We all know what it’s like to fill out detailed forms about our medical history at the doctor's office. But is your doctor asking you the questions he or she really needs in order to get a good read on your health?
At the Whole Health Medicine Institute, the training program my team runs for doctors, nurses, acupuncturists, energy healers and other health care providers, we teach healers how to ask patients the right questions. But in case your doctor isn’t asking you the questions that might illuminate potential root causes of your illness, try asking yourself these questions.
1. What is my body saying no to?
What is really true for us — wholly, deeply, undeniably true at a soul level — often appears as flashes of intuition. We glimpse the truth in dreams. We feel it in our bones. But we often deny what's true for us.
The body speaks to us in whispers, but if we fail to pay attention to the whispers, the body starts to yell. Discomfort in the body may start as tightness in the solar plexus, or it shows up as back pain or headaches. If we still ignore the messages our bodies are sending us, the body breaks down in more life-threatening ways.
If your doctor asked you “What is your body saying no to?” would you be brave enough to admit the truth?
2. What does my body need in order to heal?
As doctors, we go to medical school, ostensibly so we know your body better than you do. While it may be true that we know your anatomy better than you, your intuition knows what is in your body’s best interest better than any doctor possibly could.
When you’re asked, “What does your body need in order to heal?” you may be surprised at what comes up. You might answer “I need to eat a raw foods diet” or “I need to do yoga every night” or “I have to make sure I get eight hours of sleep.”
Or you might be surprised to find yourself saying things like “I need to quit my job” or “I need to break up with my boyfriend” or “I need to set boundaries with my mother.” There are no guarantees that you’ll be cured if you actually do what you think might support your healing. But you never know. A miracle might be right around the corner if you’re willing to trust yourself.
3. What's out of balance in my life?
In my book Mind Over Medicine, I share a wellness model that I call “The Whole Health Cairn,” which acknowledges that “whole health” depends not just on what you eat, how much you sleep, and how much exercise you get, but on the health of your relationships, your work and sense of life purpose, your creativity, your spirituality, your sexuality, your finances, your environment, and your mental health.
Many of us devote all of our bandwidth to one or two aspects of our lives, at the expense of the others. We throw ourselves into our work but neglect our creative side. Or we deplete ourselves by care taking for those we love at the cost of our sense of life purpose. A wholly healthy life requires feeding all of what nourishes us.
4. Am I in touch with my life’s purpose?
People who are living in alignment with their life purpose tend to be healthier than those who feel out of touch with their mission or calling. In fact, some even experience “spontaneous” remissions from seemingly “incurable” illnesses when they finally do whatever it takes to live out their calling. Yet too many of us choose comfort and certainty as our primary values, even if it means violating how the soul yearns to contribute in this world.
5. Am I lonely?
Lonely people are more likely to die young than people who feel like they belong to part of a tribe. In fact, researchers posit that loneliness may be a greater risk factor for your health than an unhealthy diet, not exercising, or smoking. But when was the last time your doctor screened you for loneliness?
6. Do I feel sexually satisfied?
You may not think your sex life and your health are related, but studies suggest that they are. Scientific data proves that sex increases your longevity, lowers your risk of heart disease and stroke, reduces your risk of breast cancer, bolsters your immune system, helps you sleep, relieves chronic pain, could be good for women's reproductive health, and reduces the risk of depression, and lowers stress levels.
7. Do I feel depressed, anxious, or frequently afraid?
Happy people live up to 10 years longer than depressed people, and as is well documented scientifically in my book The Fear Cure (http://thefearcurebook.com), fear and anxiety have been shown to predispose you to heart disease, cancer, and even the common cold.
8. Am I an optimist or a pessimist?
Your attitude affects your health. Optimists are likely to fare better than pessimists across a range of health measures.
9. Do I often feel helpless?
When we feel empowered to change the things that get us down, we boost our body’s ability to fight disease, whereas when we feel helpless, at the mercy of life, our immune systems weaken, and we are prone to illness. In fact, the phenomena psychologist Martin Seligman calls “learned helplessness” has been shown to reduce a rat’s ability to fight off cancer.
10. Do I believe in a Higher Power?
Your spiritual life has been scientifically shown to protect your health. In fact, people who attend religious services live up to 14 years longer than those who don’t. You don’t have to go to the church, synagogue, or mosque to experience the health benefits of a rich spiritual life.
People who are “spiritual but not religious” also experience health benefits, most likely because trust in a Higher Power reduces stress responses in the nervous system, thereby activating the body’s natural self-repair mechanisms and helping the body heal itself.
Do you wish your health care provider asked you questions like these? If you’re interested in finding a health care provider who has been trained to ask these questions, you can find a list of certified practitioners here.
If you’re a health care provider interested in enrolling in the 2015 Class of the Whole Health Medicine Institute, we’re accepting new students until the program begins with a live event in the San Francisco Bay area on June 5. You can register here.
This is how we heal our broken health care system — one doctor-patient relationship at a time. When we remember what it means to attend to someone’s whole health, we make the body ripe for miracles.