Spirituality—What’s the big deal?



The term “spirituality” has gotten a bad rap, I think, over the past decade. I rather think the whole idea of making “spirituality” good or bad is rather funny, giving that human beings are naturally spiritual.

Indeed, in the broader sense, spirituality simply refers to the profound sense that one is connected to something much larger than self. You can feel this way at any given moment—while praying, basking under some glorious rays of sunshine, or hitting a perfect shot while playing golf.

From a brain-science perspective, when one feels this larger sense of connection, peptides and neurostransmitters like oxytocin, serotonin and dopamine are flying through the brain and body, creating a state of relaxation, a general sense of well-being, and a more open state of mind. In addition, stress hormones and stress systems that are normally over-activated when an individual feels threatened or disconnected are kept in check, therefore inhibiting the detrimental and harmful affects of stress and the associated bi-products.

spiritual feeling of a sunset

beautiful sunsets connect you with nature and the spiritual world

Since the beginning, humankind has used spirituality to cope—using imagination, their connection to nature and the spiritual world, to make meaning of a world that did not have science to explain anything yet. Physiologically, science is now discovering that this coping mechanism is indeed necessary for health and well-being.

One only has to gaze at a beautiful sunset, imagine a gazelle leaping through the air, or watch an eagle sore through the sky to feel the sense of being connected and part of something much larger and greater. When we get caught up in our every day lives, the computer screen or the smart phone, we lose this sense of largeness and connection. Rather, our minds close in on just us and the inanimate objects around us, which often do not always imply a deeper meaning or connection.

A great thing about nature is that it is non-denominational. You don’t have to believe in God, a higher power, divine influence or any other religious beliefs to get the benefit that more religiously minded individuals get. Nature, by its sheer vastness and beauty can elicit this feeling and mind/body physiology in anyone. Even better, once you feel connected to nature, you are also more likely to take care of it. Likewise, when you feel more connected to the larger world you exist in, you are more likely to have empathy for the people who surround you.

The Daoist believe that the human body mirrors the landscape of nature. There is an intricate balance between all parts of the body, all parts of nature and between humankind and nature. Each takes care of the other—or is supposed to. Destroying nature is akin to destroying the body. You don’t take care of nature, you don’t take care of yourself. You don’t take care of yourself, you don’t take care of nature. And then what do you have left? A smart phone is not going to keep the oxygen in the air for you to breathe.

Likewise, self care leads to environmental care. Loving the environment results in better care of oneself. Science confirms the Daoist belief when looking at the regulating systems in the body—via feedback loops and auto-regulatory processes that depend on hormones and neurotransmitters, every system of the body, molecules like oxygen and nitric oxyide and all of the senses—that pick up pleasantries vs. insults that turn on the stress response or turn it off. Like a pleasant aroma vs. a caustic smell. Nature has the same effect. When you see a flower bloom, your mind and body experience a similar reaction.

Think about it now—what do you feel?

Here are a few simple ways you can connect to your own spirituality muscle:
Gaze at something amazing—something that amazes you, that is, in nature. That state of awe will release oxytocin and other delicious neurotransmitters that give you the sense of a “high”.

You can also take a mindful walk in nature—this means not thinking about yesterday or worrying about tomorrow, but being present and appreciative while walking in nature….admiring the colors of the leaves, the blueness of the sky, the smell of the air or the touch of the breeze. Intentionally usining all your senses to appreciate heightens the sense of connection.

Enjoy!

By: Dr Eva Selhub

Exercise After a Cancer Diagnosis

Exercise may be the furthest thing from your mind after a cancer diagnosis; however, exercise that focuses on functional fitness will help you carry out the activities of daily living and return to the activities you enjoy.  A well-designed program can also decrease side effects and improve quality of life.

Each person is unique and heals differently. Moreover, there are many types of cancers, treatments and late-term side effects, each one affecting survivors in different ways. It is important, therefore, to work with a cancer exercise specialist or possibly a physical therapist who can design the best program for your unique situation and fitness level. Check with your physician or other specialist tracking your survivorship care for recommendations of qualified exercise providers.

For people who were active before surgery, it is imperative to slowly work back up to the previous level of activity. It is not wise to go back to a gym and continue with a pre-cancer exercise routine. Cancer survivors need to have patience; returning to your pre-cancer fitness level takes time and cannot be rushed. It is important to understand the implications of your particular surgery and the corrective exercises needed to improve recovery.

Some cancer survivors will need to exercise under supervision while others will be able to exercise independently. The type and scope of cancer and your overall medical condition and fitness level will determine whether a supervised program is needed. Even if you don’t need supervision, finding a program, either individual or small group, will help you to achieve your goals in a warm, friendly setting. The camaraderie and support of a small group can make taking care of your health enjoyable and fun.
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Integrative Allopathic and Eastern Medicine:
It’s Just Good Practice

When someone comes to see me I’m not just interested in the physical dimensions, I’m interested in all of the other dimensions.

I see my patients as a whole, as a whole woman, as a whole person.

The concept of an integrated approach, which is evidence-based is a powerful antidote to a lot of the stress that health consumers feel.  And it was a relief to me to also practice what I believe.

Evidence-based means that there is medical literature, there are clinical studies that have been done that show that whatever we’re talking about, whether or not it’s mindful, it’s medication or Tamoxifen is a safe and effective therapy.

 

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