By Michael Finkelstein, MD, Well Being Journal, Vol. 24, No. 5.
Whether we suffer from common ailments such as insomnia, high cholesterol, and allergies or chronic illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease and fibromyalgia, our health challenges can interfere with our ability to enjoy our lives. The specifics of our respective health challenges simply impact our lives in different ways and to different extremes. For this reason, whatever complaints my patients have, I always ask this question at the outset of our work together: What will you do with your life, once your health is restored?
Usually, the question takes my patients aback. Not only do people not expect a medical doctor to inquire about such matters, but most people have given little, if any, thought to the answer. Yet the answer to this question is typically the linchpin for our ability to get and stay healthy.
In our fast-paced world, we are used to looking for quick-fix solutions to our health challenges, not realizing that these “solutions” in fact may contribute to our problems. Most health challenges are the result of an imbalance in our bodies and lives, and most quick-fix solutions actually exacerbate these imbalances. If, instead, we take a slow medicine approach—identifying the root cause of our health challenges, then creating a thoughtful, step-by-step, and long-term response to it—we effectively bring ourselves back into balance. In doing so, not only do we not resolve our primary complaints but we benefit elsewhere in our lives, often in unexpected ways.
As many of us are beginning to understand, health is not just the absence of disease but, rather, a state of wellness. Sadly, despite this realization, the more-more-more drive of our materialistic lifestyles—more money, more status, more stuff—is slowly killing us from a combination of stress, isolation, and emptiness. When we slow down, live our lives with passion, meaning, and purpose and cultivate harmonious relationships with those who are important to us, we bring ourselves into greater alignment on every level—body, mind, heart, and soul. This alignment, in turn, enhances our sense of overall wellness, shifting us from the sympathetic nervous system’s fight-or-flight response to the parasympathetic nervous system’s healing response…
This article was originally posted in Michael Finkelstein’s blog for The Huffington Post on July 16, 2014. Michael Finkelstein, MD, The Slow Medicine Doctor, is the author of Slow Medicine: Hope and Healing for Chronic Illness, endorsed by Andrew Weil, MD and Mehmet Oz, MD.