Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Healing Power of the Mind

Worried and fearful thoughts fill our minds when we’re in a crisis of any kind. Worry is natural but not helpful. We need to stop thinking the worst. We need to harness the power of our minds to stop worried or anxious thoughts. We can learn to refocus our attention. Instead of fighting the thought, switch channels in your mind and focus on something else.

One key is to replace worry thoughts with positive thoughts. We can contradict worry thoughts by counting our blessings. We can overcome worry thoughts by imagining a peaceful scene. We can distract our minds with an activity - read a book, run an errand, or talk with a friend. Turn off news accounts and violent TV if it adds to worry; watch shows that relax you and make you laugh.

Meditation is one key to refocusing your attention. Many think of meditation as a mindless exercise in letting thoughts come as they will. Actually meditation is a form of focused thinking. Synonyms for meditation include: contemplation, reflection, deliberation, examination and visualization. Rick Warren in his book, The Purpose Driven Life says that “if you know how to worry, you already know how to meditate.” Worry is focused thinking on something negative. Meditation is focused thinking on something positive. Use scripture, meditation and prayer to stop worry thoughts.

To learn more read Self Talk, Soul Talk by Jennifer Rothschild. Memorize the Serenity Prayer and the scripture below. Both will help you use the healing power of your thoughts.

The Serenity Prayer
God, Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.

“Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.” Philippians 4:8

Blessings, Dottie

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Healing Power of Small Groups

In difficult times a small group can be healing, offering a place where it is safe to talk on a deeper level than usually happens in social settings. Many churches offer small groups as a way to connect closely and learn together. There are “share groups” available to anyone who has been on the spiritual retreat called the Emmaus Walk. Similarly, there are many Promise Keeper men’s groups.

There also are many support groups available to help with personal issues. These groups include Overeaters Anonymous, 12 step groups, (AA, AlAnon, and Celebrate Recovery), cancer support groups and The Third Option (for hurting couples), Grief Share, Divorce Care, Job Search and others. Groups united around specific interests are also helpful such as writing groups and hobby groups. Groups are helpful because “No man is an island” – we need relationships that are authentic, safe and affirming.

Groups become bonded emotionally. The members care about each other. The group rejoices over the success of the members and offers emotional support when difficulties occur. Over time, openness and trust grow.

Look for a small group that is healthy. Scott Peck, psychiatrist, makes a distinction between a healthy group and a cult. A healthy group draws people in by its connectedness, applies no pressure for people to stay and glories in the extraordinary differences of its members while a cult exerts tremendous pressure to join and is characterized by a certain sameness of the people in them.

Though a support group involves personal sharing this should happen gradually and only as you feel trust in the group. You should be allowed to listen and observe at first and only expected to participate as you are ready. I highly recommend support groups.

“Two are better than one because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!” Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

Blessings, Dottie

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Healing Power of Touch

Touching is very important to all human beings. This is especially true in a crisis or difficulty. Touch is healing, comforting and good for us. We avoid touch when we need it the most because we want to appear strong or don’t want to cry. Instead, we need to step out of our comfort zone and offer and receive hugs. Touching is good for our health and boosts our immune system.

Infants deprived of touch fail to thrive and may even die. In contrast, babies who are held and cuddled develop better cognitive abilities. A study showed premature infants who were massaged for 15 minutes three times a day gained weight 47 percent faster than others who were left alone. The nervous system of the massaged infants matured more rapidly. The massaged babies were more active and more responsive than those who were not massaged.

Adults deprived of touch often suffer from low self-esteem, ill health and a weakening of the immune system, as well as depression and loneliness. Similarly, adults who have plenty of physical contact have fewer emotional problems, less depression and report less stress. Hugging and touching increases oxygen levels in the blood and reduces blood pressure. Hugging is obviously very good for us. Yet we often live in low touch environments.

Many of us have grown up in homes where little affectionate touch was offered. It may not seem natural to ask for or give a hug. We need to do it anyway! This can have a positive effect on the immune functioning of our family and friends. A pat on the back, a touch on the arm or better yet an affectionate hug will help both the giver and the receiver’s immune system. We should be hugging each other many times a day. God gave us skin and the pleasures of touch so we would connect lovingly with each other.

“All who touched him were healed." Matthew 14:36

Blessings, Dottie

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Healing Power of Tears

In difficult times it helps to let go and cry. Tears are therapeutic. Crying relieves stress and gets us in touch with inner feelings. Usually we feel better after we cry. Interest in tears goes way back. Ovid, in 42 B.C. said, “It is a relief to weep.” Mr. Bumble, in Charles Dickens Oliver Twist said: “Crying opens the lungs, washes the countenance, exercises the eyes and softens down the temper. So cry away.”

The tears we shed when we are sad have a different chemical composition than those shed when we peel an onion or when we tear up from irritants such as wind or dust. Tears are our body’s way of removing harmful chemicals that build up due to stress. Research at the University of Pittsburgh compared a group of healthy people to a group who had stress related illnesses. The responses showed that the healthy men and women cry more often and accept their tears, while those with illnesses viewed tears negatively.

Crying isn’t easy. Even those who seem to cry easily may avoid their deeper feelings, only allowing a few tears to escape at emotional moments. Our frozen feelings are submerged out of sight, like an ice berg. They’re too painful to face, we think, so we deny them. We avoid inner pain from childhood, from failed relationships, from the loss of loved ones and from life’s disappointments. And we experience daily frustrations in which we feel like crying but don’t.

Ann Kaiser Stearns in her book, Living Through Personal Crisis, says that “healing involves being willing to hurt more in order to hurt less.” Tears are very effective in helping us mourn losses in life, in helping us grieve and let go of the past and in helping us release tension from the daily frustrations of life. When we block out painful feelings we also block all feelings to some extent. Crying is good for the soul.

“Jesus wept.” John 11:35

Blessings, Dottie

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Healing Power of Laughter

Another key in times of crisis is the healing power of laughter. Life is serious but it needn't be solemn. Humans are the only creatures who can laugh at themselves. We have the ability to stand outside of our selves and see humor in the midst of pain. Laughter helps us bear our pain and our problems. We don't laugh because we're happy. We're happy because we laugh. Laughter eases stress and enables us to keep things in perspective. When we laugh we release emotions just as we do when we cry. Laughter is cathartic. Laughter heals.

Laughing benefits our cardiovascular system by increasing the oxygen in our blood stream. Laughter exercises our lungs and the muscles used in breathing. It stimulates our organs. Studies at Stanford University show that laughter causes an increase in dopamine, an important brain chemical. Dr. Paul Pearsall in his book Super Immunity cites evidence that laughter enhances our immune system.

When we laugh and play we have more energy, are more creative and more flexible. Our problems seem less overwhelming. In our culture play has been thought of as frivolous or a waste of time. But play renews us, preparing us for work. Years ago, Norman Cousins, former editor of the Saturday Review of Literature, used laughter to overcome pain. When he was ill with a disease of the connective tissues he discovered that watching old Marx Brothers movies and reruns of Candid Camera TV shows allowed him to be pain free for several hours afterwards.

Notice what makes you laugh. Perhaps you have a favorite comic strip. Clip it out and post it to prolong your laughter. Also look for books, TV programs or movies that make you laugh. You can even try YouTube - waterbed prank, and watch a hilarious video.

Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength. Nehemiah 8:10

Blessings, Dottie