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Your mind & your health – Part 4 – Design for a Community of Support

In this series we have seen how the power of how we think can affect our health for good or bad.

How then can we do the hardest thing of all and change how we think about ourselves and so what we do?

I think that we can look at the work of Alcoholics Anonymous and the work of Dr Jonathan Shay with Vets for a set of principles that might then underpin how we might use Social Media to transform health. For I think that the latent power of Social media may be the perfect fit and may allow us to make much greater progress than would have been possible without it.

The Heart of AA and Shay’s work is the Trust that comes from being in a community of True Peers. As Alan Deutschman has learned, only a tiny few of us will act on technical advice. A Vet will only really trust another Vet. An alcoholic another alcoholic. So the starting point is not to be advised BUT TO BE HEARD by a person who is empathic – who understands you and who will not judge you. Not because they are good people, but because they have walked in your shoes.

But even before this first step of being heard – there is the hardest step of all – the personal decision to get help. Each of us on our own has to be ready.

Most of us are not. How many of us would like to eat better or be more active – but give ourselves excuses for not doing anything. “Life is too short to give up bread or beer”. “My life is shit and this food makes me feel comforted” “Next Year!”  There is also huge peer pressure to not change. We must use the power of a new community to offset the power of the old one. Not just to make the change but to keep it. For those that are close to us, often don’t like the new you. You fat family, feel that your health and thin frame is a rebuke to them. Your sober wife who has used your drinking as her excuse too now finds herself exposed by you being sober.

Without the ongoing new community – the gravity of the old can pull you back.

This is why AA also offers you the opportunity to give back as a mentor. If you have been through the complete 12 steps, you can now help others. And by helping others, you in fact become even more attached to your new community. When my wife’s uncle was dying, his 2 best AA buddies were at his side – faithful until death.

So we return to Alan Deutschman who uses 3 words to describe the framework for real change:

  1. Relate – You only feel safe enough to make real change if you really trust another person. For Early Adopters this may be information itself that you trust. This is what happened to me when I met Michael Rose. But I am an oddity. I was ready to change and had a lot of motivation and I am one of those odd folks who always changes a lot. But most people need more than information from a person they trust – they need to be heard by a person they trust and they need to witness the story of that person who have made the change before them. Then they can receive the information
  2. Repeat - Real personal change takes years. It takes the establishment of new habits. For it is the establishment of a habit that rewires the brain. Changing your palate is a new habit. As a youth I drank coffee with 3 sugars and cream. It took me a decade to lose the taste for sugar in my coffee. Think of drink. No one starts by being able to drink a bottle of Scotch. We build up to this. We rewire our mind and our body to tolerate it. So stopping will hurt. So, bottom line, real change is evidenced by new habits. New habits are new actions and new responses. They take time to wire. But wire they do. Our brains set up new and deep pathways. Old triggers that would have taken us to the fridge or the bottle now take us somewhere else.
  3. Reframe – By following this process, we change our reality. We immigrate to a new world. The reframing comes late in the process. Not at the beginning. The idea of America pulled 50 million people across the Atlantic in the 19th century. But the immigrants had to wait for their kids to grow up in the new culture to become Americans. No Israelite who had been born a slave coud enter the promised land – not even Moses. Ideas do not change us – living the new ideas changes us – over time.

I think that that these principles can guide us to design the community and the supports that we all need to help each other on this journey. I suspect that Social Media will be a great help. But I am also convinced that we all will need a strong face to face component as well.

I would love to hear your views as to what you think will help.

Your mind and your health – Part 3 – How do we change deep rooted thoughts/habits?

So how do we change? Is it as simple as knowing what is true? Not for deep change. I can hear you even from here. “But I can’t change my habits” or “Just telling me to think differently is not enough” You are correct. There is nothing harder to do than to think differently.

Alcoholics rarely stop drinking because they know their drinking is killing them. They rarely give up because their families beg them to stop. They can only stop when THEY decide to. And then only usually with a special kind of help. Here is the problem exposed and the beginning of the way home giving by my pal Alan Deutschman – author of Change or Die.

Deep real change in how we think and so our reality comes from a special process. In summary, it has to start with an act of will. Each of us has to want to change. We cannot be half hearted. So for many, we have to reach a desperate place.

Once we have made the decision to act we need something different from the expert. AA is the embodiment of the process. Here is how Alan Deutschman has summed the process up in his book Change or Die which I have found to the be the best resource for understanding this kind of change.

Reframe
Repeat
Relate – and the greatest of these is Relate

THE FIRST KEY TO CHANGE

Relate

You form a new, emotional relationship with a person or community that inspires and sustains hope. If you face a situation that a reasonable person would consider “hopeless,” you need the influence of seemingly “unreasonable” people to restore your hope–to make you believe that you can change andexpect that you will change. This is an act of persuasion–really, it’s “selling.” The leader or community has to sell you on yourself and make you believe you have the ability to change. They have to sell you on themselves as your partners, mentors, role models, or sources of new knowledge. And they have to sell you on the specific methods or strategies that they employ.

THE SECOND KEY TO CHANGE

Repeat

The new relationship helps you learn, practice, and master the new habits and skills that you’ll need. It takes a lot of repetition over time before new patterns of behavior become automatic and seem natural–until you act the new way without even thinking about it. It helps tremendously to have a good teacher, coach, or mentor to give you guidance, encouragement, and direction along the way. Change doesn’t involve just “selling”; it requires “training.”

THE THIRD KEY TO CHANGE

Reframe

The new relationship helps you learn new ways of thinking about your situation and your life. Ultimately, you look at the world in a way that would have been so foreign to you that it wouldn’t have made any sense before you changed.

These are the three keys to change: relate, repeat, and reframe. New hope, new skills, and new thinking.

This may sound simple at first, but let me assure you that it’s not. The people who run the health care establishment still don’t understand these concepts. Nor do the people who run the criminal justice system. Nor do most of the people who run America’s major corporations.

Tomorrow we will explore how Dr Jonathan Shay uses these principles to help veterans cope withy severe PTSD. On Friday we will look at how AA works and then imagine how we might use social media to help us all.

Your Mind and Your Health Part 2 – The Power of Neuroplasticity

This is the conventional picture of the brain – a thing with discrete compartments – a thinking machine. This idea of the brain – which is also how most of us “see” the body and so organize medicine is wrong.

Our brains and our bodies are not machines made up of parts but are instead complex organisms that interact both internally and externally. Every part of us is interacting in complex ways.

This dynamic and complex interactive system – that is us – includes even our thoughts and how they interact with the structure of our brain. How we think and what we think shapes our brain so it shapes our view of reality. It therefore governs much of our health. For recall, our social status and how much power and control, we have has a major influence on our health.

Many of us have little control, or power or status in the industrial culture we inhabit  today. A reason why so many of us are ill or depressed. In this post we can see the mechanism that will enable us to think differently about this predicament and so heal. Remember Viktor Frankl knew that his captors could kill him like a fly. That they could torture him at will. But he also knew that they could never kill his spirit. In this, he had control and power and this knowledge enabled him to endure the unendurable and live.

In this post we will see how this process works. It is not new age mumbo jumbo but is rooted in science and our biology. Any of us can embark on work that can literally reinvent us and the world that we live in. The process is called Neuroplasticity. It is based on how the brain is shaped by thought. Here is a quick video introduction that showcases the work of Dr Norman Doidge.

Here is a link to a full length film on the topic that explores this in more detail.

In later posts this week we will look at what we can do to enable this process – what is remarkable about the process is how social it is. We will look at Alcoholism and AA and at PTSD and the military to see the framework. We will then look at the work of Alan Deutschman the author of Change or Die - the book that In find the most heplful resource

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Comments

  • Caroline Cooper: Hi Rob, Nice to see you're writing again. I have been thi...
  • Patrick Meadows: People, can and have lived solely on meat. Eskimos go months...
  • ike: Maybe you veggies need to eat meat so your brains can develo...
  • robpatrob: Of course - but we are talking much more recently here about...
  • Rob: "I come from Northern European stock. My genes are the most ...
  • Gemma: Don't forget regular exercise! Prevention is better than cur...
  • Daniel: Nothing can live on just meat. Carnivores such as cats and s...
  • robert: Your retarded, so why is it most vegans need pills as vitami...
  • Dario McNut: It is true that erectile dysfunction can be associated with ...
  • robpatrob: Google Richard Wrangham - His book is on Amazon - much more ...
  • A Question: Thanks for this video! Half of the urban women who had a raw...
  • robpatrob: Great questions - thanks. Just as 300 years ago a few misfi...
  • Garfield: I really like the parallels too...I live like this also. Twe...
  • nj: Rob, check out the chart here for a broader perspective on a...
  • robpatrob: Not what was said...

What is the Missing Human Manual All About?

Do you want to age well? Most of us do. If you are my age, 60, this is more important a question that if you are 30. But most of us would not wish to have heart disease, cancer, dementia when we get old.

Most of us think it is normal that we will get ill like this.

But science today tells us that this is not "Normal". Our evolutionary past designed us to be active and fit until we drop dead. Why? Because raising human children takes so long. Mature adults had to do most of the hard work enable us to invest up to 25 years in our kids.

We are designed by our evolution to reach a plateau of fitness in mid life. So why do most of us not live like this?

We don't because, we have strayed away from the best way of living that fits our evolution best. Our culture has got too far ahead of our biology. We eat foods that make us ill. We have lost our social identity and power and that makes us ill. And we have lost touch with the circadian rhythms of the Natural World, and that has made us ill too.

We have lost our fit with our true nature.

This site will be a Manual. It will show you what the best fit is. It will show you the science behind this. It will share with you some methods for getting your fit back with your true human nature.

So welcome to the "Missing Human Manual" . I hope that we can help you and I hope that you can help others as a result.

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