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Environmental factors in creative function.

The Role of the Mind in Health

Good health is one of the greatest assets we have in life, for without it our future is uncertain. The mind plays a key role in promoting good health. If your health is impaired, through an accident or illness, your life may become limited. Some of the new problems you may face will be physical, economic, social, emotional, or psychological.

Recently, there has been a shift in the philosophy of health care to a more “holistic” way of medical care, as suggested by Plato a few thousand years ago. We can’t separate the mental from the physical because they are related as part of the whole person. Being a health care provider is like being a juggler trying to balance many balls—the medical, physical, environmental, psychological, and nutritional—in an attempt to keep the heart, brain, and body healthy. Many authorities feel that 50–80 percent of illnesses are stress related, including high blood pressure, colds, depression, and certain skin diseases. Certainly, facing continued ill health can be stressful.

Research at the University of Utah evaluated the role of stress during a recent economic depression. The rate of fatal strokes and heart attacks was higher than predicted. Continuing studies are looking at how stress relates to a decrease in the function of the immune system. If a direct link is found, an immune defect could precede many diseases. There is a relationship between anger, stress, and disease. One of the secrets of good health and longevity is knowing how to control stress.  

We have known for more than two thousand years that there is a relationship between the mind, the body, and one’s health. It is an accepted fact that attitude and the will to live can, in part, determine one’s future. How one accepts and deals with adversity or controls stress and anger reflects one’s coping skills.

Norman Cousins found a way to use humor to cope with his incapacitating arthritis, fight his way back to good health, and increase his longevity. When told by doctors that his health would never improve—that he would be bedridden and either in pain or so drugged that he wouldn’t know what was going on around him—Cousins rebelled. He obtained every Marx brothers, Three Stooges, and other comedy tapes that he could lay his hands on, and watched them continuously. He found that laughing made his pain go away without the debilitating drugs. After some weeks of taking his own “cure,” he could move without pain. Then he could walk. His self-treatment is living proof that “laughter is the best medicine.”