Livestrong.com got the opportunity to sit down with world-renowned speaker, endocrinologist and spiritual icon Deepak Chopra at the BOLD Conference in Hollywood on October 5. We talked to him about how to avoid and relieve stress, disease and chronic pain.
Here are four key learnings from our time with Chopra:
1. Try “earthing.”
When you feel stressed out, in pain or disconnected from the earth, you can get physiological and psychological benefits, stress relief and health benefits from something Chopra calls earthing or grounding. Chopra says grounding will reduce levels of chronic pain and lower levels of cortisol, your stress hormone.
As Chopra explained it, earthing is something free and easy that everyone can do. It’s essentially walking barefoot on the bare earth -- grass, sand or dirt -- not pavement. You can also touch the earth, as is done during gardening. Chopra says that earthing allows excess positively-charged particles to leave our bodies and run off into the ground. In ancient times, people were always connected to the ground, walking barefoot, growing plants in the ground and sleeping in huts with exposed dirt floors. They were literally in touch with the earth and lived in sync with nature.
Today, in our busy, modern lives, we spend far less time outdoors and wear rubber or synthetic-soled shoes, which insulate us from the Earth’s electrical rhythms and free electrons. According to Chopra, this leads to a build-up of positive ions in our bodies, which can cause health problems. Furthermore, we live in a world where our bodies are bombarded by cellular phone signals, Wi-Fi and TV signals, among other things. Chopra says that this leads to a build-up of excessive positive ions in our cells, which can also cause health problems.
According to Chopra, walking barefoot on the earth allows us to tap into the earth’s natural healing energy of negative ions that can fight inflammation in your body by reducing free radicals, which are positively charged. He says earthing alleviates chronic pain, improves your sleep and normalizes your circadian rhythms. Finally, Chopra said that earthing can improve and lessen menstrual and female hormone symptoms by getting you connected with the earth’s rhythms. It can also lessen headaches and relieve body tension.
2. During moments of anxiety, ask yourself “Am I present?”
“Anxiety is the worst use of your imagination," Chopra said. "Creativity is the best use of your imagination. Anxiety is all a result of imagining what could go wrong.” To try to stop this, Chopra told us you need to get yourself to be more present. Ask yourself, “Am I present?” Bring awareness to your breath and all into your body. In the present moment, there’s no more stress. Stress is the anticipation of something in the future, so it’s in your imagination or something that you regret in the past. But in this moment there’s no stress.
3. We are all connected to each other, and we are never exactly the same.
How do we stay calm during this stressful election and news cycle? Chopra told us about the importance of sense of humor and not harboring grievances in your life. Also, it's important to keep your own body healthy by getting enough sleep, eating healthy and moving each day -- working out, walking or doing yoga.
Chopra also talked about how we all breathe in millions of molecules, then breathe them out -- which means everyone on this planet is made up of molecules of oxygen and cells that were previously inside other people's bodies. We are all literally connected that way, and remembering this can help to keep your sense of humor and kindness. It's kind of cool, or weird, and maybe even a little gross for the OCD-cleanliness person in me. We are breathing in molecules that were inside other people. And we are also never exactly the same organism we were at any other moment, simply because we have different air in our lungs, different food in our stomachs and different molecules flowing throughout our bodies.
4. The causes of almost all diseases are within our control.
Ninety-five percent of health and disease prevention in our bodies is in our control based on proper eating, fitness and sleeping. Five precent is out of our control based on penetrant gene mutations. How does this explain the people who live incredibly healthy lives but still get unstoppable forms of cancer or other serious diseases? Chopra told us that five percent of disease-related gene mutations are penetrant, which means that the genetic error is such that you can’t do anything about it with our current state of knowledge. In the future, there will be genetic engineering for that.
But the rest of the gene mutations -- they only make you susceptible to disease; they don’t guarantee the disease. As he explained, there’s a gene mutation for heart disease, but you don’t get heart disease because it’s influenced by sleep, stress, nutrition, plus the relationships and social interactions, diet, food and environment. “So disease is not related to one thing,” he said. “There are multiple factors, and you do your best to live a good life. And when I say good life, it doesn’t mean you get stressed about living a good life. Enjoy life. If you’re enjoying life, you’re not stressed. People who are stressed are not having a good time.”