Dr. Jaime Sanchez, March 2005
For many, the start of a new year usually means new opportunities for change in one's life. A good place to start is self-reflection and assessing where we're at when it comes to our health and life enjoyment. Questions to ponder may go something like: "Am I living my life to my fullest satisfaction?" and "Is this really the best I can be?" In addition, one may assk: "How do I feel about how I feel?" and "Am I healthier today than I was 5 years ago, and will I be healthier 5 years from now?" We will briefly explore the concept of integration of body-mind-spirit and how perceptions, emotions, health, and the integrity of the spine and nervous system are related. A growing body of evidence supports the mind-body connection. In fact, very recently (November 25, 2005), our local KOLD News 13 aired a story on "Skin Shrinks" or psychodermatologists that acknowledge that the mind, or more specifically, stress and emotional issues create negative changes in the skin, including psoriasis, acne, eczema and warts.
Wellness is an enhanced stats of awareness, connection, and active participation with the world that drives us to deepened states of wholeness and more effective choices for our growth and development; illness would be a loss of this state, as described by Donald Epstein, D.C, developer of Network Spinal Analysis (NSA) and author of the personal transformation-centered books Healing Myths Healing Magic and The 12 Stages of Healing.
It's easy to get caught up in self-limiting/self-defeating thoughts, beliefs, and perceptions regarding one's body, circumstances, life experiences, and what it takes to experience higher levels of wellness and quality of life, let alone whether or not that's even possible. Often times, what limits our capacity to transcend where we are is a product of personal beliefs and dominant behaviors, which are heavily influenced by cultural and familial beliefs, as well as where we fall on the continuum between wellness and illness, both of which are distinct from circumstances or symptoms. It may also be due to stress-induced, defensive, dominant emotional "filters" through which we experience our bodies, life, and the world; a state that can be described as an "emotional hijacking" of the body. In this state, our awareness and perceptions of both our bodies and external environment become narrowed as we function more from our emotional and lower parts of the brain and nervous system. I'm sure we can all think of a time in our lives when we faced a major crisis in which everything going on around us just became a "blur" as our focus narrowed.
The "spinal system" is very important to one's personal journey to enhanced wellness because it can be considered the "sense of self" as most perceptions, feelings, and actions are directed through it. As Epstein maintains, it is the "precise interface between how you experience your body…and how you experience and adapt to your life and your world." The spinal cord also contains a large concentration of receptors for neuropeptides, one's "molecules of emotion". Therefore, it can be said that emotions aren't just felt/experienced in the head, but in the spine and the body. Defense patterns associated with stresses and traumas that the body-mind perceives as unsafe to fully experience or remain aware of become anchored in the spinal cord and the body (out-of-mind doesn't necessarily mean out-of-body).
Our bodies are a reflection of the lifestyle we are, and have been living until now, and our most dominant emotional patterns and behaviors we tend to resort to when faced with life challenges/stresses and get stuck in. We tend to wear our defense patterns, or emotions, as they affect our posture through the "Emotional Motor System", which influences, at every level of the spine, our motor nervous system that controls our muscles, along with our sensory nervous system that lets us feel bodily sensations, such as pain, temperature, pressure, etc. For example, when experiencing stress or negative emotions, you may notice that your muscles tense up involuntarily and that the spine rounds and the head goes forward as we shift into a state of hyper-vigilance, similar to what's seen in other mammals (something most dog owners are familiar with). It also becomes easier to perceive pain (you may have seen the drug commercial for the new antidepressant by Lilly, which supports this notion as it centers on the connection between depression and associated body pain).
There are several ways that one may go about enhancing her levels of wellness by engaging in constructive lifestyle behaviors such as exercise, yoga, meditation, biofeedback, acupuncture, etc. One can also take their levels of wellness and perceived quality of life to new heights, without any apparent "leveling off" effect, while also enhancing neural efficiency, and adaptability to life challenges/stress, as supported by research, and functional MRI, conducted at the University of California, Irvine, and the University of Southern California, by adding NSA care to the equation, which employs the application of very light force or touch along very specific areas of the spine called Spinal Gateways, or adding other wellness/lifestyle-centered chiropractic care, as the focus is on that "precise interface…"
When deciding to make a change in one's life, whatever the individual chooses to commit to, one of the most important things a person can do is not just start something, but follow through and be consistent to get the most out of "it", and ultimately, out of herself. As one progresses and her inner journey unfolds, the goal would be to express a wider range of adaptive choices that are constructive for one's body, emotions, and life, and to connect with that transcendent source of love, wisdom, peace, compassion, forgiveness, happiness, resourcefulness, healing, and empowerment as there is full integration of body-mind-spirit. As a result, one can also expect to be more connected to others in the "web of life" and find it easier to contribute their "gifts" to humanity along with an increase in participation with the world.
A new and improved you awaits awakening. Why wait to take action (re-act) only when you're experiencing an obvious "problem", usually through the presence symptoms (illness behavior)? Wellness behavior consists of taking voluntary action (pro-act), engaging in behaviors and activities that will help one reach higher states of function, self-organization, and quality of life, regardless of the absence or presence of a perceived "problem". We experience health and wellness by choice, not by chance.
Jaime G. Sanchez, DC, FICPA
Life Energy Wellness Center Family Chiropractic, Inc.