Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Healing Power of Music

Another key that helps in times of crisis is the healing power of music. Evidence shows that singing is good for our health and boosts our energy levels. Music affects our health positively in many ways. Soothing sounds are credited with preventing colds, easing labor pains, lowering blood pressure, increasing endorphins (the body’s natural painkillers), calming anxiety and boosting our immune system. One study found that surgery patients exposed to soothing music had less pain and shorter recovery time than those who were not. Dr. Mitchell L. Gaynor, author of Sounds of Healing, uses harmonious sounds in helping cancer patients recover.

The sounds of soothing music are low. Sounds above 90 decibels cause ear damage. Disharmony and noise jar our nerves and cause depressed or pessimistic thoughts or feelings. Researchers at the University of California, Irvine studied choir members who sang a Beethoven choral number. They found that a protein used by the immune system to fight disease increased 150 percent during rehearsals and 240 percent during a performance. The boost seemed related to the singers’ happy or euphoric state of mind. The more passionate they felt while singing, the greater the increase.

This research suggests we should all rush out and join a choir. Or at least we could find a place of worship with uplifting singing and music. We certainly could sing in the shower and listen to comforting or uplifting music on a daily basis. It also indicates we try to avoid disharmony. Many stress producing sounds bombard our ears every day. We can’t avoid the noise of jackhammers or the sounds of traffic. But we can mute the jarring TV commercials, choose to turn off the violent or pessimistic fare offered on TV and keep our voices pleasant at home. And we can sing!

“Sing praises to God, sing praises, sing praises to our King, sing praises.” Psalm 47:6

Blessings, Dottie

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Healing Power of Relaxation

Another key that helps in times of crisis is the healing power of relaxation. Research shows relaxation can lessen the effects of many physical symptoms and it can reduce many of our negative emotions - anger, anxiety, fear and depression. One study of men who took an afternoon nap showed that they had 30% to 50% less risk of heart attack.  

In another study individuals who were taught relaxation techniques were able to fall asleep four times faster than they were previously. Relaxation can lessen pain during medical and dental procedures and during surgery. Relaxation can lessen nausea and vomiting connected with chemotherapy, and can reduce the length and pain of childbirth. Relaxation can even boost the functioning of our immune system.

Relaxation is almost discouraged by the culture. Our life styles are rushed and our commitments are many. When we have “free” time we look for a chore to do or we flip on the TV, the computer or reach for the telephone. Many of us don’t know how to relax. We can learn to relax by doing it.

Begin by setting aside 20 minutes each day. Use your imagination to keep your mind off your pain and to help you relax. Visualize a peaceful scene. See yourself in this scene and use all your senses to notice specific details such as a soft breeze, a butterfly, puffy white clouds. Concentrate on deep breathing and letting go. Let this special time be a gift to you. There is no right or wrong way to relax. Experiment and notice what helps your body and mind let go. Be patient with yourself and with the process of learning to relax. To learn more about relaxation read: The Relaxation Response by Herbert Benson, M.D

Be still and know that I am God.” Psalms 46:10

Blessings, Dottie

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Healing Power of Our Thoughts

Last week I talked about people who recently received very bad news and some keys to help in tough times. Today I’ll explore the healing power of our thoughts. We need to guard our thoughts. They can either heal us or make us sicker. Our thoughts have a profound effect on our moods and on our pain.

Notice what you say to yourself about your trauma. Thoughts such as “I can’t stand this” or “I’m never going to feel any better” can cause you to tense up, causing more pain or even more illness. Distract yourself from the pain or difficulty. Focus on something other than your symptoms. Focus on what you can still do, rather than on what you’re unable to do. Our attitude and our thoughts have a powerful effect on our health.

Herbert Benson, M.D. in his book Timeless Healing cites the placebo effect as evidence of the power of our thoughts. Patients believe sugar pills will alleviate their symptom and their belief makes this happen. A 1988 research study at Brown University showed that patients with chronic pain were more likely to be impaired, no matter the severity of their pain, if they believed pain indicated impairment. In other words, those who believed pain and disability were always linked became more impaired. When patients focused their minds on thoughts of being active and well, even though in pain, their health improved.

Focusing on positive thoughts in the midst of pain, fatigue and invasive or immune lowering treatments is not easy. The key is to monitor your thoughts and don’t dwell on how bad you feel. Acknowledge your illness or pain but think about other things most of the time. We can’t control what happens to us but we can learn to control our thoughts.

You’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious – the best, not the worst. The beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Philippians 4: 8 The Message

Blessings, Dottie

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Shocking News

Several of my friends or relatives have recently experienced traumatic events in their lives. One friend lost two family members suddenly. A friend’s daughter was in a serious accident in another country. And two people I know received the diagnosis of breast cancer. All of these events are distressing, painful, and shocking to those involved. These are not minor events, but major and life changing events. They affect every member of the family.

Emotional reactions to crisis events are common but often misunderstood or even overlooked. Initially there is a period of shock and disbelief. Those affected may appear to be coping with the crisis while actually they are numb, acting strong or “putting on a smiley face.” Underneath they may be suppressing many feelings.

Later, when the reality of what has happened hits home, feelings spill out. The cancer patient and the spouse, for example, can then be overwhelmed with a variety of feelings - anger, fear, anxiety, and depression. Those affected may be facing, for the first time, their own and each other’s mortality. It’s essential for couples and families in crisis to give comfort and support to each other, talk about it, share the pain, even cry together. All of this is therapeutic. Journaling and exercising are also helpful in dealing with the many emotions that can almost overwhelm us in a crisis.

David Haynie, my nephew, and Kathy Haynie, his sister, are combining exercise and writing in a unique way that will help many. They have decided to walk in the Susan G. Komen sixty mile, 3 Day Walk for the Cure in Philadelphia, in support of Liz, Dave’s wife, who was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. Kathy writes about her experiences preparing for the sixty mile walk and Dave writes about the ups and downs of Liz having cancer. Their blogs are worth reading. To see Kathy’s blog click here.

Dave’s blog can be accessed from Kathy’s. I’ll write more next week about other keys that will help when in the midst of a crisis and beyond.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and staff, they comfort me.” Psalm 23:4

Blessings, Dottie