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How the Mind-Body Connection Can Heal You

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A recent newspaper headline conveyed one man’s thoughts on what is perceived as a devastating diagnosis of pancreatic cancer.

“I feel healed.”

The operative word is “feel.”

So many times, we forget that our thoughts and emotions affect our physical health.

That’s the message of a new book by Nancy Gordon, a psychoneuroimmunologist from Morganton, N.C. She advocates a “new philosophy of health care” focusing on the connection between mind and body.

Her compact 98-page paperback, “The Guiding Philosophy for the Future of Healthcare,” describes how the Western medical model – which dates to Isaac Newton’s discovery of the laws of physics – focuses on treating disease with surgery and medicines, almost to the exclusion of recognizing the emotional aspect of illness.

She argues for a merger of these philosophies.

“It is common sense that our emotions, and what we think, and what we believe, affect our physical body,” said Gordon, who works with physicians and patients on changing the way they think about life, health and illness.

“Happy people are less stressed,” she said. “Happy people are healthier.”

That doesn’t mean Gordon believes people think themselves sick. One of her first disclaimers in the book is that she’s not about blame.

She’s not trying to replace Western medicine or discourage people from seeing traditional doctors. Instead, she’s pointing out the limitations of a medical model that doesn’t recognize or understand energy and how it affects the body.

“Our bodies are made up of cells that are made up of energy,” she said.

There is also an energy field outside the body, made up of thoughts and feelings, she said.

If that energy is blocked, it will eventually affect the physical body.

“Thoughts are things,” Gordon said. “Energy is vibration. Energy around the body is made up of thoughts, emotions and beliefs. The body mirrors the mind.”

Therapies such as acupuncture and Reiki work on removing energy blockages and restoring balance. The focus is preventing illness.

Take stress. Doctors agree that stress contributes to heart disease and other physical problems.

But what is stressful to some people – such as public speaking – is not stressful to others.

“Stress is your perception of a situation,” Gordon said.

Being aware of your negative thoughts is the first step toward changing your perception. That can relieve stress and help reduce the chances of feeling, say, sick to your stomach. “What you eat is not, for the most part, what causes your stomach to hurt,” Gordon says. “It’s what eats you.”

Dr. Sheila Kilbane, a Charlotte, N.C., pediatrician, has worked with Gordon on helping her young patients and their parents change thought patterns.

Kilbane said research shows that when a physician tells a patient, “There is nothing I can do,” that dampens the immune system.

“But when you go into the room and you know with every cell in your being that you can help that child, they’re going to be helped.”

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