SPIRITUAL IMMUNITY – COVID 19 – A MENTAL HEALTH RESPONSE (PART 3)

SPIRITUAL IMMUNITY – COVID 19 – A MENTAL HEALTH RESPONSE (PART 3)

We are in serious danger of facilitating an epidemic of the worst mental health int the history of humanity. There is already much evidence of an increase in depression, conflict and domestic violence, as the pressure of lockdown begins to take its toll around the world.  If we are to prevent a significant rise in poor mental health leading to another pandemic following swiftly on the heels of COVID 19, then what we need to do is build our spiritual immunity. 

In the previous articles, I focused on the body’s immunity, which is absolutely essential if we are to get through this in the best way.  But as I’ve equally made clear, focusing on the body to the exclusion of the mind is like expecting a bird to soar with only one wing.

First of all, when considering our spiritual immunity, it’s important that I define what I mean by spiritual.  In this context, I’m not using spiritual with any religious connotation, because I believe such matters of faith are best left to each individual to work out for themselves.

Spiritual in this context, is about how you feel at your core, what is the truth about how you feel inside.  One of the best ways to conceptualise this is to ask yourself these two questions;  ‘who are you when no one is looking?’ and… ‘how do you really feel about yourself when you’re not performing to an audience?’

You’ll find that the answers to these questions will give you a more accurate assessment of how you really feel about yourself and from my experience there are many who when undertaking this soul searching discover they are not really content with what they find.  Why is this important now?

Well, the answer is simple, as explained in the two previous articles, our thoughts, feelings and beliefs influence our genetic and biological systems even more than diet and nutrition, pollution and other lifestyle factors. Therefore, if we are preoccupied with meeting our physical needs, but are not fortifying our minds and improving how we feel about ourselves, then we remain vulnerable to the demands and challenges of life.  So what is spiritual immunity?

 

Essentially, SPIRITUAL IMMUNITY it is about personal enrichment – positively enhancing how you feel about yourself.  It’s turning your mind into a sanctuary, a place you really want to be.


Listed below are eight critical components that are needed to create your personal peace palace, your safe haven.

  1. Safety

I have talked a lot about the effects of fear, discussing how the amygdala (responsible for our emotional responses) hijacks the brain, shutting down the neocortex, which robs us of our common sense and the ability to make the best judgements.  At this point the sympathetic nervous system is activated, which takes us into the fight, flight or freeze responses.  Energy is withdrawn from non-essential tasks as the body moves into survival mode.


The parasympathetic nervous system, which is the other part of the autonomic nervous system and is responsible for the ‘rest, relax and digest’ functions, is disengaged.  This creates a state of hypervigilance where we are ready to act/react to any threat, real or perceived.  This is a simplified summary of quite a sophisticated sequence of events.  But the bottom line is, stress, anxiety and fear cause the system to shut down and nothing grows or flourishes under these conditions.  The longer we remain in a state of hypervigilance, being on red alert, the more toxic consequences there are for mind and body.


The best way to switch off this response is to find ways to create a feeling of safety.  Obviously one needs to feel safe in one’s own space but even if your physical safety is intact, if your mind is being terrorised, you will not feel safe.  So, the mind is critical in this equation.

Things that help include: reading positive, uplifting material and mastering the art of breathing, which helps to cultivate feelings of internal safety and security.  Creative visualisation, where we use the mind to create positive scenarios that help us to relax and foster feelings of hope, is another invaluable tool for washing the mind and creating a sanctuary.

 

  1. Listening in

If you are to honestly answer the question above which would give you a good internal reading of how you truly feel, then you will need to really listen to what’s going on inside of you.  This isn’t an intellectual exercise, it’s an emotional one.  It’s important to feel your way to the answers.  Logic is wonderfully useful in sorting out problems, but it can also get in the way of finding solutions, with its insistence that it’s always right.

Loosely speaking, about half of the brain is bound up with logic (left hemisphere) and all its related activities and functions.  The other half of the brain is preoccupied with the emotional aspects of our existence (right hemisphere).  We make the best decisions when we are informed by both.  For this to be the case we need to find some time, preferably daily, to consult with our inner world.  This is vital to the development of the emotional aspects of the self.  Good mental health is where neither hemisphere dominates, allowing us to become ‘whole brain thinkers’.

Find some time to ‘listen in’ each day and your internal world will be strengthened.

  1. Forgiveness

Forgiveness is a complicated subject, too big to tackle here.  What’s relevant to our theme however, is until we forgive ourselves for our mistakes our minds can be troublesome places… at their worst, even hell.

Self-forgiveness is not about letting oneself off the hook nor it is offering justification for one’s wrong doing.  It is the realisation that one can never become a better version of oneself whilst shackled to the mistakes of the past.  Forgiveness is like soap; it clears and cleans the mind and helps heal the body.

Once we have forgiven ourselves, we have a greater capacity to forgive others, which for many of us is not an easy thing to do.  However, forgiving someone else frees your own spirit, because the lack of forgiveness blocks the mind and heart with resentment, anger and even hatred. This in turn weakens your spiritual immunity and it denies you healing and growth. 

  1. Self-validation

As you read this ‘mental health response’ series you will see there is an emphasis we keep placing on certain activities, such as: exercising, making time to pamper yourself, enjoying music and dance, connecting with loved ones, getting deep restorative sleep and where you can, pursuing things you love.  Humour and laughter are crucial pieces of the jigsaw too.

Positive self-talk is a central character in this community of self-nurturing activities. Ultimately you become what you believe about yourself.  Find ways to change your inner dialogue with yourself.  It’s critical for your spiritual well-being to have a flow of kind, generous, self-validating thoughts. 

  1. Gratitude

The grateful mind has no room for complaint.  The more you can create a grateful mind, the more you build your physical immunity, through the brain and central nervous system.  The joy of the mind also enhances your spiritual immunity i.e. how you feel about yourself.
 

The easiest way to build a grateful mind is through the power of thank you.  The more we complain the more we will find to complain about.  The more we give thanks the more positive things come our way.

Start by giving thanks for those aspects of your life you most take for granted.  We all have ‘things’ that we’ve got so used to that the true value of them now passes us by.  It might be a person, an opportunity, an experience, material things that are now easily accessible.  The more you look at your life the more you will find such examples.

When you turn your attention to being grateful, your life becomes richer, your perspective changes and your relationships improve. 

 

  1. Knowledge plus application = personal empowerment

Knowledge takes you to the door of understanding but it’s only courage and application that will get you through that door.  It really doesn’t matter what you know, it’s what you do with what you know that counts.  As the French proverb says, the road to hell is paved with good intentions, so it’s not sufficient to plan to do something, we actually have to follow through in order to enjoy the fruit of that intention.

In order to create a safe sanctuary which immunises you against the roller coaster of internal and external events, then you have to take what you know and believe, and put it into practice in your life.  This is the surest way to reach your desired destination.

So, whatever your beliefs, find ways to actualise them in your life.  Living in this way is such a wonderful, uplifting and liberating pastime. 

  1. Meaning and purpose

Awareness around mental health difficulties was increasing before COVID 19 and as a result a concerted effort was being made in developed countries to prioritise our need to talk about our troubles and challenges.

This need has not gone away because our attention is now on coronavirus – because for many the problem is now more acute.  So, where you can, talk and connect with those who can help.

A lack of meaning and purpose has been identified by the World Health Organisation as one of the key factors in the rise of mental health problems around the world.  With the current pandemic, many feel that they have lost a sense of direction and reason for being.  Even if that is how it currently feels for you, try your best not to sit in that feeling for too long because it will eat away at your well-being.

Find other ways to connect with your own innate value and how you can best use your energy, time and resources.  It’s important to state that one does not need to engage in grand, overt gestures to find meaning and purpose.  There are many ways we can ignite our spirits.

Sit, reflect and make a plan… it’s worth underlining that miracles are made.  So, don’t sit waiting for one, go and create your own.

 

  1. Acts of charity

Everybody wins in a charitable world.  The evidence around kindness and compassion is overwhelming.  The giver, the receiver and even the observer of an act of charity, all benefit.  There are biochemical benefits such as the release of oxytocin, serotonin and dopamine, all of which elevate the mood.

Added to this, the brain creates those wonderful neural pathways, which are reinforced with every act of kindness. Remember, neurons that fire together, wire together.

For no reason at all, perform at least one act of kindness each day and you will immunise yourself against life’s insults. 


 

Each of these points is powerful and can stand alone, but when combined, they create a resilience that will protect you.  Spiritual immunity is not about a life free from problems, it’s about having the right consciousness and response to those problems.

Stay safe, stay strong, stay well ❤️

 

 

 

 

 

COVID 19 – A MENTAL HEALTH RESPONSE (PART 2)

COVID 19 – A MENTAL HEALTH RESPONSE (PART 2)

Focusing on a mental health response to COVID 19, is not about being irresponsible and ignoring the government advice/directives; it’s about understanding that mental health is every bit as important as physical health.

If we forget to look after our minds, the longer we are in lockdown, the more our mental health will be impacted.  In order to prevent the negative consequences of forgetting to look after our minds, we need to make our minds fortresses of peace.

Therefore, it’s important that we support and sustain our emotional and psychological well-being – whilst acting responsibly and within the guidelines laid out, applying the exemptions with conscience and care.

In this article I want to underline the fact that we are not powerless in this situation, as long as we call on our greatest resource, our minds – and to do that it would help to understand the enormous capacity of our thoughts and feelings; and how alongside our beliefs they are the biggest factors in keeping us safe and mentally strong.

Before outlining what would help you to create a fortress of peace, it would be useful to understand some of the mechanics of the mind and its intimate relationship with the body.

The epigenetic revolution has been changing our long-held view of genetic determinism, which is the idea that the genetic code we are born with essentially decides our fate. Epigenetics means, ‘above our genes’.  This discipline has enabled us to understand that although we are born with a set of genetic predispositions, we are not entirely defined by those factors and can in fact influence gene expression.

The term epigenetics was first coined in 1942 by Conrad H. Waddington, who was a developmental biologist and geneticist.  His work laid a valuable foundation for the discipline – but epigenetics really began to achieve respectability in the mid 1970s.  It’s since the turn of the century that there has been a significant surge in research and copious amounts of data overturning the belief that genes simply ‘act out’ in accordance with our familial inheritances, causing our cells to perform their functions within the limitations of those parameters.  However, a new paradigm has emerged highlighting the fact that there are other factors impacting on gene expression – these include diet/nutrition, stress,  relationship and social factors, environmental pollutants and behaviour.

Over the last 40 years it has become clear that it’s the environment that is pivotal in the way genes express themselves – to be even more precise it’s our perception of the environment that arguably has the single greatest influence.  In other words, our thoughts, feelings and beliefs (the way we see ourselves and the world), are the factors that most influence our biological activities and our experience of reality.

Understanding the power that our thoughts, feelings and beliefs have to shape our world view and experiences is highly relevant given the current crisis that is consuming the globe. Increasing numbers of individuals are having an acute emotional and psychological response – and if this is left unchecked these feelings of anxiety, worry and fear will become chronic, leading to a range of negative consequences both physical and mental. Epigenetics has shown us that we can then become victims not only to the vast array of environmental insults but also to those genetic inheritances and frailties we are born with.

It’s important for balance to say that epigenetics has not only helped us to understand that genes can be switched on by our environment and our beliefs about the environment, but they can also be switched off.  So, we are not victims in this story unless of course we allow ourselves to be.

The science of sychoneuroimmunology (PNI) since its birth in 1975, has also been informing our understanding, about the impact our thoughts and feelings have on the central nervous system and immune system.  It was Dr. Robert Ader, psychologist and professor of psychiatry, who first made the connection between brain, behaviour and immunity.  This discipline has developed significantly in the last 25 years, exploring further how our beliefs and perceptions affect our mental health, which in turn impacts on our physiology.  Topics that have been explored at some depth include how we are affected by: bereavement, physical health challenges, the ageing process, familial issues and conflicts and a range of other lifestyle factors.

Both epigenetics and PNI have provided us with enormous insight, giving us access to hope and personal power, which at a time like this is so precious.

 

 ‘Washing your mind as well as your hands’ isn’t a clever play on words, it’s an important invitation to improve your mental hygiene.  Any negative self-talk at this time simply isn’t helpful.

One final piece in this jigsaw of the mind is cognitive neuroscience. The origins of this discipline can be traced back to the 1950s, but the term cognitive neuroscience was coined by psychologists Michael Gazzaniga and George Armitage Miller in 1976. It is from this point that neuroscience and psychology became complimentary in an attempt to further unravel the secrets of our souls.

Cognitive neuroscience has added to the abundance of evidence supporting the premise that we can make ourselves anew.  This has helped the neuroplasticity revolution, which has proven that our brains are not machines, static organs, mindlessly performing a myriad of electrochemical reactions.  Our brains are full of infinite possibilities, they can repair, heal, rewire, adapt and change in a multitude of ways.

There are 100 billion neurons in the human brain and each neuron can be connected to up to 200,000 other neurons via the dendrites (tree like structures) that facilitate the communication between neurons.  It’s these dendrites that sprout when we learn something new, creating a new pathway of knowledge and experience or reinforcing an existing pathway.  These neural pathways become the basis of all behaviour.  The more they are reinforced the more we habitually act in accordance with those templates.  This has been summarised by many neuroscientists as:  ‘neurons that fire together wire together’ and ‘neurons not in sync, do not link’.  A process that is known as synaptogenesis.

What relevance does this have to what we’re going through now?

Well, put simply, if our neurons are firing in a state of fear and being linked together in this way, then a variety of neurochemicals are produced, which affect our physical bodies in detrimental ways.  Neural pathways are created hardwiring these negative changes into our brains, which make it easier for us to maintain that pattern of thinking and harmful beliefs are formed as a result.

The opposite is also true.  If our neurons are firing together around positive thoughts, feelings of peace and contentment, the neurochemicals and hormones that are created, protect us from our genetic weakness. Positive beliefs are then hardwired into our brains and our self-image is strengthened, so too are our immune systems – as a result we are fortified against those environmental factors that would cause us harm.  Neuroplasticity tells us we each have the extraordinary capacity to learn, unlearn and relearn.

This is why it is critical to create a culture of positive self-talk because the cutting-edge sciences which include epigenetics, PNI and cognitive neuroscience, make it clear that our most underused (and misused) and incredibly precious resource is our minds.

If we simply react to the events around us as if we are powerless, then that perception of the environment will lead us down an undesirable path, where our thoughts change our brain chemistry, our brain chemistry pollutes our bodies and internal organs and systems, then we experience the negative consequences of that as pain, trauma or illness.  This in turn maintains the belief and the feeling that we are weak and powerless.

This simply isn’t the case but to claim that power it’s imperative to understand that it actually resides within you – and can only be activated by things that make you feel good about yourself at your core.  This needs to become a healthy obsession.

I’ve already suggested a number of activities that can help you to change how you feel and improve your emotional and psychological resilience, such as: meditation, mindfulness, LKM, dancing, singing, exercise, pampering, finding things that make you laugh and listening to and watching them as part of your daily self-medication.  Creating order in your space also helps with these feelings of elation – it’s important to make your personal space a sanctuary, somewhere where you can truly nurture yourself.

Self-care is the key to good and stable mental health, so make it a priority.

Here’s a simple exercise you can try to create some conscious synaptogenesis – getting those neurons to fire and wire together:

 

I am a self-healing organism, my body naturally keeps me safe and well.

My brain produces copious amounts of healing hormones which are distributed throughout my body creating health and well-being…

I’m full of peace and positive energy and as a result my genes express themselves beautifully… instructing my cells to perform every function exactly as needed…

 

I’m full of love and hope which enables my immune system to performs incredible miracles every day
 

I choose to accept and love myself… and to forgive myself…

 

I choose love over fear.

 

I  learn from my mistakes with kind eyes.

I think of those I love and respect and wish them all that they need on the road ahead…

One of the most effective ways of consuming these affirmations – and creating a new script that will get your neurons to fire and wire together – is to record them.  When we listen to affirmations in our own voice, although we might initially meet some resistance, this is the voice that your brain and unconscious mind most recognise.  It has the greatest influence on changing the geography of your mind.

If you choose to make a recording, don’t hurriedly say each affirmation, say it in a calm, relaxed way and before moving onto the next affirmation, leave enough space to repeat it in your mind – then move on to the next one… and repeat the process.

When you’ve completed the sequence, start at the beginning and go through the whole list again.  You can even do this a third time… and you’ll end up with a recording, dependent on your pace, somewhere between 6 and 10 minutes long.

Then listen to this meditative piece at least once a day, when going for a walk, whilst having a bath, or when having a moment to yourself.

If this does not appeal to you, you could write the sequence down several times – writing each affirmation three times is a good guide.  Writing is another powerful way to imbibe these messages. Performing either of these tasks daily will prove empowering as you create those neural pathways that will set up new traits, which will become habits, then patterns and drivers, leading to a natural state of positive thinking.  As you strengthen the new neural networks, the old negative ones become redundant and the internal balance of power shifts in your favour.

Fear disables, dismantles and disempowers – and love repairs, heals and uplifts our spirits.

WASH YOUR MIND – COVID 19 – A MENTAL HEALTH RESPONSE (PART 1)

WASH YOUR MIND – COVID 19 – A MENTAL HEALTH RESPONSE (PART 1)

 Wash Your Mind As Well As Your Hands

Yes, COVID 19 is a problem but it’s important to address the issue more holistically than is currently being done by the media and world governments.  A much more complete mind-body response is needed – one that addresses the truth of the human condition.

The mind is no less important than the body

The language used in the media is usually very good at creating a culture of fear and in this instance we can throw hysteria into the mix where people are literally breaking down with anxiety.  Many are sliding down a slippery slope of despair or depression. I’ve seen my enquiries quadruple with people who are contacting me with the intention of working on general positivity and stability but are not coping well.

Yes we need to follow the mainstream advice on how to protect ourselves from infection in terms of physically washing our hands and keeping our distance.  But we also need to be taking into account the truth of the our biology.   We’ve been given a lot of scientific data supporting how best to stop the spread of COVID 19, but what we haven’t been given enough of is the important science backed information required to maintain good mental health.

The well-established science of psychoneuroimmunology (PNI) has proved to us over 40+ years how thoughts impact on our central nervous systems and then our immune systems.

In this post we won’t get too bogged down with the science of it, however, since it is essential to understand that anxiety, worry and fear are extremely harmful to our biological systems. Here’s a brief overview:

Once the fear kicks in, the amygdala – a key region in the brain bound up with our emotional responses – can shut down our capacity to reason.  This is often described as the amygdala hijack.  What happens is the amygdala undermines the neocortex – a region in the brain responsible for making rational decisions.

When the amygdala is in control, our ability to think clearly is severely diminished as we come under the influence of the flight, fight and freeze response, which is handled by the central nervous system (CNS).   The parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for the ‘rest and digest’ response and under these conditions it is switched off, as the sympathetic nervous system responsible for fight, flight and freeze is activated.

We are only designed to spend short periods of time in flight, fight and freeze- when fear is an appropriate response.  But when we spend extended periods of time in hypervigilance, the neurochemicals created under those circumstances such as cortisol, adrenaline and adrenachrome are produced at a rate and in quantities that are undermining the human system as a whole and particularly our immune systems.

Put simply, overexposure to fear, anxiety and worry weakens our immune system.  So language that generates panic and hysteria is actually the worst thing for our minds, brains and bodies because we should be fortifying our immune systems and anything positive and uplifting will help us to do just that.

The mind is no less important than the body!

There is little point focusing on washing our hands frenetically, if we’re not also washing our minds simultaneously.

If we can take control of our mental health we will in fact find it’s our greatest resource.  

 

So here’s the advice from a holistic medicine perspective:

1. Still time to quiet the mind

Practise some kind of meditation, relaxation, guided visualisation or mindfulness every day, for 10 – 15 minutes. Loving kindness meditation (LKM) is a good and simple one that most can do with no prior training. Your brain is flooded with healing via the neurochemicals dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin – and this helps with your immune-resistance.

Conscious breathing is also great because it calms the mind, engages the parasympathetic nervous system, which leads to feelings of relaxation and relief.

For those who have faith in the unseen metaphysical world and the immutable laws of nature then engaging in prayer has numerous benefits for mind and body.

2. Eat a rainbow diet

The more colour there is on your plate the more you can be sure you’re getting the primary vitamins, minerals, amino acids and essential fats that are required.  It is also worth considering taking food state vitamin and mineral. I recommend a couple of companies depending on your budget –

There’s still some controversy as to whether supplements ‘work’ and I certainly have no agenda to encourage people to take supplements when they don’t wish to.  What I do say for those who are interested, is look at the excellent research that has been done in this area over the last 50+ years, which demonstrates that the quality of nutrients in the soil and therefore available in our food has declined, and unless or until we do something about that, supplements are a necessary support in the absence of getting all the nutrients from what we eat.

Orthomolecular Medicine and Nutrigenomics are both disciplines that are increasing our understanding of why supplements for some individuals can be transformative and life-saving. If you do choose to take supplements, I recommend the ‘food state’ versions. Again contact me for more info as I am an affiliate and have very reasonable options for you according to your budget.

3. Deep restorative sleep

Do your best to get deep sleep. Sleep is critical in helping our immune systems to stay strong. The body’s ‘housekeeping tasks’ are performed when sleeping. We produce billions of waste cells each day by simply being alive and sleep provides us with the opportunity for regeneration and a system reset.  So find ways to improve the quality of your sleep.

There is no one thing that works for everyone, so look at the techniques, strategies, potions and remedies that might work best for you.  Some suggestions can be found in the links below.

4. Exercise improves mental health

Where possible, try and get cardiovascular exercise. We now know that neurogenesis (the creation of new neurons) is a fact. It had previously been  thought that once we lost neurons (brain cells) as we age, that was that. But we now know that one of the ways that new neurons are created is through cardiovascular exercise.  Somewhere around 700 new neurons are created each day as a result of such exercise.  The gym is not necessary for this, in fact in my experience a lot of people abuse themselves in the gym by overtraining and pusing themselves simply too far than necessary. We just need to find ways to get out of breath, whether that be via walking, jogging, a fitness routine you’ve put together yourself or one of the hundreds of options available on the internet.

For those who can’t exercise to that extent, any movement that can be achieved will bring advantages to your whole system.

5. Laughter – nature’s anti-depressant

Laughter strengthens the immune system.  All biological activities reap the benefits. Those same healing neurochemicals listed above (oxytocin, dopamine, serotonin etc.), which are all positive mood enhancers, are produced when we watch and listen to things that make you laugh or make you mind and heart smile.  There is no better antidote to anxiety, worry and fear!

6. Music is good for the soul

Make a compilation of your favourite tracks that make you forget about the news. Even better, dane to them!  Your natural killer cells (which are on the front line of immunity) will be dancing with you.

7. Pamper yourself!

As much as you can, pamper yourself.  Indulge in those things you might not do ordinarily but you probably should do more often.  Have that soak in the bath that you keep putting off – and make it a ritual.  Read that book that you’ve not had time for.  If you’re lucky enough to have a garden spend more time enjoying it.  If you don’t have an outside space, bring more order to your home.  Make it a sanctuary, a place you want to be.

There are probably lots of things that come under this category that rarely see the light of day.  Make a list and work your way through them.

8. The wonder of water

We’re vertical rivers. Every function in our bodies depends on water.  We simply can’t operate at our best without it. Water is key for the removal of those billions of cells of waste each day, which is critical in order for the immune system to work optimally.

Research by Loughborough University in 2015 clearly demonstrated that when we are dehydrated our brains have similar reaction times in road traffic situations to those who are under the influence of alcohol.   There are other studies that equally show how cognitive functions are impaired even when there’s only a small drop in the volume of water in the body.  For both men and women this is under 2% and at that point our perception, personality and performance are affected.

So, stay hydrated.  It will help you to keep things in perspective.

Summary

If you can do something from this list – the more you can do the better – you will find that your mental health will remain robust and provide you with the emotional and psychological resilience you need to deal with the current crisis.

Someone who is positive, even if they get the virus, their ability to overcome it is greatly enhanced and their recovery time will be much quicker.  This doesn’t apply just to COVID 19, it applies to any assault on our bodies.

There’s no such thing as perfect immunity but ridding yourself of fear is the best weapon you have to meet the coming days, weeks and months.

If we stay mentally strong and connected in whatever ways we can with each other, we’ll create an atmosphere of positivity and calm that will be supportive and uplifting.

So remember to Wash Your Mind As Well As Your Hands!