Photo: Todd MacMillan
A baby is given its health by nature, as a birthright. This perfect state will remain until we interfere with it. That "interference" is just another word for "living your life." How you live today either causes your health to degrade or to improve, and optimal living allows the body's healing system to reach its full potential.
The key is the mind-body connection. In brief, all your thoughts and feelings have physical consequences. Chemical messages from the brain circulate to every cell in the body, allowing your liver, heart, digestive track and immune system to eavesdrop on every mental event. Whenever you make a decision or choice, you are affecting trillions of cells. Please do not interpret what I’m saying in a fatalistic way. If you have a disorder where medicine remains baffled about the cause, such as certain cancers, the mind-body connection isn’t at fault. More and more, though, we are learning that the feedback from our thoughts, emotions, memories, beliefs, habits, cravings, addictions, resistance and negativity reaches all the way to our genes. Which means we have tremendous power to use the mind-body connection for our benefit.
There are three main things that interfere with that connection:
Obstacle #1: I shut my body out and ignore how it feels.
This is the most common obstacle to good health, because there's a natural aversion to pain and discomfort. We put the small sensations that bother us out of our minds, and not until symptoms appear that cannot be ignored do we admit that there's a problem. Even more commonly, when we have a problem with how our bodies look, we take the course of least resistance: We stop looking or lament that we aren't the same physically as we were at age 20.
Making it better: Get into the habit of feeling your body. Be mindful of discomfort, but also appreciate the pleasure of being physical. Think about marriage, when things start to go badly. What happens? If the relationship gets uncomfortable, the two people grow distant. They talk less and touch less. They stop agreeing or wanting to share. If this trend goes on too long, the bond of affection is frayed. Communication becomes strained. Obviously, the earlier they catch the warning signs, the easier it will be for two people to get the marriage back on track—touch, communication and bonding are key.
Now think of yourself as being married to your body. The same truths apply. If you stop communicating, your body will begin to drift away, becoming less sensitive to what you want. It forgets its role in bringing you satisfaction. Instead, the bond between mind and body gets frayed. So it's important to keep the connection. Tune in to how your body feels. Give it an opportunity to be useful, active, energized and content. On a sunny day, lie down in the grass and open yourself to the warmth and comfort of the world. That's how you should feel every day, and only your body can deliver the feeling.