Writes Dr. Barsky: “We ‘burn’ with anger, ‘tremble’ with fear, feel ‘choked up’ with sadness; our ‘stomachs turn’ with revulsion. Everyone tends to experience unpleasant emotions as unpleasant bodily symptoms and thus to feel physically distressed when emotionally distressed.”
The good news is that we have the power to change negative thoughts and feelings into positive, rational, motivating thoughts, and in doing so, help create a healthy mind in a healthy body.
This transformation, which is part of emerging fields in psychology focused on mind-body health, is very important because it can greatly boost our chances of achieving what we want in life, including a fitter, healthier lifestyle.
“By changing our minds, we really can change our lives,” asserts Dr. Arvon.
The Healthy Mind and Body Connection
Mind-body medicine originated more than 4,000 years ago, when physicians in China noticed that illness often followed periods of frustration in their patients’ lives. Today in western societies like the U. S., medical professionals also share the view that emotions, life events, and coping skills can have a very strong influence on health.
Healthy mind-body medicine is now part of exciting new fields such as psychoneuroimmunology and behavorial cardiology.
Healthy Mind-Body Program
Don’t let personal obstacles hold you back. At Pritikin, you'll clear a path to wellness and weight loss. Behavior Change Program
Psychoneuroimmunology focuses on the relationship of our thoughts and emotions to our brain chemistry and immune system.
Behavioral cardiology is the application of psychological and social factors in the assessment and reduction of cardiovascular risk. It is an important field for a number of reasons, including reducing recurring heart attacks, helping patients recover sooner, and improving family support.
Chronic stress can make us fat – and sick
It is the long-term consequences of an anxiety-filled existence that are particularly troubling. Over time, chronic emotional and psychological stress can:
- Promote fat storage
- Retain salt in the body
- Destroy the body’s resistance to cancer, infections, and illness
- Cause infertility and sexual dysfunction
- Exacerbate diabetes
- Deposit cholesterol in blood vessels
- Accelerate heart rate and increase blood pressure, and thicken blood so it clots more readily, which makes you more prone to suffering a heart attack or stroke
Calming the mind
To guide people toward healthier states of mind, emerging throughout America are major medical centers with wellness divisions offering stress management, relaxation training, guided imagery, and cognitive therapy techniques.
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Guests at Pritikin are also introduced to and practice many of these techniques. “Add them to healthy eating and exercising,” encourages Dr. Arvon, “and you maximize your control over your well-being.”
Attitudes, feelings, and behaviors that are linked with a healthy mind and body
A key goal of mind-body techniques is achieving an overall approach to life known as stress hardiness. Stress hardiness is associated with four important personality traits that buffer the impact of stress and improve coping. These characteristics of the stress resistant or healthy personality are identified as:
An attitude of curiosity and commitment to yourself, your loved ones, your work, and the world.
The belief that you can respond effectively to situations that arise in your life, rather than feeling hopeless and incompetent.
The ability to see change as exciting and an opportunity for growth rather than viewing it as frightening and fearing failure.
The enduring assurance that you are understood and validated by those you are closest to.
Other attitudes, feelings, and behaviors that are linked with good health include:
Social support, explains Pritikin psychologist Dr. Arvon, is protective against the effects of stress and has been found to be associated with longevity.
By keeping a journal or speaking with others, emotional disclosure helps people cope with events. Also, people who use these strategies have lower blood pressure and report fewer health problems compared with people who don’t.
Humor has been demonstrated to have “stress-busting” qualities and reduces the body”s physiological response to stress.
Healthy Mind-Body Education at the Pritikin Longevity Center
To maximize emotional well-being and the ability to make positive changes, Dr. Arvon guides guests at Pritikin through a five-seminar series, entitled:
- Healthy Mind, Healthy Body
- New Thoughts, New Behaviors
- Taking Charge of Stress
- Listening and Being Heard
- Managing Your Moods
“The seminars help our guests develop the valuable skills needed to take charge of their emotional lives,” explains Dr. Arvon. “That’s so vital because a healthy mind can lead you to a healthy body – and a much happier life.”
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