LOS ALTOS, CA, Feb. 17, 2014 – Don’t look now, but signs of real health care reform are starting to appear. We’re not talking about insurance reform posing as health reform but honest-to-goodness changes in the way people are being encouraged to take care of themselves.
Consider last month’s “Health Update” from Blue Shield of California.
The entire newsletter was devoted to improving health through improved thinking, with articles on “Tapping the power of optimism,” “Laughing your way to better health,” “Dealing with negative thoughts” and “Practicing gratitude.” “We can’t predict what life will bring our way,” it says in the tease to one article, “but adopting a healthier viewpoint may help us cope better, while reducing stress and our risk for cardiovascular disease.”
Things are changing over at Stanford Hospital as well.
Last month they offered a 4-week class on forgiveness. “The importance of practicing forgiveness has been extolled for centuries,” it says in the course description, “but only recently has research demonstrated that forgiveness can reduce anger and depression as well as enhance hopefulness and self-efficacy.”
Not to be outdone, the folks at U.C. San Francisco’s Osher Center for Integrative Medicine are offering courses on “Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction” and “The Mind in Labor.”
No one can say exactly when or where this particular strain of health care reform began. Among the experts writing these articles and teaching these classes, however, there is widespread agreement that the inclination to be optimistic, grateful and forgiving is innate, that it can be cultivated, and that it can have a measurable impact on our mental and physical well-being.
Another promising sign is the increasing use of the word “spiritual” to describe such non-physical elements to our health. This can be a real turn-off for those wary of anything even remotely religious finding its way into the medical lexicon. But for others, even if they don’t consider themselves religious, the concept offers a measure of hope and even real healing by suggesting that there just might be something beyond the body to encourage and support the required gratitude and forgiveness.
Come to think of it, this could be a harbinger of an even more dramatic reform down the road – one that sees health as less about keeping disease at bay and more in terms of embracing those spiritually inspired, morally enriched qualities of thought that, try as we may, we simply can’t resist.
Eric Nelson’s columns on the link between consciousness and health appear regularly in a number of local and national online publications. He also serves as the media and legislative spokesperson for Christian Science in Northern California. Follow him on Twitter @norcalcs.