They say it’s not what happens to you that counts, it’s how it affects you. And modern research suggests this is even truer than we may have thought—our attitude can have a huge impact not only on our happiness but also on our health. As just one example, anxiety and stress are considered to be two of the key elements leading to coronary heart disease, the cause of death for more than 50 percent of all Americans.
In this, the last element of the Healthy Cell Concept™, we’ll examine how our attitude affects us and how we can nurture an attitude that will make a meaningful contribution to our cell life.
Is laughter really the best medicine?
Researchers around the world are discovering that there is a connection between body and mind that is much stronger than anyone ever realized. The mind, it now seems, is capable of curing or preventing many of our pains and illnesses, and researchers are turning their attention to unleashing this incredible power. More and more, it is becoming apparent that the most important part of the Healthy Cell Concept™ may be a healthy mental attitude.
A healthy mental attitude is a chosen set of thoughts and emotions that are energetic, vital, positive, and strong enough to result in outward or physical achievement.
Dr. Lee Berk and fellow researcher Dr. Stanley Tan of Loma Linda University in California have shown that laughter lowers epinephrine levels (which lower blood pressure), reduces cortisol levels (stress hormones), and boosts immune function by raising levels of infection-fighting T-cells, disease-fighting proteins called Gamma-interferon, and B-cells, which produce disease-destroying antibodies. Laughter also triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers, and produces a general sense of well-being.*
You don’t even need a good belly laugh to benefit from a positive attitude. According to another research study published in the June 1998 issue of the American Psychological Association’s (APA) Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, healthy first-year law students who endorsed optimistic beliefs prior to the beginning of the school year had higher levels and function of key immune cells in the middle of their first semester.** While there were no immune differences between optimists and pessimists prior to beginning law school, those students who began the semester optimistic had more helper T cells and higher natural killer cell cytotoxicity mid-semester than students who had been pessimistic. The changes in the immune system are attributable to two psychological characteristics of optimists: they experience events as less stressful, and they show less negative mood, such as anxiety and depression.
Even hugs are good for you. Studies have shown that the amount of hemoglobin in the blood increases significantly when you are hugged, which means your blood is more readily able to deliver life-giving oxygen to your cells.
But does all this mood lifting and immune-system boosting actually make a difference in your health? Perhaps the most compelling study was recently completed at Stanford University. Psychologist Dr. David Spiegal conducted research with 86 women suffering from terminal breast cancer, an affliction that kills 50,000 women in the U.S. each year. He took the women and divided them into two groups. Half received traditional treatment such as chemotherapy and radiation. The other half also received treatment but also participated in a therapeutic support group. The women in the therapy group lived twice as long as the women who simply received only the traditional medical treatment.
Stemming the tide of negativity
A quick analysis reveals that we are living in the midst of an attitude crisis today. One only needs to watch the nightly news or pick up a daily newspaper to see that we take in large portions of negative information every day. What is most devastating about this exposure to negative information is that, very rarely, do we hear about anything over which we are able to exercise any control. The result is a slow, growing sense of hopelessness and cynicism about the world around us.
Attitudes that can negatively impact our health include depression, cynicism, negativity, irritability, guilt, resentment, anxiety, pessimism, sadness, and worry. These “diseases of attitude” are often precursors to much more serious problems such as substance abuse, violence (both verbal and physical), hormonal and chemical imbalances, immune system deficiency diseases and the worst of all, suicide.
So how do you counter this barrage of negativity? Fortunately, there are lots of things—both mental and physical—you can do to improve your attitude and your health.
Change your mindset to improve your mood
When we see to it that our days and minds are filled with the right thoughts and activities, there will not be any room for the inappropriate to influence us. Here are some ideas that could help.
- Develop a strong sense of purpose for your life. Almost without fail, happy people feel that they have a specific contribution to make in the lives of others. Don’t just let your life move past you without thinking about where it is going: take control of your own future.
- Develop meaningful relationships. In today’s hectic world, it is a constant challenge to make sure we put people and relationships first. And these relationships reap tangible rewards. Along with offering some of the most rewarding and fulfilling experiences in our lives, close relationships are also important for the health of every cell in our bodies. Loneliness is one of the easiest emotions to link with suppression of the immune system. Remember the women with breast cancer: by fostering strong relationships, they extended and lived fuller lives. Finally, consider this: men who marry and remain in a life-long relationship have longer life spans than single men or men who are married and then divorce.
- Find opportunity in difficult situations. We all face difficulties throughout our lives. Many of us will face tragedy that defies any sense of logic or fairness. We can choose to either be defeated by life’s blows or learn from them, grow as a person, and move on to better things. Seek out others who have suffered and triumphed. In times of difficulty, they can make us see that life doesn’t have to defeat us if we don’t let it.
- Study for a positive mental attitude. Rather than allowing your mind to be filled with all that is negative in life, search out the positive. Study books and tapes on how to live life to the fullest. Listen to people who make you laugh. Understand the words of those who have learned from adversity.
- Do the best you can. Every day, we make deposits or take withdrawals from our bank account of self-esteem. When we give our best, we feel good about ourselves. When we compromise and take shortcuts, our self-esteem suffers.
- Enjoy life’s small pleasures. Living in the moment, really being aware of our surroundings, has been shown to have value beyond just providing relaxation and enjoyment. It makes us more appreciative of the things we love yet take for granted, and helps us better cope with stress and difficulty in life.
Change your actions to improve your attitude
- Get adequate sleep. Your bed is the repair shop for your immune system, and sleep is the mechanic.
- Exercise. Studies have shown that exercise can help us deal more effectively with stress.
- Try meditating. Anxiety causes your breathing to become shallow, while depression makes it heavy. By bringing a gentle focus to the breath, you can literally shift your emotional state. Meditation reduces the rate of oxygen consumption by 10 to 20 percent (compared to sleep’s 8 percent) and this induces a slowed-down, restful condition called hypometabolism which allows your immune system to recharge.
- Eat right. Research shows that certain foods contain compounds that affect the nervous system and influence mood. Carbohydrates stimulate serotonin production—a lack of which can cause depression. Caffeine and sugar can have a negative effect on mood. Foods required for good mental health include plenty of fruit and vegetables and those containing essential fatty acids, such as sardines, tuna, salmon, pumpkin and walnuts. The combination of foods releases sugars slowly, in contrast to caffeine and chocolate, which give an immediate boost followed by a dip. A high-fiber diet can help, too. In fact, a new study by psychologists at Cardiff University shows that high-fiber eaters are less stressed and have a more positive mood. Those who regularly consumed a high-fiber diet were less emotionally distressed, had fewer cognitive difficulties, had a more positive mood, had less difficulty falling asleep and had lower depression scores.
The AIM products
All AIM products conform to the Healthy Cell Concept™, but some are specifically designed to boost our immune system, make us feel good and enhance our quality of life.
- AIM Cell Wellness Restorer™ contains DHEA, associated with enhancing the immune system. A soak in this bath will leave you both relaxed and rejuvenated.
- AIM Composure® helps maintain a healthy attitude with a combination of relaxing herbs.
- AIM GlucoChrom™ helps regulate the body’s blood sugar level to avoid the highs and lows of energy and mood.
- AIM BarleyLife®, AIM Just Carrots®, AIM RediBeets® and AIM CranVerry® help meet the needs of a high-vegetable-and-fruit diet.
- AIM Herbal Fiberblend® provides the dietary fiber recommended for a “positive mood” diet.
- AIM RevitaFem® combines eight botanical ingredients that support physical and emotional balance during menopause.
Use your knowledge
Armed with this information about how a healthy mental attitude can affect cell health, you’re well equipped to help yourself and others live a healthier, happier, and more fulfilling life.
- Next time you share a good laugh with a friend or co-worker, point out the health benefits of laughter that you’ve just read about. Use the breast cancer example to drive home the impact a healthy attitude can have on our bodies, and share with them the AIM products that can help achieve and maintain a positive attitude.
- If someone you know is feeling blue, recommend a soothing soak in AIM Cell Wellness Restorer™ in place of a piece of chocolate that can add pounds and deepen their low mood.
- When life gets crazy, make a conscious effort to switch your family to a “good mood” diet for a few weeks and see what happens.
- Maintain balance in your own life so that others will see how content you are and ask you for your secrets.
- If you know someone who lives alone, invite them out for a walk and a talk. You’ll both feel better, and you can pass along the other tips you’ve learned about leading a happier, healthier life.
*Referenced on www.holisticonline.com
**Referenced on www.apa.org