Dr. Shamini Jain
“Your Health is your Real Wealth”. – Mohandas K. Gandhi
There is no doubt that our current collective coronavirus pandemic is helping us realize the nature and truth of our interdependence, mortality, and resolve toward collective healing. Like all crises, there is the tendency to waver between denial and panic. We are mourning the deaths of others, along with fear for our own lives and the lives of our loved ones.
All of these feelings are normal and healthy. At the same time, like all crises, there is also the opportunity to take a deeper look at our internal reserves, explore the creative life force that resides within and between us, realize the power we actually DO have, and share our gifts of healing with others.
Wealth and WELLth
We are all witnessing the impact of collective anxiety on buying behaviors and economic meltdowns. Most of us are being furloughed, laid off, or having to freeze or close our businesses. The infection of economic threat is as real as the virus and together it has us all feeling out of control. We may be wondering what more we can do and how we can help our loved ones and even people we don’t know.
Concerns around contamination and financial stability are indeed real and important. At the same time, the move toward our global sheltering in place to help reduce virus risk might lead us to recognize the full capacity of our internal reserves and not simply economic resources.
The news is full of facts about risk factors for worse outcomes with coronavirus infection, but there has been relatively little shared about how to foster resilience to attacks on our immune system from a whole person perspective. We know that health is improved and maintained by fostering wellness in all aspects of human life – physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and social. We all know that panic and anxiety does nothing for our mental or physical health. So rather than feeling out of control, it’s time to take stock in our power. This power is our inner wellness, or what I call our Independent WELLth.
Personally investing in our wellness with time and care will not only keep us sane, it will help our bodies fight disease. We can choose to direct our energies toward things we DO have and CAN control, that will improve our resilience to the current situation, including this virus and its impact on the world. While we are following best practices to maintain physical distance, wash our hands, and sanitize our surfaces appropriately, we can focus on strengthening our inner reserves as well.
Stabilizing our Independent WELLth
Let’s not forget – our immune system is a cooperative biological system that is designed to fight viruses as well as maintain overall health. Our emotions, thoughts, expectations and level of energy affect our nervous system, endocrine system, and immunity all in a coordinated fashion. Controlled research from clinical trials as well as experimental studies in neuroscience, psychoneuroimmunology, psychoneuroendocrinology, and integrative medicine have made it clear that optimal health occurs when all these aspects of health and wellness – physical, mental, emotional, interpersonal and spiritual – are paid attention to and enhanced.
For example, while several studies report that depression, stress and anxiety negatively impact our immunity, numerous scientific studies share that positive emotions, positive social interactions, and positive expectations of health and healing are associated with improved immunity and even recovery from disease. In fact, in some studies, the effects of positive mood and increasing positive interactions have actually been linked to improving resistance to pathogens in our body, such as viruses and the common cold. This is very real research, coming not from one, but from hundreds of well-conducted scientific studies examining the mind-body connection.
This all helps us realize that indeed as Gandhi ji said, our health is our true WELLth – and that we are in control of our wellness and therefore, health, to a far greater degree than most of us may realize.
Given that we are in a time of limited human-to-human contact and that this situation might continue with potential future pandemics, this is a great time to take stock in our independent WELLth skills. What is wonderful is that many aspects of our WELLth do not need to be tied to outside situations or people – that is, we can shelter at home, follow best practices for protecting us from the virus, and boost our WELLth at the same time.
Assessing your WELLTh: Take the WELLth Quiz
To get us, and those we serve, thinking about and moving in the direction of wellness, I’ve created for you, an Independent WELLth quiz. This quiz taps into where we are in certain areas of WELLth (physical, emotional, interpersonal and spiritual), with interpretations and tips to improve our Independent WELLth when sheltering in place. It also provides reflection questions and commitments to help you propel your WELLth forward.
As you answer these questions, you’ll get a deeper sense of where you have WELLth mastery and where you might choose to learn something new to improve your WELLth in certain areas. You’ll realize how easy it can be to increase your WELLth in so many areas and keep your mind-body, emotions, and immune system healthy and strong during these times.
What You Can Do Now – WELLth Commitments
Remember that all of this WELLth is completely within us, even in times where we have to stay home. We just have to move beyond our fears and doubts to draw it out. The great news is, we can start with just one thing and see the cascade of benefits. Once we begin to commit to our wellness in one area, we see that it becomes even easier and more natural to engage in other things that improve our health. For example, when we sleep more, we can manage stress easier, and we tend to eat healthier because we are not compensating for a lack of energy.
Here are some tips to improve your WELLth, that are based both in scientific evidence as well as my experience working with patients with many different types of health issues. I’ve framed them in terms of commitments, so that you can resolve to do these things for yourself.
WELLth COMMITMENTS (even when Sheltering in Place)
- I commit to sleeping 7-9 hours a day.
- I commit to doing some easy and hopefully fun physical activity at least 3 times a week at home (here are some ideas on strength training, and yoga for beginners).
- I commit to eating healthy meals as much as possible (see some tips from nutritionists specifically for coronavirus cooking).
- I commit to releasing or at least reducing any toxic behaviors (e.g., smoking, drinking, drugs) that are hindering my physical and mental health (see resources for staying sober during coronavirus).
- I commit to taking 30 minutes of “mental space” every day by engaging in a mind-body-spirit practice. If you want some resources, check these out:
- Free daily guided imagery meditations for Kids and Adults from Belleruth Naperstek and HealthJourneys.
- My brief meditation to connect heart, lungs and spirit
- Grandmaster Nan Lu’s brief video with qigong exercises to boost immunity.
- Deepak and Oprah’s free 21 day meditation experience.
- I commit to feeling my feelings, and working through unresolved traumas as is comfortable and possible for me at this time. For resources, see:
- I commit to setting limits with input from news from the TV, phone, papers, and people. When I notice I’m getting anxious or overwhelmed from the news, I commit to disengage for a while and do something relaxing and enjoyable.
- I commit to doing something creative at least 3 times a week, such as making art, music, dancing, free writing, decorating, arranging photos, flowers, gardening, or cooking a meal.
- I commit to walking away and taking deep breaths, if even for one minute, when I feel overwhelmed with too much input or toxicity when around others.
- I commit to regularly checking in with people who support me, whether by phone, videoconference, or by other means.
- I commit to doing something fun with the people I live with once a day, if even for only 15 minutes. If I live alone, I commit to sharing something positive that I’m doing with others virtually or by communicating via phone or letter, to boost them up as well.
- I acknowledge and accept that not everything is in my control, that there is no one to blame, and reclaim my sovereignty by being in the Here and Now.
- I commit to 15 minutes in silence every day to listen to inner Guidance.
- I commit to unburdening myself of fear, guilt, shame, resentments, addictions, and other impediments to my spiritual life.
- I commit to exploring my fears about mortality, whether my own or someone else’s.
As you continue on with your commitments toward Independent WELLth, you’ll begin to see a snowball effect – because our physical, emotional, social, and spiritual health are all connected. That is, with a little bit of effort, your WELLth will not increase linearly, but exponentially. This will help make you stronger and more resilient for these times, and help you be an even greater resource and treasure to yourself and others.
Wishing you peace and wellbeing as we all journey through this together,
Dr. Shamini Jain,
Assistant Professor, UCSD ; Founder & CEO, Consciousness and Healing Initiative
Dr. Shamini Jain is a scientist, psychologist, and nonprofit leader. She is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at UC San Diego, and the Founder and CEO of the Consciousness and Healing Initiative (CHI), a 501c3 collaborative accelerator that connects scientists, health practitioners, innovators, and artists to forward the science and practice of healing.