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Chronic Illness Q&A with Dr. B.

Dr. Larry Berkelhammer

Dr. Larry Berkelhammer

The purpose of this blog and the entire website is to provide evidence-based information on how to live with self-care mastery. It is for all medical patients, caregivers, and advocates who want to learn how to collaborate with physicians to optimize health. It is also for those living with a debilitating medical condition who want to learn about the power of the mind to effect physiological changes, including ideas and practices that allow the mind to be the catalyst for healing.

I post to this blog three times per week. Monday posts are relevant published articles. Wednesday posts are videos of webinars or interviews. Friday posts consist of questions about living better with chronic health challenges, and my answers to them.

Here is this week’s question:

THIS WEEK’S QUESTION:  You recommend identifying and living by our personal life values, but the problem I have is in remembering to pay attention to doing that—any tips?

ANSWER:   It’s really about attentional training.  There are many forms of mind training and they all produce different results. Every behavior becomes something we practice, and each time we repeat that behavior, we automatically reinforce the neural pathways supporting that behavior, thereby making it more likely that the behavior will continue.

This applies to thoughts and feelings as well. In other words, let’s say you are experiencing an obsessive, unpleasant thought and feeling. Every time you have that thought with the accompanying feeling, you reinforce the neural pathway for that thought and feeling, making it more likely you will keep having the unwanted thought and feeling.

Here is an example from my own life.  I suffered with mild depression all my life. I never tried any antidepressants because I was always interested in personal growth and preferred skills, not pills. However, it was not until about twelve years ago that I finally found the solution. The solution is incredibly simple, but the reason it worked so well for me is because it followed many years of mindfulness practice.

The solution

First, learn mindfulness practice in order to develop an awareness of your inner experience. Then, throughout the day, whenever you become aware of the presence of an unwanted thought with its accompanying feeling, ask yourself the following question—What am I practicing?

This solution may sound too simple to actually work, yet it is simple and effective. The challenge is that for this mind training technique to work, you must first train the mind to be able to tune in to your thoughts and feelings—something that comes naturally to some people and must be learned by others of us. This is explored in depth in my book In Your Own Hands: New Hope for People with Chronic Medical Conditions.

This website is offered as a free public service, supplying information that has been found helpful to certain people living with chronic health challenges. No treatment is offered on this website. The advice is general, and may or may not apply to your individual situation, and is not a substitute for psychotherapy or medical treatment.

What questions do you have about how to live better with chronic health challenges that are related to the relationship between states of mind and health?

Just scroll down and type your question in the comment box below. I will post a reply to your comment, but your specific question may not appear in this column. When I get a certain number of related questions, I pick one that covers them all and I answer that one.

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