A Culture of Health

Developing a Culture of Health

This idea is about wellness or healthy living. According to a recent national study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, “The prevalence of stress in primary care is high; 60% to 80% of visits may have a stress-related component” [1, references at the end]. Ontario findings may be no different.

Stress is a behavioral problem. It results from our lack of deep acknowledgement of our unseen common ground leading to interconnected feelings of mutual distrust and fear, insatiable appetites and repulsions. These feelings inescapably lead to a sense of helplessness.

Discriminatory behavior such as racism, bigotry, sexism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, homophobia, xenophobia, casteism, classism, untouchability etc. proceed from mutual mistrust and fear [2]. They should have no place in life, but they are there until we can build a culture of one humanity variously expressing our one unseen common ground. The same is true of our greed, appetites, and addictions, our feelings of aversion and hatred and our sense of helplessness when things don’t go our ways.

How is stress related with our health? Stress causes sympathetic (fast) stimulation of autonomous body and mind activity with the release of cortisol in our body. It is excess cortisol that causes stress. It kills us with physical and mental disease. With the accompanying loss of thinking capacity, it robs us of our learning ability and our very humanity because it is our faculty of thought that distinguishes us from other forms of life. Love and compassion reside in the deepest folds of human faculty of thought.

According to a 2012 report [3] of the American Academy of Pediatrics, toxic levels of stress, in addition to physical and mental disorders, can cause a host of social and economic problems. The report notes that prenatal exposure of the fetus to maternal stress can lead to persistent developmental disorders.

Can we eliminate stress? Not until we eliminate ignorance of our one humanity through our unseen common ground.

Must then we suffer the ravages of stress until we succeed in this enormous educational endeavor? No, not if we learn to be stress resilient. There are many strategies of doing so. A common thread running through all of them is regular elicitation of relaxation response [4].

My favorite strategy of eliciting relaxation response is deep diaphragmatic breathing. We all breathe 24/7 but we breathe without awareness. Deep breathing is deliberate. All it needs is attention. We can easily learn it. We also can easily practice it at any time when we are not totally focused on other pursuits of life.

How can the culture of deep diaphragmatic breathing amount to a culture of health? Deep breathing like other strategies of elicitation of relaxation response causes parasympathetic (slow) stimulation of autonomous body and mind activity with the release of DHEAS in our body neutralizing the effects of stress [5], [6].

“Calm down. Take a deep breath”, who in the world hasn’t heard this admonition?

Develop the culture of deep diaphragmatic breathing. It will amount to a culture of health. It doesn’t break the bank, nor bankrupt the treasury. It is revolutionary. And it reconnects us with our humanity.

 

REFERENCES

[1] https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/fullarticle/1392494

[2] https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/11/opinion/sunday/sick-of-racism-literally.html?emc=edit_th_20171112&nl=todaysheadlines&nld=23743059

[3] http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/129/1/e232

[4] Benson, Herbert and Klipper, Marian Z. "The Relaxation Response". New York: Harper, 2000

[5] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Autonomic_nervous_system#Parasympathetic_division

[6] https://www.stress.org/take-a-deep-breath/

Last Edited by Shiv Talwar

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