Want better health? Resolve to ‘think positive’ in 2014

How to become a change-agent in 2014 © Glowimages

How to become a change-agent in 2014 © Glowimages

Have you been following The Paradise on TV? Maybe you went to see the second movie in The Hunger Games trilogy or The Book Thief during the holiday season?

Some of us identify more intensely with the characters on the big screen, but it seems that we all love following an intelligent, positive hero as he or she conquers fear, stays cool and becomes a change-agent in the world.

Their success begs the question: Is it good luck, good genes, ‘right place, right time’ or positive thinking that makes the difference?

And how about in real life?

Research is beginning to reveal that our mental state has the major impact on outcomes for us. Far from being a flimsy, feel-good emotion or upbeat attitude, positive thoughts can create real value in your life and help you build skills that last much longer than a smile. They can also boost your health and wellbeing.

A landmark paper  provides surprising insights about positive thinking and its impact on your skills. Results reveal that when you experience positive emotions like joy, contentment and love, you will see more possibilities in your life, enabling you to be open to opportunities to broaden and build on your skills.

Sounds just like the heroines in The Paradise and The Hunger Games, really.

Coming at it from another angle, the spiritually positive expression of joy, contentment, forgiveness and love you feel in your life open the door to happiness and success.

Paul, a super achiever in the early Christian movement shared an equally important insight more than 2000 years ago, “…The Spirit … brings a harvest of love, joy, peace; patience towards others, kindness, benevolence;” and if today’s research is to be believed, wellbeing and success in whatever endeavour we pursue.

What sort of God or ‘Spirit’ was Paul referring to? It’s worth persisting in asking that question.

Mitch Horowitz, author of the just-released One Simple Idea: How Positive Thinking Reshaped Modern Life, gives examples of thought-leaders in this field who have taken the ideas expressed in ancient literature and run with them. Amongst many luminaries like Norman Vincent Peale, he notes the contribution of “the brilliant young Mary Baker Eddy,” who founded the Christian Science Church in the late 1870s.

Unlike many others of this movement, Eddy had a decidedly Christian approach. “Are thoughts divine or human?” she wrote in Science and Health. “That is the important question”. She made the mind/body/spirit connection which brought and still brings physical and mental healing.

Where an analytical human perspective might get bogged down in a limited or negative view or want to rely on willpower, a willingness to yield thinking to divine inspiration, or ‘the Spirit’, brings practical results.

While this may sound easier said than done, there are some steps you can take to increase your positivity and “broaden and build” your life.

Here are four ideas for you to consider:

  • You don’t need to sit cross-legged to stop, listen and meditate regularly throughout the day on positive, inspiring ideas
  • Regularly write a ‘gratitude list’ about all the positive things in your life and in the world today
  • Play! Make time in your schedule to have fun, be happy and content
  • Forgive yourself and others. Believe it or not, we’re all doing the best we know how!

This article was published in these newspapers: Bundaberg News Mail, Noosa News, Fraser Coast Chronicle, Mackay Daily Mercury, Gladstone Observer, Whitsunday Times, Queensland Times, Gatton Star, Warwick Daily News, Lismore Northern Star, Rockhampton Morning Bulletin, Coffs Coast Advocate, Ballina Advocate.

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Digital natives lead way to an ‘unselfie’ New Year

Digital natives lead way to an ‘unselfie’ New Year © Glowimages – model used for illustrative purposes

Digital natives lead way to an ‘unselfie’ New Year © Glowimages – model used for illustrative purposes

“Our generation doesn’t send Christmas cards”, asserted my 30-year-old daughter when I complained about writing them. She followed up with, “I’ll be sending an e-card like last year”.

Whatever your position about handwritten Christmas cards versus e-cards (I’m in both camps this year), you’d have to admit that for most, it’s not so much about having a physical item or possession that counts.

In a digital age, we no longer need to possess an object to give and receive cards, listen to music, to watch videos or to read a book. Things are disappearing right before our eyes, as the dematerialization of society escalates.

Young people view ownership and the act of consumption as far less important today than being part of the perpetual feedback loop of social media and online personas, reports a paper published in the Journal of Consumer Research.

Oxford University Press’ Word of the Year, the ‘selfie’, the little smartphone self-portraits that we take regularly to update our family and friends, adds evidence to these findings.

However, author Russell Belk, suggests that rather than being the most selfish generation millennials are ushering in a warmer, inclusive and more philanthropic society.

Another word that has figured predominantly in news reports this year is ‘science.’ Contradicting Oxford, Merriam-Webster found that ‘science’ took out the honours as word of the year for 2013, recording a 176 percent increase in look-ups on their website.

No longer willing to just go along with the latest urban legends, the reasonably well-educated Westerner has learned to ask ‘why’ and ‘how’ and is doing just that … online.

And along the way we’re discovering that scientific studies have overturned some beaut urban legends. For instance, it was found that physical aging after 80 is determined less by heredity than by the warmth of your relationships and healthy habits (Triumphs of Experience: The Men of the Harvard Grant Study); and wind turbines don’t make you feel sick or healthy, but spin can.

Science is revealing that, like the effect produced by placebos, our perceptions and beliefs have a most profound effect on our lives and health.

However, today’s healthcare practices sometimes conflict. They indicate a growing resolve to understand and treat the ‘whole’ human being with compassion pitted against a persistent faith in the doctrine of materialism and physical methodologies.

Earlier this month, Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi called on the world’s healthcare leaders and policy-makers to view innovation in healthcare from a spiritual standpoint; “one rooted in human values and in spirituality which help us come together as we move forward into the 21st century.”

During a keynote address at the World Innovation Summit on Health (WISH) she pleaded not to “look at healthcare innovation only in terms of technology, training and medical education.” She believes that “healthcare is about caring and without caring, healthcare will not have a meaning.”

She’s not alone in rating compassion as paramount. A thousand people surveyed about what super powers they would acquire if they could, surprisingly rated “the ability to comfort anyone” as number two.

There’s a deep longing in us all for a greater compassion and spiritual comfort, as a poet once expressed it: “… comforters are needed much of Christlike touch.”

Today’s scientific discoveries such as quantum physics suggest that there is a less material and more mental nature to our universe; that our thoughts and ideas guide our experiences. There is a view held by some scientists that this indicates a higher power at the helm.

Jesus’ birth, which people from every corner of the world come together to celebrate this week, revealed a divine power that is accessible to us all. It heralded a new model for personal relationships. It also foretold of the health benefits of forgiveness, compassion and unselfish care.

Digital native or out of the ark, seems that the mental and spiritual nature of health is worth our consideration and effort.

It appears that we’ll make 2014 a healthy year, as we make it an ‘unselfie’ year!

This article appeared in these news media sites: Toowoomba Chronicle, Northern Star and Sunshine Coast Daily.

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Let’s celebrate the ‘spirit’ that’s disabling limitations

Celebrating the ‘spirit’ that disables limitations © Glowimages

Celebrating the ‘spirit’ that disables limitations © Glowimages

“Break barriers and open doors: to realise an inclusive society for all”, urges the United Nations in its brief for International Day of People with Disability, celebrated earlier this month.

Well, those doors are opening at  Aware Industries in Albury-Wodonga. Aware’s best practice tools, procedures and support mechanisms enable people with disability to work productively and effectively. Similar to Endeavour Foundation services in Queensland and western Sydney, their strong workforce manufacture and distribute timber products and offer mail/despatch services, as well as food, light engineering and packaging services for the community.

My niece really likes working on the marketing team there. She says that the love and support for her from the workers there is palpable.

One of them is her brother, who feels empowered by the opportunities available to experience increased physical, social and economic inclusion since he started working there recently. Coming from an amazingly supportive family who have ensured opportunities for him to work in a small way in their businesses over the past 30 years, a change in family circumstances and the introduction to the Aware ethos mean that he is now for the first time talking about having his own flat which he hopes to share with a workmate.

This is just one of the stories that have been facilitated by people like Ann Proctor, recipient of the 2013 National Disability AwardsLesley Hall Award for Lifetime Achievement in Disability. She has fought for 40 years for the rights of people with disability to be able to live within their community and attend mainstream schools in the ACT. And she has worked hard to assist families of people with disability to understand and not be fearful of these lifestyle changes.

On the plus side for these families, surprising research shows unexpected health benefits for those who lend a helping hand to act as caregivers for a disabled relative. Rather than increased stress and illness, caregivers may live longer than those who don’t bear such responsibilities.

There are still a range of significant issues that people with disabilities often face, which include anxiety, depression, social dysfunction and general health maintenance.

However, Gaelle Mellis, one of Australia’s most highly regarded dance and theatre designers, and many of the recently compensated victims from use of the drug Thalidomide, are inspiring examples of productive lives lived with passion, dignity and confidence, despite apparent limitations.

It’s clear that social, physical and economic barriers are starting to fall for many, in circumstances that were once thought possible. Could this be attributable to something in addition to their courage and hard work?

There is increasing evidence to suggest that it is a person’s inner world of values, beliefs and inspiration that helps determine the process of coping.

Research cited in the Journal of American Science this year explains that this inner world refers to awareness of existence as a force beyond material life.

The study found that this understanding has a significant positive influence on mental and physical health, life satisfaction and livelihood for us all, including those with disabilities. In fact the research concludes with “99% level of confidence that the higher the spiritual intelligence, the lower the social dysfunction, and vice versa… The higher the spiritual intelligence, the lower the depression and anxiety… Mental health increases as spirituality improves.”

The evidence is so compelling that one university has established a Centre for Research into spirituality, health and disability.

Spiritual intelligence recognises that kindness and compassion are at the core of our successful functioning as human beings and ensures that they motivate our actions and reactions. It’s the reason we may choose not to disable ourselves and others by going overboard with sledging in sport, by being coerced into mind-numbing gossip or caving into road rage.

Although spiritual intelligence is innate, it needs developing. More and more people choose to spend time each day in quiet meditation and contemplation of inspiring ancient texts and modern day revelations like Christian Science to brighten their perspective. On a personal level, I’ve been able to get rid of a disabling anxiety about speaking in public through such discoveries about myself in just this way.

Inspiring examples of social and economic progress from some of our friends with disabilities can be a nudge to tackle our own mental bad habits that could well be hindering our progress and wellbeing.

As the Christmas spirit impels you to donate gifts or cash to one of the crucial community support organisations or appeals in the lead-up to the big day, it may be worth considering how the quality of our thinking can either disable us or propel us into increased competency, health and wellbeing.

What an enabling Christmas and New Year it could be!

This article was published in these APN newspapers: Toowoomba Chronicle, Bundaberg News Mail, Gladstone Observer, Clarence Valley Daily Examiner, Rockhampton Morning Bulletin.

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Spiritual intelligence now the gold standard for success in business

SQ: The gold standard for success in business © Glowimages – models used for illustrative purpose

SQ: The gold standard for success in business © Glowimages – models used for illustrative purpose

It was entertaining watching advertising executive and media personality Tod Sampson try to ramp up his ability to process and retain information and react quickly in the ABC’s recent Redesign My Brain series. As the weeks progressed, these skills, as well as his divergent and lateral thinking improved impressively.

However, as Neil Levy, Head of Neuroethics at The Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health suggests “it’s not obvious that enhancing lateral and divergent thinking actually leads to an increase in the kinds of creativity we value”, at home or in the workplace. He admits that there is evidence though that some of the skills learned can combat age-related decline.

Many individuals and businesses are seeking ways to enhance abilities, find the key to creativity, open the door to better relationship management, and get worker buy-in to the business. Continue reading

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Movember declares all men have capacity for better health

Spirituality positively impacts men’s health © Glowimages – models used for illustrative purpose

Spirituality positively impacts men’s health © Glowimages – models used for illustrative purpose

I’m re-posting this 2012 piece for Movember 2013. It’s been published in this format on Noosa News, Fraser Coast Chronicle and Coffs Coast Advocate.

Love and devotion just shone from my son-in-law’s face as we watched him gently bathe his new daughter for the first time in the hospital. When so much attention is focussed on mum and bub it’s so important to celebrate the indispensable supportive traits and contributions of the male of the species.

During November each year, Movember “is responsible for the sprouting of moustaches on thousands of men’s faces around the world” with an aim to raise funds and awareness for men’s health, specifically prostate and testicular cancer and male mental health.

According to the statistics listed on this website, it’s expected 1 in 2 Australian men will be diagnosed with cancer by the age of 85; around 1 in 5 men experience mental illness in any given 12 month period; and, over 85% of suicides are men – that’s 5 every day in Australia. Dire statistics indeed!

So many of my male family members and friends share dynamic focus, an uncomplicated life direction, unswerving loyalty and a commitment to and love of science. But could it be a sole focus on physical science that hinders men’s quest to be healthier? Continue reading

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Care that brings deep change

@Glowimages 060201a0012.

Dementia Dogs help the “deeply forgetful” to reconnect © Glowimages – model used for illustrative purposes

People are living longer and enjoying better health, and today’s 90 year olds are mentally sharper than their predecessors, reports the Lancet. This is great news for many!

What’s more, the numbers of over 80s with dementia in Australia may be set to fall (currently stats stand at 25%). A new study has found that dementia rates among people 65 and older in the UK have plummeted by 25 percent over the past two decades, a trend that researchers say is probably occurring across developed countries and is linked to a healthier and better educated population.

These findings dispute the alarming predictions by advocacy groups and some public health officials of escalating numbers of dementia sufferers, as baby boomers age. Continue reading

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Women opt to take a different sort of health pledge

Women find a spiritual approach to wellbeing

Women find a spiritual approach for wellbeing © Glowimages

Picture this. A young mum powering around the front lawn behind a lawn mower, baby in the pouch on her chest screaming his head off.

Reserve your judgement, because in a very short time he has calmed down owing to the monotonous noise and rhythm. The mother has used her wisdom, love and creativity to avert several hours of frustration for them both. Continue reading

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Do this one thing on Daffodil Day

© Stock photos/Glowimages – model used for illustrative purposes

© Stock photos/Glowimages – model used for illustrative purposes

Like me, you too may choose to support Daffodil Day, the annual event to raise funds to help support the Cancer Council’s research, prevention and patient support services. I usually can’t resist the temptation to buy a bunch or two of daffodils as I pass through the supermarket checkouts lined with buckets of them.

By all means, go ahead and buy some, but whatever you do, do this one thing.

Take charge of how you think about your health. Continue reading

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The common denominator that keeps Sam Johnson, Abbott, Rudd, Obama and Clive Berghofer healthy

We’re used to seeing our leaders striding out on their early morning power-walks or competing in marathons. Some of them are pretty good examples of keeping fit and healthy – mentally and physically. All power to them! It’s cool to be fit.

We think it’s also rather cool to support the conservation movement by investing in alternative power solutions and participating in water and other conservation measures. It makes us feel good, and politicians who appear to support these initiatives gain our respect, too.

Society is moving ahead in leaps and bounds. As we’ve ditched outdated world views and popular opinions, more and more of us have started to realise that minority groups, like those with disabilities, gays and asylum seekers, suffer from prejudices and circumstances and need to be given a fair go. It’s super cool to show your support and acceptance, politician or not. It makes us feel good.

And the efforts of individuals and charities raising money for medical research seem to ‘take the cake’ as the coolest of cool deeds. Who doesn’t glow with goodwill as we watch Sam Johnson unicycle around Australia to raise a million dollars for Breast Cancer research for the love of his sister, or applaud Clive Berghofer’s $50 million generously donated to the Queensland Institute of Medical Research.

But wait a minute. Continue reading

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There’s a change coming to the sick room

© Stock photos/Glowimages - models used for illustrative purposes

© Stock photos/Glowimages – models used for illustrative purposes

Spirituality may no longer be part of a ‘hidden curriculum’ in medical schools

There is increasing acceptance, both in the community and in the medical fraternity that we benefit from a holistic approach to healthcare. From a patient perspective, being consulted about their spirituality is important to Australians, and there’s a general belief that spirituality helps recovery.

These assertions formed the opening part of Associate Professor Kellie Bennett’s presentation at the recent Compassion, Spirituality and Health Conference held earlier this month in Adelaide. Continue reading

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Are we all now on the same mind, body, spirit page?

© Stock photos/Glowimages – model used for illustrative purpose

© Stock photos/Glowimages – model used for illustrative purpose

A couple of weeks ago, thousands of people attended the Mind Body Spirit Festival in Brisbane. I made my way there through the gloomy weather on Sunday, to find a really ‘happening’ event, a lot like the Health Harmony and Soul Expo held on the Gold Coast earlier in the year.

There were a surprising number of Millennials and Gen Ys amongst the Baby Boomers and Gen Xs in attendance, as ready to explore the ideas of philosophy and religion, as they were to try out the organic tea or get their ‘reading’.

I got the impression that there was general agreement between those on stands and within their vibrant audience that health is about very much more than treating a body. Continue reading

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NAIDOC Week spearheads spirituality question

aboriginal rockart

© Stock photos/Glowimages

Beloved Australian ABC gardening show host, Peter Cundall, is now retired. But when interviewed by Scott Stephens on Life’s Big Questions a year or two ago, he equated religious teaching on a par with fairy stories.

It’s ironic really, because it seems to me that Peter’s joy for life and gratitude for every tiny evidence of good in his days is what has ensured his perfect health for more than 50 years. To me, this is spirituality in action!

I can see a similarity between Peter’s spirituality and that of aboriginal peoples. Continue reading

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Expect health! Expectation can be a self-fulfilling prophecy

© Stock photo/Glowimages

© Stock photo/Glowimages

“Can’t repeat the past? Why of course you can”, exclaims Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio), the hero of Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, now showing in cinemas.

While Gatsby, the billionaire with shady business connections, may not be the ideal role model, you’ve got to give him full marks for his tenacity, vision and expectancy! Starting out life in poverty and misery, he turned his life around to achieve his boyhood dream of wealth and security. His aspirations, expectations and capability enabled him to succeed, as he focussed on the grand possibilities, rather than the roadblocks.

Maybe his background and life experience hadn’t equipped him to realise the underpinning significance of honesty, humility and compassion for a fuller, more complete view of himself … and others … and to achieve true happiness. Continue reading

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1. Hope

Hope is the stuff of change, recovery and healing, according to Dr Shane Lopez, author of the new book Making Hope Happen: Create the Future You Want for Yourself and Others,.“Hope is half optimism. The other half is the belief in the power that you can make it so”, writes Lopez.

Hopeful people make an investment in the future that pays off in the present: in the way they eat, exercise, conserve energy, take care of themselves and stick to their treatment plan. He suggests that this sort of “change in mind-set has the power to alter neurochemistry”. Continue reading

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Palliative Care: Seeing a higher view


At the end, it was an ‘uplifting’ experience. However, a couple of months ago I felt ill-prepared for the emotional turmoil that was sure to surface and the decision-making that would be required. I honestly felt like making a run for it.

After 93 years of living a very active life full of work, sport, hobbies and family, Dad wasn’t recovering after an illness and we decided that better care and medical testing were needed. Following admission to hospital and countless medical examinations, he was diagnosed with a terminal illness and given only two months to live. Continue reading

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