The Health Q
International Standard Serial Number (ISSN) 1715 6165
Is medication always necessary?;
Be thankful for what you have ;
Aerobic exercise helps keep our brain healthy;
They are human too;
Go back to school with a splash;
Things we should remember to do for body, mind & emotions;
Prescriptions for health
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Is Medication Always Necessary?
by Parmjit Singh, PhD
Thank you for picking up ‘The Health Q—Intelligent Body Mind Solutions for Health and Wellness’. Through this medium, we will strive to offer you intelligent preventive solutions for health and wellness. Health is a big business these days but still all the hoopla-hoo is largely concentrated on the ‘physical’ health, be it in the form of proper diet, exercising, normal blood pressure, quitting smoking, etc. Regardless of the rhetoric, again and again, emphasis keeps falling on the physical dimensions. What about our mind? Does it not play any role in health and wellness?
There is always more emphasis on interventionist (chemical, surgical etc.) treatment and less on prevention. In this information age, we are relentlessly badgered with the dread and terror of illness. We are told that if we want to stay healthy or escape illness our only salvation lies in elaborate pharmacopeia. Though there is some wisdom in following pharmaceutical interventions (when nothing else works) yet what about those illnesses which can be tackled by following some life-style alterations? Why to make people dependent on chemical crutches if there are alternatives available? Why prevention is less valuable than intervention? We spend billions of dollars on researching for solutions to treat ailments once they have taken hold of and shy away from promoting preventive medicine/measures.
Further more, our physical body is not so dumb as it has been portrayed in science. It is an intelligent system which functions well if we do not misuse it mercilessly. We have to realize that we can dodge a number of life-style-related illnesses plaguing our so-called civilised world by becoming mindful of our mental, physical and emotional being.
It is not tragic to fall sick, but it is tragic to lose touch with our self, our body, mind and spirit . Our tendency to be arrogantly defiant of nature has brought us to this pass. Somehow we have come to think that with force and resistance we can conquer natural processes. Though science has made laudable advancements in the past few centuries, yet it also has contributed to alienation from our own self. We have increasingly become mindless and dependent on external solutions, be it drugs or materialism etc. to solve our personal problems.
How, then, can we be mindful of our physical, mental and emotional life, tap into resources lying within us and utilise their inherent power to heal and empower us?
To promote this spirit of independent thinking and true empowerment, we present you ‘The Health Q’. Our goals are to catalyze you to become mindful of yourself— your body, mind and spirit and its needs. Through these columns, we will keep offering thought-provoking suggestions, empowering ideas, entertaining book reviews, and healthy advice for you and your family.
We look forward to your feedback and comments to strengthen this community initiative so that we all can live a healthy and productive life without being overly-dependent on external means.
They are Human too!!
Angela Thomas, Registered Nurse, MBA Student
Working in the field of mental health, specifically schizophrenia, I have seen individuals go from ‘hitting rock bottom’ to becoming stable in a slow and progressive manner. For some individuals afflicted with schizophrenia, it takes numerous hospitalizations to have a better understanding of, or to distinguish the difference between themselves and their illness. You see them stumble through multiple struggles and stressors related to illness and then all of a sudden they start recovering. At this stage, it is empowering for a health care provider to see the individual reclaim mental balance.
Similarly, we all reach a steady state where we feel content with ourselves and the direction in which life is heading. And then all of a sudden, a crisis throws us off track. Depending upon our perception, this can be an opportunity for learning and self-awareness or a chance to self-flagellation. This can be really hard for individuals with schizophrenia. They are not only dealing with the crisis at hand, but also the potential symptoms and societal stigma attached to the illness. During this crisis, if the individual does not have any community supports, further isolation and the possible re-hospitalization can occur.
Such is the stigma attached to mental illnesses that an individual diagnosed with a mental illness will usually receive awkward responses, fear, lack of support, belittlement, and avoidance from others, including their closest social networks. On the other hand, this does not happen with person, say, diagnosed with diabetes. He/she will usually receive active support and positive reinforcement from their surrounding social networks.
Although times are changing (i.e. education about mental illness at schools), mental illness still continues to carry one of the highest rates of social stigma. Therefore, it is our responsibility to increase our level of education, awareness and acceptance in order to help decrease this level of stigma among individuals with a mental illness, and to help them on their road to recovery. At each step we need to remember that those who suffer from mental illnesses are also one of us, they are part of our humanity and should be treated so.
Let us join hands to de-stigmatize mental illness and encourage social acceptance so we can eliminate them.
If you need more information on schizophrenia, contact Hamilton Program for Schizophrenia.
For more information on schizophrenia, please see the following resource:
Schizophrenia Revealed: From Neurons to Social Interactions
by Michael Foster Green , 2003
Go Back to School With Splash
by Joanne Malar, Three Time Olympian
We all hear about dreadful statistics of our kids getting obese and falling victims to various weight-related ailments. What can we do as parents? How can we make it interesting for kids to go out and become active?
Let me tell you where to start. It should start at home. The problem usually starts at home, and that is where it has to be remedied. Let us go back to the olden days, the times of our grand-parents. It was a time when meals were cooked at home and the whole family enjoyed them together. Fast foods were not so common and video games and internet had not intruded into our life yet. Children enjoyed being outside playing with their peers.
But the times have changed: now children are falling prey to the inactive world of television, video-games and pop-corns. This is topped by our fast paced ‘consumer-based’ adult world where we have come to accept that there is ‘no time’ for home cooking, proper eating, and being active and socially responsible.
As the alarming rate of obesity in our kids mandates, we need to get back to the basics of eating wholesome meals and becoming physically active. And it could be walking to school, doing chores, playing with friends outside, and joining sports teams and activities. But the bigger question is how to wean kids away from couch-potato activities? As parents you have to come up with creative alternatives and reasonably strict-guidelines. Providing choices, role models and interesting alternatives can be a way to yank them off the couch.
Make it a priority to shop fresh fruits and vegetables and limit packaged dinners and snacks. Inculcate healthy eating routines. Encourage drinking pure water instead of pop. Start doing things as a family unit in the form of eating dinner together, walking the dog, going for hikes, playing games and sports, walking to school or working in the garden, etc. Bottom line is that you get your children active but in a positive way. Don’t make it a punishment to be active, rather make it an enjoyable thing. Let them choose whatever activity they want to follow.
Children also have an affinity toward water. Once they learn to be ‘water safe’ and are rid of any fear, swimming can become a total body workout. It is very easy on joints and strengthens heart, lungs and muscles.
The truth is that physical activity in children is declining because they just aren’t interested or there are other distractions. Once you get them off the couch and plunge them into a positive activity, a healthy weight will be the secondary result. Though swimming is not a panacea, yet it definitely is a wonderful choice, in conjunction with other alternatives, for your child to kick-start a healthy lifestyle. There are daily open swims, family swims and lap swims at local pools. All you need is a bathing suit and a pair of goggles.
Investing in a family membership to a local swimming pool will end up paying hefty dividends in terms of health and well-being. Being active not only adds to proper physical development of the child, it also caters to the mental and emotional well-being. One who stays active physically also remains active mentally throughout his life.
by Parmjit Singh, PhD
A PRACTICAL GUIDE TO HOLISTIC HEALTH | Swami Rama | Himalayan Institute Press | ISBN 0893891746 | $14.95
PRESCRIPTIONS FOR HEALTH
by Parmjit Singh
In the age of high-tech answers to health problems, it is refreshing to see a book which prescribes easy and natural methods to restore health. But it asks different questions and proposes different modalities. How many of us would think that ‘our purpose’ in life has something to do with our mental and physical health? This line of thinking has gone out of the corridors of medicine since long. The role of existential dilemmas or anguish on health does not bother medical specialists these days anymore and if any one dares rake these issues they are conveniently pigeonholed into ‘new-age thinkers’.
This short 100 page book is packed with natural prescriptions to reclaim our health and well-being. “It provides a simple systematic approach to diet, exercise, breath awareness, positive use of emotions, relationships and meditation…so that the whole person—body, mind, spirit—can achieve radiant health” (Foreword, IX). What makes this small book stand out from all others in a bookstore is that it explores the concept of health from the perspective of our purpose in life. “What is your purpose in life?” it asks, and “how are you going to achieve that purpose?” It is hardly a question we think about when talking about health and wellness. We are more given to healthy physiological indices and measurements and the whole field of science is devoted to correcting these indices or bringing them back to ‘so-called’ normalcy. But here lies the difference between Swami Rama, who amazed scientists at Menninger Foundation of Topeka, USA in the 70’s by willfully controlling his involuntary physiological functions such as heart rate and conventional experts. Conventional wisdom in science at that time was of the opinion that one cannot control vital functions of the body.
Thinking of health in terms of existential purpose or dilemmas is natural to a person who spent a large part of his life meditating and mastering his inner processes. Holistic health to Swami Rama is to understand the entire human being, its preferences, strengths and weaknesses and not simply the physical body. “When we start to analyze our self…we know that we are not body alone. We lived with the body so much, and have been told so often that our body is who we are, that we constantly identify with it. This belief is so strong that no matter how much we read or study, no matter how much someone teaches us differently, our entire consciousness comes back to the body alone” (pg. 7). But are we body alone?
The book is divided into seven convenient chapters. It talks about holistic health, cleansing, nourishing, exercise, being still, emotions and finally self-training. But all these issues are dealt with added context of ‘higher purpose’, ancient yoga practice and Ayurveda. Cleansing does not just mean simply throwing out physical waste from body. To Swami Rama, cleansing is much more profound and should be undertaken consciously so that we get rid of all the toxins that lie in our body because “[I]f cleansing systems are not functioning properly, the nourishing system (the second stage, added) cannot do their work; the body will begin to break down” (pg. 17). Cleansing, in this case, is not limited but extends to breathing as well. Lungs are a powerful channel for expelling toxins. Alternate nostril breathing can help to purge toxins from body. The author recommends that “You should be aware of inhalation and exhalation and make sure they are regulated properly, for this will clean the lungs” (pg. 19). In addition, the book comes with a suggested intake of foods, fluids and appropriate method of fasting so that our body is cleansed properly.
After talking about cleansing the body of unnecessary physical and mental toxins, next comes the nourishment: what should we eat and how it should be eaten? “Watch carefully what and how you eat…Gulping down food and drinks without chewing properly, or without resting between the meals, or eating during stressful circumstances, leads to poor digestion” (pg.30). By staying away from bad foods, too much sugar or salt and chewing foods properly, one sets the stage for good health and can avoid digestive problems. Proper exercise is the next important factor which each one of us should follow to maintain good health. But he emphasizes a ‘proper’ exercise, not just mindless panting-puffing running or jogging we often witness on the roads. Swami Rama recommends combining yoga (gentle in nature) with jogging (aerobic) to reap maximum benefits. Ill-health is largely a symptom of physical and mental breakdown and “[I]llness often follows inactivity and depression, but it can be removed with exercise and sense of purpose and well-being” (pg. 53). Through proper mindful exercise, we can reclaim our vitality, awareness and “only when you are healthy and strong can the mind, will and emotions be trained, and this is essential for spiritual growth” (pg. 54).
Next prescription is ‘being still’—to create a sense of inner peace and tranquility because it is not possible to have a healthy body without a healthy mind. Mind and body run hand in hand and influence each other profoundly. As mind is usually made of habits and impression, it is imperative that we develop a discipline to unlearn all those negative habits and impressions. When you sit still and delve deep beyond your ordinary thoughts and patterns, you “come in touch with your inner potential for creativity, happiness and truth” (pg. 57). Another important factor given prominence in this book is emotions because correct emotional expression can lead to creativity and freedom. However, in order to get in touch with our emotions, we need to master our thoughts because “it is the bridge between consciousness and creative thought” (pg. 74). Understanding the origin and effects of emotions such as anger, jealousy, love, pride, attachment etc. can open the door for creating a life full of happiness and joy. As our emotions become more fine-tuned and we are able to control their expression without going to extremes, it exerts positive effects on our health and well-being. Research has shown that positive attitude, happiness, good relationships and humor have powerful health-promoting effects. Additionally, “positive emotion leads you to self-reliance and self-confidence, and motivates your mind, action, and speech in joyous and creative way” (pg. 84). Health is all about understanding and accepting one’s inner reality. Resistance of any kind to our inner reality leads to self-condemnation and generates various physical and mental problems and “there is no way to over-come self-condemnation except to rely on your own inner mirror, your conscience. Going against your conscience is suicide” (pg. 86).
And the only way we can let this not happen, is to embark upon a personal ‘self-training’—a purpose-driven quest where we know why we are doing what we are doing. This book is about creating health and well-being. But rather than dishing out conventional recommendations about proper diet, exercise etc. so common in health arena these days, it challenges us to find the purpose of our life so that we become in tune with our mental, physical and spiritual calling. When we are in touch with the higher purpose of our life, ordinary stresses, depressions and meaninglessness related to daily grind disappear or turn into mere inconveniences of life. In that case, we become truly independent and self-reliant and minor disappointments do not send us on a binge-eating or the blood pressure soaring.
If you are looking for perennial remedies for health and life, you should not miss this book. It is a no-nonsense, practical guide from a person who knows what he is talking about—from direct experience. And most of the resources he suggests to be used are well within us—without any extra cost.
Good For Body, Mind & Emotions
by Parmjit Singh, PhD
Good things for body
• Regular moderate exercise
• Good eating habits
• Regular sleep
• Proper breathing
• Regular bowel movement
Good things for mind
• Regular moderate exercise
• Good eating habits
• Regular sleep
• Proper breathing
• Regular bowel movement
Good things for emotions
• Learning to express creatively
• Not suppressing them
• Becoming mindful about them
• Cultivating positive emotions
• Accepting our emotions
Aerobic Exercises Keep Our Brain Healthy
Physical exercise not only wards off potentially debilitating diseases, but also acts as a powerful fitness tool for brain. According to Ian Robertson of University of Dublin, good nutrition, education and positive thinking helps to keep our brain young but aerobic exercise is the most important factor for brain fitness. One implication of this research is that we can stave off age-related decline in brain by working out our muscles.
Additionally, regular exercise helps in mitigating other undesirable conditions. Mild depression, for example, responds favorably to exercise. Other type of mindful activities such as Yoga, Tai Chi are also known to be helpful in maintaining mental and physical health through old age. People who practice these activities regularly have been known to keep the age-related decline at bay. Therefore, be active: walk, jog, play, do yoga or Tai Chi.