By Esin Yagel
“Everyone has a doctor in him or her; we just have to help it in its work. The natural healing force within each one of us is the greatest force in getting well” Hippocrates once said.
Medicine was not so advanced in my childhood, and psychology was a rising star. No wonder, most medical doctors who could not come up with a proper and meaningful diagnosis would end up saying: “It is probably psychological!”
Then came the time of high-tech labs and all the medical apparatus… MRI machines, scanners, digital appliances replaced the good old stethoscope. Diagnostic process majorly relied on computerized results; this was how a great number of lives were saved, of those who would have died if they had lived only a few decades ago.
Medical advances accelerated the health standards and life spans, especially in the developed world. PET scans and smart drugs brought relief for many cancer patients, those who suffered the most feared killer of all times.
Yet the frequency of cancer was increasing!
Heart attacks as well!
So were ulcers, diabetes, back pains, skin rashes, hormonal imbalance…
When we realized that no matter how much progress we had made in medical sciences, and stopped smoking or consuming excessive alcohol, and favored healthy dining instead; no matter how often we visited the gym and breathed in fresh air in nature at weekends, we thought that there was still something wrong!
Then we came to square one: THIS MUST BE PSYCHOLOGICAL!
Having overcome cancer twice, I would argue: For BETTER HEALTH, we have to stop being BITTER. Our awareness of the impact our state of mind has on our body urges us to change attitude. As cliché as it sounds, positive thinking, an unstressed way of life and a general mood of contentment can strengthen our immunity system and protect us from ailments, delay an inevitable illness or mitigate its destructive effects on our body.
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So, for a BETTER health and life:
- We should be decisive. The more choices we have, the more dilemmas await us. Our major concern is usually not about what we tend to choose, but about what we are missing if we incline in one direction. Indecisiveness often stems from our wish to have it all, to do all, and to succeed greatly. Yet life is not about doing everything; it is in fact exactly the opposite. Life is about doing one thing, and trying our best to excel at it. If you cannot decide in which musical instrument you wish to perform, and end up learning to play the violin, the piano and the flute all together, you must know that you will not be the virtuoso in any of them. Decision often involves a loss, it comes in the package. Choosing one is giving up on others. Yet it is only when we choose that we relief our minds and bodies from that excessive stress which had been torturing our soul and suffocating us. Then? Then, we stop thinking about what would have happened if we had selected the other road, and move on the path of our decision, invest in it, work for it, and enjoy the lightness of having decided.
- We should share our feelings and thoughts (and even absurdities) with our loved ones. Secrets, hidden sentiments, constant anxieties or fears cause great damage to our bodies. “No one should know of my mistake, nor may failure!” This perspective is in itself a destructive one, because at the end of the day, mistakes are productive. They are the best teachers, and they make us human. Once we keep our dark secrets inside, not verbalized, they get to dominate our psyche and cause us emotional pain. An intimate conversation with a loved one, sterile from all judgments, sometimes beats all medications.
- We should accept our own flaws. Those who seek perfection are already lost. The more they deny their very own realities, act with pretense, or become alien to their problems, the bitterer they become. To have a life that masks the truth is not easy; it burdens the body with additional stress and anguish. That is why, perhaps, the wise receive criticism always with grace and dignity. They know that if we cannot change some frailties in our souls, then we should accept them as a natural part of our being, and move on with our lives. Our bodies are much more at ease when we understand, accept and love our own personalities, no matter what.
- We should seek solutions and focus on the possible, not the impossible. Negative attitudes tend to exaggerate the problems, whereas positive thoughts target the solutions; hope is the outcome. “Do not ever give up!” they say, even the doctors. Isn’t it ironical to ask a patient not to give up, if medicine presents him the unchanging facts of a lost war? How can one’s love for life and inherent need to survive alter the graveness of some medical realities? Is it possible to put off loss? Yes, it is. We hear of ‘miracles’ here and there, pleasant stories of some brave warriors who delay death, if not beat it. The urge to find solutions, even fruitless at times, strengthens one’s body functions and helps him fight ailments.
- We should trust. Without trust, there is no communication; there are no profound relationships and there is no hope. A world of mistrust, suspicions, doubt and instabilities is very dark. This darkness consumes our well-being and weakens our bodily defenses. There will be hurtful times, inevitably, when our confidence will be abused or mistreated. Yet these misfortunes will not change the fact that at some more promising times, our trust will be rewarded with love and appreciation. A strong feeling of trust can make us feel better and heal our wounds.
- We should laugh. Every day, three times after meals, we shall take the pill of humor. We will not shy away from ridiculing ourselves –even the troubles in our lives, since they are ours anyway! Laughter serves our spirit. It uplifts the burden on our hearts, minds, all of our organs… After all, a genuinely wholehearted smile can spell the end of bitterness and the beginning of better health.
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Esin Yagel is a clinical psychologist, life coach, and novelist. She has lived in Istanbul, Turkey and Tel Aviv, Israel, and currently resides in Accra, Ghana.