Deepak Chopra, MD, knows a thing or two about balance and renewal. The New York Times bestselling author and integrative medicine pioneer has dedicated much of his life and work to studying the interconnection of the mind, body and spirit.
“People are now beginning to look at systems biology as a single process,” Dr. Chopra told a crowd of DOs and medical students gathered in Anaheim Saturday evening for an OMED 2016 general session focused on renewal.
Taking note of the osteopathic medical profession’s emphasis on preventive, whole-person care, Dr. Chopra described the future of medicine as precise, participatory and process-oriented. “I think we can say the future is already here,” he said.
A person’s physical, emotional and mental health make up a unified process in perpetual flux, according to Dr. Chopra. “Don’t think of your genes and microbiome as static—they are constantly going up and down in their activity and regulating your body with only one idea: total balance,” he said.
The stress factor
Despite our natural tendency toward homeostasis, or the state of well-being, one factor has the potential to derail the body’s ability to self-regulate: stress. “Somehow after billions of years of development, this one thing has become the epidemic of our civilization,” he said.
The body’s reaction to stress begins with mental and emotional disruptions such as confusion, lack of concentration, depression or anger, which can lead to outward behavioral and physical disturbances. “As you look at the biology, you see everything from skin disruptions to musculoskeletal or gastrointestinal disorders,” said Dr. Chopra. “There’s no system that’s not affected, from your endocrine system to your immune system.”
These imbalances can ultimately weaken the immune system and lead to an increased risk of infection, immune and lung disorders, and cancer, he said.
According to Chopra, approximately 95% of a person’s genes can be influenced by what he’s termed the five pillars of well-being: sleep, movement, emotions, nutrition and meditation. Healthy behavior in these pillars can lead to a higher state of consciousness that transcends mental and physical discord, he said.
After leading the audience through a guided meditation exercise, Dr. Chopra shared that, in his experience, adding a small amount of simple meditation when you start your day can go a long way toward achieving balance.
“Setting the right intentions, allowing your body to settle into its most fundamental state of awareness, which is just being, begins the body’s process of self-regulation,” he said. “If you carry that presence with you wherever you go, you won’t allow stress to overshadow your experience of life. Otherwise, we become biological robots.”