Saturday, December 22, 2012

Believe-It effects how we feel

Given that a popular expression on holiday cards is “Believe,” it made me start thinking about how our beliefs impact healing. Then I came across an entry on Ellen Langer’s blog:

 A friend’s brother, a physician, told him that if he ever became sick, “Don’t bleed.” What he meant was that illness is a time to “keep a stiff upper lip” or “whistle a happy tune,” choose your favorite metaphor.

I recently told a friend with cancer that, even if he has to walk at a snail’s pace to “Stand tall.” He has and as a result he doesn’t seem to be suffering as much. I have another suffering friend who I told early on that she can play it for sympathy or be heroic. Sympathy, however, wears thin very soon.

There’s ample research showing that friends and loved ones take the cues for how they treat sick friends and family from their own attitude to the diagnosis. The problem is that the patient then takes cues from them to assess the seriousness of her condition, oblivious to how she influenced the view. Often what then happens becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. She sees herself as sick, behaves accordingly, and as a result, may worsen her condition.

I believe that for as long as we can, we want to live each moment fully. When we do that, we actually may influence the disease process. Regardless, though, we influence those around us who influence us, which results in more life to our years

If you are not familiar with Dr. Langer, she is a Harvard Professor of Psychology who has authored eleven books and over 200 research articles on the illusion of control, perceived control, successful aging, decision-making, to name a few of the topics. Each of these is examined through the lens of her theory of mindfulness. Her research has demonstrated that by actively noticing new things—the essence of mindfulness—health, well being, and competence follow.

Years ago, a very inspired woman with HIV/AIDS made the comment about some of the people she came across with her diagnosis, “It’s simple, if you whine, you die.” While I’m not sure how “simple” that may be,  I do know that people who constantly complain about their condition are not among the healthiest people I know

Given the parameters that we’re all mortal, we can make each day, regardless of what we’re facing, much better and help ourselves heal,  by having some positive beliefs about ourselves. Believe in your health, and your ability to heal (that’s not the same as cure) regardless of your diagnosis. Outward expressions of positive health, will help others mirror that back to you.

Some things to consider:
• Looking good can make you feel better. Learn more at Looking Good: Improve How You Feel 

• Find contentment in what you are doing.

• Surround yourself with people that are positive and support healing in you. 

• Fake it ‘till you make it. Your body language shapes who you are, Basically, if you assume positions and behaviors that change how encounters go, do it long enough and you ultimately will change your brain and outlook. Check out Power Posing: Could it Help You Heal. 

• Healing the Whole Person: Check out ways to increase Well-Being 

For previous posts on living with a chronic condition during the holidays, check out

Holidays: Over Do the Laughter and Under Do the Stress 

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