Happy Monday to everyone,
I had an unproductive weekend where I felt without energy. This was both mental and physical. The good news is that good friends of mine, a lovely couple, made a surprise engagement announcement at a party they had on Friday night. I was teary eyed and very pleased. This, however, led to lots of festivities that lasted late into the night. My wife and I got out of bed at 12h30 on Saturday. I haven’t woken up that late in years… It was for a good reason at least.
This of course led to a lack of energy and a depletion of my serotonin levels. There are drawbacks to excessive levels of happiness! ahaha
The second reason is that I have a video project to do for school. It was due in December and I, among others in my class, was told I could work on it some more and hand it in on Jan. 10th. I didn’t like my project, I don’t like my project, and frankly at the moment I simply want to move on from this project! I played around with it, but my negativity surrounding the whole thing took a lot out of me this weekend and continues to do so at this very moment. Having something on your mind can be terribly debilitating. The mind is powerful, and one’s health is not simply a result of good physical aptitudes.
I bring this up because I picked up a book called “The UltraMind Solution” by Mark Hyman, an American doctor. I became interested in the neurological potential of our brains last year when I read the excellent “The Brain that Changes itself” by Norman Doidge. For a while I was picking up whatever book I could find that might be related to the subject matter. Last week, looking through my library for some non-fiction, I noticed the Mark Hyman book. I started reading the first few pages and instantly became skeptical. I plan on reading through it with you on this blog, reviewing it as a book and as a philosophy.
The basic premise that has been established at this point is that the body, its various parts and our mind are more interconnected than contemporary western medicine allows it to be. According to Dr. Hyman, the specialization of medicine into various segments is leading to a generation of doctors with little to no understanding of the ways in which parts of the body that are not directly linked to that which is injured, or diseased, are frequently ignored much to the detriment of the patient and his health.
Now, I have no problem with this basic premise. In fact, I support it, think it is sane and just. The reasons behind the segmentation of the body in medicine are too many and too complicated to explore in a blog post, but the impact of that perspective does have its consequences. Understanding the body as an ecosystem that needs to be in balance to thrive seems rather obvious to me. It’s a shame that this perspective is not more prevalent among medical practitioners today.
The book, though, makes a very serious, and in my mind, controversial claim to being a simple guide by which people who follow its basic tenets will be able to “defeat depression, overcome anxiety, and sharpen [their] mind.” In the first few pages, Dr. Hyman writes about the possibility of curing, through his program, autism, epilepsy and other important mental disorders.
Perhaps it’s just the way he writes, but the way the book reads makes Dr. Hyman sound like manipulative opportunist.
This is how the introduction starts:
“Welcome to your brain.
You have just picked up the instruction book for the rest of your life.”
ok… That’s a bold statement.
Later on page 22, he writes:
“These ‘diseases'( he speaks of autism, depression, Alzheimer’s, bipolar disease, and so on…) really do not exist. ‘Mental disorders’ and ‘brain disorders’ are simply the names of common responses our bodies have to a variety of insults and deficiencies.”
Wow, ok, again, bold (bordering on arrogant and insulting) statement.
His belief resides in the “mind-body” balance, a state of being where the underlying problems to these diseases that “really do not exist” are rebalanced through his 7 keys(his system) that will allow the mind-body and body-mind to come back into balance.
I think it is very important to take a step back when we read about health and remember how complicated the whole thing is. Eating well is very important, and can and will help people become happier and healthier, but making the claim that a program of exercises and food can cure bipolar disease, autism and the likes is, I believe, dangerous. There are numerous very healthy individuals who suffer from mental health disorders, and perhaps even more importantly there are numerous individuals who live very unhealthy lives and benefit from an active, engaged and energetic mental life.
Recently I was reading an article about diet that was prescribed to a boy who was suffering from severe epilepsy. It was titled: Epilepsy’s big, fat miracle. The diet is a ketogenic one, which in laymen terms means that he is fooling his body into thinking that it is starving by avoiding carbohydrates in order for the body to survive on the boy’s fat cells instead. (It’s more complicated than that. Read the article. It’s very interesting.) This boy is both an example on how interconnected the body and mind are, as well as an example of how certain diets and lifestyles can help certain mental diseases.
My problem with Dr. Hyman’s claim, is that he’s organized and prepared a convenient one size fits all program in order to cure people. Having much of the book to read, I can’t be entirely sure, but feel rather confident in saying that I doubt this young boy’s diet is concordant to the one that is advertised in “The ultramind solution.”
Be skeptical when reading such material. Perhaps I am way off, and Dr. Hyman’s book ends up being of great value, but it has certainly started out on the wrong foot. Being healthy and well is a combination of things, subjective to each individual. Our contemporary medicine is flawed, but so are homeopathic practices. A healthy mind is the product of more than just a diet and some physical activities and habits. Genes come into play, social and personal circumstances can play a role in balancing your mental well-being, a lack of an engaging and rich cultural environment can be demoralizing, and so on.
There are no miracle cures to life.