In this 400th anniversary of the King James Bible one of its shortest phrases is the cover story of the latest edition of the New Scientist: Heal Thyself.
The article in the Health pages of the venerable science magazine does not claim to have a spiritual bent but explores the relationship of mind and body. British writer Jo Marchant, however, looks at a number of ways to sustain health which many would say they derive from taking a spiritual approach to life: Think Positive; Trust People; Meditate; Know Your Purpose.
Some quotes of note –
Think positive: “What researchers are now realising is that positive beliefs don’t just work by quelling stress. They have a positive effect too – feeling safe and secure, or believing things will turn out fine, seems to help the body maintain and repair itself. A recent analysis of various studies concluded that the health benefits of such positive thinking happen independently of the harm caused by negative states such as pessimism or stress, and are roughly comparable in magnitude (Psychosomatic Medicine, vol 70, p 741).”
Trust people: …ending loneliness is not about spending more time with people. [John Cacioppo of the University of Chicago, Illinois, who has spent his career studying the effects of social isolation] thinks it is all about our attitude to others: lonely people become overly sensitive to social threats and come to see others as potentially dangerous. In a review of previous studies, published last year, he found that tackling this attitude reduced loneliness more effectively than giving people more opportunities for interaction, or teaching social skills (Annals of Behavioral Medicine, vol 40, p 218).
Meditate: Trials looking at the effects of meditation have mostly been small, but they have suggested a range of benefits. There is some evidence that meditation boosts the immune response in vaccine recipients and people with cancer, protects against a relapse in major depression, soothes skin conditions and even slows the progression of HIV.
Know your purpose: “In a study of 50 people with advanced lung cancer, those judged by their doctors to have high “spiritual faith” responded better to chemotherapy and survived longer. Over 40 per cent were still alive after three years, compared with less than 10 per cent of those judged to have little faith (In Vivo, vol 22, p 577).”
At time of writing, the “Think positive” section of “Heal Thyself” is “Most Read” item on the website. It is an interesting “sign of the times” (to quote another King James phrase!) that the scientifically curious are so interested in the effect thought can have on body and health?