Why is Achieving Balance so Essential? Your Key to your Health, Well-Being and Success, Part 2

Proactively Balance Your Life – in the Salutogenesis Spirit!

In Part 1 we explored how important the role psychological well-being can play in contributing to good health. By generating a feel good mind-set you can reduce stress and help keep your immune system in balance. We also met a cancer survivor, Mr O., and discovered how he changed his life style in order to become healthy again. (Link to Part 1.)

In Part 2 we will analyse what the survivor has undertaken and what that can lead to success. You will also learn a fun-to-do exercise that you can immediately implement to support your feel good mind-set. 

Supportive ‘balance-rich’ resources you can implement immediately

Dr. Carol Ryff, a professor of Psychology at the University of Wisconsin, lists attitudes and characteristics which she calls the “six dimensions of well-being”. Adopt these dimensions and enhance your feel good mind-set:

  • Autonomy: I have confidence in my opinions, even if they are contrary to the general consensus.

  • Environmental Mastery: In general, I feel I am in charge of the situation in which I live.

  • Personal Growth: I think it is important to have new experiences that challenge how you think about yourself and the world.

  • Positive Relations with Others: People would describe me as a giving person, willing to share my time with others.

  • Purpose in Life: Some people wander aimlessly through life, but I am not one of them.

  • Self-Acceptance: I like most aspects of my personality.

Anton Antonovsky’s Sense of Coherence is ‘a generalised orientation toward the world which perceives it, on a continuum, as comprehensible, manageable and meaningful.’ Further, the strength of one’s Sense of Coherence is ‘a significant factor in facilitating the movement toward health.’ In other words, understanding life, feeling that you have (some) control over it and knowing that life has meaning are the ways to health and well-being. 

A sense of coherence is comprised of three key aspects: 

  1. Belief that things happen in a predictable way and you can understand them (comprehensibility)

  2. Belief that you have the ability, means resources to cope with the situation (manageability)

  3. Belief that life in general and what you value are worthwhile (meaningfulness)

Stress is considered by both psychologists and medical doctors to be one of the chief causes and contributing factors of both mental and physical disease. Stress is expressed by emotions such as fear, anxiety, and anger and can be accompanied by many physical symptoms such as inflammation, elevated heart rate, or constricted blood vessels.

The attitudes and way of life delineated in Dr Riff’s six dimensions and Antonovsky’s Sense of Coherence are supportive of a feel good mind-set and can therefore counteract stress. This is not only essential for good physical health, such as disease prevention, but is also essential for psychological well-being.

Let us revisit our survivor Mr O.

As we discovered last time, Mr O. created an unmistakably robust, proactive feel good mind-set to battle and conquer his cancer. He has achieved all of Ryff’s six-dimensions and a vigorous State of Coherence:

  • His situation for him is comprehensible: he understands which measures are best for him to take to try to beat the disease

  • He manages his situation by following a healthy routine and life style and right from the beginning he has exhibited a fighting spirit: ‘You will not get me!’

  • He created meaningfulness in his life: ‘I can play, and it is fun!’

Achieving the feel good mind-set

As mentioned above, mindfulness training, meditation, Tai Chi, as well as similar activities, are proven stress reduction approaches.

Let’s explore the phenomenon of reducing stress and inflammation by simply anticipating doing  (or projecting) a stress reduction exercise and discover how we can make this one of our resources.

The positive effect of anticipation may well be the result of sense perception at work. By anticipating performing the exercise you are recalling - either consciously or unconsciously – your past experiences with the exercise and in so doing the senses of seeing and feeling -and perhaps even the hearing - are being presently, in real time, re-activated. For example, you might get a pleasant feeling of warmth while doing an exercise and this warmth might be reactivated during the anticipation. If this is the case, this re-activation of the pleasant sense perception through the anticipation of doing the exercise could account for a benign lower inflammation level and help promote more balance in the immune system.

This positive ‘anticipation effect’ of decreasing inflammation was cited by Dr Schubert in his presentation at the Salutogensis Conference, which is discussed in Part 1 of this article

Even if a person is unaware of their sense perceptions, the effect of the sense perceptions can occur and influence a person’s actions and opinions. In fact, people are frequently unaware of what the senses actually perceive and cause to happen until they consciously reflect on it. Indeed, how many times have you red-facedly found yourself saying: ‘I have no idea why I said/did that’? The behaviour may well have been sense-perception driven! You may have been completely unaware of the how your sense perception prompted your behaviour. 

But the good news is that you can often become aware of how you and your senses perceive things and can then often change those sense perceptions.

In an article, Dr Leiff, a practicing psychiatrist with specialties in generic psychiatry and neuropsychiatry, supports the idea that the senses, for example visualising a future event, can have an effect on future outcomes. The article explains the clout the senses of visualising and kinaesthesia (movement and feeling) can wield and how these ‘mental events’ can change brain circuits and influence what happens:

‘Imagine high jumping. Visualizing a successful jump before the event increases success by 35%. But, remarkably, if while imagining the future high jump an arm is moved the success rate increases to 45%.

How can this be?

Adding a physical movement to the visual thinking circuit makes the strengthened brain circuit larger and more powerful.’

In other words, getting one sense (visualising) involved while anticipating an event can increase success by 35% but by activating a second sense -feeling in the form of moving your arm -you get an additional bonus of an 15%. I like these odds! I’m in. 

(For a discussion of how you can benefit from sense perception fine-tuning, please refer to my previous post here.)

A study by Dr Eleanor Maguire, Professor of Neuroscience at University College London, has found that patients with amnesia are unable to imagine future events. Therefore, without a link to the past and the respective stored sense perceptions, which are essential resources, those with amnesia cannot properly project into the future.

For an article on the BBC website, author David Robson interviewed Professor Eleanor Maguire on the idea of the connectivity between past and present:

Paraphrasing Dr Maguire: Around 2005 neuroscientists started to realise that memory is not really about the past, it’s about helping you act appropriately in the future. She continues: “You need to project yourself forward to work out the best course of action.”

If one is unable to project, i. e. anticipate, there will be no sensory perception support which is based upon past experience. Without sensory support the chances of success diminish as we learned in the high jump example.

Let’s take a spin

Putting a New Spin on the Past, an exercise created by Dr Richard Bandler in his book GUIDE TO TRANCE-FORMATION, has been helpful to my clients in transforming negative emotion about a past event into positive emotion and energy for future use. 

The following is a slightly abbreviated version. 

  1. Think of a habitual response or reaction which you would like to change – for example losing your self-confidence when you really needed it.

  2. Remember a time when this situation caused a stressful reaction. Concentrate on the image. Pay special attention to the feeling it causes.

  3. Focus on the feeling. Imagine it starts moving and spinning around. In which direction is it spinning? Now, suppose you can see the feeling moving, spinning around in a particular direction. In which direction is it spinning?

  4. Next, follow this feeling back to its source. To the first significant time it happened. If you cannot find that spot exactly that’s okay. Simply move back gradually in your memory, step by step, until you come to a stop.

  5. Become aware of the feeling and this time connect the endpoint to the start and spin the feeling in the opposite direction. This will significantly alter the feeling.

  6. Take a step back in time to a moment just before this feeling first happened. Continue to run the feeling in reverse, spinning it faster and faster and spreading the feeling throughout your body. Now move forward, through each subsequent experience of the feeling you have on your timeline and allowing each experience to be re-coded by the ‘reversed spin’. Do this very rapidly until you arrive at the present moment.

  7. Check to see how you feel about your undesired response or reaction. If it still feels too strong then repeat steps 6 and 7 until you have a sense that the feeling has lost its potency.

On many occasions clients find that the negative emotion becomes positive, which can provide additional energy.

You can also expand the exercise by, for example, giving the feeling a different colour, or shape, or sound and then repeating the exercise with any of these different properties.

The idea behind this exercise is to increase the control over your feelings and creating a sense of manageability, empowerment. (Do you remember the Sense of Coherence?) As with learning just about any skill, repetition is the road to mastery. Repeating this exercise can increase its effectiveness.

The above is an abbreviated version of the exercise Putting a New Spin on the Past from the book GUIDE TO TRANCE-FORMATION by Dr. Richard Bandler.

In Summary

Psychological well-being can have a positive influence on one’s physical health by combating stress and helping to maintain balance in the immune system. An imbalance in the immune system can lead to inflammation which can avalanche into serious health problems. 

Psychological well-being can be promoted by establishing a routine feel good mind-set by aiming to achieve the State of Coherence and the six dimensions of well-being. Believe that your life is meaningful, that you comprehend life, and that you have the ability to manage your affairs.

Strive to take control of your life. Believe that you are the boss of your own body. Exhibit a fighting spirit, instead of showing resignation. Avoid thinking “this is just my fate” and passively accepting negativity in your life. Make it a priority to apply these principles to all areas of your life: your diet, family, friends, career and physical well-being – and prepare for take off!


Bibliography

The salutogenic model as a theory to guide health promotion Aaron Antonovsky Health Promotion International, Oxford University Press 1996

Psychology Today, 15th May 2014, Professor Carol Ryff’s Six Domains of Psychological Well-Being

Five Things Alice in Wonderland reveals about the brain, BBC Website, author David Robson, 25th February 2015 http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20150225-secrets-of-alice-in-wonderland

Guide to Trance-Formation by Richard Bandler, HarperElement 2010

Dr. Lieff’s web and blog site http://jonlieffmd.com/

http://jonlieffmd.com/blog/neuroplasticity-primer-and-update