Everyone defines being healthy differently according to their perception. For most, it is the absence of disease. For some, it is being able to perform their daily functions. For others, it is being balanced and whole, regardless of their physical limitations or illness. The third group tends to experience more joy and contentment in their lives. I have encountered people who have been given a terminal diagnosis or have lost limbs to accidents who live more fulfilled lives than those who suffer from chronic illness or temporary health setbacks or even no health issues at all. I am not here to minimize anyone’s experience, as I am one of those chronic pain sufferers. But it is intriguing to me how some people can overcome adversity with seemingly less effort than others. Remembering that one’s genetics and upbringing also play a role in how well they cope. I also realized that perception has a lot to do with it. Our nervous system is designed to be rewired by our thoughts. I once had a job where we coached chronic pain patients in reframing their thoughts, using Cognitive Behavioral techniques, and consequently changing their perception of their pain. Their pain itself would not change in severity or nature, but their mind tricked their body in perceiving less pain. By using mindfulness, guided imagery, and questioning their thoughts, they were able to do a little more every day than they did before.
Now, mind you, not every patient was successful at this. It depended on their general outlook on life and being open to trying new things. But if they were open and tried it, they each saw some degree of relief. I remember one person who started dancing again after months of not even daring to try. The mind is a very powerful thing. Our perspectives can make mountains of a molehill or make mountains into a molehill!!
We form our perceptions based on our beliefs and that forms our perspectives on how we see the world.
It is a choice we can make. And like any other choice, we may find it doesn’t work at first, or not at all. But what’s the harm in trying?
What if by flipping a switch, which can sometimes be a process, like trying to ignite a campfire by hitting a couple of rocks to each other until they cause a spark, we can reduce the experience of pain, or change the course of an illness, or simply feel better about ourselves?
So why does this matter now?
Because we are at a tipping point in our personal and collective lives. Because if we want to survive the literal and metaphorical storms that our collective actions have produced, we need to change our perspectives, and subsequently change our perceptions, or vice versa.
What if by becoming the observer, rather than the conductor, we can give audience to all the many unhealthy thoughts passing through our heads, and give them safe passage, rather than letting them take up residence in our mental, emotional, and physical bodies and cause harm?
What if the grief we consciously or unconsciously carry about the state of the world and our personal lives, can be a tool rather than a hindrance?
What if we made a choice to feel healthy, despite evidence to the contrary, and therefore be healthy? We need our health to survive the storms and help others survive. It is not a cliché. At this juncture, it is a necessity. That’s how I see it anyways.
We cannot always do this journey alone either. We need as many fellow travelers as we can find.
Your Fellow Traveler,