seem impossible, but it’s quite achievable if you take it step-by-step.

      It’s important to revisit this vision from time to time. Don’t be surprised if your answers to the questions, your technicolor vision, and the resulting plans change. That can actually be a very good thing; as you change in unforeseeable ways, the best life you envision will change as well. For now, it’s important to use the process, create your vision, and take the first step towards making that vision a reality.

      Featured photo credit: Matt Noble via unsplash.com

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