‘Record Game of Thrones!’ was my first diary entry for April.
I know I’m not the only one who’s been counting down the days for series 4 to start. The hit HBO TV show has garnered a global following and is one of the most expensive, most pirated and most talked about series of all time.
So what is it about the program – set in the mythical, medieval land of Westeros – that has us in its thrall?
Could it be its ability to catapult us from our ordinary lives into a fantasy epoch; where we can forget, temporarily, our deadlines, to-do lists – and maybe doctor’s appointments – and lose ourselves in wonder?
When we fully immerse ourselves in an activity and lose track of time, we enter a brain state that health experts are just beginning to recognize as powerfully healing.
‘Do I have enough play in my life?’ That’s what patients need to ask themselves,’ says Dr. Bernie Siegel, best-selling author and cancer surgeon. ‘So find things that help you lose track of time. Because then you’re in a trance state, and that’s the healthiest state to be in.’
It sounds so simple, but with the relentless pressures of 21st century life many of us have forgotten what it means to let go. Cancer patients often ask Toronto-based physician, Dr. Alexander Mostovoy what they should do to relax:
‘I encourage patients to remember a time when they were little – perhaps playing with a doll- when nothing else existed and they had no care. It’s about finding that feeling again, that’s your place of healing.’
We tend to associate getting healthy with slogging it out at the gym and eating a joy-less diet, but the latest research is showing that giving in to pleasure can be just as important.
In fact, having a sense of joy is the second most important factor for predicting cancer survival, according to research from Sandra Levy, associate professor of psychiatry and medicine at the University of Pittsburgh.
In other research, ‘mirthful laughter’ has been compared to ‘internal jogging’ for its ability to lower stress, blood pressure and cholesterol.
So how can you infuse your life with more moments of bliss? Below you will find five suggestions for boosting your levels of ‘vitamin P’.
Fall in Love
‘You are generally healthier and more alive when you’re in love,’ says Bruce Lipton, a cell biologist who previously taught at Stanford.
In his latest book The Honeymoon Effect he explains that when we’re in love the brain secretes neurochemicals such as dopamine, oxytocin and growth hormone into the blood. When these chemicals are added to cells in a laboratory, the cells exhibit robust, healthy growth.
Currently sleeping alone? Fear not – these same chemicals can be unleashed by falling in love with a project or following a passion, according to Lipton. That could be as simple as growing your own basil and tomatoes (endless bruschetta), braving a dance class and losing yourself in the music or babysitting someone else’s puppy – surely the quickest way to induce that ‘fall in love’ feeling.
Enjoy what you Eat
How often have you said something like the following? ‘ I just look at a piece of chocolate cake and gain weight.’ According to Pam Grout author of the New York Times best-selling book E-Squared, we ought to watch our words rather than count calories:
‘Those items on your dinner plate are not static lumps of nutrition, but rather morsels of dynamic energy that eavesdrop on every one of your intentions.’
Not buying it? A recent experiment from the Institute of HeartMath, a non profit organization that studies stress and human energy, found that a bowl of yoghurt, hooked up to electrodes, responded to human thoughts and emotions.
I cannot verify whether saying ‘this meal is slimming’ before demolishing a burger will make you drop a dress size, but if you repeatedly catch yourself saying something like ‘it’s really hard for me to lose weight’ you might be programming your subconscious to hold onto those kilos.
(You can hedge your bets by indulging in a healthy treat – like this Gluten Free Seeded Quinoa and Chia Bread from Saskia Gregson-Williams’, Hip & and Healthy E-Recipe Book. For more delicious nourishing recipes click here)
Swap the Treadmill for Trees
Too much high intensity exercise can raise our levels of cortisol – otherwise known as the ‘fat storage hormone.’
So why not go for a gentle stroll beneath a canopy of branches instead? The latest research suggests it not only soothes the soul, but can also heal the body at a cellular level. If you’ve read anything about ‘earthing’, you’ll know that taking off your shoes and plugging your feet into the bare ground can help reduce inflammation, thanks to the electrons on the earth’s surface. (NIB: A man in Mum’s local qigong class has not worn shoes for two years. He believes it’s helping him keep cancer at bay).
Teachers, parents and bosses might have told you to sit up and pay attention but when you allow your mind to wander you’re engaging your imagination – boosting your creativity and well-being. By letting go of the present moment you are helping to cultivate a theta-brain state, which many experts including Brent Phillips and Dr. Alex Loyd, now believe is key to health and healing.
Make a New Playlist
I guarantee the process will make you:
A) reflect on happy memories associated with your favourite tunes
B) get your body moving first thing in the morning
C) incentivise you to have friends over for dinner; and, according to research from best-selling author Lynne McTaggart, staying socially connected might be a better predictor of health and longevity than diet or whether you smoke.
You will find more tips for changing your mental landscape and supercharging your health in my book ‘Mum’s Not Having Chemo. I am now offering private health coaching sessions over the phone – click here to find out more.
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