A Medicated Nation
Did you know that the third leading cause of death in America is thought to be related to medical interventions behind heart disease and cancer? Or that greater than 50% of US healthcare costs are caused by chronic medical diseases which can be prevented and effectively reversed with a healthy lifestyle? America is considered a leader in medical advancements, so where is the disconnect?
In Western medicine we do not do a very good job at addressing the root cause of illness. Physicians are trained to focus on symptoms and to intervene at the physical level with pills or surgery, which often cause more harm. Usually these interventions occur when it is too late, which is why focusing on prevention is so important. It’s much easier to prevent a disease than to treat it at a critical stage. As human beings we have more than just a body. We have emotions, thoughts, relationships, jobs and many more things that contribute to our lives and our health. Pills do not fix these other issues.
As a physician I would say that most of my patients’ medical problems come from an unhealthy diet, lack of exercise and most importantly, not dealing effectively with stress. Tobacco, alcohol, overworking and eating unhealthy food are often used to self-medicate stress and anxiety. Many people do not realize this because long standing habits have become such an automatic response. Even the most health conscious people I know often suffer from high anxiety levels and poor sleep because, despite their healthy diets and exercise routines, they are still not dealing with their stress or emotional health.
The Mindfulness Solution
So how can we as individuals address the root cause of our health issues? Mindfulness is a powerful way to transform our lives. So many of us are so caught up in the daily grind of life that we have lost touch with what’s going on deep within. When we practice mindfulness however, we become present to what is happening. Instead of reflexively reacting to a stressful thought or emotion, we can take a step back and observe what is going on as if we are an outsider looking in. At that moment we can consciously make healthy choices, whether it be taking deep breaths or not reaching for the chocolate bar.
If we can incorporate relaxation techniques in our day as we would our favorite TV show or meal times, we would find that stress and anxiety wouldn’t build up to a point where it is unmanageable. In addition to using mindfulness as a prevention tool, can we use yoga, meditation, breath work and other mindfulness techniques to improve blood pressure, weight, immunity, psychological well being and more.
Even if we do everything we can to practice healthy lifestyle behaviors, a pill may be necessary as a temporary tool to deal with issues that are beyond our control. Medications and other medical interventions do have their place, but not as the all-encompassing, one-size-fits all solution. Ultimately until we uncover and address the root cause of our problems, we will only be putting superficial bandages on deeper issues that will add more stress to our lives. Everyone has the ability to achieve optimal health and wellness with the positive choices they make in the present moment.
What do you do to release stress? Share your comments below.