I sit down with the wellness guru Deepak Chopra to set the record straight on healthcare shortcomings
Deepak Chopra could say, “ I told you so,” about this watershed moment in wellness — a mainstream realization that the mind and body are connected and to heal means to treat both. The holistic doctor, best-selling author, and wellness guru is not one to gloat but rather get things done.
“It’s shocking to me that it took 40 years for modern-day scientists to understand that our mind and body are connected. We are at a pivotal point. Either we understand this, or frankly speaking, the future of healthcare is in peril Nobody is talking about health; they are talking about insurance. All of this healthcare reform has nothing to do with health or wellbeing. The future of medicine is precise; it’s personalized, it’s preventable, it’s participatory, it’s a process,” Chopra says.
Chopra’s call to action underscores findings in The Future of Wellness 2021 Trends Report by The Global Wellness Summit. The report says that wellness is poised to take a bigger seat at the healthcare table as medical science joins hands with holistic health.
The Global Wellness Institute (GWC) identifies this convergence of wellness and healthcare as one of the nine driving forces of wellbeing in 2021. According to the report, “We’re undergoing a new kind of medical renaissance. One where two complementary yet often competing entities—healthcare and wellness—will converge. Wellness is learning to lean into science, to establish standards, and hold itself accountable. At the same time, healthcare is beginning to borrow from the wellness playbook—transforming a once sterile and strictly curative industry into a more holistic, lifestyle-oriented, and even pleasurable one.”
Chopra has made it his life’s work to make medical, science, and healthcare institutions woke to holistic healing. He practices an ancient lifestyle medicine known as Ayurveda. “It’s a holistic system of the prevention and reversal of chronic illness that has been around for more than 5000 years, and now it’s becoming mainstream in Western medicine,” says Chopra.
The timing of this awakening comes amid a global mental health crisis stoked by the pandemic, which shone the light on shortcomings in our mental healthcare system. People are suffering, experiencing anxiety, fear, depression, sleeplessness, and loneliness.
The Global Wellness Institute set out to define mental wellness and discovered we are not ok. According to the GWC’s report Defining the Mental Wellness Economy, “In 2020, COVID-19 has accelerated the deterioration of our collective mental health and well-being. The pandemic has exposed the wide gap between mental health needs and mental health resources, as well as our vulnerability to mental distress even when we do not have a diagnosed mental illness.”
Cue Chopra who stands ready and steps in with a plan and a platform to democratize mental health care resources. The Chopra Foundation launched a new global mental wellness platform, NeverAlone.Love to bring mental health resources to the world. The website and app aim to help people experiencing a mental challenge regardless of language, culture, or creed.
“NeverAlone.love is a project that will awaken you to the fact that you are never alone; only the conditioned mind is alone. We are brought up to feel separate. There is me and everybody else. But in reality, that which we call me is an expression of everything. This socially induced hallucination of the separate mind is the cause of all human suffering. We are seeing in the world so much suffering that the only way out of it is to understand that emergence is an emergency right now,” says Chopra.
NeverAlone.Love offers curated content regarding pragmatic practices and tools to relieve mental suffering. The site also fosters scientific research in mental health therapies and assists in suicide prevention.
“We have an artificial intelligence bot named is Piwi. She can speak to you if you are sad or depressed and immediately help you because people are more comfortable speaking to a machine than a human being these days,” Chopra explains.
Chopra also launched a meditation app to foster healthy mental and physical habits. “We know that things like sleep and meditation, stress management, exercise, mind-body coordination, yoga, breathing, emotional resilience, happy relationships, balancing your biological rhythms, a connection with nature, and some kind of spiritual inquiry can restore homeostasis or what we call self-regulation in 95 percent or more of illness. If somebody is sad, they need to be helped. It doesn’t matter what the causes or the gene expression. The common factor in depression and anxiety is that if we don’t address it, we miss the point,” Chopra says.
The Global Wellness Institute gives credit to practitioners such as Chopra for “leading the charge to bring centuries-old natural and holistic mental wellness modalities into the mainstream, pushing science into areas where it has not gone before to consider the efficacy of ancient practices and emerging solutions.”
The takeaway is this—it’s time to start treating the whole human, not our parts and pieces. It’s time to expand the focus to include not just our ailments and our symptoms but what’s happening in the heart and mind. How do we feel? What do we think? And why?
If there is a silver lining to all the suffering brought by the pandemic, perhaps it’s the spotlight shone on our healthcare shortcomings, especially in mental health. The old-school diagnostic approach to putting patients in boxes based on a defined medical prognosis is dying a slow death as healthcare providers begin to see the whole human being standing before them.
“There is a movement right now amongst cutting-edge academics and scientists that this old system of diagnosis and classifying people into disease categories may be obsolete. When you look at chronic illness, it doesn’t matter if it’s diabetes or heart disease, hypertension or premature aging, or frequent infections, you will find a common factor. Number one is inflammation. Number two is anxiety. Number three is depression, and those three factors predict almost 95 percent of illness,” Chopra says.
I share Chopra’s frustration at the slow acceptance of ancient healing wisdom that other civilizations have practiced for centuries; however, sometimes, medical science progress takes a step back to march forward.
“Part of me is happy about this awareness, but part of me wonders why it took so long? I’m 74 years old, and when the mind-body health connection becomes mainstream, I’ll probably be dead. I’m impatient. Why did it take so long?” says Chopra.
The world is in pain. We need help. We need resources. We need a new mindset for healing. We need Chopra to continue making us woke.
“If you understand that right now the world is in pain, then everything makes sense. We don’t have to buy into the insanity of war, terrorism, global climate change, mass migrations, pandemics; this is the creation of our collective insanity. We need to wake up.”