Dr. Mimi Guarneri: Hi. I’m Dr. Mimi Guarneri,
and today we are going to talk about the mind‑body‑spirit connection and how it relates to health. The
objectives for today are to review the science of the mind‑body connection. What is the
link between how we respond to stressful events and illness, particularly cardiovascular disease?
We’ll also spend some time today talking about how we can use techniques that can very easily
impact the stress response on our bodies, and how we can take those techniques into
our private practice immediately. The former surgeon general was very, very
smart. He had this to say. He said, “Of the 10 leading causes of death in the US, seven
could greatly be reduced if we changed the way we lived our lives.” This was his quote.
“We need to modify our alcohol intake, lack of exercise, poor diet, smoking”, and, my
personal favorite, “unhealthy, maladaptive responses to stress and tension. If we can
impact these, we can basically impact the health of the entire country.” [Julius B.
Richmond] Now, Hans Selye is the individual we probably
consider one of the fathers of stress. He really raised the level of consciousness of,
how does stress affect the physical body? This is how he defined stress. He said, “Stress
can be defined as the state one experiences when there is a mismatch between perceived
demands and our ability to cope.” That’s very important, because we all have demands, and
we all have a certain level of resiliency. It’s when our resiliency is tapped that we
start to feel stressed. That resiliency may be different for everyone. Someone can have
two things on their plate, someone else can have 15, before they start feeling like, “I
can’t cope.” It’s this mismatch between perceived demands ‑‑ and “perceived” is also an
important word, because sometimes we don’t have to accept all those demands ‑‑ and
our ability to cope. How does this translate into health? The American
Institute of Stress tells us that 75 to 90 percent of all visits to health‑care providers
result from stress‑related disorders. Now, that is an incredible statistic.
We know, for physicians, that stress is running rampant. This is a survey from Physician Executive
looking at 1,200 actively practicing physicians. 6 out of 10 said they have considered leaving
medicine. 77 percent said they’re fatigued. 67 percent they’re burnt‑out. 33 percent
have depression and some form of family discord, and, as everyone knows, a very high incidence
of divorce. The way I teach it to my patients is this
way. We are surrounded by events in our life. We can’t control those events 10 out of 10
times, but what we can control is how we respond to those events and what our perception is.
For example, if the Dow goes down, we might say, “Hey, this is a great time to buy stock.”
That’s one response. Or we might say, “Oh, my God. Doom and gloom. I’ve lost all this
money,” and we will start off a whole cascade of stress hormones. This is important, because
two people can see the same exact thing and have totally different responses. This is
personal. When we get into a cycle of feeling stressed,
feeling like we can’t cope, the body changes. We have over 1,400 chemical reactions. The
ones that we see happening, manifesting, every day in our clinical practice are related to
hormones like adrenalin, noradrenaline, aldosterone, and cortisol. These are just some of the key
stress hormones that impact our health and our well‑being.
Let’s take a look at the stress cascade. This is just for the physical body. As a cardiologist,
I was very intrigued to see that, as adrenalin and noradrenaline and cortisol and aldosterone
go up, platelets become sticky. Renin and Angiotensin goes up. Insulin resistance goes
up. People put on weight in their mid‑line. People have palpitations and skipped heartbeats.
We also, of course, have hypertension. Even cholesterol goes up in the setting of stress.
In the 1990s, I looked at this list and I said, “Wow, all of the drugs I’m giving are
really hitting the stress hormones. For example, I’m giving aspirin and Plavix ‑‑ that’s
affecting blood coagulation ‑‑ Metformin for insulin resistance and diabetes, ACE inhibitors
for Renin and Angiotensin, Statins for cholesterol, beta blockers for arrhythmia, and the list
goes on and on.” It got me to think, maybe, just maybe, we want to meditate and medicate,
that we have to do something for this stress response.
Now, we can have acute stress, and that can make us sick. We know in cardiology today,
there’s something called broken‑heart syndrome. Bad news. Acute, stressful event. People come
in with cardiomyopathy, many looking like they need a heart transplant. Fortunately,
with supportive care and medications, this usually resolves and people get better. That’s
an extreme example, broken‑heart syndrome, of the impact that stress can have on the
human heart. In the journal of “Circulation” in 1995, there
was a study that looked at over 1,600 people coming to the emergency room with heart attack.
They were asked, “What were you doing two hours before your heart attack?” They concluded
that an anger outburst increased the risk of a heart attack 230 percent. That is huge.
Now, in California, we had the Northridge earthquake. Of course, that’s a sudden shock
to the entire Northridge community. What the research showed was there was a five‑times
increase in cardiovascular‑related sudden death on the day of the Northridge earthquake.
We saw something similar after 9/11, where patients who had AICDs in, a much higher incidence,
in the month following 9/11, of malignant cardiac arrhythmias.
What about a sports game? This was from the “British Medical Journal.” There was a 25‑percent
increase in heart‑attack admissions in London when England lost to Argentina in the World
Cup Soccer Tournament in 1988. It’s an acute response that can quickly affect
the physical body, but it’s not only the physical body. It’s the mental‑emotional body as
well. For example, we know that people under stress do not think clearly. They don’t make
their best decisions. I’ve had many patients come in and say to me, “I can’t recall anything.
My memory is not like it used to be.” We do an MRI because we’re concerned they may have
a brain tumor. When you look at the stress spectrum, this
is what you find. Loss of focus and mental clarity. Inability to relax and sleep. Low
self‑esteem, because we feel like we can’t get anything done right. We feel tired, because
we can’t sleep. Very frequently, if we have a lot of things that we can’t cope with, our
response is one of anger, and we just heard how bad anger is for the heart.
What about chronic stress? We talked about acute events ‑‑ the Northridge earthquake,
9/11. What about people who are chronically stressed? Well, Louis Pasteur said this ‑‑ “The
microbe is nothing. The soil is everything.” To me, this translates into, how is your resiliency?
What do you have to stabilize your life, so that when life throws you a curve ball, you
don’t respond with the 1,400 chemical reactions and the stress hormones that we just talked
about. A lot of research has been done on chronic
stress. Dr. Janice Kiecolt-Glaser has done enormous studies. For example, she took caregivers
and compared them to well‑matched controls. She did a simple punch biopsy on their skin,
and what she found was that caregivers took 24 percent longer to heal a simple punch biopsy.
She also found that if she took medical students, during vacation time and during exams, that
it took them 40 percent longer to heal the same simple punch biopsy during exam week.
What does this translate to? This translates to chronic stress, which is leading to increased
cortisol, and immune suppression can affect wound healing.
Same thing with the influenza vaccine. She look at caregivers below 71 years of age and
above 71 years of age and compared them to well‑matched controls. What she found was
caregivers, across the board, were less likely to produce the antibodies when they were given
the flu vaccine ‑‑ again, demonstrating that chronic stress has an impact on the immune
system. The ability to mount an antibody response, which also translates into the ability to
fight an infection and fight a cancer, all of these are affected by stress.
The body of research is enormous. As cortisol goes up, DHEA goes down. What do we see in
this situation? We see accelerated aging, brain‑cell death. Our ability to learn and
our memory are greatly impaired. We see reduced bone density, osteoporosis, loss of muscle,
reduced skin growth and repair. Our immune system, as we just said, is affected. Our
blood sugar, as we discussed previously, goes up, and we put weight on in our mid‑line.
Let’s think about this for a second. If I have accelerated aging, and my memory is failing
and I have osteoporosis and I have less muscle mass, and my skin is not as taut or tense
as it could be and it’s not regenerating appropriately, these are all the biological markers for aging.
High cortisol leads to increased aging. Stress leads to increased aging. This has been confirmed
in research, for example, by Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn, who has demonstrated that people
under chronic stress have a reduction in their telomere length and their telomerase activity.
This is phenomenal research because, for the first time, what it’s telling us is chronic
stress affects the age of our cells, which could be totally different than our biological
age. The obvious question is, what do we do about
it? How do we turn stress into strength? How do we transform the way we respond? How do
we change our perception? Because, remember, it’s your response and your perception.
For my patients, I give them a lot of choices. I say peace. Peace. Finding inner peace is
like the center of a wagon wheel. Your path could be very different for different people.
For some people, it’s exercising in nature. That may be one spoke of the wheel. For someone
else, it may be repetitive prayer, like mantra repetition or saying the rosary. For some
people, it may be meditation. For some people, it may be practicing appreciation, practicing
gratefulness, changing one’s perception. For others, it’s learning how to breathe, simple
breathing techniques. Meditation, yoga, Tai Chi, spirituality, spiritual practices. It’s
whatever it takes for an individual to find inner peace, and it’s different for each and
every one of us. Remember that stress is almost always an emotional
reaction to a situation. It’s our perception. It’s our response. It impacts our thinking.
How many smart people do you know who’ve said some really silly things under stress? We’ve
all done it. We’re under stress and we say something we regret five seconds later. It
affects our ability to perform at our best. It affects our physical health, our mental‑emotional
well‑being, and it even affects those around us. Because, quite frankly, no one wants to
be around someone who’s stressed and responding with anger.
Mark Twain said this. Mark Twain said, “I have suffered a great many misfortunes, most
of which never happened.” I really like that quote. Adyashanti said, “Suffering happens
between the ears. Everything else is just a situation.”
This concept of perception and our imagination and our ability to worry, these are things
that we can change immediately in our life, and there are simple tools to do that.
Remember what we said about response and perception. I can’t control the initiating event. We can’t
control everything our teenagers do or say, can’t control most of the events around us,
can’t control our spouses and significant others half the time. The only person we can
change is us. We can change how we see the world, how we respond to the world, and what
we’re seeing is what’s affecting our physical well‑being, and how we’re seeing it.
Let’s take a look at a beautiful study that illustrates this. Medical students were asked
to watch a movie about Mother Teresa, and they were also asked to watch a neutral film.
92 percent of these students had an improvement in their immune system watching Mother Teresa.
When those students were questioned about the movie, they said, “Oh, I love Mother Teresa.
She’s terrific.” They felt good watching the movie. They felt like they were doing service.
They felt really good. Eight percent of the students said they hated
the movie. They didn’t like it at all. Those same students had a reduction in their immune
system, their salivary IgA, while they were watching the movie. Again, two people seeing
the same exact thing, totally different response. I loved the movie, my immune system improves.
I hated the movie, my immune system was suppressed. When they looked at the health records of
these students over the previous year, they found that those students who disliked the
movie, who also responded negatively to photographs that were shown to them ‑‑ and when they
generated a story, the story was not a nice one ‑‑ were the ones that were sickest
the previous year. This concept of what do you see in the world, how do you see the world?
We use the expression, “rose‑colored glasses,” right? Well, is your glass half‑full or
half‑empty? For those students with the half‑empty glasses, they had more illness
the previous year. Now, when the economy changed a couple of
years back, I was looking for ways to really help my patients. This was a quote I found
that was quite helpful, by Eric Butterworth, in his book called “Spiritual Economics.”
He said, “You see things not as they are but as you are.” Again, your perception.
Your perception, how you see the world, is shaped by your previous experiences, your
faith, and according to where you are in consciousness. Do you believe that everything works out for
the best? Do you believe there’s a reason for everything? Your faith and where you are
in consciousness. More important than changing the things out there ‑‑ which is quite
hard to do ‑‑ is changing the way you see them.
Getting our patients to change the way they see things or to look at their lives through
a new set of lenses is going to have a profound effect on their health. We say change your
environment, get rid of the teenagers, the spouse, the boss, and so on. Unlikely, but
change the way we react and the way we perceive our environment.
I just love this photo, because two people can look at this photo and one will say, “I
see angels,” and someone else will look at it and say, “I see devils.” Every time I show
this slide in one of my talks, I never have someone say, “I see both simultaneously.”
Again, the concept of perception. Darwin said, “It’s not the strongest of the
species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” If
you’re one of those people who don’t like change, then you need to read the book, “Who
Moved My Cheese?” because change is inevitable. If we’re not comfortable with change, we become
stagnant, we get angry, we get frustrated, we want it our way, and then we end up getting
sick. Just think about, in a day, all of the emotions
that you go through. I have my patients make a little grid, and on the left‑hand side,
I have them write negative emotions. On the right‑hand side, I have them write positive
emotions. Then I teach them that some emotions are high‑energy, like our adrenalin is up,
and some emotions are low‑energy, like our parasympathetic nervous system is stimulated.
This is from HeartMath teaching, and it’s very valuable.
For example, we might have high‑energy negative emotions during the day. That would be something
like anger, hate, greed, jealousy. These are all high‑energy negative emotions. We also
might have low‑energy negative emotions. We might feel depressed. We might feel lonely.
We might feel sad. We might have low‑energy positive emotions, where we feel empathetic
or we feel compassionate. Then we can have high‑energy positive emotions,
like victory and joy and love. I always invite my patients to stop when they’re feeling these
emotions and to think about where they are in this quadrant and, if they find themselves
in the negative‑emotion quadrants, to immediately take a timeout. Take a timeout, and we’ll
look at a technique on how we can shift from the negative emotion to what we call a more
neutral position. Then, from the neutral position, we shift to the positive side.
Imagine this. I’m getting angry and I’m getting frustrated, right? I recognize I’m on the
left‑hand side of the quadrants, and I’m going to take a timeout. That might mean leaving
a room and walking around. It might mean excusing myself from the conversation. Or it might
mean just saying, “I’m taking a timeout, and I’m going to start to breathe.” I want you
to learn some simple breathing techniques, because you can teach them to your patients
immediately. We know that whenever the in breath is shorter
than the out breath, the body goes into a state of relaxation. We can do a simple breathing
technique ‑‑ four seconds in through the nose, hold it for two seconds, out through
the mouth for seven seconds. Or we can just say, “I’m going to start breathing five seconds
in and five seconds out.” Again, this is from the HeartMath training. Five seconds in and
five seconds out. As I’m doing this breathing technique, I’m
going to just imagine that I’m breathing in and out through my heart. The minute we start
the breath work, the minute we start to breathe, take the timeout and start to breathe, we
start to shift ourselves to the neutral position. After we’ve been breathing for a few minutes,
we then think of something we love or appreciate. We literally throw the switch from that negative
event that we were responding to in a negative way. We throw the switch to something positive,
something that we love or appreciate. The minute we start thinking about positive
emotions, the research tells us this. Our memory improves. Our cognitive flexibility
improves. Our ability to solve problems improves. Our job performance improves. Decision‑making
improves. Longevity improves. Imagine, if you’re in a stressful situation,
you don’t want to respond by saying something you’re going to regret five seconds later.
If you’re getting angry, frustrated, take the timeout, even if you take it mentally.
No one knows that you’re doing your breathing, five seconds in, five seconds out. Get your
body to go from a completely stimulated, up‑revved state to one that’s more in balance, or coherences,
as we say. Then make your decision, from that frame of reference, and you will have a totally
different response. When we breathe in, inhalation increases the
heart rate. Exhalation decreases the heart rate. What’s more important than that is we
start to develop a coherent pattern where our heart‑rate variability becomes very
smooth. The signals we send from our brain to heart go up to our cortex and help us to
make the best decision. Why is heart‑rate variability pattern important?
Because we know, if heart‑rate variability is low, meaning we don’t have autonomic flexibility,
if the heart‑rate variability is low, it’s an independent predictor of heart attack and
sudden death. Something as simple as breathing can impact heart‑rate variability. It’s
that beat‑to‑beat time, from RR interval to RR interval on the EKG, that we’re looking
at when we talk about heart‑rate variability. Now, let’s go back to some of the HeartMath
research. On the top part of the screen, you see a heart‑rate
variability pattern of someone who’s experiencing frustration and anger, and the heart‑rate
variability pattern is completely chaotic. This individual is sending chaotic signals
from his heart to his brain. The brain sees those chaotic signals as a threat. The brain
doesn’t know. It just knows there’s chaos. There’s a threat. “I’m going to produce stress
hormones.” That same individual, when they’re taken out
of the stressful situation and asked to do the simple “five seconds in, five seconds
out” breathing technique, develops a completely coherent heart‑rate variability pattern.
Now this individual can send good signals to their brain to make a decision that comes
from a more educated and heartfelt purpose. Again, one of the paths to peace for our patients
is heart‑focused breath. Imagine you’re breathing in and out through your heart. Remember
something that you love, someone you love or appreciate ‑‑ my patients tell me it’s
their puppy, it’s their grandchild, it was the birth of their baby, very rarely is it
their spouse, definitely not their teenager, usually ‑‑ something that elicits that
unconditional‑love feeling. You have to feel this. When you’re doing your
breathing and you’re teaching your patients to do the five seconds in and five seconds
out, they have to relive that love feel, relive that appreciation feel, through every cell
of their body ‑‑ not just think about it. This is not about thinking. This is about
feeling. The result is, we live longer, we make better
decisions, our memory is better, we’re clearer, we become better communicators. Everything
is improved. Now, there’s another way you can impact your
heart‑rate variability. Remember, we said it’s important because it’s associated with
heart attacks and sudden death. This has been well‑studied. Repetitive prayer ‑‑ for
example, the rosary ‑‑ or repetition of a sacred word, what’s called a mantra, impacts
heart‑rate variability patterns. A mantra is a sacred word or a chant or a
sound that’s repeated. In the repeating, it promotes relaxation. It helps us to cultivate
inner peace. You may pick one from a spiritual tradition you identify with, or you may pick
another word. For example, you may pick “shalom.” You may pick “hallelujah.” You may pick “rama,”
“Om Namo Narayani.” Lots of different mantras, any spiritual tradition you want. What the
research shows, from the “British Medical Journal,” is that mantra repetition decreases
sympathetic tone and improves heart‑rate variability.
Here’s a sample list of mantras from Jill Bormann’s research in people with post‑traumatic
stress disorder. What she found was that teaching someone with post‑traumatic stress disorder
to pick a mantra and say their mantra throughout the day improves just about all of the symptoms
related to PTSD. I actually give this list to my patients,
and I say, “Find a word on the list that resonates with you.” Instead of letting your brain operate
like monkey minds ‑‑ you know how monkeys jump from branch to branch to branch? That
just leads to anxiety. Instead of worrying about the past or the future ‑‑ that just
leads to anxiety, that just leads to stress ‑‑ put the mantra in your head. Let the
mantra be your background music. I tell my patients that you should use their
mantra when they’re walking, when they’re jogging. The minute they start feeling anxious,
if you don’t like to do public speaking, you do your mantra for five minutes and your mind
is fine, before you get up and do your public presentation. If you can’t sleep at night,
you do your mantra, and you just keep doing it over and over.
The mind’s going to wander off. Bring it back to the mantra. Bring it back with the breath.
Take a deep breath in and anchor back in to your mantra. I promise that your patients
will say, if they do this, they feel more relaxed. They’re calmer. They’re sleeping
better. They’re less worried. Another path we can take, so we have mantra repetition.
We have the breath, is of course, meditation. Meditation could be a formal practice or an
informal practice. I like to think about meditation this way.
A skillful, sustained, applied use of attention. So it may be the breath. In and out. I may
just be focused on the breath. I may be focused on my mantra. Applied use of attention. Some
people just like to just focus on the light of a candle. There are different traditions
for meditation. You may do a formal practice, like transcendental meditation. You may do
a practice of mindfulness‑based stress reduction, which comes out of the Buddhist tradition.
There are many, many options. Contemplative meditation, out of the Christian tradition.
It doesn’t matter. What matters is finding that path to inner peace. So, it may be formal,
or informal. Now, we have a yoga instructor at the Integrative Center at Scripps, that
teaches something called the mini‑moment. Karen says, “Put a little green dot on your
watch, or a little green dot on your cell phone, and every time you look at your watch
or your cell phone, take a mini‑moment. Five seconds in with your breath, five seconds
out.” Because it stops us from rushing from thing
to thing to thing. So, five seconds in, five seconds out. Every time you look at that watch,
every time you look at that cell phone. That keeps us alive, it keeps us centered, and
it helps us to keep at our peak performance, because if we’re doing that breath in and
out, for five seconds, we put our heart back in that coherent rhythm, and we’re sending
signals to our brain that help us make our best decisions.
Excellent research on mediation, this is just one example. This is a randomized control
trial, looking at meditation in African‑Americans with high‑blood pressure demonstrating that
transcendental meditation, 20 minutes in the morning and 20 minutes in the evening, decreases
systolic blood pressure by 10 points. That’s as good as any prescription medication. Meditation,
for me, is medicine. Elizabeth Blackburn’s work has just demonstrated
that people taught mindfulness meditation have improvement in their telomere length
and their telomerase activity. Remember those agents of cellular aging? Telomerase? Improvement
in telomerase activity. Mindfulness meditation and TM meditation can affect blood pressure.
This is TM data showing reductions in systolic and diastolic blood pressure. TM meditation
showing decreased anxiety and decreased addictive behavior. This is really important, because
addictive behaviors like cigarette smoking and alcohol use, all of which go down with
meditation, are frequently the culprits to the illnesses we’re seeing in our patients.
Our patients are smoking cigarettes, drinking too much alcohol, eating the wrong kinds of
foods, and frequently that’s driven by stress. But if we can get to that point of inner peace,
with meditation or prayer or contemplation, whatever it is, we can impact those stress
hormones. Many of our patients are suffering from what appears to be a spiritual crisis.
You know, in a 10 minute appointment, it’s frequently hard to ask our patients, are they
isolated? Do they have three friends they can call who can drop everything and come
to be with them. Do they feel hopeless. Many of our patients don’t have meaning and purpose
in their life. Many feel stressed and many are suffering.
Well, there’s a proverb, that says, “When you lose the rhythm of the drumbeat of God,
you are lost from the peace and the rhythm of life.” When you lose the rhythm of the
drumbeat of God, so the concept of spirituality, anchoring us to meaning and purpose in our
life, is something that I have found intrinsically important. It’s the deepest well of all, for
leading my patients out of spiritual crisis. Florence Nightingale said, “The needs of the
spirit are as crucial to health as those organs which make up the body.” You can think of
spirituality in a lot of different ways, but it’s the ultimate connection. Where do I get
my meaning? How do I make sense of my life? It can be connected to self, to others, to
nature, to a higher power. We don’t define it for our patients. Where do they go for
their deep well of strength? Why is it important? Sir William Osler said this ‑‑ “The human
heart has a hidden want which science cannot supply.”
Our patients are looking for spirituality in their life, and the Mayo Clinic data shows
exactly this. 90 percent believe in a higher being. 94 percent regard their spiritual and
physical health as equally important. 96 percent of family practice physicians believe that
spiritual well‑being is a factor in health. I feel we have to know where our patients
are at spiritually before they’re in crisis. Because when they’re in crisis, we need to
know the background to understand how can we best serve them.
The Mayo Clinic’s data tells us that people who have spiritual practices, attend churches,
for example, synagogues, have lower blood pressure. They’re more compliant with their
meds. They exercise more. They eat healthier. They don’t smoke. Think of the Seventh‑Day
Adventist community. The only blue‑zone community in the entire United States where
people live healthy to old age. In the Seventh Adventist community, people eat lots of nuts.
A vegan diet. They exercise. They take a Sabbath. They don’t smoke cigarettes.
It’s a perfect illustration of one’s spiritual practices leading to health. The Mayo Clinic
data also showed that people who have spiritual or religious belief systems are more accepting
of death, have less depression and anxiety, and are more likely to not have addictive
behaviors. Less alcohol abuse. Less drug abuse. And as we’ve seen, less tobacco use. A very
interesting study was conducted looking at people after bypass, and they were asked two
questions. Do you have a tribe? Do you participate in
some form of group? Are you socially connected? Do you gain any comfort from your spiritual
belief system? They were followed for six months. Those people who were not socially
connected, and had no comfort from their spiritual or religious belief systems, had the highest
death rate. I think about the secret ingredient is this. If I gained comfort from my belief
system. If I believe there’s a divine plan. If I believe everything happens for a reason,
then there’s a good chance that I’m going to be more optimistic. I have more hope in
my life. I have more love. I have more contentment. What’s the opposite of that? I’m going to
have less stress hormones. Less adrenaline. Less noradrenaline. Less cortisol. Because
I’m believing that there’s a reason for what’s happening right now, and that things are going
to get better. Perhaps, it’s divine will. So the Native Americans say, call your spirit
back. Many of our patients have left their spirits and all the trauma of their life.
Whether it’s incest, a surgical procedure, a scary emergency room visit, an automobile
accident, something that’s happened to them. One of the greatest spiritual principles that
allows us to call our spirit back, is that of forgiveness. Now, forgiveness is one of
the most difficult spiritual practices. It’s learning to forgive, is really essential to
spiritual health. And it’s not just forgiving something that’s happened to you, it’s also
about forgiving yourself. This has actually been studied by Dr. Fred Luskin at Stanford
University. Forgivers have a feeling of peace that emerges. They take the hurt less personally.
I teach my patients you can become a hero in this story instead of a victim. It’s important
for our patients to remember that this is not about the offender. This is about taking
our power back. It’s about our own healing. It’s not about the person who hurt us. What
did the research show? The research showed that forgivers have decreased blood pressure.
Decreased muscle tension. Decreased heart rate. Fewer chronic illness. In essence, forgivers
are healthier because they’ve turned off the stress hormones. They have more optimism,
less anger, and less stress. So, forgiveness is powerful, powerful medicine.
The Buddha reminds us about service. The Buddha says, “The man whose mind is shaped by selfless
thoughts, gives joy when he speaks or acts.” So the concept of service, I asked my patients
what’s your purpose in life? People who help feel more energetic. They’re less depressed.
They have fewer aches and pains. MS patients who are trained to help other MS patients,
just by talking to them on the phone, feel less depressed, more self‑confident, more
self‑esteem. They feel better. It’s in giving, that we receive.
The concept of forgiveness, the concept of service. The last being, to use our words
impeccably. Miguel Ruiz said, in “The Four Agreements,” “Be impeccable with your word.”
Because when we have negative, hateful thoughts, when we’re thinking negative, we’re creating
negativity in our own body. Anger only makes us sick. I teach my patients, switch your
thoughts to positive thoughts, positive emotions. This decreases depression, relieves stress
hormones, helps us with our coping. Makes us more optimistic. How we use our words.
Switch from the negative again to the positive. This has a profound effect on our body.
Last, just the concept of gratitude. Emmons has studied gratitude at U.C. Davis. People
with gratitude feel better about their lives as a whole, and are much more optimistic.
People have more life satisfaction, more positive emotions, less depression and less stress.
So keep a gratitude journal. People have gratitude tend to be more generous, more helpful and
more appreciative of others in their life. More tolerant, more willing to be open. So
remember that perception is everything, and to be grateful.
So I just want to end with one thought. Which is we can’t change the world out there. We
can only change the world in here, whether it’s the breath, meditation, whether it’s
yoga, whether it’s prayer, whether it’s rosary or mantra. Remember to practice appreciation,
change our perception, and as this cartoon illustrates, “Is this great traffic or what?