“I love your posts and videos! I would expect a doctor to talk about illnesses and how to stay healthy all the time, but you talk about real life!”
She went on to say that she really appreciated information about how to cultivate a positive mindset, motivation, gratitude, time management and just funny cool stuff.
This totally cracked me up.
I mean, I appreciated the compliment but it just struck me that talking about “real life” as a doctor seemed out of the ordinary to her. And even more surprising to me was that there was a distinction between “real life” and health.
You see as an osteopathic family physician, I was trained to appreciate that the body has the ability to regulate itself and heal itself when we can assist it in removing the barriers to the healing work of the immune system.
We also believe that we are a unit of body, mind and spirit that is affected by our environment in both positive and negative ways. So when you think about it, “real life” stuff represents all things that affect our health. Either barriers or helpers to the maintenance of health and healing disease.
I love this visual that best-selling author Lissa Rankin, M.D. introduced me to at a seminar. She calls it the Whole Health Cairn and it is THE reason that I ask nosey questions of my patients and talk about stuff that may seem more related to “real life” than disease.
The first thing you may notice is that your physical health is the smallest rock at the top of the cairn. But isn’t physical health the foundation upon which every other area of your life is based?
And you know that already. You can think of someone who is physically “better off” than you but who suffers in other areas of life and you can think of someone who is physically “worse off” than you but who thrives in other areas.
It’s more than that though.
The physical body can be considered a gauge of how things are going in other areas of our lives. It is the delicate rock at the top that becomes unbalanced or even topples when something else below it becomes a stressful influence.
The next thing I appreciate about the Whole Health Cairn is its base, what Dr. Rankin calls your “inner pilot light.” There are a lot of words for this and yet it's hard to explain at the same time. You might ask yourself “Am I living in alignment with my true self?” or “Am I following my intuition?” in a certain area of life.
If you are a “beach person” and you’ve been living in the midwest because a job took you there twenty years ago, you may feel a tug.
If you are an artist at heart, but trained to be an accountant because you grew up hearing that art wasn’t a “real job,” you might feel a tug.
If you married your nice, stable boyfriend of seven years when you were 40 and worried you wouldn’t find anyone else that truly felt right for you, you may feel a tug.
It’s the foundation upon which your happiness in other areas of life is supported.
And then there are the other rocks of the cairn, all representing areas of life that need to have some sense of balance and coordination to be at your best. Now you may be thinking “Really, so I need to be rich to be healthy?” or “I’m not creative, so I’m gonna get sick?” or “This sounds a little far out. Where’s the proof of this?” There’s a lot to explore here, but briefly I encourage you to keep in mind a couple things:
I’m not saying that you have to be at your best in every area of your life to be healthy, but rather that there needs to be some sense of contentment with each area. Contentment according to your beliefs - not what your mamma told you, and not what society tells you.
There also needs to be a sense of balance and coordination within and among these areas. Balance and coordination according to your opinion - not having it all, all of the time.
And I realize that this may seem a little far out for some.
While for others it may feel validating “I knew it!” or refreshing “Finally a doctor who sees the whole picture!”
You are both right. You don’t hear health talked about in this way in our culture too much. It’s not the quick easy flashy fix of modern technology that makes the news.
But it is news. It is science. And it just makes sense.
There is absolute data, published in peer-reviewed medical journals, to support the notion that each stone in the Whole Health Cairn is vital to living an optimally healthy life. In fact, Dr. Rankin makes the bold, but supported statement that:
“The health of your relationships, your professional life, your creative life, your spiritual life, your sex life, your environment, your finances – in essence, the health of your mind – impacts your health far more than your diet, exercise, smoking, drinking, sleep habits or how many vitamins you take.” 😲
There’s a lot to explore in that statement and I’ll be diving deeper into these concepts in the coming months, so stay tuned!
For right now though, take a few moments to think about each stone in the Whole Health Cairn. How content do you feel in each area of life? What one small thing could you do in one area to nudge yourself closer to being more content?
Let me know what you’re doing in the comments. I’d love to hear your thoughts, questions and examples of how these areas of life are affecting your Whole Health!
To Your Best Health,
P.S. I mentioned that Dr. Rankin was a best-selling author. You might be interested in checking out her book, Mind Over Medicine: Scientific Proof You Can Heal Yourself (Hay House, May 2013).
P.S.S. Do you know someone who is struggling in one of these areas of their Whole Health? I would love to support them. Please forward this to them.
P.S.S.S. (too much?) If you are seeing this blog and don’t get regular notes from me, please subscribe here. I would love to send you more great info from time to time!