This is a shared article from Zen Habits. A guest post from Lissa Rankin, author of Mind Over Medicine: Scientific Proof You Can Heal Yourself
Take a moment and check in with yourself. How is your body feeling right in this moment? If you’re generally healthy, check in for subtle symptoms. Is your neck feeling tense? Does your lower back ache? Do you have a headache? Are you exhausted — again? Or perhaps you’re battling a more serious health diagnosis and you’re experiencing symptoms from your health condition.
Whether you’re experiencing the nuisance of a minor physical symptom, the more concerning stress of a serious health condition, or simple curiosity about how you might maximize your vitality and longevity, I’m psyched to share with you something they never taught me in medical school.
The Body Knows How To Heal Itself
Your body is beautifully equipped with natural self-repair mechanisms that are under the influence of thoughts, feelings and beliefs that originate in your mind. It knows how to kill cancer cells, fix broken proteins, slow aging, eliminate toxins, fight infections, get rid of foreign bodies, and otherwise keep you healthy. Things go awry and disease manifests when these self-repair mechanisms fail to function properly.
But here’s the kicker. Your nervous system has two operating systems — the “fight-or-flight” stress response dominated by the sympathetic nervous system and the relaxation response run by the parasympathetic nervous system. Only when your nervous system is in a relaxation response do your body’s self-repair mechanisms function!
The stress response is there to protect you in case a tiger chases you. But these days, we’re pretty safe from tigers, and yet our stress responses get triggered, on average, over 50 times per day. How? The amygdala in your lizard brains perceives negative thoughts, beliefs, and feelings, such as financial fears, relationship worries, work stress, loneliness, or pessimism, as threats equally scary as a tiger. Then BOOM. The scaredy-cat amygdala goes on red alert, and when this happens, our bodies can’t repair themselves. No wonder we get sick!
6 Simple Steps To Activate Your Body’s Self-Repair Mechanisms
You don’t have to be at the mercy of your stress responses. As I teach in my new book Mind Over Medicine: Scientific Proof That You Can Heal Yourself, you can be proactive about activating your body’s natural self-healing. Try these scientifically-proven steps as a health prevention strategy or as treatment for any health condition you might be battling.
Step 1: Believe You Can Heal Yourself
Don’t believe that positive belief can cure the body? Think again! The medical establishment has been proving that the mind can cure the body for over 50 years. We call it “the placebo effect,” and it has been proven to cause resolution of symptoms- and real physiological change — in 18-80% of the patients in clinical trials who are treated with nothing more than sugar pills, saline injections, or fake surgeries.
As long as you believe your condition is “incurable” or “chronic,” it will be. Don’t believe your health condition could possibly resolve? Check out the Spontaneous Remission Project, a compilation of over 3,500 case studies proving that spontaneous remission has been reported for just about every illness out there- Stage 4 cancers, HIV, diabetes, high blood pressure, thyroid disease, autoimmune diseases, even an untreated gunshot wound to the head!
For my skeptical physician mind, reading through all these case studies was a paradigm shift. It’s kind of like the story of the 4-minute mile. Exercise physiologists used to think the body was physiologically incapable of running a mile in less than 4 minutes — and so no athlete ever did it. Then in 1954, Roger Bannister ran a mile in three minutes and fifty-nine seconds. Once that limiting belief was shattered, virtually every athlete that competes in a world-class event has run the mile in under four minutes. Today’s world-record time for the mile is 3:43:15, more than 15 seconds under 4 minutes.
What if your belief that the body can’t heal itself is like the 4-minute mile? For some mind-blowing stories about how positive belief can radically affect your health, watch my TEDx talk Is There Scientific Proof That You Can Heal Yourself?.
Scientific data proves that once you believe healing is possible, it can be. So what do you believe?
Step 2: Find The Right Support
To say that you can heal yourself is sort of a misnomer because the scientific data proves that, equally essential to positive belief is the nurturing care of a true healer, someone optimistic who shares your positive belief, includes you in true partnership, respects your intuition, cares for your wellbeing, and ensures you that you won’t be alone on your self-healing journey.
Do you have the right healers on your health care team?
Step Three: Listen To Your Body & Your Intuition
Nobody knows your body better than you, not even a doctor. We doctors may know the arteries of the leg or the anatomy of your organs better than you, but you know what’s best for your own body better than anyone else. When my literary agent first read Mind Over Medicine, she said, “Lissa, before I read this book, I honestly thought my body was none of my business. Now I know better.”
Yes! Your body is indeed your business. So listen to your intuition and trust what it tells you.
Not in touch with your intuition? Then listen to your body, which is one vehicle your intuition uses to speak to you. If you have a physical sensation in your body — pain, tightness, nausea, clenching, dizziness — ask your body what it is trying to communicate to you. Then listen up! This is the voice of your inner wisdom and it will always lead you directly to your true north.
Step Four: Diagnose The Root Causes Of Your Illness
Your doctor may give you one kind of diagnosis- migraines or irritable bowel syndrome or breast cancer, for example. But the kind of diagnosis I’m talking about gets at the root of what might have triggered stress responses in your body and deactivated your body’s self-healing mechanisms, thereby making your body vulnerable to illness.
What aspects of your life are activating your stress responses? What relaxation response-inducing activities — like meditation, creative expression, laughter, engaging in work you love, massage, yoga, or playing with animals — have you been neglecting?
Illness is often a wake up call, forcing us to get down and dirty with what’s really true in our lives. We can either play the victim or we can use illness as an opportunity to awaken.
If you’re struggling with a physical issue, what might lie at the root of it? For more ideas about what might lie at the root of your illness, check out my TEDx talk The Shocking Truth About Your Health.
Step Five: Write The Prescription For Yourself
This won’t be the kind of prescription you fill at a pharmacy, though it certainly may include elements of Western medicine. It’s more of a self-guided action plan intended to make your body ripe for optimal health and full recovery.
So ask yourself, “What does my body need in order to heal?” Your Prescription may include diet changes, an exercise regimen, and a conventional medical treatment plan. But it may also include getting out of a toxic relationship, quitting a soul-sucking job, adding a meditation practice, taking steps to get out of debt, or following a passion.
Be as specific as you can. Then muster up the courage to put your plan into action!
Step Six: Surrender Attachment To Outcomes
What if you’ve adopted a positive attitude, found the right healer, tapped into your intuition and your body, diagnosed the root cause of your health condition, written The Prescription for yourself and put it into action- but you’re still sick? Are you doing something wrong? Is it your fault you’re still sick?
Absolutely not — and any talk of guilt, blame, or shame for someone on a healing journey only activates more stress responses and harms the body.
So what’s the deal? This is where the art of surrender comes in. Some patients do everything “right” and spontaneous remission happens. But others are the proverbial choir- and they’re still sick. Why does this happen? Honestly, I don’t know. The only real answer is a spiritual one. Perhaps our souls come here on this earth to learn lessons, and illness can be a spiritual practice, a way to learn our life lessons and a part of our soul’s destiny.
What I can say is that if you’ve followed the 6 steps, you’ve done everything within your power to make your body ripe for miracles — and the rest is out of your hands. So take a deep breath, trust The Universe, surrender attachment to any particular health outcome, and let any health condition you face be an opportunity for spiritual awakening.
Ready To Heal Yourself?
Are you motivated to put each of these steps into action? Will you do what it takes to reduce stress responses in your body and increase relaxation responses so your body can repair itself?