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The Role Of The Mind In Health and Longevity
Ernest H. Rosenbaum, MD and Isadora R. Rosenbaum, MA

The cure of many diseases is unknown to physicians...because they are ignorant of the whole. For the part can never be well unless the whole is well.

Good health is one of the greatest assets we have in life, for without it one's future is uncertain. The mind plays a key role in promoting good health. If your health is impaired, through an accident or illness, life may become compromised by subsequent debilitation. Some of the new problems you may face are economic, social, emotional, psychological, or potential loss of independence.

Recently there has been a shift in the philosophy on health care to a more holistic way of medical care as suggested by Plato a few thousand years ago. You can't separate the mental from the physical since they are related as part of the whole body. Health care is like a juggler trying to balance many acts -- the medical, physical, environmental, psychological, and nutritional in an attempt to keep the heart, brain and body healthy. Many authorities feel that 50-80% of illnesses are stress-related, for example: high blood pressure, colds, depression or certain skin diseases.

Recent research at the University of Utah evaluated the role stress during the recent economic depression. There were more fatal strokes and heart attacks than were predicted.

Other studies have tried to relate stress to a decrease in the function of the immune system. Such research is ongoing and confirmation is thus far lacking. If proven true, an immune defect could precede many disease processes.

There is a relationship between anger, stress and disease. One of the secrets of good health and longevity is knowing how to control stress. -- See Stress and Survival and Reducing Stress in the Stressed-Out World of Cancer

We have known for over 2,000 years that there is a relationship between the Mind, Body, and one's health. Galen in the second century wrote of melancholy and disease. It is an accepted fact that attitude and will to live can in part determine one's future. How one accepts and deals with adversity, or controls stress and anger determines one's coping skills.

The writer Norman Cousins found a means to cope with his incapacitating arthritis and used his inner strength to not only to fight his way back to good health, but also to increase his longevity.

Attitude does have a major impact on your life and has become one of the important ingredients in living well and longer. It is in part shaped by past experiences, education, and by one's failures and successes. A positive attitude can help increase your ability to cope with life's problems or with a disease. We have a chance each day when we get up to make this a great day and achieve what we wish, or to merely accept events which occur and not try to improve our lot or seek new goals. Some things in life are more difficult to change. Throughout life, there is a pattern of living through which we evolve and grow.

Thus, in summing up, how we live is in part controlled by our attitude towards life which becomes the pivotal point that gives direction to our future.

The Will To Live
The will to live is nurtured by a positive attitude. A negative attitude can diminish or undermine the mind by fear, anger, or loss of self-esteem. These emotions when unresolved can lead to hopelessness, futility, resignation and the loss of the will to live. Here a few examples.

The phrase frightened to death is more than a figure of speech. An early reference to stress and fear is recorded in the Bible, Book of Acts, chapter 5, when Ananias and his wife Sapphire suddenly die after being castigated by Peter for withholding from the disciples some of the money paid for the sale of land. This has been attributed to a sudden coronary death from stress. In primitive societies people have been literally frightened to death by the imposition of a curse or spell, known as bone pointing. When a person who believed in the phenomenon was boned, he withdrew from the world, stopped eating and waited to die. Death could take place in a few weeks. Such deaths have not been explained medically, even with an autopsy, but it seems apparent that the paralyzing effect of fear played an important role. The victim's fear stems from ignorance and superstition. He has been encouraged to believe in the power of the curse. Thus ignorance and superstition play a role in how the mind functions to help or hinder a person in living.

Persons with a positive attitude are able to be open, to talk about their problems with their family, friends, and physicians. They feel good about themselves, and generally have been that way all their lives. It is often very hard to change lifelong patterns such as psychological reaction to daily living.

The will to live is therefore a spiritual emotional and ethical commodity. It needs nurturing and development and, if controlled can strengthen a person's resolve to survive. We soon discovered that the mind plays an important role in trying to control life that there is a direct correlation between a person's mental and emotional state.

We measure successes and failures in life by our standards and ideals as we strive for goals in work or health. Just to survive makes for a shallow life. Victory is for those who have the courage and stamina to fight and endure each of life's many struggles and who always have goals and the satisfaction of aspiring to reach them whether they succeed or fail. This is the challenge of life.

The answer lies in your attitude towards life. Milton, though blind, wrote great poetry, and Beethoven, though deaf, wrote beautiful music he would never hear. We can help ourselves and others live better if we:
- Live in the present and in the future and not in the past.
- Set reasonable goals as to what can be accomplished.
- Accept new problems and attempt to solve them through understanding, and increased awareness.
- Try to resolve depression and negative emotions.
- Actively do things to help yourself and others.
- Learn techniques to relax and practice mind control by using simple methods to calm down, such as yoga or Tai Chi or practice biofeedback.

A good example of how the will to live is encouraged and one recovers one's mental strength has been demonstrated when exhausted soldiers march home after a rigorous day. They suddenly begin to march and sing in cadence. They have a revival of their mood and spirit and new or reserve energies and strength appear. So, if the person who becomes exhausted from problems of daily living can also muster such reserve energies; when channeled appropriately, the results can be very gratifying.

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