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What thinking has to do with the flu

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Wednesday, January 30, 2013 - 12:01 am

Editor's note: Katie S. Brown lives in Fort Wayne and writes regularly about spirituality and health. She is also a Christian Science practitioner and teacher, and she is the media and legislative liaison for Christian Science in Indiana. The Your Neighbor column is written by a member of a local nonprofit group and appears frequently in Neighbors.

With “one of the worst flu seasons in a decade” upon us, common folk and physicians would love to know why some people get the flu and some don't.

More than a year ago, the University of Michigan did a study to try to answer that very question. In the study, “They found significant and complex immune responses in the people who got sick and the people who didn't. … Although they understand that some people's immune systems resist the virus, they still don't know how or why that happens,” an August 2011 report on says.

Ways to prevent the flu abound everywhere. We are advised to wash our hands regularly, eat the right foods and get the flu vaccine. Experts got a jump on this flu season, even warning us that it was coming early so we could take all the right steps to prevent it. Still, we find ourselves amid what some are calling an “epidemic.”

Many people are looking for a more holistic approach to both prevention and treatment for this common ill. In Web MD's article “The Secrets of Super-Healthy People,” the secrets include training for the body with a holistic approach to “calm mind and body.”

Among other things, its recommendations include “stop worrying about getting sick” and “meditation.” To accentuate the positive prevents flu, too.

Sheldon Cohen, professor of psychology at Carnegie Mellon University, examines the effects of stress and social support on immunity and health. His research suggests that people who have a positive emotional style — described as happy, enthusiastic and calm — are less likely to catch colds.”

Recently, the No. 1 remedy for dealing with flu offered in a number of media reports was to meditate. It seems the source of this recommendation was a recent study, based on a July report published by the School of Medicine and Public Health at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, Wis.

The idea that one's state of mind can prevent contagion is not a new view. More than a century ago, Mary Baker Eddy — who investigated many of the remedies available during her day — came to this conclusion: “A calm, Christian state of mind is a better preventive of contagion than a drug, or than any other possible sanative method; and the 'perfect Love' that 'casteth out fear' is a sure defense” (Miscellaneous Writings, p. 229).

I've seen the protection of that sure defense. Several years ago, when many of our family members gathered together at the holidays, all but two — my mother and me — came down with the flu.

As we cared for them, she and I prayed and worked to bring a calm, Christian state of mind to our tasks. Everyone recovered within a short time and, despite daily exposure to the illness, my mother and I never experienced any symptoms.

Is it possible that one day, as we head into flu season, we will see advertisements everywhere reminding us not only to eat and sleep well but also to keep our thinking calm and Christ-like?

This column is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinion of The News-Sentinel.