Animals, meditation … anything that helps us heal faster

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Do you have digestive pain after every meal? Your sleep is not restful enough and you are dragging fatigue that you cannot get rid of? Complain of muscle tension and recurring headaches? Of dull anxiety and difficulty motivating you in the morning? Behind these disparate symptoms hides an insidious phenomenon: stress. When it sets in and becomes chronic, it upsets our internal balance and in particular our hormonal secretions. As a result, our health suffers, with a higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease, diabetes, inflammatory pain or cognitive impairment. However, simple strategies can keep it at bay and even boost our healing power, including activating the most powerful of all treatments: the placebo effect!

To fight high blood pressure, adopt a pet

According to a 2016 study by researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health, 87% of people who spend time with animals feel more centered and peaceful. Petting a dog or cat lowers cortisol levels and increases oxytocin levels. Pet owners have lower blood pressure than people without. In children, this reassuring presence limits anxiety disorders and exposure to stress. In the absence of a four-legged companion, invest in an aquarium and some goldfish: the National Marine Aquarium of Plymouth in England has shown that the observation of fish evolving in water lowers blood pressure in a short time and the heartbeat !

To strengthen your heart, do meditation

Recent research shows us the heart as an organ endowed with sensitivity … “A kind of 3rd brain”, notes Dr Mathieu Bernard-Le Bourvellec, cardiologist (1). “It is endowed with 40,000 neurons through which the heart is able to learn, understand, recognize, memorize and experience sensations and feelings. A real dialogue, albeit unconscious, exists between this cardiac brain and the upper brain, and this dialogue works in both directions “. When the heart beats calmly, the brain is reassured. When our heart rate goes wild, the brain is alarmed. When the brain calms down, the heart functions more physiologically.

“Since 2017, the powerful American association of cardiology, the American Heart Association recognizes that meditation could reduce the risk of heart disease”, continues the expert. The reason: Meditation promotes the secretion of alpha and theta brain waves, associated with relaxation, memorization, creativity and mental well-being.

In practice. Meditation is within everyone’s reach and many free apps familiarize us with it. It suffices to practice regularly, ten minutes a day for example, to train your brain… and protect your heart, reassured by the flood of calming brain waves.

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To improve your sleep, write

Ex-emergency physician, specialist in the management of intense stress situations, Dr Philippe Rodet (2) advises: “At the end of the day, take a sheet of paper on which you draw two vertical columns. On the left, you note what went well, on the right what went wrong, so that the results are the most objective possible. Then you find the three most positive things in the left column and think about them before you go to bed. Stress levels drop instantly and falling asleep is easier. “

This simple exercise, perhaps simplistic for some, nevertheless has the advantage of lowering the secretion of adrenaline and norepinephrine, two hormones involved in our reaction to stress. Again, as with meditation, the impact of this exercise increases over time: it becomes easier and its benefits are amplified.

To boost your immune system, cultivate optimism

Dr Rodet advises a Japanese practice, the Neikan, studied scientifically since the 1970s. Just like the gratitude journal which consists of noting down every day or every week the “3 small pleasures felt”, the Neikan generates optimism . However, optimism protects our health, lowers our threshold for feeling pain and stimulates our immune defenses. Scientific studies on this subject are increasing. As in this study published in BioMed Central Journal which shows that the risk of developing breast cancer decreases in optimistic people.

In practice. This introspection method consists of asking oneself, at regular intervals (for example once a week), the following two questions:

  • What have I received from others?
  • What have I offered to others?

This exercise automatically engenders gratitude in us and makes us think about ways to strengthen our help and generosity towards others.

If you have a migraine attack, hyperventilate

Dr Jean-Pierre Chaudot, in charge of the “migraine” consultation at the Pau hospital, explains: “Before each attack, there is always a moment when the migraine sufferer will start to breathe less well. He does not expire correctly, which causes an incomplete expulsion of carbon dioxide. However, carbon dioxide passes very easily into the cephalo liquid. spinal cord and builds up the pressure there. Experimental work has shown that when this pressure increases by one millimeter of mercury, this causes a 5% increase in cerebral blood flow, which is enough to trigger migraine pain. “

In practice. The method, which Dr Chaudot explains in his book Bye Bye migraine (Persée edition), consists in defusing the crisis by voluntarily hyperventilating for 4 to 5 breaths (inhaling and exhaling forcefully as if to inflate an air mattress). Take a break and then resume a new series of hyperventilation, until you feel dizzy. The excess carbon dioxide will then have been expelled and the pain will cease. “Practiced from the outset, this breathing helps bypass the crisis”, notes Dr Chaudot, whose method is currently being validated by the ARS of the Pau region to be the subject of a therapeutic education program.

To increase your chances of recovery, choose an empathetic doctor

You are hospitalized and you are over 65 years old: it is better if the doctor looking after you is a woman rather than a man. A study (published in JAMA in 2017) conducted on more than 1.5 million hospitalizations in the United States shows that in this case, the mortality is lower, as well as the rate of re-hospitalizations thirty days later. . In this study, female physicians were on average younger and less experienced than men. It is therefore not the difference in medical knowledge that explains these results. Women would have shown more empathy, this is the key to these results. Treated with kindness, a sick person will recover better.

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To protect your brain, cultivate your friendships

When you are surrounded by close and loving people and you regularly hang out with your friends – even at a distance, we have seen it with confinement – your levels of cortisol (stress hormones) drop while that of oxytocin (protective hormone, which reassures and provokes a feeling of attachment) climbs (study by Béate Ditzen, University of Zurich, 2008, published in Science Daily). If you are in pain, ask a loved one to stand by your side, to speak quietly to you as this will release more endorphins (pain-relieving molecules). Friendship is also a balm for the brain, as the Harvard study on adult development coordinated by Prof. Robert Waldinger reminds us: it protects memory and makes it possible to age in better health. Conversely, according to neuroscientists, the experience of social isolation activates the same areas of the brain as physical pain. This is unfortunately the case for single people during the confinement period.

Adopt the green attitude

Stimulation of the immune system, improvement of mood, memory, attention and physical form, studies on the benefits of nature are piling up…. If you cannot go for a walk in the middle of the forest to walk, breathe, meditate and benefit from a real “green medicine”, you can always grow plants at home, with very easy-to-use kits (ready-to-use kits type). to push). Even if we don’t have a green thumb, it will work!

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The placebo effect improves our health

The expert’s opinion: Michel Raymond, research director at the CNRS (Evolutionary human biology), author of The power to heal (HumenSciences Santé)

What is the placebo effect?

Until now, the placebo effect was defined as the therapeutic effect of a drug containing no active substance. But in view of many new studies, we can broaden this definition: the placebo effect is the health effect of any type of positive social interaction. For example, the quality of relationships within a couple; having many friends; empathy and listening to a third party… all of this works to improve our health.

How to activate it?

Meet with friends, discuss, invite each other, help each other with neighbors… These simple steps improve our health. Unfortunately, since the advent of television, the quality of our social relations has deteriorated. We spend an average of three hours a day watching it, less time interacting socially. Social networks allow more exchanges, but they probably do not replace “real” human contacts.

Can the doctor also influence this placebo effect?

Yes, especially if he is benevolent, optimistic about the chances of recovery, and if he gives his patient time. A homeopathy consultation, for example, lasts on average 30 to 60 minutes compared to 15 minutes with a general practitioner. Obviously, the placebo effect will be stronger in the first case …

(1) of “The heart, our other brain” (Larousse)
(2) of “You can live better” (Eyrolles)

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