Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Thinking yourself to health

In my last post, I wrote about a recent article on how brains change and grow in response to how and what we think. In many ways, this should come as no surprise. Our muscles and bones also grow in response to use. When we lift weights, we gain more muscle. When we put more stress on our bones, they get stronger. Martial artists have a long practice of training by hitting walls or sand repeatedly. Each impact signals the body to grow stronger bones and tougher skin. Heel spurs are the result of impacts on the heel when we walk which results in dysfunctional and painful bone growth. Same process with two very different results.

MS is an auto-immune disease which means we cause it ourselves. Given what we know about bone and muscle growth, the question arises if there is something in our own actions that causes the dysfunction in our immune systems? Given what the recent study revealed about brains following the same pattern but in response to the way we think, are there patterns of thought which lead to a worsening or improvement in our MS? Do these patterns of thought cause physical changes in the brain that alter our symptoms? And if they do, how does one change those patterns of thought to lead to a healthier brain?

My approach is that the dysfunctional patterns of thought revolve around self-hate, fear, and giving away power. I would also add a lack of connection to self and to God. Over time, they pull the brain in the wrong direction and encourage a dysfunctional immune system.

One thing that the article really stressed was that the changes in the brain take years to occur. Cognitive  reserve, their term for mental strength, is developed over a lifetime. The article also stated that mental strengthening is the result of continual effort and focus – finding challenges and raising a mental sweat in overcoming them. This means that any changes in the course of our MS from this approach take a long period of concerted effort to show any results. Simplified, this all means to have patience with yourself.

What do you think? Are there patterns of your thinking that lead you to get healthier or sicker?

Photo courtesy of LuMaxArt

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