Thursday, 18 February 2016

Health, happiness and wholeness

Lent 2016: Day Nine

The holistic approach to medicine has its critics, but there is something to it. Disease is the opposite of ease. Willing it to be so helps. I am a strong believer in the placebo effect (and working with the pharmaceutical sector for many years, I know that it does too). In medicine, there is a saying: "There's no such thing as a healthy person. Only undiagnosed diseases." A take on Stalinist prosecutor Andrey Vishinsky's quote: "Give me the man, and I will find the crime". Much as the healthcare profession (especially the private sector fee-for-service part of it) would like this to be true, it's worth doing what you can to avoid the clutches of the doctors, unless (until) you really need them.

The obvious part of it is keeping fit and eating well. Not smoking. Plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, lots of exercise, moderate drinking, cutting out sugar other than in the fruit. But then there's thinking yourself healthy - and this starts to be controversial. It tends to work for me, so I go along with it. One day last week, I felt the very first symptoms of common cold coming on. It was a cold evening, and I felt the chill. But I could not afford to fall ill, having an important conference in Birmingham in a few days time. So I willed the virus away. Go, virus! I do not want you! Die, you spiky invaders! Immune system - do your work! And the next morning I woke up feeling just fine.

I've had several such little miracles, which on their own prove little - but it is my philosophy. Be sensitive to the smallest anomalies in the way you feel, that may turn into something nasty if ignored - and try to will them better, bearing in mind that in clinical trials, the placebo will work in 18%-20% of cases. (And imagine how frustrated the pharma companies are when their new drug, on which they have pinned their hopes, fails to outperform the placebo).

In coming years, research may well inform us as to which people respond better to the placebo effect than others. My guess is that one's mental outlook will be a good pointer. Being happy helps keep you healthy and vice verse. But I would add a spiritual aspect too - linking health and happiness with celestial order, we should express our gratitude for what we have, and in a grateful state of mind ask for health and happiness for ourselves and for our loved ones.

Monism - considering the entire Universe, all things visible and invisible, the material and the spiritual as one - requires a holistic view of mind and spirit. The effect of spiritual will on our well-being is important. A life in balance in which bodily health and spiritual well-being is neither ignored, nor obsessively pursued, but where conscious awareness of both plays an important role.

Believing in the power of belief is necessary.

Of course, sceptics would argue that this cannot be proved. Steve Jobs could not cure himself of pancreatic cancer by drinking freshly-squeezed fruit juice.

All I can do is to offer my gratitude for being happy and healthy, and hope that I can continue to be so for many years to come - as a demonstrator, as proof-of-concept.

This time last year:
Kicking off Lent again

This time two years ago:
Design, Build, Finance, Maintain, Operate: Improving the procurement of Poland's infrastructure

This time three years ago:
Wait to spend or save lives now? An infrastructure quandry

This time seven years ago:
It's not rich countries that build roads, its roads that build rich countries

This time eight years ago:
Snow that was doomed to melt

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