In the last year, I’ve come across people with different beliefs about health. For example someone had a copper contraceptive removed because they believe it’s harmful, another person disagrees and believes that peace of mind in avoiding pregnancy is top priority. Another young couple express their belief that practising abstinence during fertile days will enrich their marriage. All of these people will have a different experience.

The power, the value of belief is profound. And mysterious. Belief shapes the course of my life, and it shapes yours. I’ve been thinking about my beliefs. What I really believe about a great number of things. Do I believe it’s more important to be polite or honest? Do I believe that people have a right to exercise free will, even when it harms others?

Beliefs based on the facts

What I believe must be reviewed based on the evidence of its truth. There are factual beliefs that you and I are responsible for checking. An interesting example: for years, a global advertising campaign was run to convince consumers about the health benefits of white potatoes. Now, decades later, we have realised that potatoes are not super foods and actually contain very little nutrition.

Beliefs based on personal values

On a deeper level, there are also values-based beliefs that we form and only we can change. Profoundly, my beliefs determine exactly how my life will look and play out. My beliefs also serve as a keen judge of my actions. I’ve seen this now. The minute I decide to do or not to do something that is in opposition to my beliefs, I feel a certain emotion which could be peace and satisfaction; an inner conviction; or guilt, anger and self-disappointment. And it doesn’t end here. My decisions based on my beliefs move into the proteins of my brain and build positive connections or negative interruptions. This produces a cascade of reactions that then affect the health of my body. I literally become my beliefs, or how my mind responds to my choices. I’ve realised that due to fear, shame, pain, even abuse, so many of us daily are making choices that we don’t really believe in, perhaps because we feel that we don’t have a choice or feel manipulated to choose something we don’t want. There’s a little voice protesting deep within, and although it’s faint, we hear it. The body senses the disconnect, and if repeated we can become ill.

The solution

Live from your heart. Act out your beliefs. Make good choices based on your beliefs.

Here’s an example: if I believe it’s important to be on time and I make sure that I am, for professional and social appointments, I’ll be able to see how important this really is within my own world. But if I allow myself to be delayed, controlled and influenced by a tardy (late) friend or colleague, I’ll feel emotions of resentment, stress, antipathy and self-guilt and feel ill. I’ll feel controlled and condemned.

You can choose!

As South Africans, we can often feel powerless – there’s the government, big business and the whole western world seemingly at odds with us, oppressing our free will and ability to choose. I believe we can choose. I believe that the value of belief is to choose, and it frees you and I to live more honest, health-filled lives. Go choose and become whole!