Humans have acknowledged the connection between their physical well being to their state of mind. Feeling happy or sad, relaxed or stressed can mean the difference between a healthy and strong body or weak and sick one. The Eastern traditions of meditation and yoga are said to have physical, as well as mental, healing powers. If a connection exists between our body and mind, could our emotions be making us sick, and could a positive attitude truly heal? To help explain the connection, Dr. Phil joins The Doctors.
“It truly can,” Dr. Phil says. “When I went through my training, I did clinical psychology, but I also completed the core in behavioral medicine. Behavioral medicine is the science that studies the point in which your physiology and your psychology interact, where your body influences the way you think and feel, and the way you think and feel influences your body.
“There’s been a lot of study about this on the negative side,” Dr. Phil continues. “We know that if you have a lot of stress, we know that if you have a lot of problems with negative internal dialogue, depression, stress, that it impedes your body’s ability to heal wounds, for example. Your immune system is compromised. We know the negatives hurt you, and what we’re now starting to get is scientific evidence that positives actually help you.”
The medical profession is embracing the idea that positive interactions and thinking can help a person heal by using puppies for pet therapy and bringing people in to help patients laugh more, which is known to have a positive effect on a person’s health. “There’s no question about it,” Dr. Phil says. “There are basically three things that you need to do when you try to get to the positives. Number one, you need to create a positive expectation of your health and healing. People who expect to get better do get better, and part of it is because of the physiology that goes along with it, because every thought you have, there is a physiological corollary.
“Number two is that you have to have humor, friendship, you’ve got to have love,” he continues. “Go out and volunteer, give away what you wish you could get. And then third is to really believe in a higher power. I choose to call it God; you call it what you want.”
The brain’s pleasure zones are located in the frontal and temporal lobes, and are stimulated by electrical activity. In people who are depressed, however, very little electrical activity goes on in those zones. “You have a less-energized brain, and a less-energized brain means that you have a less-energized body,” Dr. Phil says.
“And the point being, there are so many things you can do besides immediately start taking Prozac, to bring that depressed brain back,” Dr. Ordon says. “Attitude, exercising, diet.”
While medication may work for some in the short term, Dr. Phil recommends a lifestyle change to help you feel better physically and mentally.
“My mother’s a good example, too,” he adds. “Seven years ago, she was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer, and they said that she had probably three to six months to live. She looked me in the eye, and she said, ‘Well, they say I’m going to die, but they’ve got their schedule, and I’ve got mine.’ And that’s the most positive woman I’ve ever seen. Seven years later, she’s cancer free. And I’m not saying she thought her way out of cancer. Don’t get me wrong. She did chemotherapy, but she had a positive attitude. She kept putting one foot in front of the other. She’s broken a wrist, both hips and had a total knee replacement, and she just keeps going!”
If you have a negative internal dialogue or negative expectancy for you health, Dr. Phil explains that your immune system can be compromised, and you may be more susceptible to infection. “You really can empower yourself, you really can enhance your health by thinking properly,” he says.
‘Explode With Happiness’
Talk-show host and best-selling author Montel Williams has famously battled multiple sclerosis and depression. His mindset became so negative that he even contemplated suicide. “I realized in that, through that journey, that, number one, I don’t have to live down to someone else’s expectations of me,” he says. “When they hung the moniker on me and said, ‘Montel, you’re depressed,’ I walked around like it was a badge of courage, you know, 'I’m depressed.' All my friends would go, ‘You feeling OK today? You feeling OK today?’ So you get all those pats on the back, and you think you feel good, but guess what. You don’t need the pats on the back. You need to focus yourself and make sure you understand that.
“In every given hour, seven out of 10 of your thoughts are negative thoughts,” Montel says. “It’s part of our protective mechanism. It keeps us from getting run over by a car. But the truth of the matter is you can impact those seven negative thoughts and make them positive. Just enjoy the times that you cry! It’s OK let it out! Enjoy the times that you’re happy. Explode with happiness. We can do that; you can do that every second of the day.”
Living with Dystonia
Imagine having constant muscle spasms and not being able to stop your body from shaking uncontrollably. Alex, 27, has lived with this debilitating feeling since she was diagnosed with dystonia in 2007.
Dystonia is a neurological movement disorder that causes the muscles to contract and spasm involuntarily. The contractions force the body into repetitive and often twisting movements as well as awkward, irregular postures. Presently, there is no cure, but multiple treatment options exist, including physical, speech and voice therapy, medications, Botox and surgery.
“I am in the worst pain all the time,” Alex says. “I have my bad days, where I wish I was dead.”
Alex is so bothered by people staring at her when she shakes that she rarely leaves her house. “I can’t live like a normal girl,” she says. “I can’t go shopping because I’ll break down in the store. It’s too tiring for me to even attempt to put on makeup or attempt to throw an outfit together. This has just robbed me of everything and it hurts every day.”
“I just don’t want people staring at me like I’m a monster,” she says through tears. “I’m not. You’re looking at me in a dirty way, and it hurts. I just would rather have people have the guts to just come up and, you know, [ask] ‘What’s wrong? Are you having a bad day? Do you need some help?’ I would rather them do that than just stare at me.”
After giving her inspirational advice, Montel takes Alex out in public for the first time in nearly six months. “I felt so comfortable with Montel being by my side,” Alex says. “It made me feel so much better that I had someone who knows what I’m going through.
“I’m in pain 24 hours a day,” he continues. “But guess what. I can wallow in my bed and cry and say, ‘Oh, woe is me,’ or I could realize that OK, Montel, it hurt that way yesterday. It didn’t hurt that way this morning, so if it didn’t hurt that way this morning that means that I can impact this.
“This is when we need our immune systems to be the highest they can be,” Dr. Jim adds.
The swine flu has caused much concern around the world. The World Health Organization has elevated the global swine flu outbreak to a Phase 5 pandemic alert. In addition to taking regular precautions, staying positive and avoiding panic is just as important. “The more scared we are, the more likely we are, if we get infected, to have a bad outcome,” Dr. Travis says.