Take a look at any of today’s news-stand magazines, and chances are one of the leading articles may be on the management of stress or fitness. Stress is one of the leading causes of illness in today’s world, and more and more doctors and scientists are discovering vital links between body, mind, and spirit.
Emotional stress can weaken the immune system, making the body more susceptible to disease. Dr. Ronald Grossarth-Maticek, a Yugoslavian oncologist, published the results of three studies, which were begun in the 1960s, that stirred international excitement. On the basis of interviews and questionnaires given to a large group of men and women, he assigned people to one of four personality types. By following their medical histories for ten to thirteen years, he found evidence that certain aspects of mental and emotional behavior may be linked to cancer or heart disease.
Disease-prone people often exhibit emotional dependence, passivity, and dissatisfaction with their key relationships. They tend to be unduly influenced by the way others respond to them and may find difficulty in improving unsatisfying relationships. They also often seem unable to take the initiative in forming or maintaining close emotional ties with others.
“There is no single cause for cancer,” says psychiatrist Hans Eysenck. “It is always a combination of risk factors such as smoking, drinking, genetic factors, environmental factors, psychosocial factors. We find that all these reinforce each other. But personality is one of the most important.”
Louise Hay, author of Heal Your Body and Heal Yourself, says, “I find that resentment, criticism, guilt, and fear cause the most problems in ourselves and our lives. Whatever is happening ‘out there’ is only a mirror of our own inner thinking.”
Tests have shown that people who develop heart disease often have problems handling anger, either by failing to control it or by overcontrolling it so that their feelings may not be adequately expressed. Frustration, fear, and helplessness are also emotions that may create disease in the body.
So, where do we look for an answer? The fast pace of today’s world makes it hard to avoid some stresses. We might get on the freeway, and the intensity of the traffic may cause our blood pressure to go up. We often work hard to make a living and achieve the life‑style we want, but that may mean putting in fifty to sixty hours or more a week at our work. We might take an evening class to improve our minds, but then we may sacrifice needed rest.
Unfortunately, there are no easy answers. It could be important, however, to have some strong stress relievers at the top of our list. First, take some time to be out of doors. Nature may be a good medicine in the world for many of us. The beauty of the earth can stimulate joy, thanksgiving, and healthy thoughts.
There have been many stories in recent years of terminally ill patients who may have literally laughed themselves back to health. Those men and women had nothing to lose when they began a systematic program of watching funny television shows and reading humorous books. Without realizing it, they may have stimulated a stronger immune system and helped to conquer, or at least stabilize, their disease.
Meditation can be a proven method of achieving a more relaxed state of consciousness. Recent findings reported by Stanford University researcher Kenneth Eppley review the effects of transcendental meditation. He reports that “TM has consistently beneficial effects on anxiety.” The health benefits of meditation are recognized today by many physicians; it can lower blood pressure, slow the aging process, and help keep the emotions in balance. It is said that one insurance company now gives a discount to those who practice transcendental meditation.
Another proven method for reducing stress can be owning a pet. Long-range studies with the elderly and the ill many times report that having a dog or cat to stroke and love can increase happiness and extend longevity. Mother Teresa of Calcutta often provides animals as therapy for insane children.
In order to be happy, healthy, and stress-free, it is important to believe in yourself and your individual right to happiness and health. Louise Hay writes, “Our subconscious mind accepts whatever we choose to believe. Life is very simple. What we give out, we get back. I believe that all of us are responsible for every experience in our lives, the best and the worst. Every thought we think is creating our future. Each one of us creates our experiences by the thoughts we think and the words we speak. If you accept a limiting belief, then it will become a truth for you. The universal power never judges or criticizes us. It only accepts us at our own value.”