Attitude is everything, they say. As we think, so we are. This is no different when it comes to disease and discomfort. How seriously we allow something to ruin our moment, our day or our life, really depends on the way we view it, because our minds control so much of the experience of our body.
Can our minds prevent us from becoming ill – or reduce the effects of illness and pain? This is an old debate, and very much steeped in one’s belief system. But while we are unlikely to control the genetic aspects of illness or the wear and tear of old age, there is strong evidence for the fact that with the right attitude, optimism and positive mindset, the most extraordinary changes can be made for the better, even to the point of causing mysterious cures.
Even if we fail to prevent a disease or cure it, our attitude plays an enormous role in how well we deal with it. In studies of women over the age of 60, it was found that many were less concerned with osteoporosis than other diseases such as cancer and cardio-vascular issues, and somewhat taken by surprise and dismay when discovering their bones were compromised, or in extreme cases, broken. However, those who maintained an open, optimistic attitude towards osteoporosis were more ready to take active interventions to prevent it, and in so doing developed a more confident and less fearful outlook.
It would seem that engaging forthrightly with the facts of osteoporosis can be helpful in taking positive preventative action. Those that had given their bones some thought, were also willing to give them some love; taking care at the right time in life can be helpful in lowering the risks of onset or the serious consequences of ignoring it. Exercise, calcium, multivitamins – and taking on life with enjoyment and anticipation are seen as signature prevention measures.
Mind over matter
But the question still remains: can the mind change the onset and course of osteoporosis? There is considerable evidence backing up the philosophy of ‘mind over matter’. And plenty of evidence exists that we have the power to make ourselves well or sick simply by using our thoughts; many complaints rightfully or wrongfully are labelled as psychosomatic. But how can our train of thought affect osteoporosis and the health of our bones?
Is knowing the condition of one’s bones harmful? Once alerted to the possibility that their bones are becoming fragile, some people become consumed by fear and react in the worst possible way – they stop moving with confidence. Sometimes fear is so great they fear that even walking may break a bone. But In becoming less mobile, they actually enhance the encroachment of the disease.
One of the clearest examples of the power of the mind over our experience of illness is the Placebo Effect. People who have been given what they think is the cure but is in fact a tablet made of sugar, immediately express beneficial experience – even though they have not received real medication. This means that with a positive outlook we don’t necessarily have to experience disease or decline in the worst possible way, or rely solely on pills. We can think ourselves better by learning to dance.
The rules of dancing
Positive self-perception: The expectation of good health into old age helps people to live longer, fuller lives. Imagining the best results for your health or your condition daily has proven to assist people to actual attain quite remarkable outcomes. Develop a joyous and mindful picture of how you want to live and enjoy life.
Harness positive expectations: The brain releases hormones and neurotransmitters that trigger the way we feel. When your mind is feeling good, then you will feel good. What you think and believe can create physical changes in your body. So the idea that you can think yourself well is viable. Can you think yourself cured? That is another question. But a positive attitude gives an individual the confidence to achieve more than if they choose to think poorly. Achieving becomes a drive in its own right, feeding the brain with vitality. This alone can give you a sense of wellness.
Don’t dwell on what you can’t change: There’s no denying that some people find themselves with chronic pain and daily difficulty with severe osteoporosis. This can contribute to withdrawal and depression, diminishing an active social life. But that is a dangerous situation because invariably the condition can worsen under these circumstances. Always do as much as you can to engage and interact. The more you do, the better you will be. Optimists always have more friends!
Educate yourself: Learn about your condition and your best options for treatment. Learn which exercises are good, and which are not. Movement helps the body to heal naturally. It helps to release tight muscles, improve joint strength, and reduces stress. In this way you will build confidence and hopefulness – and you will always be dancing, one way or another.
Love your bones! They are your best friends!
NOFSA (National Osteoporosis Foundation South Africa)
NOFSA is the only non-profit, voluntary health organisation dedicated to promoting lifelong bone health. We focus on reducing the widespread prevalence of osteoporosis while working to find a cure for the disease, and by supporting research and developing programmes of education and advocacy.
Find out more about our work at: www.osteoporosis.org.za