Anne Hathaway credits him for changing her life, Demi Moore calls his advice essential for de-cluttering her emotional and physical being, and Tobey Maguire, (yes, Spider-man) says his insight provides him with the courage to overcome his fears and surpass his limits.
The list of accolades goes on and on.
Dr. Habib Sadeghi is not just a doctor to the stars, he is a healer on a mission to help people fully understand the meaning of being “well.” To him, it’s not simply a matter of eating the cleanest foods or working out the hardest. It’s getting your mind right first so that your body can follow suit.
As the co-founder of Integrative Medical Center, Be Hive of Healing in LA and also the author of multiple books including his latest, The Clarity Cleanse (which contains a forward written by longtime friend, and patient, Gwyneth Paltrow), Dr. Sadeghi is a busy man, but one who took time out of his schedule to chat with us about what it means to be truly healthy.
There are people who are physically healthy — they eat well, are active, and overall seem to be what society labels as “healthy.” Why do you think it’s important for people to work on their mental and emotional state alongside their dietary and physical wellbeing?
It’s important for everyone to make their mental and emotional wellbeing a priority because we don’t live in just a body, but a mind-body where the energy generated from every thought we think impacts our biology in a physical way. The emotions we feel based on what we’re thinking at any given moment aren’t just ethereal notions; they’re energetic catalysts that set off countless chemical and physical changes in our bodies, most of which we’re entirely unaware of. The stress generated from feelings of fear and anger increase the hormone, cortisol, which encourages weight gain and suppresses immunity. Yet, when someone gets sick for the third time in one season, she never makes the connection that her resentment from a long-held grudge against a friend decreased her immune function and made her more susceptible. This is a simple example, but imagine the changes that can happen inside the body when we carry things like shame, guilt and resentment for decades. This is when chronic disease can, and often does, occur. And this is why, if we don’t tend to our unresolved emotional issues, our biography will eventually be reflected in our biology.
Can working on your mental health change your bloodwork/DNA in a positive way?
Certainly. Just as the energy from negative thoughts and emotions harm the body in various ways over time, the uplifting energy from positive thoughts can protect and help heal us. Much research has been done on the healing power of laughter and its ability to produce endorphins, increase immunity, speed healing and reduce the need for pain medication. In order to really benefit from this, however, you’ve got to realize and fully release any underlying negative emotional pattern that keeps the body’s healing mechanism suppressed. You can’t have been mad at your mother for the last decade and think you’re going to laugh your way to wellness. You can’t fool the subconscious. There are many studies proving the benefit of positive emotions, but you have to be able to genuinely feel them first, and most importantly, sustain them. That means finally resolving old emotional wounds.
The Institute of HeartMath does some incredible research on the power of love. One of my favorites used students who were tasked with feeling various emotions while holding vials of solution containing DNA samples. During feelings of intense love, or heart coherence as the researchers called it, the DNA strands in the vials spread out, opened up and expanded in significant ways in just two minutes. When the students switched to feelings of anger, frustration and hatred, the DNA strands constricted, shrank down and even switched off many genes. There have been many cases of a person carrying a gene for a particular disease that never ends up developing the related condition. We now know that the genes we receive at birth, and which of those genes we end up physically expressing, depends on a host of factors, including our emotional state. We’re not doomed to the luck of the draw when it comes to genetics.
With the Health and Wellness industry now on its way to becoming a trillion dollar industry in the US alone, there can be a lot of noise as to what wellness even means. What is your definition of wellness?
Wellness is getting up every day after a good night’s sleep with the proper amount of energy to pursue your goals with the clarity of mind, emotional wellbeing and unlimited physical capacity necessary to realize them. Wellness is balance on the spiritual, emotional and physical levels of one’s being. This is why lack of sickness doesn’t equate wellness because the physical plane is only one part of what it means to be well, and if the other two aren’t properly balanced, the physical plane will soon be disrupted, too. Wellness is a top down strategy, not bottom up.
What would you recommend to someone who hasn’t explored or intentionally connected with their deep-rooted emotions? How would you recommend they begin to tune in?
Many of my patients with serious chronic diseases have some unresolved emotional issue in their past. Often, it’s so remote that they’ve long forgotten it until it resurfaces during our work together. The subconscious has a remarkable way of sequestering things we don’t want to deal with at the time of their occurrence so we can get on with our lives. The problem with this reflexive survival mechanism is that feelings buried alive don’t die. They come back in other ways to get our attention, many times as disease.
I find that a great deal of unresolved emotional issues are associated with either relationships of all kinds or the inability to express oneself, usually in a creative way. Exploring these areas of your life can be a great start. Because someone may not be consciously aware of the issue, I sometimes recommend picking a topic and using freeform writing to see what comes up. I also think word association is a powerful tool to bring hidden feelings to the surface. You can start with fill-in-the-blank statements like: My body is…, My mother is…, Women are…, Men are…, My job is…, Money is…, I can…, I can’t…, I should…, I shouldn’t… Answering questions like these very quickly, without giving your conscious mind time to self-censor, can reveal some things that are worth exploring in a deeper way.
Can your emotions contribute to physical pain? How can you tell the difference between a regular, physical pain and one that is tied to your emotions?
Yes, emotions do contribute to pain for a variety of reasons. Pain is a cry for attention. Where the pain is located in the body can tell us much more about why it’s occurring and what underlying or unresolved emotional issue might be associated with it.
Standard physical pain often occurs from an easily identifiable incident, such as childbirth, a football injury or car accident. Pain connected to an unresolved emotional issue seems to arrive out of the blue one day. It may increase in intensity over time, but there isn’t an immediate explanation for it. This also includes pain that is a byproduct of chronic disease.
Will you share with us a few tips to help readers find clarity in their life, starting today?
One of the best tools for clarity is to learn how to meditate. It’s not nearly as complicated as most people think. The main reason we can’t find the solutions we’re looking for, or come to the realizations we need, is because there is no room left in our minds for these things with all the mental noise and clutter going on. We have to make space for these things to arrive. Not only will it reduce stress and improve emotional wellness, but meditation also comes with a host of physical benefits like improved concentration and better sleep. I’d also recommend ending the blame game now. Learning to take full responsibility for everything that happens in our lives is crucial to finding clarity and emotional freedom. That doesn’t mean that we have to excuse anyone else’s behavior. It simply means that we own every choice that brought us to where we are today.
Do you believe mental health programs could help solve issues like addiction, gun violence and bullying?
There is no panacea for any singular social problem, but the best mental health interventions are those that are adaptable to the individual ways in which each person needs healing. It’s not about creating a program and then plugging everyone into it. It’s quite the reverse. It’s about creating the process around the person.
What would you recommend the ideal age a person start exploring their emotions?
With proper guidance, I think high school would be a good time to begin tending to one’s emotional wellness because it’s often such a highly charged time for most of us. On an individual basis, I think definitely by the 20’s because it’s often what happens in the earlier part of our lives that comes back to haunt us later. Starting earlier means we can prevent that from happening and really enjoy more of our life by being truly present for it in real time.
What inspires you to help others move through their negativity?
To see a life transformed is the greatest privilege of my job. When I see a patient have that light bulb moment where they suddenly connect all the dots between their health challenge and what has really been holding them back, it’s just thrilling because I know that’s why we’re here — to learn and grow, and I’m humbled to be able to be a part of someone becoming a greater version of themselves.