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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 August 20, 2019

    How to Control Your Thoughts and Be the Master of Your Mind

    How to Control Your Thoughts and Be the Master of Your Mind

    Your mind is the most powerful tool you have for the creation of good in your life, but if not used correctly, can also be the most destructive force in your life.

    Your mind, more specifically, your thoughts, affect your perception and therefore, your interpretation of reality. (And here’s Why Your Perception Is Your Reality.)

    I have heard that the average person thinks around 70,000 thoughts a day. That’s a lot, especially if they are unproductive, self-abusive and just a general waste of energy.

    You can let your thoughts run amok, but why would you? It is your mind, your thoughts; isn’t it time to take your power back? Isn’t it time to take control?

    Choose to be the person who is actively, consciously thinking your thoughts. Become the master of your mind.

    When you change your thoughts, you will change your feelings as well, and you will also eliminate the triggers that set off those feelings. Both of these outcomes provide you with a greater level of peace in your mind.

    I currently have few thoughts that are not of my own choosing or a response from my reprogramming. I am the master of my mind, so now my mind is quite peaceful. Yours can be too!

    Who Is Thinking My Thoughts?

    Before you can become the master of your mind, you must recognize that you are currently at the mercy of several unwanted “squatters” living in your mind, and they are in charge of your thoughts. If you want to be the boss of them, you must know who they are and what their motivation is, and then you can take charge and evict them.

    Here are four of the “squatters” in your head that create the most unhealthy and unproductive thoughts:

    1. The Inner Critic

    This is your constant abuser who is often a conglomeration of:

    • Other people’s words; many times your parents.
    • Thoughts you have created based on your own or other peoples expectations.
    • Comparing yourself to other people, including those in the media.
    • The things you told yourself as a result of painful experiences such as betrayal and rejection. Your interpretation creates your self-doubt and self-blame, which are most likely undeserved in cases of rejection and betrayal.

    The Inner Critic is motivated by pain, low self-esteem, lack of self-acceptance and lack of self-love.

    Why else would this person abuse you? And since this person is actually you– why else would you abuse yourself? Why would you let anyone treat you this badly?

    2. The Worrier

    This person lives in the future; in the world of “what ifs.”

    The Worrier is motivated by fear which is often irrational and with no basis for it. Occasionally, this person is motivated by fear that what happened in the past will happen again.

    3. The Reactor or Trouble-Maker

    This is the one that triggers anger, frustration and pain. These triggers stem from unhealed wounds of the past. Any experience that is even closely related to a past wound will set him off.

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    This person can be set off by words or feelings, and can even be set off by sounds and smells.

    The Reactor has no real motivation and has poor impulse control and is run by past programming that no longer serves you, if it ever did.

    4. The Sleep Depriver

    This can be a combination of any number of different squatters including the inner planner, the rehasher, and the ruminator, along with the inner critic and the worrier.

    The Sleep Depriver’s motivation can be:

    • As a reaction to silence, which he fights against
    • Taking care of the business you neglected during the day
    • Self-doubt, low self-esteem, insecurity and generalized anxiety
    • As listed above for the inner critic and worrier

    How can you control these squatters?

    How to Master Your Mind

    You are the thinker and the observer of your thoughts. You must pay attention to your thoughts so you can identify “who” is running the show; this will determine which technique you will want to use.

    Begin each day with the intention of paying attention to your thoughts and catching yourself when you are thinking undesirable thoughts.

    There are two ways to control your thoughts:

    • Technique A – Interrupt and replace them
    • Technique B – Eliminate them altogether

    This second option is what is known as peace of mind!

    The technique of interrupting and replacing is a means of reprogramming your subconscious mind. Eventually, the replacement thoughts will become the “go to” thoughts in the applicable situations.

    Use Technique A with the Inner Critic and Worrier; and Technique B with the Reactor and Sleep Depriver.

    For the Inner Critic

    When you catch yourself thinking something negative about yourself (calling yourself names, disrespecting yourself, or berating yourself), interrupt it.

    You can yell (in your mind), “Stop! No!” or, “Enough! I’m in control now.” Then, whatever your negative thought was about yourself, replace it with an opposite or counter thought or an affirmation that begins with “I am.”

    For example, if your thought is, “I’m such a loser,” you can replace it with, “I am a Divine Creation of the Universal Spirit. I am a perfect spiritual being learning to master the human experience. I am a being of energy, light, and matter. I am magnificent, brilliant, and beautiful. I love and approve of myself just as I am.”

    You can also have a dialogue with yourself with the intention of discrediting the ‘voice’ that created the thought, if you know whose voice it is:

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    “Just because so-and-so said I was a loser doesn’t make it true. It was his or her opinion, not a statement of fact. Or maybe they were joking and I took it seriously because I’m insecure.”

    If you recognize that you have recurring self-critical thoughts, you can write out or pre-plan your counter thoughts or affirmation so you can be ready. This is the first squatter you should evict, forcefully, if necessary:

    • They rile up the Worrier.
    • The names you call yourself become triggers when called those names by others, so he also maintains the presence of the Reactor.
    • They are often present when you try to fall asleep so he perpetuates the Sleep Depriver.
    • They are a bully and is verbally and emotionally abusive.
    • They are the destroyer of self-esteem. They convince you that you’re not worthy. They’re a liar! In the interest of your self-worth, get them out!

    Eliminate your worst critic and you will also diminish the presence of the other three squatters.

    Replace them with your new best friends who support, encourage, and enhance your life. This is a presence you want in your mind.

    For the Worrier

    Prolonged anxiety is mentally, emotionally and physically unhealthy. It can have long-term health implications.

    Fear initiates the fight or flight response, creates worry in the mind and creates anxiety in the body.

    You should be able to recognize a “worry thought” immediately by how you feel. The physiological signs that the fight or flight response of fear has kicked in are:

    • Increased heart rate, blood pressure, or surge of adrenaline
    • Shallow breathing or breathlessness
    • Muscles tense

    Use the above stated method to interrupt any thought of worry and then replace it. But this time you will replace your thoughts of worry with thoughts of gratitude for the outcome you wish for.

    If you believe in a higher power, this is the time to engage with it. Here is an example:

    Instead of worrying about my loved ones traveling in bad weather, I say the following (I call it a prayer):

    “Thank you great spirit for watching over _______. Thank you for watching over his/her car and keeping it safe, road-worthy, and free of maintenance issues without warning. Thank you for surrounding him/her with only safe, conscientious, and alert drivers. And thank you for keeping him/her safe, conscientious, and alert.”

    Smile when you think about it or say it aloud, and phrase it in the present tense; both of these will help you feel it and possibly even start to believe it.

    If you can visualize what you are praying for, the visualization will enhance the feeling so you will increase the impact in your vibrational field.

    Now take a calming breath, slowly in through your nose, and slowly out through the mouth. Take as many as you like!

    Replacing fearful thoughts with gratitude will decrease reactionary behavior, taking the steam out of the Reactor.

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    For example:

    If your child gets lost in the mall, the typical parental reaction that follows the fearful thoughts when finding them is to yell at them.

    “I told you never to leave my sight.” This reaction just adds to the child’s fear level from being lost in the first place. Plus, it also teaches them that mom and/or dad will get mad when he or she makes a mistake, which may make them lie to you or not tell you things in the future.

    Change those fearful thoughts when they happen:

    “Thank You (your choice of Higher Power) for watching over my child and keeping him safe. Thank you for helping me find him soon.”

    Then, when you see your child after this thought process, your only reaction will be gratitude, and that seems like a better alternative for all people involved.

    For the Trouble-Maker, Reactor or Over-Reactor

    Permanently eliminating this squatter will take a bit more attention and reflection after the fact to identify and heal the causes of the triggers; but until then, you can prevent the Reactor from getting out of control by initiating conscious breathing as soon as you recognize his presence.

    The Reactor’s thoughts or feelings activate the fight or flight response just like with the Worrier. The physiological signs of his presence will be the same. With a little attention, you should be able to tell the difference between anxiety, anger, frustration, or pain:

    • Increased heart rate and blood pressure; surge of adrenaline
    • Shallow breathing or breathlessness
    • Muscles tension

    I’m sure you’ve heard the suggestion to count to ten when you get angry—well, you can make those ten seconds much more productive if you are breathing consciously during that time.

    Conscious breathing is as simple as it sounds; just be conscious of your breathing. Pay attention to the air going in and coming out.

    Breathe in through your nose:

    • Feel the air entering your nostrils.
    • Feel your lungs filling and expanding.
    • Focus on your belly rising.

    Breathe out through your nose:

    • Feel your lungs emptying.
    • Focus on your belly falling.
    • Feel the air exiting your nostrils.

    Do this for as long as you like. Leave the situation if you want. This gives the adrenaline time to normalize.

    Now you can address the situation with a calmer, more rational perspective and avoid damaging behavior.

    One of the troubles this squatter causes is that it adds to the sleep depriver’s issues. By evicting, or at least controlling the Reactor, you will decrease reactionary behavior, which will decrease the need for the rehashing and ruminating that may keep you from falling asleep.

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    Master your mind and stop the Reactor from bringing stress to you and your relationships!

    For the Sleep Depriver

    (They’re made up of the Inner Planner, the Rehasher and the Ruminator, along with the Inner Critic and the Worrier.)

    I was plagued with a very common problem: not being able to turn off my mind at bedtime. This inability prevented me from falling asleep and thus, getting a restful and restorative night’s sleep.

    Here’s how I mastered my mind and evicted the Sleep Depriver and all his cronies.

    1. I started by focusing on my breathing—paying attention to the rise and fall of my belly—but that didn’t keep the thoughts out for long. (Actually, I now start with checking my at-rest mouth position to keep me from clenching.)
    2. Then I came up with replacement strategy that eliminated uncontrolled thinking—imagining the word in while breathing in and thinking the word out when breathing out. I would (and do) elongate the word to match the length of my breath.

    When I catch myself thinking, I shift back to in, out. With this technique, I am still thinking, sort of, but the wheels are no longer spinning out of control. I am in control of my mind and I choose quiet.

    From the first time I tried this method I started to yawn after only a few cycles and am usually asleep within ten minutes.

    For really difficult nights, I add an increase of attention by holding my eyes in a looking-up position (Closed, of course!). Sometimes I try to look toward my third eye but that really hurts my eyes.

    If you have trouble falling asleep because you can’t shut off your mind, I strongly recommend you try this technique. I still use it every night. You can start sleeping better tonight!

    You can also use this technique any time you want to:

    • Fall back to sleep if you wake up too soon.
    • Shut down your thinking.
    • Calm your feelings.
    • Simply focus on the present moment. 

    The Bottom Line

    Your mind is a tool, and like any other tool, it can be used for constructive purposes or for destructive purposes.

    You can allow your mind to be occupied by unwanted, undesirable and destructive tenants, or you can choose desirable tenants like peace, gratitude, compassion, love, and joy.

    Your mind can become your best friend, your biggest supporter, and someone you can count on to be there and encourage you. The choice is yours!

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    Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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