Monday, April 27, 2009

Thoughts and Intention

"Loving people live in a loving world.

Hostile people live in a hostile world.
Same world."
- Wayne Dyer

This spirituality and science topic will examine the concept of intention. The power of one's thoughts is examined in The Power of Intention by Wayne Dyer, as well as the The Secret by Rhonda Byrne. While I believe the movie version of The Secret focuses too heavily on material possessions, the book encompasses more non-material valuables such as health and relationships. Although this philosophy has gained popularity in recent years, it's not really a new concept that your thoughts can become things, as Wallace Wattles wrote The Science of Getting Rich in 1910.

What is intention?
An anticipated outcome that guides your planned actions. Basically, this means that if you intend a desired outcome, you are using intention. I think many times that we focus more on what we don't want rather than what we do want (e.g. I don't want debt, rather than, I want wealth.) And if an overdue mortgage payment is staring you in the face, well, it's really hard to not focus on that. However, I'm a huge believer in that whatever you focus on is what grows, so if you keep your focus on how many bills you have or how dysfunctional your relationships are, then that will continue growing. Try to spend part of everyday focusing on what you do want, and think positively about those things.

Time Frames or How Long Do I Have to Do This Before It Works?
The time/space continuum is not what we think it is, but that's a post for another day. Sure, you could say that you spent a good 15-minutes last night thinking super-positively that you wanted $5 million dollars to fall in your lap the next day. Then, when the next day goes by, you may be quite annoyed that you are still a cool 5 million short of your intention. What happened?

One of my favorite passages from the book The Secret asks you to take a good long look around you at your life. Go ahead and do it. Look at your job, your family, your house, your health, etc.
Your present life is merely a reflection of your past thoughts and beliefs. You have manifested your life based on what you think. If what you have around you is not what you want, start there. Change the way you think. No, it won't happen overnight and it might take some time, but I believe your life will always reflect the nature of your thoughts and you should see things around you getting better after awhile. Additionally, be sure to follow any actions you feel inspired to take as a result of these new thoughts.

How Do I Do It?
Start by deciding how you want your life to look and how you want to feel on a daily basis. Now, there are those that want to feel misery (although they would not likely be reading this blog), but most people want to feel happiness and joy. Spend just 5 minutes a day with your eyes closed, and imagine yourself feeling those feelings and seeing yourself living the life you want. It's more powerful if you can involve all the senses: notice the smells, sounds, etc. Soon, you'll find that you more easily catch yourself if you're having a negative thought and can turn it to a positive one.
One of my favorite ways to start my day and remind myself of the power of my thoughts, is to wake up and think about all the things I am grateful for. Starting each day on a positive note, (yes, even Mondays) helps keep me thinking positively throughout the day. I also found a wonderful website that sends me an email each morning, reminding me of just how wonderful we human beings are. It's Mike Dooley's Thoughts Become Things website at

If you only do one thing for the next few weeks, just spend a few minutes a day focusing on what you already have and are thankful for, and what you would like your life to be like and feel like. Until next time....

Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Science of Laughter

"Cheese...milk's leap toward immortality."
-Clifton Fadiman

Hello all - last week in Spirituality and Science, we looked more into the metaphysical topic of the mind/body connection. One of the ways listed in the post to help increase physical health through mental methods was through laughter. This week, we'll talk about how laughing actually causes a physical reaction that can improve your physical state.

If you recall the relation between chronic stress and a weakened immune system from the last post, you understand how the release of hormones in the body can affect you. How an emotional event (such as stress) can actually cause physical problems in the body over time. Luckily, the same is true for positive emotional states.

Think about the last time you really laughed. Really laughed until your stomach hurt afterward. You probably felt pretty good even after you stopped laughing. Why?

Just as anxiety releases stress hormones such as cortisol and epinephrine (adrenalin), laughter has been found to decrease these hormones. Even better, laughter actually releases brain chemicals or neurotransmitters called endorphins. Endorphins act upon the brain much the same way as opiates do. They cause a general feeling of well-being and act as natural pain-killers. I think of them as the body's own natural anti-depressant. Studies have also shown that while chronic stress can depress the body's immune system, laughter can increase a person's immune response. I saw a movie recently where a woman diagnosed with brain cancer decided to forgo conventional medical treatment (which I'm not condoning but it worked for her), and rented nothing but comedies for several months so that she could laugh all the time. Her cancer went into remission and at the time of filming the movie, it had not returned. It truly can have amazing effects on the body's ability to heal itself.

Guess how much it costs? Something this amazing is absolutely and completely free. You just need to set yourself up to laugh. Do you have any funny friends? If so, make a lunch date or invite them over for dinner. Do you have a favorite comedy sitcom or movie? Rent it, or better yet, buy it so that you can always have it on hand if you're feeling down. I have a movie that never fails to make me laugh at loud no matter how many times I watch it (I'd tell you the movie, but everyone has different tastes and mine is definitely on the goofy side). Also remember, it's when you least feel like laughing that it will probably do the most good. And if you can laugh at yourself, you're doing really well! So for this week, go find something that makes you chuckle. Discover what turns on your funny bone and feel that endorphin may just become a little healthier in the process!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

The Mind/Body Connection

"The physical world, including our bodies, is a response of the observer.
We create our bodies as we create the experience of our world."
- Deepak Chopra, M.D.

This Spirituality and Science post will continue the exploration of the mind/body connection that began with our Quantum Physics discussion last week.

So what exactly is the mind/body connection?
It simply means that our physical selves and mental/emotional selves are not independent of each other and impact each other in significant ways. An everyday example of this: stress or tension headaches.

Have you ever had a stressful day at work or home where everything seemed chaotic, or your co-workers and/or kids were driving you crazy, and you later came down with a throbbing headache. This is an example of a mental stressor causing an actual physical problem (unless your co-worker actually did strike you in the head, which is a whole different issue). A personal example that happened to me repeatedly while in college and graduate school was that I would pull several "all-nighters" during finals week each semester, and as soon as the last final was over, I would get sick...usually just a cold, but sick nonetheless. Why do these things happen?

When under stress, the body produces excess amounts of stress hormones, such as cortisol and epinephrine. The purpose of these hormones is to help you cope with a dangerous situation to help ensure your survival. So if a bear attacks you while hiking, your cortisol levels would understandably be quite high. The problem happens when you remain under chronic stress for a period of time.

The body isn't meant to sustain such high levels of stress hormones and eventually, your immune system will suffer. On a minor scale, a cold doesn't seem like the worst thing in the world but more and more research is supporting that many diseases are impacted by our stress level and emotional state of being, such as autoimmune disorders and yes, even cancer. The stresses involved in cancer may be physical stresses (such as carcinogens like cigarettes) but may also be non-physical or mental stressors. I can also tell you that out of the hundreds of clients I have seen in private practice, the ones who had significant depression and anxiety all had a host of physical problems as well. When their mental and emotional states stabilized, their physical symptoms also greatly improved. Whether one caused the other, or vice versa, was not so important to me as the clients understanding that they were deeply connected.

In his book, Quantum Healing, by Deepak Chopra, M.D. (my favorite book on the mind/body connection) he discusses a major study of 400 spontaneous remissions from cancer. The one thing that was found in common among all 400 patients was that every person had changed their attitude (becoming positive and hopeful even in the face of negative medical opinions) before the remission occured.

This can actually sound pretty scary at first and cause some defensiveness, like "You're saying I gave myself fibromyalgia?" but it's actually incredibly empowering. So many people with medical disorders feel a sense of helplessness and lack of control. They give most of their power away to the doctors treating them. There are amazing doctors and medical treatments out there, so I'm not saying to ignore conventional medicine, but I am asking you to also trust your own instincts. This applies to mental health disorders as well. I always made clear to the clients I treated that they were the experts about themselves, not me. I was just there to guide them. No one will ever know you better than you know yourself, no matter how many degrees they may have!

How can you make your attitude more positive and thus feel better physically?
1) Laughter is one great way. Find the friends, shows, and books that make you laugh and laugh every day!

2) Meditation is another way to get in touch with your inner self. Just breathe quietly and let go of stress for a few minutes a day. I know people who do it for several minutes a day at their desk and it makes a huge difference. Studies have shown that people who meditate are able to relax more quickly than most, and thus aren't producing as many stress hormones.

3) Focus on someone else. Volunteer to help someone less fortunate than you (there is always someone in worse shape than you are and sometimes it's helpful to realize this), find a cause you are passionate about and join a group that supports this, become a big brother/big sister, adopt a dog (studies have shown that petting animals lowers blood pressure and reduces stress!)

4) These are basics but all relate to lowering stress levels in the body: Get enough sleep, eat well, and exercise.

If you understand the magnificence of the human brain and can harness its energy, you will realize that the most powerful medicine in the universe is inside yourself. No pharmaceutical company can touch it.