Why We Must ALL Take Responsibility For Our Health

Imagine if there was a way to turn around the statistics for the 5 largest non-communicable diseases by taking responsibility for some of the choices we are making and choosing to listen to the intelligence of our body. I mean ALL of us, not just those who stand out as needing support once the body has shown how the addictions have broken down the bodies systems.

To date we have given more sway to the intelligence of the mind and thinking that the body follows that intelligence…well that is indeed what we have taken as normal but…we may need to reconsider

Non-communicable diseases (NCD’s) – Diabetes, Cardiovascular disease, Respiratory disease, and Cancer kill 38 million people each year and are responsible for 82% of deaths worldwide. These statistics do not yet include the consequent of poor mental health which is now part of the World Health Organisations raft of NCD’s.

Just taking a moment to understand the above, 82% of people die each year because we are struggling to take responsibility for our body, how we treat it and nurture it with food, rest and sleep in a way that helps it even function. I use the word function on purpose, to illustrate the body is in a state of ‘last resort’ before it breaks down, of course there is the other extreme of a well oiled and finely tuned body that is vital and has reserve in the tanks for the more demanding times and days.

The actual function is breaking down because it cannot process what we are consuming by choice.

  • Cigarette Smoke is definitely not harmonious in our lungs. The research on the correlation between use and harm is clear and Australia leads the way in the world with reducing lung disease because of legislation, tax and health initiatives to reduce use of tobacco.
  • Alcohol is used in every doctors’ office, hospital & clinic setting because it is a disinfectant. It is used before an injection to kill germs and yet it is also used as a source of pleasure. Alcohol is a known and documented toxin to the brain, liver and kidney cells. (The body has to process both regardless of the label on the bottle or the marketing campaign.) There are clear effects in the body. Around 1 in 5 (18.2%) Australians over 14 drink at levels that put them at risk of alcohol-related harm over their lifetime.
  • 56% of Australians do not meet physical activity guidelinesThe body is designed for movement, it has joints and muscles which, when we are born glide and slide, rotate and stretch and bend. The more sedentary our life the more our body, like our brain adapts to its environment. The muscle is replaced by fat and the bodies processing systems slow down to a point of, in some cases, not being able to re-boot. Being less physically active puts you at greater risk for type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis.

Remember, as the World Health Organisation remind us, these are all lifestyle choices which contribute to the NCD’s that kill 82% of the population worldwide. How do we change these statistics for diseases when one of their major contributing factors are lifestyle choices? As healthcare workers, practitioners and human beings we must ask why are none of our programs working?

I feel there is a deeper level of responsibility being called for here. As practitioners and health workers rolling out these programs, we cannot just tell people what to do, we must understand these addictions for ourselves, look at addiction and these behaviours in our own lives and then when we share the programs with our client can speak from a body that has experience.

I am not saying that if you want to talk to people about addiction to heroin you should have been a heroin addict but you should have an understanding of addictions in your own life and why they are there – what we use the addiction to avoid.

Perhaps some of the more acceptable addictions to look at might be sugar, alcohol, cigarettes, sport, conflict, drama. Yes, trust me you can be addicted to all of them and giving them up can give us a humbling glimpse into addictions and how and why they are there.

From this understanding of what holds us back from being all that we are and having a solid sense of our purpose in the world we can then take a energetic as well as physical responsibility and understand why we see the statistics we do and found programs that offer a more practical, supportive, loving and committed way to live that does not include us as a number of a global statistic on ill health.

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Who is in charge of my body?

I have been trying to work out how I can find myself eating something sweet when I have made a resolve not to eat it! The body is the smartest part of me, it is blunt, consistent and sensitive, it tells me when something I put on it or in it is not agreeing with it. It can show me with irritated skin, a headache, a stomach ache, losing bodily functions, looking like I am 5 months pregnant within minutes of eating. It is ruthless in its honesty.

My brain, on the other hand, is easily influenced, highly manipulative, perhaps even manipulated and incredibly persuasive. So how can I be intelligent and not listen to a body that is clearly more intelligent?!

I have to ask the question “who is in charge here?!”

Clearly there is something at play long before I have the food in my mouth and finding out where may take some time but it is important for me to be aware of the thoughts coming into my head and where they are coming from. Are they supportive or not and ultimately how can I choose differently?

Does it come back to being distracted and not consciously present with myself in the moment? Should I be working on that? There is so much talk about mindfulness, it is supposed to be a tool to slow the mind down and bring it to a more consciously aware state. Yet, I am already pretty good at that, so there must be another level of understanding to take me from it being about my mind and to it being about my body and for the body to be appreciated as the intelligent system it is.

Consider this – we have an autonomic nervous system that works to keep us alive 24 hours a day – it is INCREDIBLE. Our body can grow from an egg to a fully-grown adult, potentially to repeat the process over and over again with, it seems little help from us. Here we are, thousands of years later and the amazing system is still working regardless of the fact that we have been abusing it by indulging in lifestyle choices that do not support its’ smooth and harmonious function. It doesn’t wait for us to listen, it just carries on doing its’ job and letting us know what works and what doesn’t work regardless of whether we choose to listen or not.

So why does anything need to change?

Well, the body is breaking down, our choices are having consequences and they are serious ones. The statistics for deaths from non-communicable diseases NCD’s  are on the rise (82% worldwide as per the World Health Organisation) and type 2 diabetes is one of the fastest growing disease and one of the major consequences of the obesity epidemic. These are consequences from lifestyle choices, so rather than just say we have no choice, perhaps we should look at what is feeding the choice to have the behaviour that leads us to override or completely ignore our body’s communication in favour of behaviours that lead to our own health demise which has a financial impact both personally and on the public purse. Time to listen to the intelligence of the body.

The body communicates with us by providing symptoms, we feel them and the brain decides what to do about those feelings. One option is to ask questions like why am I bloated? what have I eaten? am I tired? do I need more sleep? maybe I shouldn’t eat it any more! These questions take time to answer and tenacity because we are asked to keep looking at the ‘why’ in order to really understand the root of the behaviour and how the ‘intelligent’ brain can justify the repeated choice of abusing its own body. All too often, it is simpler to make the symptoms go away by choosing the easiest option – taking a pill to numb the pain, drinking alcohol or perhaps consuming more food. A truly ‘head-in-the-sand’ approach.

This is clearly a familiar route for many as the statistics are bluntly demonstrating and if we don’t want to bankrupt our health systems it is up to each and every one of us to make a decision to pay attention to the intelligence of the body and appreciate the extra-ordinary wisdom that is waiting for us to connect to when we get our head out of the way. It is playful, honest, direct and unsubtle!

So to answer my own question about who is in charge of my body, I want to be and therefore I have to choose to be aware of what is going on long before the decision presents itself or I find the food in my mouth.  I am the only one who can make that choice and I can clearly see it is my responsibility to myself, to my family and to the world to not contribute to those statistics but to re-engage with the intelligence of the body.

Revisiting the word Religion

The current understanding of the word religion has a profound impact on most people, one I have found can be polarising.

There are different versions, each with its own doctrine, understandings, often a place to congregate, a community, a leader. There is a set of ideals and beliefs within which there is a modicum of freedom, but sometimes those ideals and beliefs have strict borders. Examples might include:

  • Attitudes to women
  • Access to God
  • Entrance to heaven or hell
  • Attitudes towards same sex relationships
  • Rules and regulations about who can marry and who cannot.

I started wondering what my relationship with religion is and realised it is not attached to any church, ideology or doctrine. In fact, I was unsettled by my lived experience of those forms of religion. Yet I still have a very deep and heart-felt relationship with God so was I religious and did I have a religion? To answer this question I had to break the word religion down further.

What were the elements of learnt religion I enjoyed?

  • The community
  • The service to humanity
  • The getting together in celebration of a source of love that holds us, supports us and gives us a deeper purpose to life.

What were the elements of learnt religion I did not enjoy?

  • The judgement
  • The lack of consistency in the message and the hypocrisy I saw in the translation of that inconsistent message
  • The prejudice towards other creeds, races, sexes
  • The narrow access – there was someone with greater access to God, or God had a specific house where he resided more than others.

In fact I don’t so much ‘not enjoy’ those elements, the majority of them irritated and angered me to the point of having a polarising reaction away from any of the religions I had discovered or studied!

So how did I still feel a connection to God that I could not explain?

I took responsibility for what I was reacting to and decided from a very young age that I would learn to walk the talk when it came to what I felt God wanted from me. I chose not to keep my expression of love for any single day of the week, single venue or specific group of people, I worked hard at recognising where I held judgement, prejudice and a ‘say one thing and do another’ attitude. What I found was less than perfect on all counts, but I worked at it and stopped trying to achieve perfection.

 

I found God in nature, in animals, in children, in me. I found wisdom way beyond anything that had been taught in the current education system in all of these spaces. God’s love did not subscribe to a border or a set of rules or certificate of education. The rules I thought I had needed to be allowed access to heaven became obsolete once it was clear that if I stayed connected to myself there was no need for rules, instead I felt connected to a bigger picture and I worked for a connected community outcome. I worked to ensure I was responsible for my choices both physically, emotionally and energetically.

In the end I found reflections of God wherever I looked!

I know that the way the world is today, with human atrocities way beyond anything we thought possible, indulgence in food and comfort and such a focus on self that humanity desperately needs to believe in a higher power, a deeper meaning to give our lives purpose. I propose what we need is a re-boot on the meaning of love and responsibility so we ensure that what we once might have known to be true religion through relationships to all, does not get lost to an imposed picture. Do we wait for a crisis in our lives or do we proactively investigate how to bring those changes into our lives before the crisis?

I have realised that neither God nor Religion are going to save us. I have learnt that we have the power to save ourselves though, by taking responsibility for the way we are in our every moment and by being the change we want to see in the world. We need to speak honestly about what is not working, raise the bar on what we call love and make EVERYTHING about building love in our lives.

If we do that we will have connected communities, we will engage, take care of each other, take responsibility for our choices and call a stop to practices that foster the greed, separation and hate. We have allowed this in the name of far too many varied organised religions because we have looked the other way as the control crept in incrementally.

God is Love. Anything that chooses not to see us all as equal sons of God cannot be about love. Now we have to redress that balance and build a living religion that is lived in our every moment, not a word to be afraid of or avoid using but one that is alive and well as our living way.