White Tara Talks Health

by Tara Hearne ND (BA Soc.Sci, Adv. Dip Nat, Dip. Nut.) www.tarahearne.com.au

Tara, a Naturopath, is the 10thousandgirl holistic health blogger, otherwise known as “White Tara” – with her emphasis on compassion, health, strength and longevity. The White Tara blog explores the science of health and the mind.

Have you ever asked yourself- what am I here to achieve? What is my purpose in life? I once dated a guy who asked me, “What makes you tick?” I panicked a bit and thought what does he want me to say? I have spent most of my life conforming to what others expect of me or what I thought they expected.

I went to a prestigious university and obtained a degree because that was what was expected of me. It wasn’t until I reached the ripe old age of 29 I realized I was unhappy with my life. I was constantly stressed out and run-down.

I was in a career I wasn’t passionate about and also dating a guy I wasn’t passionate about. I believed (or society made me believe) I was better off with a man in my life, than on my own.

I faced my fears, left the man, left the job, moved interstate and started all over again. This created different stressors in my life, but it didn’t matter as I was happy and healthy. Stress will always be present; it’s how we cope with it that counts.

I believe if you follow your hearts desires and listen to your natural instincts, you will be on track to following your life path. This in turn will make you happy and healthy. This idea has been discussed at length by Dr Edward Bach: founder of the famous ‘Rescue Remedy.’ Dr Bach believed illness is a result of a contradiction between the purposes of the soul and the personality’s point of view. I believe this also works in the reverse… it is difficult to be happy if you are not healthy.

Scientific research supports my view that if you are happy, you are more likely to be healthy. A 2006 study conducted by S Cohen, Ph.D. and colleagues, in Pittsburgh showed happy people resist colds and flus better than ‘unhappy’ people. Cohen’s team concluded: “We need to take more seriously the possibility that positive emotional style is a major player in disease risk”. [1]

A 10-year study by Dr K Davidson and colleagues from the Columbia University Medical Center in New York, suggests happiness is linked to a healthy heart. Dr Davidson says the study shows a positive attitude reduces the risk of heart disease by 22 per cent. “When someone is satisfied, content, feeling pleasure and enjoyment in the activity that they’re doing, they have what is called a relaxation response. Their stress hormones go down, their blood pressure goes down, their heart rate slows.” [2]

New Scientist magazine printed an article in April 2005 titled; ‘Happiness helps people stay healthy.’ The article reported on a piece of research from the ‘Whitehall II” study in the UK. As part of the study, saliva samples were taken from subjects during one working day and one leisure day to test their levels of the stress hormone cortisol. The tests showed the happier a person was, the lower their levels of cortisol. Also, happy men, not women, showed lower heart rates.  Happy individuals also tested lower for fibrinogen; a protein which makes platelets more “sticky”. [3]

Chronic high cortisol levels can have dire consequences on the body. High levels over time are linked to diabetes II, hypertension, & depression. If you are interested in having your cortisol levels tested, speak with your GP or Naturopath.

Ellen Mason, Senior Cardiac Nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said: “This research suggested that those who naturally had a ‘glass half-full’ mood seemed to be most protected from disease.” [4]

So, if being happy is linked to good health – what is the opposite effect?

Stress has a number of negative effects on our bodies. The stress hormone adrenalin has been shown to cause platelets to become stickier, which over time causes plaques to form in arteries, which can lead to stroke and heart attacks. Stress has been shown in numerous studies to lower the immune system leaving a person more susceptible to infection. Stress has also been shown to increase cholesterol levels, which once again increases the chance of heart disease. It also can lead to insomnia, which increases the presence of the appetite hormone ghrelin in the body, which can lead to obesity.

The scientific research is reiterated time and again with anecdotal stories. My friend Katrina was fast approaching 30 when she started to suffer from recurring bouts of tonsillitis. “One bout was so bad I was in bed for a week, feverish and lost three kilos,” she says. After numerous courses of antibiotics, Katrina sought the advice of a naturopath, who suggested the tonsillitis was her body’s way of expressing her frustrations with where she was in life, as opposed to where she expected herself to be.

Katrina said: “I realised it was because 30 had seemed so ‘old’ when I was young and so it had subconsciously been the age at which I would have conquered the world and become a publisher”. Crying every lunch time at work, also made her realise the actual job she was in at that time wasn’t ‘in-tune’ with where she wanted to be heading in life.

In summary, when you’re following your life path, your body will be under less stress and therefore produce less stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenalin. You will feel happier, content, relaxed and at ease with life.

A good technique to finding your joie de vivre, is to remember what you loved to do as a child. Research has shown that happy people get fewer colds and flu’s, heart disease, depression, diabetes and hypertension.

So come on, get happy!

What do you think? Is our life path pre-determined? Is it all a matter of destiny? Do we get ill when we are going against this pre-determined destiny? Do you have a story of ill health from being unhappy and how did you change?

1) http://www.psychosomaticmedicine.org/cgi/content/full/68/6/809
2) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20164244
3) http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn7282
4) http://www.bhf.org.uk/default.aspx?page=11488

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