I don't often write about health, but today I have something to add to the conversation. What I'd like you to understand is that being free of sickness is not some distant dream. It is, in fact, something that real human beings are presently enjoying, even for decades at a time.
I'm not claiming a perfect prescription for long-term health, you understand. I'm just passing along things I've come to know. Every person is different and every circumstance is different. And, of course, luck does play some role in this, even if it comes down to inheriting a healthy set of genes.
Still, I am certain that if people were to give this some attention, many more people would be sickness-free, and for long periods of time at that.
What Chuck Heston Reluctantly Admitted
I'd like you to take a look at this clip of Charlton Heston, taken from a long-format interview with Dick Cavett. As the clip begins, Cavett and Michael Crichton had been discussing the problems of medical practice and hospitals. And then, as you'll see, Cavett turns and asks Heston if he fears hospitals.
What you'll learn then is that Heston – 46 years old at this time – had never really been sick. To me, he seems a bit reluctant to get into the subject, and I think I know why: So many people get sick so often – seemingly everyone – that he feels a need to pull back from the subject. His admission is the kind of thing that can generate negative comparisons, and thus envy, which can be a real danger.
Most people, of course, focus tremendously on sickness. To some extent that's understandable; sickness kills, after all. But a focus on sickness also primes us for it, as I'll explain a bit further below. You can even hear people talking about how sick they've been as a badge of honor.
And before anyone treats Heston as merely a freak of good luck, I'd like to add that I've know other people, less famous, who've also been sickness-free for long periods.
One of these people was a doctor my parents knew. One of my dad's best friends in life was a doctor, and this man's partner in practice came to the belief that sickness was primarily mental. And so he trained himself to fight it mentally. As of 1972 or so, he hadn't been sick in twenty years. I don't know what happened to him after that, but he was about 50 years old at the time.
I know another gentleman who has been sickness-free for quite a bit more than twenty years. He'll have the occasional runny nose or weariness from overwork, but almost nothing more. And he doesn't talk about it.
I further suspect that there are a significant number of others who enjoy long-term health, but avoid talking about it very much. Since many people are so accepting of getting sick as a norm and so terribly status-conscious, talking about such a thing is a recipe for making others feel bad.
How Does It Work?
Here again I'll tell you what I know, and you can make up your own mind and/or pursue it as you see fit.
The first step seems to be this: Just stop expecting to get sick. If that sounds trivial, please try to do it. Between big pharma's endless TV advertisements, the annual winter fear-fest and the sickness-is-the-norm expectations of those around you, it's a lot harder than you'd think.
Expectations are immensely powerful, and while the ties between what we expect and what we get can be murky, they are often quite real. People who train themselves not to be sick – energetically fighting the expectation of "I'm getting sick," among other things – very often do not get sick.
Another useful piece of the wellness puzzle came to us from the study of cellular receptors and neuropeptides. Here's how I explained the basics of this in A Lodging of Wayfaring Men:
Emotions are not just a mental thing. When you experience almost any strong emotion, special molecules called neuropeptides pour into your bloodstream. These molecules bind with receptors on your cells… and cells can have thousands, or even a million receptors each. In this way, your emotions are transmitted all through your body.
This is pretty well established science, by the way, beginning with the discovery of the opium receptor by Candace Pert in 1978.
It shouldn't be a surprise, then, that expecting to get sick might prime our bodies to get sick… and that expecting to be well might prime our bodies to be well.
I can't prove this scientifically, of course. I have neither the time nor a crew of loyal medical researchers. But it is measurable.
All That Said…
All that said, I am convinced of two things:
By expecting themselves to get sick… even to gain some sort of status or acceptance from it… millions of people are sick far more often than they need to be.
That by cultivating a wellness frame of mind – of obstinately rejecting sickness – a large number of us can enjoy long-term wellness.
These things I have seen repetitively, and I think they are deserving of both study and effort. Moving from a sickness consciousness to a wellness consciousness overs immense benefits. Please try it.