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Biology vs. Psychology

Wednesday, March 06, 2019

They say that attitude influences our reaction to stress more than any other factor. Today, people are living longer but enjoying it less. Despite the increased stresses of modern life, we are living longer even though diseases such as diabetes, chronic obesity, heart disease and other chronic degenerative conditions increase the demands on our body.

 We are inundated by advertisements for this or that treatment or medication for real or imagined illnesses, increasing our stress level.  If it isn’t heart disease, it’s nail fungus.  If it isn’t obesity, its bad breath. . .  Talk to your doctor about this or that ointment or diet or medication, and above all, stop smoking with this patch or that pill. You can’t get away from it no matter what channel your watch or station you listen to.

Because of modern science, we can live well into our 70s and 80s, and the degenerative diseases that we fear can be controlled by better health-care including nutritional supplements and stress reduction.

Our well-being then, depends not so much on our chronological age as on our attitude and psychological responses to stress. Two 18 or 20 year old athletes, may show little difference in health or stamina, but by age 70 the differences will be remarkable. The old proverb says that “you are as old as you feel”, and attitude has a great deal to do with that.

Here are a few rules that can help.

 First, think positively.

Pay attention to your body’s needs. Take time to be alone with inspirational thoughts, in meditation or reading, and apply them to yourself and those you care about.

Don't be stressed by the opinions of others. Allow for differences and know that your feelings and opinions are just as valid and important as anyone’s.  Don't feel that you must have the approval of others. Be yourself and allow others to have their own space.

Experience silence.  Spend at least twice a day in silence. Meditation allows you to detach yourself from the hustle and bustle of the world.    Science has shown that this encourages an increase of DHEA (Said to strengthen the immune system, provide more energy, improve mood and memory, and build up bone and muscle strength.)

I disagree with those who say never eat between meals. Eat when you are hungry, but eat only enough to satisfy.

One final thought:  Those who engage in regular physical activity like daily walks will better tolerate any and all stress.

Spencer Thornton, MD