How faith and optimism support healing
There was a time when the placebo effect was ridiculed and not considered scientific. In fact, systems of medication which were thought to be based on the placebo effect were not systems with scientific standing. Today, the placebo effect is on fact being used and manipulated to support healing. I recall many decades ago the story of a family member who refused medical intervention for her aggressive breast cancer, and instead went to the ashram of her guru on the basis that her faith would heal her. Doctors were amazed that her tumour went away, but it also came back more aggressively and attacked her body quickly and fatally.
There is a saying by Paramahamsa Yogananda who wrote The Autobiography of a Yogi, which remains my favorite book even today, that the greatest scientists are people with immense faith, and that the greatest spiritualists were also extremely scientific, or something to this effect. What I took from that, which stayed with me over the years, was that science and spirituality need to coexist.
In the practice of Functional Medicine and Functional Nutrition, mindset, spirit, optimism and faith can be powerful tools on your path to healing. My stand is that faith is required in some form to take you towards that final step of healing. It is supportive and complementary, not exclusive. When you bring in faith along with other steps towards healing, it can be a powerful force that can restore even the most complex health challenges.
Wellness Warriors is a section on my website which features people whom I think are warriors on their health care journey. If you missed the one I did with Blossom Fernandes on cellulite, you can read that article here.
Christobelle Joseph is the mother of three beautiful kids, and is a columnist with the Bangalore Mirror. She’s an amazing woman and her articles are a beautiful blend of humour, practical parenting tips and immense dedication to her role of motherhood. In fact, she quite thrashed my view of quality over quantity when it comes to spending time with your children. Christobelle’s faith comes through so clearly in every conversation, that when I was thinking of writing an article on the role of faith in healing, I couldn’t think of anyone else.
Faith and resolution of health issues have been synonymous for a long time. Functional Medicine Nutrition has an entire section on frameworks and tools to look at Mind and Spirit. Sometimes having some belief or faith greater than oneself or even just having gratitude and surrender can be the difference between some resolution and complete resolution of signs, symptoms and diagnosis. Do you have some belief which grounds you and uplifts you at the same time? What does it mean? When have you done enough physiologically and you just need surrender to heal?
Christobelle calls herself responsible, nurturing, and suddenly realised that she has confidence to call herself creative. She is thirsty to learn and believes that anywhere anyone can be a source of knowledge! Our conversations are always sprinkled with philosophy, humour, mutual respect and shared learning. This is a story about an episode where faith played a big role in resolution of symptoms.
Christobelle found herself struggling with chronic inflammatory pain in her neck and shoulder, which as you know can be a literal pain in the neck! If you’ve suffered from cervical spondylosis, then you know how horribly painful it can be to have a nerve pinched with shooting and throbbing pain radiating down your arm. It can make something as simple as carrying your handbag agony. Forget the wonderful feeling of carrying your little boy!
Christobelle tried everything! She went to an Orthopaedic doctor. She did the whole round of physiotherapy. She tried different massages. Everything cost money and time, and resolution was short lived. She was frustrated and dejected, and turned to faith, praying for guidance in understanding her condition, what she was supposed to learn from this painful situation, and for strength which she required to deal with this immense pain in the midst of being a busy mother.
Her first realisation came in the form of a verse in her mind, which made her think about what she needed to learn. The phrase haughty eyes kept popping in her head and she rattled her brain wondering what that was. Like all those realisations which come in a flash, she suddenly realised that she was an extremely frustrated driver, who was irritable all the time when she drove and was constantly judging drivers who broke the law or were rash. This made her tense her body awkwardly, which ended up putting pressure to her neck and shoulder. The moment she realised this, she felt a sense of relief, and decided to release judgement in her driving, and instead embrace acceptance of situations as they were, and relax herself instead.
Her pain improved substantially. She kept doing the work on herself physically. Some remnants of pain remained with her. It was frustrating, for she was now doing a lot! One day when her physiotherapist was working on her, and remarked that she had tense shoulders, she was just about ready to cry, for she had done so much! She could not afford to be in pain, for she believed that her children needed her to be healthy and happy. When she heard this, a verse came in her mind, about casting cares on God and not shouldering it like you have no one. She prayed and released the thought that it was she who was carrying everyone’s burden, especially those of her children. She let go of feeling like she was indispensable as the verse made her realise the ego within that thought, and instead felt that her faith was shouldering her burdens.
Each time she realised something, she started changing herself, both physiologically and spiritually. Realising her tension in the car made her not just change her own attitude which helped reduce how she stressed each time she drove, which was a lot, but it also made her change herself physically, where she did not create such tension in her muscles each time she drove. She worked on doing whatever was required. She did not stop doing her physiotherapy or massage, but she further supported herself by changing her priorities, letting go of limiting emotions and beliefs and being grateful for all that was good in her life. Each time she let go and released, the pain released more and more. It was suddenly gone and it had been so gentle that she hadn’t even realised it was gone!
Call it your faith, belief, optimism or positive thinking, it can be immensely supportive to everything else that you do on your path to healing. Think of it as a petal on a flower, if the other petals are healing your body systems. Faith and gratitude have been proven to increase levels of neurotransmitters in your brain. Raising beta endorphin levels reduce pain. Raising dopamine levels can make you feel more motivated and less dejected. Raising serotonin levels can make you feel more calm and peaceful, allowing your entire system to go into a parasympathetic mode which supports overall healing. Next time you have pain, be grateful for all that is good in your life, and allow your faith to guide you towards that inner understanding to revels what you need to release and what you need to embrace!