We all know what it’s like to fill out detailed forms about our medical history at the doctor’s office. But is your doctor asking you the questions he or she really needs in order to get a good read on your health? At the Whole Health Medicine Institute, the training program my team runs for doctors, nurses, acupuncturists, energy healers and other health care providers, we teach healers how to ask patients the right questions.
But in case your doctor isn’t asking you the questions that might illuminate potential root causes of your illness, try asking yourself these questions.
1. What is your body saying no to?
What is really true for us—wholly, deeply, undeniably true at a soul level—often appears as flashes of intuition. We encounter it in dark nights of the soul. We see it reflected back to us through the mirrors of other people. We feel it in our bones. But we often deny what is true for us. If we ignore the truth when it visits us from the subtle realms, it tends to out-picture via the body. The body speaks to us in whispers, but if we fail to pay attention to the whispers, the body starts to yell.
Discomfort in the body may start as tightness in the solar plexus, or it shows up as back pain or headaches. If we still ignore the messages our bodies are sending us about what is true for us, the body breaks down in more life-threatening ways. If your doctor asked you “What is your body saying ‘No’ to?” would you be brave enough to tell yourself the truth?
2. What does your body need in order to heal?
As doctors, we go to medical school, ostensibly so we know your body better than you do. While it may be true that we know your anatomy better than you, your intuition knows what is in your body’s best interest better than any doctor possibly could.
When you’re asked, “What does your body need in order to heal?” you may be surprised at what comes up. You might answer “I need to eat a raw foods diet” or “I need to do yoga every night” or “I have to make sure I get eight hours of sleep.” Or you might be surprised to find yourself saying things like “I need to quit my job” or “I need to break up with my boyfriend” or “I need to set boundaries with my mother.” There are no guarantees that you’ll be cured if you actually do what you think might support your healing. But you never know. There might be a miracle right around the corner if you’re willing to trust yourself.
3. What’s out of balance in your life?
In my book Mind Over Medicine, I share a wellness model that I call “The Whole Health Cairn,” which acknowledges that “whole health” depends not just on what you eat, how much you sleep, and how much exercise you get, but on the health of your relationships, your work and sense of life purpose, your creativity, your spirituality, your sexuality, your finances, your environment, and your mental health.
Many of us devote all of our bandwidth to one or two aspects of our lives, at the expense of the others. We throw ourselves into our work but neglect our creative side. Or we deplete ourselves by caretaking those we love at the cost of our sense of life purpose.
This isn’t just some New Age concept. It’s scientifically proven, with all the data to support these claims published in Mind Over Medicine (in case you’re a science nerd like me!)
4. Do you feel like you’re in touch with your life’s purpose?
People who are living in alignment with their life purpose tend to be healthier than those who feel out of touch with their mission or calling. In fact, some even experience “spontaneous” remissions from seemingly “incurable” illnesses when they finally do whatever it takes to live out their calling.
Yet too many of us choose comfort and certainty as our primary values, even if it means violating how the soul yearns to contribute in this world.
5. Are you lonely?
Lonely people are three times more likely to die young than people who feel like they belong to part of a tribe, and those who feel supported by their community have half the risk of heart disease compared to those who feel socially isolated. In fact, researchers posit that loneliness may be a greater risk factor for your health than an unhealthy diet, not exercising, or smoking. But when was the last time your doctor screened you for loneliness?
6. Do you feel sexually satisfied?
Scientific data proves that sex increases your longevity, lowers your risk of heart disease and stroke, reduces your risk of breast cancer, bolsters your immune system, helps you sleep, relieves chronic pain, and reduces the risk of depression, and lowers stress levels. You may not think your sex life and your health are related, but studies suggest that they are. In fact, a study of Ikarian men (who are known to live to be well over a hundred), found that among men aged 65–100, 80% of them claimed to have sex regularly, and a quarter of that self-reported group said they were doing so with “good duration” and “achievement.” Go dudes.
7. Do you feel depressed, anxious, or frequently afraid?
Happy people live seven–ten years longer than depressed people, and as is well documented scientifically in my book The Fear Cure, fear and anxiety have been shown to predispose you to heart disease, cancer, and even the common cold.
8. Are you an optimist or a pessimist?
Your attitude affects your health. Happy people live, and optimists are seventy-seven percent less likely to die from heart disease than pessimists.
9. Do you often feel helpless?
As has been demonstrated in many scientific studies, when we feel empowered to change the things that get us down, we boost our body’s ability to fight disease, whereas when we feel helpless, at the mercy of life, our immune systems weaken, and we are prone to illness. In fact, the phenomena psychologist Martin Seligman calls “learned helplessness” has been shown to reduce a rat’s ability to fight off cancer. Empowered rats injected with cancer died of cancer thirty percent of the time, while the helpless rats died seventy-three percent of the time.
10. Do you believe in a Higher Power?
Your spiritual life has been scientifically shown to protect your health. In fact, people who attend religious services live up to fourtee years longer than those who don’t. You don’t have to go to the church, synagogue, or mosque to experience the health benefits of a rich spiritual life.
People who are “spiritual but not religious” also experience health benefits, most likely because trust in a Higher Power reduces stress responses in the nervous system, thereby activating the body’s natural self-repair mechanisms and helping the body heal itself.
Do you wish your health care provider asked you questions like these?
If you’re interested in finding a health care provider who has been trained to ask these questions, you can find a list of certified practitioners here.
This is how we heal our broken health care system—one doctor-patient relationship at a time. When we remember what it means to attend to someone’s whole health, we make the body ripe for miracles.
Lissa Rankin, M.D., New York Times bestselling author of Mind Over Medicine and The Fear Cure, is a physician, author, speaker, and founder of the Whole Health Medicine Institute, a training program for physicians and other health care providers. She is on a mission to merge science and spirituality in a way that not only facilitates the health of the individual; it also heals the collective. Lissa also co-teaches teleclass programs about spirituality, such as Medicine For The Soul with Rachel Naomi Remen, MD and Coming Home To Your Spirit with Martha Beck, PhD. Read her blog and learn more at LissaRankin.com.
If you’re a health care provider interested in enrolling in the 2015 Class of the Whole Health Medicine Institute, we’re accepting new students until the program begins with a live event in the San Francisco Bay area on June 5. You can register here. Along with me, guest teachers include mind body medicine pioneers like Rachel Naomi Remen, Larry Dossey, Bernie Siegel, Bruce Lipton, Kelly Turner, and more.