The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Christiane Northrup, MD Headshot

Get Well, Be Well, And Stay Well

Posted: Updated:

People often ask, "How can we become healthy in our current society?" If you want to get well, be well, and stay well, you must look to the very source of your health -- your consciousness. Your consciousness is the wellspring of beliefs, behaviors, and emotions that set the stage for your state of health or disease in the first place.

Today, the science of the mind-body connection, or psychoneuroimmunology, can explain how emotions are associated with physical changes in the body. Our perceptions -- how we interpret events in our lives -- change stress hormone levels of cortisol, epinephrine, and norepinephrine. Chronic fear, resentment, sorrow, and depression raise stress hormone levels. When these levels remain elevated, insulin increases and causes the release of inflammatory hormones known as cytokines and leukotrienes. This leads to inflammation at the cellular level, a state that is associated with obesity, diabetes, osteoporosis, cancer, and cardiovascular disease.

The Law of Attraction

"Thoughts have the peculiar quality of becoming their physical equivalents," said Napoleon Hill, author of Think and Grow Rich. This is the essence of the universal principle called the Law of Attraction -- what you think about the most, with the highest degree of emotional intensity, is what you attract into your life. The Law of Attraction works like this: Your thoughts and beliefs lead to emotions, and these emotions drive your behavior. Ultimately, these thoughts and emotions cause their physical equivalents to manifest in your life and your body. This happens because your consciousness programs your autonomic nervous system to carry out your beliefs on a physical level.

If you think about leading an active, healthy life, then this is what's most likely to become a reality for you. Drawing on this knowledge is one of the most profound and effective ways to change your life for the better.

What Shapes our Beliefs?

Our thoughts and beliefs are heavily influenced by our childhood. Studies indicate that by the age of ten, our conditioning about health and disease is already in place. This conditioning is then shaped by what we say to ourselves. And this is heavily influenced by what are known as "memes." A meme is a contagious idea that replicates like a virus, passing from mind to mind. It's a self-propagating unit of cultural evolution that's accepted without critical evaluation. The media is our primary source of meme distribution.

A New Mantra: Happy, Healthy...Dead

Health is our natural state. It begins in our spiritual body, proceeds to our mental and emotional bodies, and then manifests physically. Despite the current practices of the mainstream medical community, it's quite possible to be healthy in your 80s and 90s without relying on prescription drugs or significant intervention by your physician.

Negative stereotypes about aging may shorten your life and influence your will to live. A study conducted by Becca Levy, Ph.D., at Yale University's Department of Epidemiology and Public Health found that older people with more positive self-perceptions of aging lived an average of 7.5 years longer than those with less positive self-perceptions of aging, even after other factors were taken into account, including age, gender, socioeconomic status, loneliness, and overall health. The study found that unconscious childhood beliefs, for example: "When you get old, you're worthless," had a profound effect on the physical body and overall survival rates.

The study concluded that "the effect of more positive self-perceptions of aging on survival is greater than the physiological measures of low systolic blood pressure and cholesterol, each of which is associated with a longer life span of four years or less. It's also greater than the independent contributions of lower body mass index, no history of smoking, and a tendency to exercise -- factors that have been found to add one to three years to your life." My family strongly believes that we can and will be healthy until we die.

Jerry and Esther Hicks, authors who present the leading-edge Abraham-Hicks teachings on the art of allowing our natural, share this saying: "Happy, healthy...dead." It makes a great mantra, and it's a way to counteract our cultural belief that we can't die without being hooked up to life-support machines first!

Self-Esteem Enhances Health

Thoughts and beliefs that support self-love, self-trust, and self-worth enhance health and well-being, and the lifestyle behaviors that support them. Without self-love, you can't expect to renounce destructive behaviors and beliefs and replace them with better, healthier choices.
Self-appreciation is the foundation upon which health is built. Be grateful for your body, regardless of your current state of health.

Also understand the difference between chronologic and biologic age. Chronologic age is the age on your driver's license. Biologic age is the age of your cells. You can be 70 years old and have a biologic age of 35. Joseph Pilates, the founder of the popular Pilates exercises for core strength and lifetime flexibility, died in a fire at the age of 86. He had the body of a 40-year-old man in his prime. Actually, he looked a lot better than many 40-year-olds.

Care for Your Body

We are souls who temporarily inhabit bodies that we're meant to take care of. It's part of living on Earth. Caring for your body is your responsibility, not your doctor's, your spouse's, or your mother's. In her wonderful book The Keys of Jeshua, Glenda Green writes: "Responsibility is the steering wheel of personal autonomy and freedom." You'll feel and be free only to the degree that you're willing to take responsibility for your own life and your own body. After all, if you don't take care of your body, where are you going to live?
My basic principles for physical self-care are outlined briefly below. The advice is simple, but I know it's not always easy.

1. Watch your diet.

Our bodies were designed to work best on a diet of whole, natural food. Although each of us has some leeway with that, you'll notice that, over time, your body will be far less forgiving of a junk-food diet than it was when you were in your teens. This isn't because you're getting older, it's because your body wisdom is saying, "Enough is enough!"

2. Take a good nutritional supplement every day.

The research of Dr. Bruce Ames, professor of toxicology at U.C. Berkeley, has demonstrated that "a deficiency in any of the micronutrients folic acid, vitamin B-12, vitamin B-6, niacin, vitamin C, vitamin E, iron, or zinc, mimics radiation and chemicals in damaging DNA by causing single- and double-strand breaks, oxidative lesions, or both." As a matter of fact, the damage that your system will endure from a nutrient deficiency is hundreds of times greater than any damage caused by radiation or chemicals.

3. Drink enough water.

Most people don't drink enough water and as a result experience "thirst pains," such as headaches, muscle aches, back pain, heartburn, colitis, constipation, and even heart pain. Water carries oxygen and nutrition throughout the body and also helps rid the body of waste.

4. Exercise regularly.

Exercise benefits every part of the body. Exercising for 20 minutes has beneficial effects on the body that last for at least 22 hours. These include better blood-vessel function, a healthier heartbeat, and normal blood pressure. Research has shown that women who exercise for one hour, four times per week -- in addition to maintaining their desired weight and protecting their heart -- have a 30 percent lower risk of breast cancer than women who don't exercise.

5. Get plenty of sleep.

Getting about eight hours of sleep per night is an important component of a healthful lifestyle and should not be considered a luxury. Habitual sleep deprivation results in hypertension, the activation of the sympathetic (fight-or-flight) nervous system, the impairment of glucose control, and increased inflammation throughout the body.

6. Get regular exposure to sunlight.

Sunlight increases serotonin levels naturally and boosts your mood. It also raises vitamin D levels and immunity naturally, thus reducing the risk of osteoporosis, and bowel and breast cancer. I recommend daily sun exposure in the early morning or early evening when UV rays are less potent. A three- to ten-minute sunbath is all you need, depending on skin type and previous exposure. Be sure to get what's called a pre-erythema dose, which means "get out of the sun before your skin gets red!" Vitamin D supplementation can also be a way to get your vitamin D.

7. Breathe fully through your nose.

Breath inhaled through the nose goes right to the lungs, stimulating the vagus nerve, which is the main nerve of the parasympathetic, or rest-and-restore nervous system. That's why you can instantly feel better by taking deep breaths through the nose. On the other hand, mouth breathing is a stress response that gives the body the idea that there's an emergency and stimulates the sympathetic, or fight-or-flight nervous system.

Take Action!

If you're not doing anything to maintain or improve your health, you and your body will become stagnant. We all know someone who keeps complaining about their circumstances but isn't willing to do anything about it. Well, that's exactly what makes you and your body old and unhealthy -- stagnant thoughts, stagnant behaviors, and stagnant relationships! There are many reasons for being stuck -- some of them even legitimate -- but only by taking action can we make the necessary changes in our lives.

Waiting for the perfect time, a time when you've got all the answers, is just not realistic. You can connect to your own source of healing energy today by being willing to bravely and compassionately enter the unhealed places in your own heart. When you're on intimate terms with your own pain and suffering and have made a commitment to heal them, you have far less difficulty keeping your heart open to others. And your very presence becomes part of the solution.

Acknowledge the Presence of Mystery

You have the power to get well and stay well right now -- regardless of what's happening in your life. Get in touch with your source energy. It's the same force that is wellness. At times you may have to be brought to your knees to surrender to this power. But that's what it's all about. That's also why it's not uncommon to hear someone say, "Getting cancer was the best thing that ever happened to me. As a result, I opened my heart, changed my job, and I'm now more fulfilled and happy than I have ever been."

Acknowledge the presence of mystery and the unknown. The Great Physician said it best: "Ask and ye shall receive. Knock and the door shall be opened to you." But you have to walk up to the door and you have to knock. And then you have to walk through the door once it's open. Have the courage to get well, be well, and stay well, because in doing so, you're transforming the world one person at a time.

REFERENCES:
1. Ames, B., 2001. DMA damage from micronutrient deficiencies is likely to be a major cause of cancer, Elsevier Science, B.V., Mutation Research 475:7-20.
2. Levy, B. R., et. al., 2002. Longevity increased by positive self-perceptions of aging, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol. 83, No. 2