The first essential key for achieving and maintaining outstanding health involves taking conscious control over your thoughts, emotions and beliefs. I call this step cleansing and fortifying the mind. Hippocrates, known as the father of Western medicine, recognized the importance of fortifying the mind when he wrote, “If someone wishes for good health, one must first ask oneself if he is ready to do away with the reasons for his illness.”
This may seem confusing to you. If you are sick or lacking energy you, of course, think you are ready to do away with whatever is causing your health problems. But are you really?
Before you answer that question, take a moment to honestly assess whether or not you truly are willing to do all that it takes to get well.
I raise this point because I find that many patients initially, yet usually unconsciously, derive benefit from their health issues. For them, being sick becomes the major theme of their “story”, the tale that they tell themselves and others. You likely know or have met at least one chronically, yet not seriously, ill person who makes their health issue the centerpiece of every conversation you have with them. Usually this occurs in the form of complaints, yet underneath the complaint there is often a cry for attention, sympathy or love that their illness or pain provides for them in ways that they did not receive when they were healthier. By the same token, often a health complaint provides a convenient and self-justifiable excuse to avoid taking action in other areas of one’s life, including following one’s passion, which, in my experience, is a hallmark of many people who are in good health.
It is important to understand that illness is a warning sign, and that there is a lesson to be learned from it. Something is wrong physically, emotionally or both. If we only heed the warning signal and not the underlying cause, the body will find another way to warn us by evoking another warning signal (another disease). Because of this fact, I often ask my patients to pause and reflect upon their lives to see if they can determine the “message” that their illness or health challenge carries with it.
Ask yourself: Are you headed in the direction that is right for you? What are you neglecting, or what price are you paying, as you go about your current life routine? Illness is often a way for a person’s unconscious to point out just how much a person is neglecting or straying from their true life purpose. Once that message is received, understood and appropriately acted upon, very often illness disappears—often of its own accord in ways that baffle physicians—because it is no longer necessary.
But it would be foolish to wait until you get sick to get such a message. Regardless of your current state of health, it pays to regularly assess your life by asking yourself:
- Do you freely and appropriately express yourself, or do you keep most of your worries and frustrations inside?
- Are you creating too much pressure upon yourself because you’ve over-extended yourself, have too many deadlines or believe that “there’s not enough time?”
- Do you take a few minutes every morning to reflect on and plan your day?
- Do you set goals? Are they realistic, both short-and long-term, and do you have what you need in place to keep you on target for achieving them?
- Do you make time each day to exercise, eat right, manage stress and nurture your relationships?
- Do you take time before sleep to evaluate how your day went and reflect upon what you could have done to be more positive, loving and constructive?
- Do you wake up grateful to be alive for another day, and are you in the habit of daily recognizing and expressing thanks for all you have to be grateful for?
- Are you content with what you have, or are you always striving for more in order to feel secure?
- If you do not get what you want, what is the price you pay in your health as a result of anger, depression, lost hope and feelings of insecurity?
- Do you see the positive side of events, even when they appear not in your favor?
- Are you able to perceive life challenges, obstacles and “accidents” as new opportunities to grow and to learn?
- Do you empower others by telling them what you appreciate about them?
- Do you take time to reflect upon and relive the beautiful moments in your life, the moments of success and joy?
- Do you operate from a win-win mindset where both you and others can be happy and satisfied with your achievements, or do you prefer to win regardless of whether or not it is at another’s expense?
- What would you like to change in your life, if you could? Do you really believe it is possible?
Now is the time for you to make a plan and set goals for changing the things in your life that you want to change. Once you understand the role your thoughts, emotions, beliefs, life choices and actions play in the creation of disease, and how illness is often a message about what you have been ignoring, you will be much closer to achieving a deeper understanding about health and have a deeper commitment to doing what is necessary to achieve and maintain it.
Also Published on: MariaShriver.com