Preventive Medicine And The Inner Smile


Published:

While visiting my GP recently, he began talking with me about his own health. This was not unusual as we had known each other for twenty years and he had read my self-help book The Endorphin Effect. He was committed to a holistic approach and believed that good medicine enabled patients into self-care.

“If only I had practiced what I preach,” he said wryly, “I would have caught my own condition much earlier and probably avoided surgery.”

We then chatted for a while about the archetype of the wounded healer and the self-sacrificing hero, and that medics have a calling to relieve the suffering of others, but not themselves. Self-care is hardly on the clinical map and hardly possible in a busy day.

“You could do the self-examination in the bath or lying in bed or even commuting to work,” I nudged. “You know exactly where to scan.”

He sighed. He agreed. He then had to see more patients and I left.

The interesting thing for me about clinicians is that of all people, they know how to scan a body for signs of ill health. They know the crucial importance of early diagnosis and appropriate adjustments in behavior, diet, exercise and life style. But they rarely do it for themselves. When they examine patients they get a quick sense of their state from their body posture, skin tone, breathing and the condition of their eyes. With careful hands and appropriate poise, they touch, push, look, listen and feel their patients. They know all the sensory methods for assessing health, but they rarely do it for themselves.

We all have the necessary apparatus to assess our own state of health. We have the mental ability to scan, sense and cognize what it feels like inside the body, to know exactly what signs are important. All this requires is the self-discipline of an intentional pause and then deliberately focusing down into one’s own physicality.

This sensory, felt awareness of one’s self is crucial. It is the sovereign individual alone who can really know and experience their own state, and is able to self-assess and catch early signs of threatening symptoms. Who else can notice those signals that require just a tad of relevant adjustment: a bit more exercise, regular stretching, earlier nights, less caffeine, better food, more fresh air?

Self-care as preventative medicine is not, of course, a new model. Indeed, in classical Chinese medicine, the art of being in a friendly clinical relationship with your own body is considered the foundation of good health. There is even a clear set of instructions on precisely how to conduct this practice. At its heart is a relaxed and friendly bedside manner towards your own physicality.

Sometimes this self-care practice is translated from Chinese as The Inner Smile, which may sound quirky to a cynical ear, a prime candidate for a bad science award. But unpack the Inner Smile tolerantly and we can see that it meshes extremely well with a modern understanding of the integration of brain, nervous system, endocrine system and gut ecology.

The Inner Smile is in fact a good example of psychoneuroimmunology (PNI) and polyvagal theory put into practice. The practitioner is advised to do it daily, when the body is at ease, with a particular focus on letting the abdomen drop down and sink into relaxation. With a calm and friendly attitude the practitioner then conducts an internal scan, especially checking in on all the major organs and noticing how they feel. Moreover the practitioner is asked to come into a direct and personal relationship with each organ, greeting it with a smile.

Is this hippy-dippy? Anyone with the slightest knowledge of mind-body anatomy and PNI will understand that this internal focus triggers signals from the brain through the nervous system into the endocrine system. It is crucial therefore that the practitioner’s attitude be friendly. If the self-examination is conducted with a purely clinical, impatient or, worst, an inquisitorial attitude, the message triggered in the neuro-endocrinal system will be that of threat, thereby precipitating the production of cortisol and adrenalin. If however the attitude is friendly and comfortingly parental then the neural signal is reassuring and soothing, triggering a cocktail of wellbeing hormones: endorphins, oxytocin and serotonin. Just as an external caring parent can do wonders for our health, so an internal caring persona can have a similar positive effect.

Scanning with the Inner Smile, then, serves two purposes:

  • It brings into conscious awareness the felt state of your own body — early diagnosis leading to appropriate early intervention.
  • It self-soothes — relaxing and opening up tissue, integrating heart rate variability, settling and balancing gut ecology — all of which support general good health and a strong immune system.

Done on a daily basis the benefits are obvious. But people are predictably human and, despite how sensible and positive this practice is, there is resistance to adopting it. Consider my GP who was bemoaning that he had not followed his own advice and caught an early diagnosis on his own illness.

So why is there resistance? In my opinion it is good to be realistic about the sources of this self-sabotage, because recognizing them makes them easier to manage.

Possibilities Of Why I Don’t Self-Care

  • Can’t break old habits
  • New behavior to learn
  • It wasn’t in my training
  • Embarrassing and awkward to care for self
  • Internalized authority figure judging you for appearing soft and narcissistic
  • Pretending there is not enough time
  • Frightened to look at what might be wrong
  • Addicted to role of stoic hero and healer
  • Scared of feeling feelings
  • Lazy and lack discipline
  • Depressed and no motivation

Those are all extremely good and normal reasons for avoiding self-care. What, therefore, might motivate someone to push through the resistance? You could just wait for a harsh health crisis to be prodded into action — the stick. Or — and I write this carefully after decades of experience in the field — you could just exercise sensible self-discipline, similar to washing your hands after the loo. Other than the unpleasant shock of a severe illness, the only thing that seems to motivate regular self-care is a disciplined rhythm that ultimately, like hand-washing, becomes a part of your normal life style. The carrots of self-care and early intervention are obvious.

Inner Smile Self-Care

  1. Do it daily — perhaps in bed, lunch break, watching television, whenever suits you.
  2. Allow your body to sink down into being at ease.
  3. Let your abdomen slump and let your breath soften.
  4. Switch on the attitude of good bedside manner, like a friendly parent.
  5. Focus down into your own body and scan it.
  6. In whatever sequence works for you, give awareness to and feel into each organ and each region; sense into your systems.
  7. Notice how it all feels and the indications.
  8. Think about the appropriate health benefitting activities.
  9. Action the appropriate health benefitting activities.

The long-term benefits for you and your community are immense.

Chapter by William Bloom adapted and reprinted with permission of the author from the book Health and Self-Care: Inner Balance for an Effective Life for Health Professionals by Andrew Tresidder. Download a full PDF of the book at healthandself.care.

William Bloom is Britain’s leading author and educator in the mind-body-spirit field with over thirty years of practical experience, research and teaching in modern spirituality. He is founder and co-director of The Foundation for Holistic Spirituality and the Spiritual Companions project. Visit www.williambloom.com.

See also:
Be The Support You Seek
Family Medicine — We’re All In This Together
 

Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags

Daily Astrology

March 19, 2019

This final day of the astrological year features no exact planetary aspects. The Sun is at the last degree of Pisces, the Sign of the Two Fishes. One looks to the past while the other contemplates the future. It’s a good time to pause and consider your…
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Alternative Health Directory

Browse all listings »

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Calendar

March 2019

Sunday afternoon: 3–4:30pm at Hillside Herbals Spring Tonics II: the spring tonic herbs—it's about circulation, assimilation and elimination—tincturing. Rachel has...

Cost: Drop in Fee $10 includes all materials and handouts.

Where:
Hillside Herbals
Jefferson, MA


Sponsor: Hillside Herbals
Telephone: 508-847-8615
Contact Name: Rachel Ross
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
No Events

Show More...
Show Less...

March 20–23 9am-3pm each day Experience transformation guided by Mother Mary. Through Divine vibration, you will be aligned for quicker healing and evolving with mind body spirit and...

Cost: $500

Where:
, MA


Sponsor: The LoveLight Center
Telephone: (207) 216-9584
Contact Name: Cheryl Banfield

More information

The American Center for Bioregulatory Medicine and Dentistry (The BioMed Center) is the most comprehensive center in North America for bioregulatory medicine and dentistry. Come see what...

Cost: Free and open to the public

Where:
111 Chestnut Street
Providence, RI
View map »


Website »

More information

Discover how you can release tight muscles and improve range of motion in locked joints in a weekly ESSENTRICS stretch classes led by Raindrop Fisher, certified Essentrics instructor. Raindrop is a...

Cost: $10 drop-in / $100 for 12 classes

Where:
Village at Waterman Lake
Function Room - Chalet Bldg
715 Putnam Pike
Greenville, RI  02828
View map »


Sponsor: Healthier Fit Lifestyle
Telephone: 401-678-0950
Contact Name: Raindrop Fisher
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

This 8 week series in Tai Chi will provide you with everything you need to get started in a personal Tai Chi practice. Just for Beginners—there is no expectation, and no pressure in...

Cost: $137 for 8 weeks

Where:
Spiral Path Connections
218 Boston Street
Unit 104
Topsfield, MA  01983
View map »


Sponsor: The Spiral Path
Telephone: 978-314-4264
Contact Name: Johanna Hattendorf
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

“All we need is love” the Beatles claimed in 1960’s. In fact, we have been looking for love from the beginning of time. We are conditioned that it is love which brings us...

Cost: $35

Where:
Circles of Wisdom
386 Merrimack Street, Suite 1-A
Suite 1-A
Methuen, MA  01844
View map »


Sponsor: Circles of Wisdom
Telephone: 978-474-8010
Contact Name: Cathy Kneeland
Website »

More information

“Master your breath, let the self be in bliss, contemplate on the sublime within you.” —Krishnamacharya Join us for an evening of deep exploration and transformation using the...

Cost: $30 (some hardship rates available)

Where:
Spontaneous Celebrations
45 Danforth Street
Jamaica Plain, MA  02130
View map »


Telephone: 617-233-6410
Contact Name: Allen Howell, M.Ed.LMHC
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Only $225 if you register for both days! Save $25! Please click here to register for both workshops. This is a 2 day course being held Saturday and Sunday, March 23...

Cost: $125

Where:
Circles of Wisdom
386 Merrimack Street, Suite 1-A
Suite 1-A
Methuen, MA  01844
View map »


Sponsor: Circles of Wisdom
Telephone: 978-474-8010
Contact Name: Cathy Kneeland
Website »

More information

Former Buddhist monk and world renowned healer, Seth Monk, will be giving a Siddha Healing to our community. Seth will be accompanied by Shannon Fitzgerald, an AromaReiki Master for a beautiful...

Cost: $35

Where:
Sohum Yoga and Meditation Studio
30 Lyman Street, Suite 108B
Westborough Shopping Center
Westborough, MA  01581
View map »


Sponsor: www.SOHUM.org
Telephone: 508-329-3338
Contact Name: Ritu Kapur
Website »

More information

In her art and spirit workshops, Melissa combines her gift as an intuitive with her extensive background in painting to help you to work through creative blocks and learn or refine technique. Come...

Cost: $150

Where:
Circles of Wisdom
386 Merrimack Street
Suite 1-A
Methuen, MA  01844
View map »


Sponsor: Circles of Wisdom
Telephone: 978-474-8010
Contact Name: Cathy Kneeland
Website »

More information

Journey back into the experience of peace, harmony and inner power through this unique meditation practice. Explore the power of your thoughts and how they can bring you inner harmony and help you...

Cost: Free

Where:
Inner Space Meditation Center & Gallery
1110 Massachussetts Ave
Cambridge, MA
View map »


Telephone: 617-547-1110
Website »

More information

Psychics, mediums, angel readers, spirit art. Reiki, chair massage, IET, Gaiadon Heart, crystal healings, etc. Sign yourself up for a few appointments and bring your friends! Appointments...

Where:
Women Of Wisdom
118 Washington Street
North Easton, MA  02356
View map »


Telephone: (508) 230-3680
Website »

More information

6 Saturdays 10am–11:30am February 23–March 30, 2019 Taijiquan (Tai Chi ) is a healing martial art, using breath and movement together to strengthen the body and quiet...

Cost: $120

Where:
Metta Wellness
679 Pleasant Street
Paxton, MA  01612
View map »


Sponsor: Metta Wellness
Telephone: 774-245-5487
Contact Name: Rick Rocha
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags