The Attitude that Promotes Positive Health
Health is not the mere absence of disease but a state of being that is as dynamic as the process of life. Each spurt of emotion and lingering mood is a manifestation of circulation of specific hormones and affects all systems of the organism including tiny white cells of the immune army; each emotion affecting in its own peculiar way, energizing or blocking diverse functions.
An innocuous rustle of leaves in the jungle can transform a peaceful grazing animal into a state of hyper-vigilant tautness ready to attack or run. As long as the tense situation lasts the hormones of stress, which are life- saving in emergency, selectively shut down the process of repair and regeneration, as these are peace-time functions. The body thus deprived of rejuvenating functions, is left vulnerable enough to succumb to disease unless peace returns.
Humans are animals who live in complex social situations with evolved systems. There is still ‘a jungle out there’ but threats are subtler and more complex. Our perception of stress may range from dented self-worth through criticism, to worries about the imagined future. Anxiety may accrue from loss of electronic connectivity or from news of competitors grabbing market share. The time spent under the influence of stress hormones keeps adding up. Peace may not return in a week, or a month or for years.
A so-called ‘healthy’ young adolescent may take an overdose of drugs because of a rumor on facebook, and a high-achiever executive may develop a heart condition after being passed over for promotion. These common hazards make us think again about the definition of ‘Health’ and expand it to include a capacity to cope, which may be called ‘Resilience’ giving the body a reserve robustness that hastens healing and minimizes severity and duration of illness when it strikes. Resilience of the mind would help these persons tide over difficult times and bounce back to a cheerful state. ‘Health’ should also include ‘Quality of life’ and ‘Fulfilment’ as longer life allows people to continue to contribute meaningfully well past retirement age as long as they are able.
Some of the contributors to good health and longevity have been found to be levels of satisfaction, optimism, self-regulation, involvement and purpose, social support and innate preference for remaining in positive emotional state. Persons with serious disease and disability can also display these traits and benefit from better quality of life than expected. A notable example is Stephen Hawking, famous physicist and cosmologist who was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease when he was a 21-year-old student at Cambridge University. Most people die within a few years of the diagnosis (also called motor neuron disease). Hawking has since lived and contributed to study of physics for 50 years and continues to do so. "I have had (Lou Gehrig's disease) for practically all my adult life," he says on his website. "Yet it has not prevented me from having a very attractive family and being successful in my work," he writes. "I try to lead as normal a life as possible and not think about my condition or regret the things it prevents me from doing, which are not that many."
Inability to move, or speak, cough and sometimes breathe, does not prevent Hawking from directing research at Cambridge University, or from lecturing, writing and cracking jokes.
The example cited here is rather extreme. It demonstrates the importance of attitude in conducting daily activity and keeping our physiology tuned to positivity, with task orientation, transcending misfortune that is woven into genes or situations outside our control such as war, disaster or epidemics.
Problems due to interpersonal friction, office politics, and relationship-failure also affect every cell through the same mechanism of threat perception and physiological reaction but we are not aware till physical symptoms of disease show up.
Becoming aware of the processes through education is empowering because we find a coping strategy to regulate the rush of stress hormones, replace it with a flood of feel-good endorphins, or just pause long enough for the toxic anger chemicals to metabolize and be swept out before they cause harm. This awareness is derived from results of studies conducted by Neurologists, Psychologists and Behavioural Scientists and integrated under the name of ‘Emotional Intelligence’. It provides remarkable ways to prevent illness and boost resilience to attain Positive Health through Maximizing Potential and Minimizing Stress thus delivering pure fulfilment and intrinsic rewards obliterating dependence on pseudo-comforts and consumables.
Under the umbrella of Emotional Intelligence we learn about regulating emotions, choosing moods, sensitive criticism, getting along with others, nurturing self-worth, inspirational leadership, leveraging talent in teams and unleashing creativity for progressing to a happier and healthier world.
In the last decade Industry leaders have discovered that training employees in emotional competence is delivering dividends in terms of productivity, quality, loyalty and customer satisfaction; all translating into profits.
Individuals are seeking coaching in EI for diverse benefits like personal development, parenting with awareness, relationship improvement, Ego Balance, Anger Management for health reasons, authentic living and enhancing intuitiveness. Positive change in attitude is helping to stabilize blood sugar, blood pressure, stress related exacerbations of lung, skin and joint disorders and even developing spirituality without involving religion; all translating into Health and Happiness.