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“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”  John Quincy Adams

As an “alternative” health care provider, I have seen over the years a tendency for patients to expect miracles. I am coming out today to announce that I don’t perform miracles. My job is to educate and inspire you to work your own miracles! I’ve mentioned this before, but my favorite part of this job is watching people develop greater self-awareness, and then powerfully use that awareness to improve their health. I have noticed that people who come in with a positive outlook and strong life purpose seem to make those improvements the most successfully, so I did a little digging to see what the research shows.

There is a growing body of evidence that shows our state of mind can positively influence our physical health. Studies have found that people with a well-defined sense of life purpose are overall more proactive about their health and more frequently take the time to utilize preventative health resources. Even beyond this, people with a strong sense of purpose have a decreased risk of stroke and heart attack, spend fewer overall nights in the hospital, and have an increased lifespan. Finding and maintaining an active engagement with our inner world and the world around us improves health.

The rapidly expanding field of epigenetics explores how environmental factors influence the expression of our DNA. While we are each given a packet of chromosomes at birth, the genes that are activated throughout our life that determine our physical and behavioral traits will vary based on our experiences and physical interactions. Interestingly, we are finding that people who have an overall perspective of well-being can actually shift their genetic expression towards greater health. Not only this, but it is possible that our attitude has an even greater effect than our conscious experiences. This means we have the ability to make our own health or at least shift the course of disease just based on the way we approach life.

Creating your own health is not just about being an optimist: health creation is a practice that you can consciously work on each day. One study showed that introducing a simple practice of gratitude improved subjects’ sense of well-being, sleep, and blood pressure. Each time you choose to eat something you know will make you feel good, get up a few minutes early to get some exercise, take a deep breath and smile at someone you care about instead of thinking about how they make you crazy, or ask someone for help when you need it, you are choosing health. And making your own miracles!

Yu L1, Boyle PA2, Wilson RS2, et al. Purpose in life and cerebral infarcts in community-dwelling older people. Stroke. 2015 Apr;46(4):1071-6

Kim ES1, Strecher VJ2, Ryff CD3. Purpose in life and use of preventive health care services. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2014 Nov 18;111(46):16331-6.

Barbara L. Fredrickson, Karen M. Grewen, Kimberly A. Coffey et al. A functional genomic perspective on human well-being. PNAS August 13, 2013 vol. 110 no. 33 13684-13689

Jackowska, Marta, Brown , Jennie, Ronaldson, Amy., et al. The impact of a brief gratitude intervention on subjective well-being, biology and sleep. J Health Psychol. 2015 Mar 2.

McKnight, Patrick E.; Kashdan, Todd B. Purpose in life as a system that creates and sustains health and well-being: An integrative, testable theory. Review of General Psychology, Vol 13(3), Sep 2009, 242-251.

Kim ES, Sun JK, Park N, Kubzansky LD, Peterson C Purpose in life and reduced risk of myocardial infarction among older U.S. adults with coronary heart disease: A two-year follow-up. J Behav Med 36(2):124–133. 2013

Kim ES, Sun JK, Park N, Peterson C Purpose in life and reduced incidence of stroke in older adults: ‘The Health and Retirement Study’ J Psychosom Res 74(5):427–432. (2013)

Hill, Patrick L., Turiano, Nicholas A. Purpose in Life as a Predictor of Mortality Across Adulthood Psychol Sci. 2014 Jul;25(7):1482-6