Health Connection

Bringing diversity to the conversation on health

Archive for the 'Health' Category

14 April
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Redefining both “health” and “care” in healthcare

@GlowImages

When renowned Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi spoke at the 2013 World Innovation Summit on Health, she asked healthcare professionals to rethink.

“The kind of innovative healthcare to which I look forward is the one rooted in human values and in spirituality, which will help us come together as we move forward into the 21st century,” she said in her keynote address. She continued, “Please do not look at healthcare innovation only in terms of technology, training and medical education, but in terms of poor society, nurturing to the basics towards creating a healthy society in the best sense of the word.”

Some of the pre-eminent healthcare leaders in the world gathered together at that conference to share and discover new ideas for healthcare through innovation – solutions coming not only from sophisticated clinical laboratories, but from spiritual thinkers and health leaders as well.

New research into the connection between spirituality and health is widening and growing. For example, how do religiosity and spirituality influence health in complementary but different ways? A recent study from the University of Connecticut shows that religious affiliation has definite effects on smoking cessation and drinking moderation, providing measurable health benefits. On the other hand, spirituality – meaning private prayer or meditation – helps regulate emotions, and affects health issues such as blood pressure and diseases that stem from stress. Then there are examples of how forgiveness and compassion – both core teachings to of most major spiritual practices – can also have definite effects on health. These few examples may be just the tip of the iceberg in defining the relation between spirituality and health……

You can read more of this article in the Vancouver Sun HERE

 

09 April
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Healing lonely hearts through community and connection

A community in Victoria BC found that building a book box for their street brought a community together. But is something more needed for a deeper sense of connection?

A community in Victoria BC found that building a book box for their street brought a community together. But is something more needed for a deeper sense of connection?

Modern life does not tend towards the cultivation of a connected community. Boxed into small – but fully wired – apartments, or living in suburbs where we need a car just to go for litre of milk, we tend to live in our own little world. We do not sit on the porch to watch children playing in the street, take casual walks around the neighborhood or find ourselves at a nearby park bench visiting with neighbors. Our lives feel too busy for such time-consuming activities. However, the result of these increasingly connected but individualistic lifestyles is loneliness.

The Vancouver Sun has highlighted the negative impact that loneliness has on mental and physical health. Recently, one article noted that according to statistics from the B.C. Coroners Service, British Columbians 70 and older account for about 12 per cent of suicides in the province. The key factors contributing to this are increased health problems concurrent with a shrinking social support system, which might otherwise help seniors to surmount those challenges by staying active and engaged.

In an article from Live Science, Stephanie Pappas discusses recent research that shows how long-term social isolation – and the resulting loneliness – tends to negatively impact the body’s immune system. And only this week, the United Way announced cuts to its services for seniors due to donation shortfalls.

So what is the answer? It’s not as simple as just “getting out there and being involved.” It’s more about those one-on-one moments of connection that feed us in important ways.

A recent example of how a community can take specific steps to address the problem happened not too long ago in a Victoria BC neighborhood. It was inspired by a group of residents who wanted a more connected community. They had a street party to build several small street-library book boxes, offering them to other streets around town. The original idea was that, whether you are a local resident or not, you would be welcome to borrow or exchange a book. And, this exchange of books would make anyone who participated feel more connected to others. Read more…

02 April
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Tech Sabbath shows benefits of unplugging

@GlowImages

@GlowImages

On a recent Rick Steves travel program, Steves made the comment that taking a gondola ride in Venice has changed. No longer are couples likely to be romantically basking in each others arms as the gondolier navigates them through the narrow canals. Instead, they are on their cellphones taking photos, texting and communicating the moment to others half a world away. Shortly after hearing that I travelled to Venice on vacation and saw firsthand how accurate Steves was.

It’s wonderful to be more regularly in touch with friends and family, to download a helpful app, or take photos, but is this constant use of technology such a great thing for our mental and physical health?  We are constantly told that obesity, eye problems, and too much sitting can lead to health issues associated with watching a computer, TV screen or mobile device all day.

But, there are deeper issues than just the physical effects that need to be considered. There are mental, emotional – even spiritual – things to consider.

Dan Rollman realized this when he began to notice he was getting more birthday greetings from family and friends via social media than face to face. Looking for an answer to the problem, he was inspired to start the “Technology Sabbath,” encouraging people to switch off their technology devices and really connect with family and friends, engage in some outdoor activities, or just take a moment to enjoy what they were doing without having to take a photo of it. Read more…

25 March
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Finding the peace that heals sleeplessness and exhaustion

Finding the peace that heals sleeplessness and exhaustionEight hours or four hours? Naps or not? What do we believe about sleep and how much we need? We all have personal experiences and opinions about it. And, millions of people suffer from sleep deprivation, leading many to seek medical prescriptions to help them sleep better.

Yet: “There is no correct amount of sleep,” finds Prof. Kevin Morgan of the Clinical Sleep Research Unit in Loughborough, England. Another researcher at the same center, Professor James Horne, suggests that our mood is the key factor in how well we sleep. Read more…

17 March
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Focus and love-based motives determine results

Building confidence from a sense of loving what we do, can bring far greater results than focusing on our lack of abilities and our fear of failure @GlowImages

Building confidence from a sense of loving what we do, can bring far greater results than focusing on our lack of abilities and our fear of failure
@GlowImages

Every morning, the great cellist and pianist Pablo Cassals would play two of the Prelude and Fugues for keyboard by Bach. He felt that it started his day with God, adding that “Bach wrote every piece to the glory of God.”

The pressure to practice and perform in the arts can be huge, and that stress can lead to some serious health concerns that musicians often ignore or hide. Cassals, who played well into his nineties, had an approach that quietly focused his day with a spiritual love that permeated his life, music and health, explained musician Nancy Sheeley, who is a pianist and teacher in Victoria, BC.

Sheeley feels that how we approach and focus on the tasks we have to do each day is important, and affects our outcomes. For example, in the 1980’s some techniques espoused both outside and within the music industry were influenced by Western views of accomplishment. The Jane Fonda’s fitness workouts told women “No pain. No gain.” Sheeley found herself unconsciously using that catchphrase in her practicing techniques, with the result that she experienced a serious injury from forcing her practicing and ignoring the discomfort. Read more…

10 March
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Time for a little Ecotherapy?

Time for a little Ecotherapy.The understanding that nature benefits our mental and physical health seems obvious. However, the outdoors is now being touted as a new therapy called “ecotherapy” – or restorative contact with nature. What scientists have been studying is what our mothers and grandmothers already knew – - that being outside is good for us. In fact, being out in nature, according to studies is as good for us as many anti-depressants or other medications.

And, there’s another new term coined by scientists who are studying the effect of a lack of nature in our lives. It’s called “nature deficit disorder”, which of course ecotherapy is called upon to correct.

What these new names do for me is to complicate and medicalize what should be a natural and simple activity. Read more…

05 March
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Challenging current theories about grief

No one grieves the same way, but do we have to go through five stages in order to heal? @GlowImages

No one grieves the same way, but do we have to go through five stages in order to heal?
@GlowImages

When we lose a dearly loved companion, well-meaning friends may tell us about the five stages of grief we will go through. But do we really have to endure a long drawn out process in order to find peace and healing? Not necessarily.

The current theory about the “five stages of grief” began in the late 1960’s after Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross published her book, “On Death and Dying.” Since then this has been the common approach when dealing with the loss of a loved one, and many of us have accepted that healing will take a long time – if ever.

But Dr. George Bonanno, a grief researcher at Columbia University, challenges the notion that grief has five stages, and is a lengthy process. Through a wide range of studies, he looked at how people grieved, and found something quite different. His conclusion is that people experience grief in various ways, and there is no evidence that they need to go through these stages. Dr. Bonanno found that resilience, along with a more forward and outward looking mental position is key to healing.

When I shared these ideas with a friend who had recently lost her husband, she was actually quite relieved. Being a Buddhist, she had a very different approach to grief. She found that the meditative practice of acceptance helped her to let go of a sense of loss. Additionally, part of her tradition is the giving of alms – which for her means the doing of good deeds. These activities helped propel her forward in her new life. Still, at times, she felt pressure to conform to the western model. Read more…

24 February
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Building confidence defeats bullying

Pink Shirt Day is this Wednesday, February 26. Now a worldwide movement, the Pink Shirt campaign was developed in Nova Scotia in 2007 to raise awareness about bullying in our schools. The idea caught on, encouraging communities to find ways to proactively deal with this problem. And now it has morphed into something much larger, often observed on different dates in many countries around the world.

@GlowImages

Bullying in any form and at any age is a serious problem. We are used to hearing about it in schools and universities, but not as much in the workplace or social settings.  Nor, do we hear much about its effect on adults who experience it.

And it affects our health – individually, and collectively. Take work life as an example. One study from the Workplace Bullying Institute suggests that 71% of people who felt they were bullied at work were treated by a physician for related health concerns. In another study, 63% saw a mental health professional.

Last year, Worksafe BC introduced new policies meant to address this problem. They are aimed at helping employers and employees take action to create a healthy workplace environment. It’s too soon to tell whether the policies are effective, but recognizing the problem and taking some action is a good start. Read more…

17 February
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What a therapy dog can teach us about our health

Todd the therapy dog

Todd the therapy dog

“People may tell you in detail about the pain in their elbow or leg, where and how it hurts, but they may not tell you about the emotional pain they feel in their heart,” says Dr. Jim Melling, a family physician who sees patients at his office near Victoria, and at local hospitals.

This is where Todd, a registered therapy dog, comes in. In Melling’s view, the dog’s deep loving looks, quiet demeanor and attention to those in need create an atmosphere that is calming for patients. And, this paves the way for them to open up more to the doctor than perhaps they would otherwise. Todd’s presence seems to send a message that this doctor is ready to listen – a message that isn’t sent if he just reaches for the ever-present prescription pad.

“It can be difficult to give the patient the time they need to express, or even consider what is going on under the physical symptoms they are experiencing, because of time constraints for doctors,” Melling explains. Sometimes the cause of a patient’s pain is not as simple as it seems at first glance.  Read more…

10 February
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From rejection to connection – building healthier communities

Oasis works with homeless and newly housed people to create a shared and inclusive spiritual community for the mutual well-being of all. @GlowImages

Oasis works with homeless and newly housed people to create a shared and inclusive spiritual community for the mutual well-being of all.
@GlowImages

The recent release of documentary movie, “The Chicken Manure Incident,” shines an uncomfortable light on the city of Abbotsford, BC, which like many Lower Mainland communities is wrestling with the problems of poverty and homelessness. When city workers unceremoniously dumped a truckload of chicken manure all over a homeless camp near the city’s downtown core, it fueled national embarrassment for the city and increased mistrust and anger on all sides.

However, what has ensued is a long overdue conversation about how we view the marginalized, poor and disenfranchised in our communities. But what has this got to do with our health? Read more…