Attitudes and our health are intricately connected. Research has shown that our mental attitudes have a profound effect on our physical health.
The people of the islands of Okinawa
A population group that has been very thoroughly researched are the people of the islands of Okinawa in Southern Japan.They have a large amount of elders in the population, people in their nineties, who are amazing us with their overall health. Cancer, heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure or arthritis are rare in these people, the rates of these illnesses are much lower than in the Japanese population and lower than in North America. One part of their health may be found in their food habits, but a significant other part can be found in their mindset.
Type A and type B personalities
We are prone to suffer as a result of our behaviour patterns: people who constantly hurry, rush, and push themselves (and others) to be faster, better, smarter, and blow up, when things are not going according to their liking, are more likely to come down with health problems. Many of them are more prone to get a heart attack. This personality is also known as type A personality.
The behaviour patterns of this type A population group sets the stage for destructive effects and an unhealthy approach to life.
In contrast to this the Okinawans tend to be type B personalities. They do not suffer from the western hurry sickness. It is a fallacy to believe, that only type A persons are achievers. In the long run, a type B person will achieve as much or more than a driven type A individual.
The Okinawans have a strong social support system. Social support enables people to weather stressful passages in life, which otherwise would be a very lonely journey. We can follow this example: connect with family and friends.If our relationships are kept alive and well, they can sustain us through major stresses and minor hassles (Ref.3, p.238).
Depression is a major problem in our society. Social support can make a difference, but it must be emphasized, that it is a condition that has to be treated. There can be psychological and physical reasons, and untreated it can be one of the most crippling diseases. People with depression are about three times as likely to die of heart disease than people who do not suffer of depression. They are also more likely to run into problems with their immune system. If you are depressed or one of your loved ones is affected by depression seek help, and don’t delay it!
There are other attitudes that associate with mental fitness.
Optimists live longer than pessimists (Ref.4, p.13-14). Mayo Clinic studies followed a group of people for 30 years who had a pessimistic outlook on life. 19 % of the pessimists were more likely to have an early death as compared to the positive individuals (Ref. 3, p. 239).
Anger and hostility
Anger and hostility are not only emotions that make your life and that of others miserable. Hostile individuals are on a potential suicide mission. They are five times more at a risk to die before the age of fifty than people who are not hostile and get mad at the drop of a hat!
Anger and hostility become risk factors for heart disease.You can learn to avoid escalations into rage attacks and shouting matches, you can re-think a statement instead of blowing up.You can also learn to laugh at a situation.If anger becomes an obstacle which is too big to handle, you may benefit from cognitive therapy and counselling. Remember: you do not have to embark alone on a difficult journey!
Concentrate and support the positive, and don’t make it a habit to expect disaster. As an example: you may want to stop watching the eleven o’clock news before you go to sleep. Often you are not hearing or seeing wonderful things that contribute to a restful sleep!
Put humor into your life
Laughter helps to release sentiments of frustrations and releases endorphins, the”feel-good hormones”. Humor also helps us cope with the unavoidable stressors which we encounter in day to day living.
Love and accept yourself
And finally be affectionate and emphatic (without conditions attached) towards people around you, and love and accept yourself.
Achieving and maintaining fitness of the mind is a task, which is an ongoing project. It is a task for our lifetime. It comes down to learning some exercises that promote our emotional well being and help us cope with stress. We can learn meditation and relaxation. The other part will be the task of getting to know to ourselves more intimately and examining our habits, thought patterns, and attitudes. For anybody this will be an ongoing project, and there will be surprises, wonderful discoveries, and inspiring benefits.The small daily steps ultimately make this a fascinating journey with profound insights into our mental and physical functions and how they work together in harmony. Enjoy this process to the fullest!
1. B. Sears: “The age-free zone”.Regan Books, Harper Collins, 2000. Also see Dr. Sears’ site.
2. B. Sears: “Zone perfect meals in minutes”. Regan Books, Harper Also see Dr. Sears’ site.
3. B.J. Wilcox, D.C. Willcox and M. Suzuki: “The Okinawa Program.” Clarkson Potter,2001, N.Y., U.S.A.
4. E.L. Rossi: The psychobiology of mind-body healing. Norton &Co., 1986, N.Y., U.S.A.
5. Vitamins and Foods. Audio-Digest Family Practice Vol 49, Issue 29, Aug.7, 2001.
6. P.C. McGraw: Life strategies. 1999, Simon&Schuster Source, N.Y., U.S.A.
7. B. Sears: “The top 100 zone foods”. Regan Books, Harper Collins, 2001. Also see Dr. Sears’ site.
8. Suzanne Somers: “Breakthrough” Eight Steps to Wellness– Life-altering Secrets from Today’s Cutting-edge Doctors”, Crown Publishers, 2008