After Dr. Mehmet Oz, a surgeon and director of the mechanical heart program at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center in New York City, performed a heart transplant on one of his patients, the man’s body began to reject the new heart.
“You know, doctor, I don’t know why I’m so bad,” Oz recalls his patient telling him in tears. “First my own heart rejects me and dies, and now my new heart rejects me and starts to die.”
Along with the physiological issue of rejection, Oz said he knew he had to deal with something else — helping the man believe that he is a worthy person.
One way he often does that is to help his patients define affirmations, positive statements unique to each person’s situation. Affirmations are expressed in the present tense and they are said aloud or written down daily. They are not magic, but they are a strong ratification of the belief that you are a person who has love and value and that at this moment you are experiencing what you want and need.
Affirmations can replace the tendency to fall into destructive responses to disease: guilt and fear.
“In my mind, and in the mind of most active clinicians who take care of human beings every day, we find it incredibly important for individuals to affirm that they have confidence in what’s going on,” said Oz, author of “Healing from the Heart” (Dutton, 1998, $23.95).
Does being positive make a difference?
“Your mental attitude is everything,” said Dr. Michael F. Roizen, a Chicago internist and author of “The Real Age” (HarperCollins, 1999, $25).
For example, once people understand they can actually measure improvement in the “real” age of their bodies, as opposed to its calendar age, they are far more likely to take the actions necessary for better health. Instead of less than 5 percent of patients leaving his office motivated to change their habits, more than a third make the commitment, he said.
The beginning of the new millennium presents a unique incentive to make such changes. You can form words now to positively impact your health today and for the future.
“Doing an affirmation is about organizing your sense of the future concerning those things that are most important to you,” said Watts Wacker, a futurist who founded and directs a think tank, FirstMatter, based in Westport, Conn.
From his vantage point, Wacker said what he sees is that an optimist has a pretty good future, and a pessimist a pretty bad one. The interesting part is that they are both using the same set of facts.
“How you organize your view of the future has an awful lot to do with what happens in that future,” Wacker said. “The power of the affirmation is the power of framing the context to which you refer.”
And what could be more important in that future than having your health? According to Wacker, good health was one of the five most important things named by Aristotle about 5,000 years ago — and it still is.
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