The Book that Changed My Life
Dr. Lissa Rankin had a question that most in the medical community didn’t - why do certain patients spontaneously heal while others don’t? This question was not something Dr. Rankin pondered based on simple hyperbole, but upon witnessing actual cases where patients who should have otherwise succumbed to the realities of a grave illness - pulled themselves out of it.
With the exception of research performed in the 1960s by Harvard Professor, Dr. Herbert Benson, little research existed on the topic.
Dr. Rankin decided to perform her own.
She began her study with the knowledge that stressful situations albeit a bad phone call, a long commute or something extremely tragic trigger the release of your body’s stress hormones – cortisol and adrenaline. The problem with this response is our brains have not evolved to react based on the severity of the situation. Instead, our brain behaves exactly the same whether you can’t find your keys, or if you are being chased a bear.
In addition to the major overtime required from your brain during these situations, prolonged or regular stress can cause havoc to your body and your overall health. Stress slows digestion, can cause heart problems and can aggravate or even assist in bringing on serious or chronic illnesses.
What Dr. Rankin studied was how health and illness can change when a person’s body is taught to engage the relaxation response to stave off stress and its side effects. Proven ways to activate this calming response include consistently surrounding yourself with a supportive community, fostering an attitude of optimism (which studies show can help you live 10 years longer), learning to speak to yourself in healthy ways and participating in activities which are known to help you relax. In the end, Dr. Rankin’s research showed if you are able to employ this relaxation response you can significantly improve your health and even heal yourself from severe illness.
Her data proved to be so compelling that she authored, Mind Over Medicine, Scientific Proof that You Can Heal Yourself, a book she hoped would begin to change the way doctors approach the conversation of serious illness with patients. Dr. Rankin proposes that if the relaxation response can contribute to a patient healing; and if, say, a patient is diagnosed with a disease with a 5% survival rate, why not approach the conversation with the patient as to, “What can we do to make sure you are in the 5%?” Why shouldn’t doctors, Rankin proposes, be advocates of healing in conversations with patients as opposed to being the bearers of bad or grave news.
It wasn’t just the general notion of this book that so profoundly touched me; it greatly helped in my own healing as well. I was 19 years old when I was diagnosed with endometriosis.
Endometriosis meant I was in bed for three weeks every month unable to move. I suffered chronic digestive problems. I had many surgeries and was constantly taking new, more and, at times, questionable medicine.
Ten years after my diagnosis, I decided I was done being sick. I also decided, I was done with doctors’ advice that was seemingly making me worse instead of better.
One year later after making this decision, I had incorporated Dr. Rankin’s philosophies of engaging my relaxation response via yoga, meditation, exercise, nutrition and changing the way I spoke to myself, and as a result of it all - I continue to find myself 100% symptom free.
Watch Dr. Rankin’s Ted Talk here.
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