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About Healthy Living
By Lorraine Ireland Of Mind And Health Matters Limited

 
   

Mind And Body Connections

“Heavy thoughts bring on physical maladies; when the soul is oppressed so is the body” - Martin Luther

A healthy mind goes hand in hand with a healthy body. The building blocks to a healthy mind and body come from six main ingredients - water, rest, air (the breath), exercise, diet and light / sunshine.

Our minds and our bodies are very interconnected. Although we are not always aware of it, our body and emotions are responding to all the words, thoughts and images we hold in our mind. The more negative or stressed a person is, the more they become susceptible to physical ailment. The body is the servant of the mind. Negative thoughts have the ability to make the body sink and affect the nervous system. Anxiety can quickly demoralize the whole body. Strong pure and happy thoughts build up the body in vigour and grace. If you wish to perfect your body guard your mind. Your body is constantly reacting to the very thoughts you are thinking.

When self exploration takes place either through Hypnotherapy and other methods of self-awareness, you can learn to harness this mind power and bring the body and emotions into alignment with your goals.

Stress

“Give your stress wings and let it fly away” - Carin Hartness

Our stress levels are far higher than they were a century ago. That's not because life is 'harder', but because of the type of stressors we have to cope with, as the pace of life has become faster.

With increased stress and the accompanying decrease in relaxation time, comes raised levels of stress hormones (adrenaline & cortisol) within our bodies - Blood pressure rises. Your brain behaves differently affecting memory and healing. Stress hormones are extremely useful in the short-term - if you are attacked these hormones allow you to react in an appropriate manner to the situation – either by fighting or fleeing the situation; but they become toxic in the long-term with continual stimulation, as they suppress your immune system function and interfere with sleep quality. Stress and relaxation are at opposite ends of a scale. Relaxation is the only antidote to stress.

We all experience stress in our daily lives, although the causes and the ways we respond to them will be different for everybody. Stress can be brought on by physical, mental or emotional pressures. Our mental state can be greatly affected by stress, as we become short tempered, irritable, forgetful, experience abrupt mood changes, difficulty sleeping as opposed to the state of relaxation that allows us to be far more easier going, less disturbed by our surroundings and unexpected situations, kinder, more compassionate and happier.

In the minds of medical practitioners around the world there is little doubt that stress is a major cause of many forms of disease. Dis-ease relates to an un-easiness which in turn creates disease.

While it is not practical and near to impossible to remove all of the things that make us worried, anxious and stressed, we can learn ways to help contain / control our stress levels and learn to better deal with anxiety by introducing Relaxation into our lives, as Relaxation will over-ride stress.

Anxiety Disorders

"Somehow our devils are never quite what we expect when we meet them face to face" - Nelson DeMille

Healthy (mild) anxiety is experienced by everyone from time to time, as it is a normal response to a stressful situation or event, such as an interview or in times of illness or change in life circumstances. Anxiety is experienced by most actors, as they have a healthy concern about their performance (performance anxiety), hence this healthy anxiety has been known sometimes to actually improve their performance. So mild anxiety is a normal reaction when facing a challenging, difficult or dangerous situation.

Unhealthy (excessive) anxiety which interferes regularly and consistently with normal day to day life, where the person is finding it more and more difficult to function in a healthy manner, becomes a more serious problem to the individual. There can be many psychological causes and sometimes for some people physical causes. For this reason it is always advisable to see your GP in order to rule out a physical cause. Excessive anxiety can also be a symptom of depression, substance misuse, alcohol withdrawal, or can be triggered by unexpected life situations i.e bereavement, divorce, accidents or witnessing shocking events.

There are a whole range of symptoms that people experience. Some of the most common ones are abdominal discomfort, tightness or pain within the chest area, difficulty breathing, dizziness, shakiness, palpitations, feeling fearful and out of control.

Panic Disorders

"Panic is a sudden desertion of us, and a going over to the enemy of our imagination" - Christian Nevell Bovee

Panic disorder is an anxiety disorder that can be described as a "fear of fear" which in turn causes panic attacks; a sudden sense of anxiety that occurs without warning and with no apparent logical reason.

Some people with panic disorder suffer severe attacks of panic. Symptoms can include heart palpitations, chest pain or discomfort, sweating, trembling, tingling sensations, feelings of choking, fear of dying, fear of losing control, and feelings of unreality or disorientation. Some people describe their feelings that suddenly occur, as a wave of panic that rushes through the body, bringing on sheer terror and for some people the pains in the chest are so severe they genuinely believe they are having a heart attack. Panic attacks usually last between 5 and 10 minutes, but for some last longer. The sufferer can become fearful of places / experiences where he or she has encountered an attack and can develop a deep dread to the degree of finding ways of avoiding the stimulus. Some people feel they have no control over this disorder and feel like they are going crazy.

Phobias

“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” - Eleanor Roosevelt

A phobia is an irrational fear that is totally out of proportion to the actual danger posed by the thing that triggers it, be it an object or a situation. This inordinate fear can lead the sufferer to avoid common, everyday situations. Even though the sufferer knows the reaction is irrational they feel they have no control over their behaviour when exposed to the offending stimuli, or indeed any logical explanation, so they develop a strong desire to avoid whatever it is that is causing their fear.

Common specific phobias are fear of heights, spiders, birds, blood, illness, vomiting, injections, flying, thunder and lightening.

Common complex phobias include Social Phobia and Agoraphobia. People who experience Agoraphobia do not like to be in public, open or crowded places. People who experience Social Phobia feel very anxious around people and can feel totally overwhelmed about meeting people, being in a social setting and conversing publicly. Some find these activities impossible. A common concern is a fear of what other people think of them.

Social phobia is also one of the more common, but complex, phobias. People affected by this, find meeting people causes anxiety, and become overly worried about what others think of them. One form of social phobia is severe anxiety about speaking or performing in public. It is common to feel nervous or mildly anxious in these situations, but people with social phobia find these activities virtually impossible.

"Courage is not the lack of fear but the ability to face it." -
Lt. John B. Putnam Jr. (1921-1944)

The best way to get over a phobia is to expose yourself to the feared object or situation. The more you avoid the object or situation, the more power you give it in your mind to frighten you. Some people find that they can do this on their own, perhaps with the help of self-help books, breathing techniques, meditation / relaxation / hypnosis cds, support groups, friends and family. Others seek professional help from a therapist in the form of counselling, cognitive behaviour therapy or hypnotherapy. Behavioural therapy / hypnotherapy involves a one-to-one session with a therapist trained in treating phobias. The principle of this approach involves exposure and a gradual desensitisation to the cause of your phobia. During the sessions, you learn to challenge irrational fear based thoughts that bring on irrational fear based feelings and become more desensitised to the anxiety triggered by exposure with the help of relaxation techniques / breathing techniques.

Worrying

"Worry often gives a small thing a big shadow" - Swedish Proverb

Worrying is a total waste of energy – it is like looking into a negative crystal ball and predicting things that are going to happen within the next few minutes, the next hour, the next day, week, month or throughout the year that you do not want to happen – an expectancy of things going wrong. Probably around 95-98% of what we worry about as human beings never ever happens anyway, so what a total waste of energy worrying truly is. Of course there are times, situations in life that call for healthy concern, but worry is a negative emotion and robs us of our precious energy and prevents us from living our life in the here and now with the reality of what is truly happening in the here and now. When we worry we are not PRESENT; we are living our life comparing events in our present moment to events from our past, or we are living in our future looking at the worst case scenarios, hence we are not really seeing things as they truly are in the present moment (every single experience is a brand new experience and needs a response in the present moment, not as a ghost of the past).

Worrying for some people becomes a habit, a way of being that they feel they cannot snap out of. For some it becomes a kind of ritual “well if I always focus on the negative then it’s a bonus when something good happens”. It becomes a self fulfilling prophecy – a negative way of living. The worrier often confirms to themselves and others, statements like “its part of my personality” “I have no power to change it” “my mom or my dad was a worrier so I guess they handed it down to me”. No one was born worrying – it is a learned behaviour, so it can be unlearned too. Worriers live very little of their life in the present moment – they barely show up for their life as they are too busy worrying about what if's and miss what is really happening. Make a decision for yourself today to break down this negative way of living your life – stop living in the past or the future and live in the now – when you live in the now you are so much more relaxed.

"Show me a worrying person and I will show you a person who does not know how to relax." - Albert E. Cliffe

Insomnia (Sleep Disorder)

“A ruffled mind makes a restless pillow” - Charlotte Brontë

Insomnia, also known as sleep deprivation can diminish a person's quality of life and cause health problems, physically and psychologically. It is the single most common sleep disorder nationwide as millions of people feel deprived of sleep and some turn to alcohol or medication as a desperate measure. In general, most adults need an average of eight hours sleep each night, however, some individuals need more than eight hours sleep, and some require less without becoming sleepy or drowsy during the day. If you have trouble staying awake, falling asleep while sitting still, at either work or home, become easily irritable and have difficulty concentrating you may be suffering from sleep deprivation. Sleep helps your immune system stay strong, repairs the body and reduces stress. A lack of sleep leaves your body more vulnerable to colds and flu, injuries and stress.

Some of the common symptoms of insomnia or sleep disorder are restlessness whilst trying to sleep, inability to get off to sleep, waking during sleep and not being able to get back to sleep, periods of sleeplessness following with periods of excessive sleep and a dread of going to bed, knowing you are going to have great difficulty sleeping. There are many causes, but some include depression, high levels of stress, worrying, anxiety, medication, substance misuse, high doses of stimulants i.e caffeine or cigarettes, lack of physical exercise, poor diet or eating heavy meals that haven’t had time to digest.

Weight Control

“If you do what you've always done, you'll get what you've always gotten.” - Anthony Robbins

There are new diets coming out each year. If diets worked why would there be a need to keep creating new ones. When you say you are “going on a diet” surely if you are going “on” something therefore you must be planning to come “off” it at some stage. This is one of the reasons they do not work – they are short term remedies that people have no intention of staying on for the rest of their life. Every time you go on and come off a diet your unconscious mind is logging this experience, so with your best intention each time you start a new one, your unconscious mind is preparing excuses for you to come off the diet because you have inadvertently trained your mind to do this for you. It becomes a self fulfilling prophecy of setting yourself up for disappointment and a passport to overindulge before embarking upon yet another diet.

There is only one way to lose weight and to keep it off long term. Erase the word Diet from your mind and all the dieting mentality, and return back to the way nature intended you to eat, as you embark on a long lasting lifestyle change. You relearn to eat only when you are genuinely hungry and to be consciously aware of what you are eating and drinking, being in tune with your bodies needs, so that you are able to recognise when you have had enough and feel satisfied. Digestion of a meal takes around 3 to 4 hours, so it makes sense to eat a small healthy meal and then to allow 3 to 4 hours for the meal to digest. Psychologically you may think you are hungry in between meals but how can you be, when your body is still digesting food from your last meal.

Many people not only feed genuine hunger, but for many reasons learn to feed emotions – an emotional craving is a “quick fix got to have now” kind of feeling, a compulsion, a craving to eat something immediately. However, true hunger starts with a thought or a feeling of hunger that is minor and gradually becomes stronger over quite a period of time. Emotions never need feeding, they need addressing. When you experience craving – stop and ask yourself what emotion am I trying to feed – connect to the emotion, or get a pen and paper and write down what you are feeling – you may see a common theme playing. Food can become a normal natural occurrence that you so happen to do 3 times per day to survive and a very enjoyable, pleasant experience with no issues or guilt attached once you learn to stop feeding emotions and let go of the word diet and the dieting mentality of starving, over-eating and feeling deprived.

“For changes to be of any true value, they've got to be lasting and consistent.” - Anthony Robbins

Stop Smoking

"Sometimes I just sit in front of a mirror and watch myself inhaling that poison gas. If I was in a concentration camp and someone tried to make me do that, I'd want to kill them." - anonymous smoker

You know that smoking is bad for you - but the urge to smoke is so much stronger than the urge to be healthy – why? You have so many personal reasons to stop smoking, and with smoking banned in all workplaces, across the UK, there's another reason to quit – not for other people, or to conform, you are not saying yes to others or to society, but you are saying “Yes” to yourself for a change and giving your body the break it needs and the choice of going out for a fresh air break instead of deliberately pumping around 4,000 poisonous chemical compounds into your body. Tobacco smoke not only contains nicotine, but also contains a whole range of other harmful chemicals, including the poisonous carbon monoxide, formaldehyde and hydrogen cyanide. Indeed when you choose to smoke in the designated areas created for you – you are indeed conforming and smoking where society want you to go to poison yourself.

Why Stop?

"Smoking Kills Half of All Lifetime Smokers" - Dr Alex Bobak of the anti-smoking group SCAPE

  • In the first few hours after quitting, the levels of toxic carbon monoxide that limits how much oxygen you can carry in your blood, start to fall.
  • Your lung function could improve by up to 10 percent in the first three to nine months.
  • Your blood pressure and your heartbeat will start to fall to normal levels soon after you quit.
  • Within the first month, you will start to look healthier as your skin appearance improves.
  • You chest and lungs will feel relief within weeks of quitting.
  • Over the longer term your chances of having a heart attack or lung cancer will fall.

"Smoking Kills Half of All Lifetime Smokers" -
Dr Alex Bobak of the anti-smoking group SCAPE

Alcohol Dependency

"First you take a drink, then the drink takes a drink, then the drink takes you.” - Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald

Have you had thoughts about wanting to stop drinking more than once. If you have then the fact that you have these thoughts are giving you an indication that the habit is not working for you in a positive way anymore, otherwise if you were gaining from this habit and was totally happy with it you would not have these kind of thoughts.

Many patients I have seen will be quick to mention either in their initial telephone conversation or in the first consultation that they are “Not an Alcoholic”. The word is such a feared word that certainly instils fear, disgrace, shame and guilt. The word Alcoholic is just a label that can get in the way of the real issues – if you drop the label, the question you need to ask yourself is:

"Is my alcohol consumption causing me any problems, either:"

  • physically.
  • psychologically.
  • emotionally.
  • socially.
  • at work.
  • or within my relationships.

If you answer yes to any of the above, then it is most likely that alcohol has become problematic for you.

As with many things in life if we overdo things it can become a problem, and normally your body will give you plenty of messages that there is a problem. If you over-eat on a regular basis you put on weight. If you consume too many of the wrong kind of acid producing foods and drinks in abundance, your body will give you symptoms to let you know you have indigestion. The same with alcohol – poor sleep, poor concentration, a hangover, waking with a guilt feeling connected to the previous nights drinking; all messages to let you know you something is not right and needs addressing.

Many people say “I can take it or leave it” – why would you make that justifying statement to either yourself or to anyone else if you hadn’t at some level in your mind questioned your alcohol consumption.

Pain v Pleasure

Pleasure is enjoying a glass or two of alcohol and enjoying the feelings that you get from being slightly chemically “anesthetised” as your inhibitions and critical voice (ego) / self consciousness appear to ebb into the background – hence you are entering into an altered state of awareness in the same way as when you daydream and start to lose the direct connection with your surroundings, only the difference being you have chose a chemical to do this for you – the more often you choose a chemical to create these feelings, the stronger the belief that you need the chemical to re-create the feelings, hence many people feel very uncomfortable socialising without an alcoholic drink because they believe they need the drink to relax or to enjoy themselves. Incidentally, I use the word “anesthetised” because each glass of alcohol you consume really does anesthetise the mind and body a little more – can you imagine going out and taking your own private anaesthetist with you and asking them to inject a little more anaesthetic into you every half an hour or so?

Pain – what price do you have to pay for this short lived chemically induced feeling that only lasts a few hours and actually robs you of your health, self esteem and natural confidence?

The same kind of natural feelings can be obtained by learning Meditation or Self Hypnosis so that you can bring on these good feelings at will, wherever you are and whomever you are with.

Every time you enter into this chemically altered state of awareness you are re-enforcing irrational beliefs that you need alcohol to let go of all of your cares and worries, to be confident, to have fun, to relax … the list goes on. Ask yourself this question “as a child growing up did you need a glass of alcohol to relax and play with your friends, or to walk into a classroom and face a new challenging experience with new people, new teacher, or to take exams?” Your mind remembers how to cope, have fun, relax without alcohol – let it show you how it remembers!

“One reason I don't drink is that I want to know when I am having a good time” - Lady Astor

Live In The Present Moment - NOW

"I can feel guilty about the past, apprehensive about the future, but only in the present can I act. The ability to be in the present moment is a major component of mental wellness. You can be in the eternal now!" - Abraham Maslow (1908-1970)

When you live your life in the present moment you pay attention to whom you truly are and you recognise that the present moment is all that exists. Your past is history, your future a mystery that has not yet come, therefore you only have the here and now which is called the “Present” because it is a beautiful gift. You are not your thoughts. Your thoughts take you away from being in the here and now as you dwell on your past or worry about your future. Indeed your future is just a continual series of present moments. When you focus on your breath which always occurs in the here and now, it draws you back to the present moment. When you follow your thoughts into the past or future you are not present, but to simply observe your thoughts and emotions in an acceptant neutral manner, neither labelling them as bad or good, without being critical or judgmental is what many people call living your life with less suffering. You are no longer a slave to your thoughts. If you continue to come back to your breath which always occurs in the here and now, it draws you into the “Present” – the gift of Now. Living your life in the “Present” moment “Now” gives us space in the here and now to empathically observe our attachment to the past and future without being affected, just watching, observing, whilst staying with the peacefulness and happiness that is always present within oneself. Therefore we are much more calmer and relaxed and can respond to anything, anyone and any situation in a much more satisfactory manner.

The Practice of “Presence” or being “Awake” is an activity that can be practiced at any time, not only within Meditation. You can be “Present” when you are walking, working, eating, listening to nature, touching something, looking at something, by being fully present to what it is you are experiencing in the present moment as if you have just come to earth for the very first time and you are experiencing whatever you are experiencing, with no label, no name or no judgement – just accepting what is. As we realise we cannot change what is – but we can change how we want to respond to what is by being totally present.

 

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