Think Healthy, Stay Healthy:It’s All in the Mind

-Dr Eli Pradhan Ranjitkar, Consultant Ophthalmologist, Tilganga Institute of Ophthalmology

“To keep the body in good health is a duty; otherwise we are not able to keep our mind strong and clear.” Lord Buddha

Relation between health and mind
According to the World Health Organization, health is a state of complete physical, mental, and social wellbeing, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. The definition has not been amended since the time of its endorsement in1948. The gravity of its definition reflects that we need to have our mind sound in order to be completely healthy. The relation between health and mind is reflected well in a famous quotation by Lord Buddha: “To keep the body in good health is a duty; otherwise we are not able to keep our mind strong and clear.” As a clinician, I encounter many patients who are physically unwell but are very positive about the situation and believe in themselves. Such people are healthier than those who have nothing wrong with their body but feel unwell all the time. The mind plays a very important role in our well-being. That is how we prime our mind. Thus, Lucius Annaeus Seneca, Roman philosopher, statesman, orator, and tragedian, said that the wish for healing has always been half of health.

Positivity makes us happy
For positive healthy attitude to life, first of all, we need to think and behave positively and try to remain happy all the time. Positive thinking is a learned trait. We can improve how positively we see the world by choosing what aspects of it to focus our attention on. The rewards of such an attempt are always better. When we are down and start thinking negatively, it can feel as though someone has switched off the color in front of our eyes. Spiritual leaders and scientists agree that our thoughts shape our reality. If we believe that our happiness depends on achieving wealth and success, then it will. However, our yearning for getting more success and wealth is likely to contribute to discontent and dissatisfaction, and finally to depression if we don’t accomplish it. The World Health Organization predicts that depression will become the largest global health burden by 2030. Antidepressants are no more effective than a placebo for many sufferers of depression, but change the way we think, and we can change the way we feel permanently.

How can we make us feel better?
The atmosphere we make for ourselves is essential to our wellbeing. Personal objects and pictures are not just interior decoration, they are psychological supports increasing our sense of self, and reducing the production of the neurotransmitters in our brain that create anxiety. Framing photographs of our family and friends, and our own achievements and academic or vocational certificates will strengthen our mind, giving positivity. “On a bad day, they’ll be instant reminders of your success,” says a famous psychologist. Similarly, at the time when we feel low, if we dress up well and change our hairstyle, it will automatically boost our confidence and make us feel healthier. Researchers found that standing like a rock star or a confident stance actually stimulates a hormonal response that can make us feel more poised in minutes.

Everything is in our mind
Mind is the inventor of our experience. Our powers of make-believe can help us control cravings, get motivated to workout, and even improve our vision, according to several recent studies. “If you imagine an experience, the brain stimulates itself in the same way as if you were doing it,” says Joachim Vosgerau, co-director of the Center for Behavioral Decision Research at Carnegie Mellon University. How our minds play in changing our surroundings is made clear by the following examples.

If we are feeling very cold, picturing ourselves sitting in front of a fire will heat up our core body temperature. Similarly, imagining ice-cold water at the time of very hot weather will make us comfortable. The art of focusing our mind onto a particular object, a sound, or visualization is called meditation. The practice comes with a myriad of well-publicized health benefits including increased concentration, decreased anxiety, and a general feeling of happiness.

A happy mind
We don’t need to workout four times week or learn to cook in order to be happy. In fact, happiness endows energy to workout, confidence to shine in our career, and better imagination in the workplace or in the kitchen. Our ability to have a positive mind, negating unnecessary thoughts, significantly increases when we are happy. Besides thinking positively, we need to think optimistically too. Optimistic people have confidence that things will work out and believe in a brighter future. Positive thinking requires some creativity. An active, engaged mind is a happy mind and a more creative one. Like water carving rivers inland, our thoughts shape our mental landscape. During meditation, we try to think we are in a beautiful pristine surrounding with the sound of waterfall behind. This helps us to become relaxed and stress free. Hence, if we believe we are healthy from inside, it will give us enough strength to combat any kind of illness. Belief is a powerful thing, having an impact on how we feel too.

The ways to change
Changing negative thinking to positive thinking is not going to happen overnight, so we need to get into the habit of ‘alternative thinking’. “It can help you deal with negative automatic thoughts, such as ‘I cannot cope,’ or ‘I feel terrible,’ which seem to come from nowhere,” says psychologist Wilding. Instead of enforcing neurological pathways of ‘I’m lazy’ or ‘I’m out of shape,’ recharge it by saying ‘I’m respecting my body,’ ‘I feel great when I exercise,’ and ‘I’m making healthy decisions.’ People do not have enough time to think about their life and how much of it they actually enjoy. Hence, we should try to devote at least an hour of the day trying to do things that we enjoy. Thus, spending quality time with partners or children, going for a favorite movie, and going for a walk, would make us become far different people. Finally, keeping mind and body healthy sets off a cycle. Having regular body exercise, good food habits, and healthy sleeping patterns will keep both in balance. Beautiful mind reflects in a body automatically. “It is health that is real wealth and not pieces of gold or silver,” is a truism as stated by Mahatma Gandhi.

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