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The biggest flaw with personal development

I will say it right away: the biggest flaw with personal development is thinking that it’s all in your mind! If you lack the motivation to do anything or you are stressed out by even normal situations, motivation techniques and stress management seminars might not be the very first things you should consider.

In personal development it is common for various teachers to mention that mind and body are interconnected, and that your thoughts can affect your body. There’s nothing wrong with that. Most people would agree that mind and body are intertwined. The problem comes when you start emphasizing the mind and neglecting the body – mind over matter way of thinking – which is a widespread viewpoint with personal development teachers and followers.

The Law of Attraction, a popular belief in personal development and self-help community, assumes that your predominant thoughts and feelings determine your destiny, that you can “manifest” anything you put your mind to, using various visualization techniques and affirmations and holding unwavering faith in reaching your goals. Taking this to the extreme, some authors state that your entire physical existence is the sum total of your past thoughts and feelings.

This doesn’t apply to all personal development information that is out there, but it sure does apply to a large subset of gurus that believe that physical body is just a vehicle for the spirit. Well, it’s not. I won’t go into a philosophical debate on the existence of soul, but the fact is, that your psychological processes depend on your nervous system that is governed by complex biochemical reactions in your body. You see, the interconnection of mind and body is a two-way route. Sure, negative thinking can get and keep you sick and depressed, however, the state of your body can affect your mind as well.

You may have chemical imbalances in your body due to poor nutrition or environmental factors and that can negatively affect your nervous system and consequently, your mind. Of course, for teachers who believe that mind is more powerful than matter this is hard to swallow. So they don’t emphasize enough the importance of taking care for your body physically: eating healthy food, being physically active, having access to clean water, minimizing exposure to harmful chemicals present in air and consumer goods (like artificial dyes and other additives in food and in pharmaceutical drugs), and so on. Even teachers that do mention these things as the things you should be doing to improve your general health, almost never discuss how these things can negatively affect your mind.

Luckily, there are other camps out there that you can learn from, and they focus on physical aspects of healthy living: vegetarians, vegans, raw-foodists, paleo-diet advocates and various fitness enthusiasts. They are not in agreement on what the best food choices are, though. I think that’s partly because different people respond differently to certain foods. In addition, some people have undiagnosed food allergies and intolerances (to dairy, eggs, gluten, etc.), which are more common than people think, they are difficult to diagnose, and they can cause a host of health problems, not just physical but also neurological and behavioral problems.

As there is no single solution for all, everybody has to find out for himself his best diet style (maybe with a help of medical or other professional). The common denominator is that if you predominantly eat processed and fast food, drink too much alcohol, smoke, don’t exercise, work a sedentary job under artificial lightening and don’t sleep enough then you are just asking to get sick or depressed.

So, if you are constantly tired or depressed, maybe it isn’t because your chakras are not cleansed – it could be that you don’t get enough nutrients with your food, so your body is chronically undernourished, lacking certain vitamins or minerals. And visualizing having a healthy body probably won’t help much if you don’t simultaneously improve your diet. It’s not that visualization is useless; visualization can help you stay motivated with your new diet style, so that you don’t succumb to peer pressure and you turn down that sugary dessert that they offer you at the birthday party you attend, even though you risk being labeled as a health nut.

I believe that’s how The Law of Attraction really works in the first place. It is not some mystical, unknown force that manifests your thoughts; it’s your actions that bring about change. And your actions – deliberate or spontaneous – are guided by your goals, your habits and your state of mind.

What’s going on with this blog?

I haven’t been posting much lately, because I have had some health issues. I intend to write more frequently when I get better. I will definitely not quit writing for this blog, but I may have longer periods without posting anything.

I have written already that I have problems with stress and anxiety, and even a mild OCD. These psychological issues certainly had a toll on my physical health as well. (One of the main reasons for starting a blog on personal development was, that I am in search for solutions for myself!)

However, now it seems likely that I have a deeper issue – deeper even than psychology. There are some indications that I might have gluten sensitivity, and possibly some other food allergies, though not much has been proven yet.

One of my relatives has celiac disease (which is genetically predisposed disorder) and since I am very skinny and have had some digestive problems, I suspected that gluten is a problem for me too. I wanted to test it for myself and went on a gluten-free diet, but unfortunately I got even sicker. The problem was that instead of bread and pasta, I started to eat more dairy and nuts (almonds, walnuts, etc.) and after a few weeks my health deteriorated. I developed heart palpitations and felt very tired. First, I suspected that dairy is the problem, so I cut it out of my diet, but it didn’t help. In fact it probably even made it worse as I lost some weight. Only after I stopped eating nuts did palpitations decreased. I have gone to the allergy specialist and done the skin prick test – it showed a mild reaction to peanuts, so allergy to nuts in general seems plausible. Or it might be that I just ate too much nuts, for whatever reason.

In addition, it is possible that my symptoms were worsened because of the use of prescription ointment (containing a corticosteroid betamethasone and an antibiotic), that I used occasionally in the past four years, because I had recurring inflammation/infection of the ear canal. Even though it is a prescription medication I never thought that it could be a problem, because I used very small quantities of it, and only occasionally. However, I searched on the internet and I found that topical corticosteroids are not so innocent, especially if applied on the areas where the skin is thinner, like in the ear, and for prolonged periods. Even though I had no proof that this medication had a negative effect on my health, I stopped using it immediately after learning that it is potentially very problematic.

These developments are going to change the orientation of this blog a bit. In the past I have been writing mostly about personal development in the sense of psychological balance – like staying motivated, focusing on your priorities, living in the now. However, there can be no personal development without physical health. Health is a complex issue and different factors are interconnected – body and mind affect each other in ways that even modern medicine does not understand fully. Stress can affect your physical well-being, but biochemical processes in your body have effect on your nerves as well, and consequently affect your psychology.

Health requires a holistic approach: from food and physical exercise, to stress management and personal happiness. So, in the future I will focus on other issues as well, not just on personal development in the narrow sense.

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