Review: The Whole Health Life

I have been given this product as part of a product review through the Chronic Illness Bloggers network. Although the product was a gift, all opinions in this review remain my own and I was in no way influenced by the company





I have been given the opportunity to review the book The Whole Health Life. Shannon Harvey got sick. Not the flu sick. But ill. She was hard-working and pursuing a journalism career and then... bam. They thought she had lupus but over the years had a few labels tacked on. She did what she did best, she delved into current research into what could help her live a better quality of life.

My review of the book:
This is an interactive book. She provides resources on her site, quizzes, meditation tools, book recommendations... you name it. This a bang for your buck there. I am still digging through all that. The studies provide my logical mind with what I need to feel satisfied. I need actual research to, well, believe anything. I need some meat. Yet it is not bogged down with research by any means. It more like we are having a compelling conversation with the author about her experience. On a journey with her. I really recommend to for a read.
The book explores the mind-body connection and I am into that sort of thing. It is like what is mentioned in the book this capacity we have to switch our genes on and off or how our emotional framework is 50% genetic... it is this space for flexibility. Some space for us to adapt and change. Granted, many of us do not have what she does. I have chronic pain conditions. And pain is a brutal beast to fight upstream with. I like to see these sorts of things as potential quality of life improvements. My psychologist said in a pain 101 class to us we will always have pain, but there are things we can do to help us manage our pain and live a life. It comes to an aspect of control. I cannot control I have these conditions. I am on medications, which is my foundation, but they only minimally help. What more can I do that may help me? And like I say, if that helps, do that.
So you read this book with well thought out research and it will give you ideas. It will make you think. And wonder. What if I did make a habit of that? What if I did start doing that? There is no cure. But there is always the potential for improvement to wellbeing.

The fun stuff I got out of the book:
The chapter on stress was fascinating in itself. There is this idea that all stress is bad. Bad stress! You just ruined my day, stress. But there is actually good stress that we utilize to get things done all the time. The Belief that all stress is bad, though, can be bad for our health. Just changing how you perceive it can help a great deal. I always tell people; I am not so great with negative stress but positive stress I am all good with.

One thing we do for our stress is meditation, which is big one for my pain management personally. What is it doing? A man named Herbert Benson found it decreased metabolism, heart rate, breathing rate and slower brain waves. This response he coined the 'relaxation response' which can be triggered through a Variety of techniques and traditions. They found meditation can affect healing time for example. In recent research, it has been shown to turn genes on and off, which is frankly mind-blowing. After 8 weeks the amygdala, stress center of the brain, gets smaller. Just 20  minutes a day can help with pain sensitivity. Yay! On her website in extra resources section she has some guided meditations for download. And she also has recommended meditation apps to use.

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Again I was completely drawn into the chapter on Belief. I know this is 
fundamental in so many ways. What I found fascinating about belief is the placebo effect. I had actually read about this before. What I had read is that people who believed a treatment was effective had more positive responses to said treatment than people going in who thought either it was not likely effective or neutral. What is also concerning is the nocebo effect... the negative effects from belief. Like when someone gets 'side effects' from a sugar pills. But this can be propagated by others. Like if you are going to take a med and you ask around about it, next thing you know you have heard 100 horror stories and 100 side effects going in to taking that med. There was one study that was on painkillers. Where they gave painkillers to people after a painful surgery either automatically, and then, others telling them, those they told had a more positive painkiller affect than those who didn't know they were getting it. "we now know that placebos can work in a way similar to morphine by using the endogenous opioid system, the body’s innate pain-relieving system. Another way placebos can work is by triggering dopamine, the chemical in your brain that makes you anticipate pleasure and reward." What is fascinating about this is that we often see it as a negative effect, but really it is something to be encouraged. I want my painkiller to be effective. I want that alternative treatment to work. If my brain actually causes a physical effect that makes me feel better because of my belief that it will? Then, hell yeah. If my belief a medication will work makes it more likely to actually work? I am there, man.

The chapter on environment makes you really think of the impact. Anyway, you don't need to tell a migraineur environments are not productive to health given sound pollution, scents, and fluorescent lights. We think about it and modify it a great deal. The chapter does mention the benefits of natural light by the way. Which a migraineur has issues with due to photosensitivity. I had read that light-avoidance though makes us more light sensitive, so it is a fine line.
Forest bathing."They’ve found that, overall, participants in the forest bathing trips experience a 12.4 percent decrease in levels of the stress hormone cortisol, a 7.0 percent decrease in sympathetic nervous activity, a 1.4 percent decrease in blood pressure, and a 5.8 percent decrease in heart rate compared with people in an urban environment. In addition, the forest bathers also report better moods and lower anxiety, which is reflected by a 55 percent enhancement of parasympathetic nervous system activity, a biological measure of the relaxed state we feel after being in the great outdoors.19 These health benefits of forest bathing have been shown to last as long as 30 days after the participants returned to their urban lives."

I thought I would quote that because not only does it show the benefits our environment can have but because, damn, I love me some forest bathing. However, the point was going for a walk in your local park can be beneficial.

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The chapter on sleep is one that will be of interest to anyone with chronic illness. What caught my attention is the bit about how some natural sleep cycles are 'larks' or 'owls'; morning people and night owls. Because regardless of my pervasive insomnia I am a night owl. " Night owls are more prone to depression and more inclined toward substance abuse, possibly because they rely on uppers and downers (such as caffeine and alcohol) to help them cope with a biological clock that is out of synch with society’s clock. When researchers scanned the brains of night owls in 2013, they found they had diminished white matter, a type of tissue that facilitates communication among nerve cells. Being a night owl is also linked to an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Roenneberg also demonstrated that “living against the clock” may be a contributing factor to the growing epidemic of obesity. " Think about it... night owls are battling a social clock not their biological clock. I have always said that. When I work, I am constantly sleep deprived, because my insomnia is twice as bad. I cannot function on societies clock. When I am not working, it isn't as bad because I can adjust my clock to my brain.

Some of the tips mentioned for insomnia I already use. Like F.lux for the computer. She recommends orange classes... I use migraine glasses. Things like that. However, I have had insomnia a very, very long time. I have been told it is 'embedded', chronic and complicated by pain. We all know sleep is a difficult issue. And vital.

A little on the chapters I didn't discuss:

Food: No diet to rule them all! Finally someone said it. Damn. But all the diets have commonalities which she points out, which generally means eat Better. She points out the factors they have in common.

Exercise: I know it, you know it, we need to do it. One thing I think that is overlooked is its mood-boosting effects, and with depression I like it. But it also gives us an oxygen boost and improves memory.

Emotions: 50% of our emotional outlook is in our genes, sorry to say, but that leaves 50% that is not. The goal is an overall balance to emotions. Not overtly negative or positive.
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