In The Whole Health Life Shannon Harvey shares her learning from a ten year journey as a 20-something journalist diagnosed with an autoimmune illness living a fast-paced life to a 30-something healthy mama of two.
Of course this appealed to me, it’s a blend of research and personal story. It is an easy to read, compelling, evidence-based case for following the steps in The Whole Health Life.
Being healthy in this crazy, busy, modern world is not easy.
For journalist Shannon Harvey, finding a solution to this problem became personal when she was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease that had no known cause and no known cure. After being told by her doctor that she could end up in a wheelchair, she realised she had to take action. – synopsis from Goodreads
I loved this book! As a person who has been fighting Fibromyalgia for over ten years and has done a lot of research, I had previously found most of the lessons outlined in the book, but also further avenues to explore.
The chapers are the key steps in the Whole Health Life, these are all the main concepts in coping with Fibromyalgia, other chronic illnesses or just living healthily in general.
This step discusses the effect that modern life has on our body, chronic activation of the fight or flight response, and how meditation and mindfulness can help counteract this. Like the author, I have found meditation to be enormously helpful in my journey, not only for catching up on some deep rest from lack of sleep, but for calming my nervous system. I used to get anxious so much more easily and it would be more difficult to relax. Now I have the tools to calm down – breathing, focusing on the moment, and checking in with my body.
This is an interesting area of study. Our beliefs, positive or negative can effect our physiology – if we believe a medicine will work, there is evidence that this enhances (or creates) the benefit. I firmly believe that a realistic but hopeful mindset is key for coping with a long term illness. If we were to have our hearts broken with every new change or medicine we tried, we’d become pretty hopeless and this would in turn effect our health. If we have realistic hope that we can change our life, that we have control, then we will get much further in our journey to wellness.
I love her suggestions such as set your mindset positively (for example, I can walk 20 minutes, rather than I can’t walk 30 minutes); pay attention to negative expectations and be wary of them; meditate to lessen the effect of worry about our illness; make a ritual around treatments to allow something called classical conditioning to take place (p93); adhere carefully to treatment plans as this aids the expectation response.
Food is a minefield at the moment. There are many recommended eating plans – but research suggests the only “best” eating plan is one that we will stick to. Personally, I agree with the author’s conclusion that a diet rich in whole, plant-based foods is the way to go (p102).
We know movement had to be included, it is vital for good health. We also know we don’t need to run a marathon or climb a mountain, especially if we’d hate the attempt. Let’s chose something we can stick to. I choose yoga and, incidentally, it hits all the aspects that research identities as useful for us: “a vinyasa yoga class can get your heart pumping, your muscles stretching and strengthening, and your mind-body connected (that’s neuromotor exercise).” P131
This chapter delves into nature vs nurture and the idea of epigenetics (that your environment can change your genes). It teaches you some ways to set up your environment for better health. Can you cut the commute? I did and it saved two hours of time, energy and stress per day, Harvey writes of the same experience. Something as simple as putting a nice looking fruit bowl in a prominent place can assist you in your healthy eating goals.
Ah sleep, the thing I try to get all night and spend all day trying to set up well! Yes the research shows how important sleep is for our health, yes there’s a heap of sleep hygiene that may help. I have ordered one of the books on her recommended reading list for sleep – Night School: The Life-Changing Science of Sleep by Richard Wiseman.
Emotions, Healthcare and Relationships are the remaining sections.
This is well worth the read if you are facing a chronic illness or just want to invest in your health – don’t get dragged into ill-health by our culture’s fast paced, burn out risking standards. Start meditating, prioritise sleep, go for a walk, have a snuggle with your partner or have an apple at morning tea time today, just start!