How Culture Influences Health & Longevity

Hay House Radio Episode Recap

  • Episode Name: “How Culture Influences Health & Longevity”
  • Live Broadcast: Tuesday, May 30th, 2017 at 12 noon Pacific Time
Episode Replays: Tuesdays at 9:00 pm Pacific Time / 12:00 am Eastern Time, Saturdays at 2:00 pm Pacific Time / 5:00 pm Eastern Time, Sundays at 4:00 pm Pacific Time / 7:00 pm Eastern Time

Episode Summary Re-cap

Did you know your immune system and longevity are influenced by your culture?
Discover how your mind can heal or wound the body. Find out health and longevity secrets from people who have lived past 100 years of age and those who have healed from so-called incurable disease.
Special Guest: Dr. Mario Martinez

Dr. Martinez is a clinical neuropsychologist who specializes in how cultural beliefs affect health and longevity. He proposes, based on credible research evidence, that longevity is learned and the causes of health are inherited. He has studied healthy centenarians (100 years or older) worldwide and found that only 20 to 25% can be attributed to genetics – the rest is related to how they live and the cultural beliefs they share.

He is the author of the bestselling book The MindBody Code: How to Change the Beliefs that Limit Your Health, Longevity, and Success that teaches his theory and practice of biocognitive science to the general public. In addition to longevity, he also explains why our immune system is not just a protector. Instead, it responds to the cultural premises we learn to perceive the world.

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How Culture Influences Health & Longevity

If only 5% of our health is about our genes, have you ever wondered what really influences our health? Or how we can make the choices that truly help us heal?

Perhaps, in some mistaken takes on spirituality, people have told you that you created your illness or life situation. But that’s not the case! Because much of what influences us is a learned part of our culture — and our culture affects us in ways that are much deeper than we think!

Dr. Mario Martinez, author of The MindBody Self, has found that what we learn to perceive, through our culture, influences our health, behavior, self-esteem, longevity – even how our immune system functions!

The good news? We can learn to spot those cultural traps and transform our health and well-being. Today, we are going to turn medicine on its head and talk about what the MindBody Self is and why it’s so powerful!

Get to Know Your MindBody Code

Dr. Mario describes the mindbody as an indivisible oneness, rather than two separate entities influencing each other.

He further explains the mindbody code as the “coauthoring” of mind and body, cognition and biology, within a cultural context. So what we learn from our culture influences the mindbody, therefore, our health, thoughts, behavior, self-esteem, and longevity.

What Dr. Martinez discovered is that you coauthor your reality within the context of your culture and you can learn tools to shift into patterns that promote health and longevity.

We are not passive recipients of our culture. As we engage with our tribe in culturally acceptable ways (within the agreements and mores shared by the group), we co-create our lives.

The question is: how do we identify the shared agreements or perceptions that promote health and wellbeing vs. those that don’t?


While conventional medicine and psychotherapy works for acute illness, Dr. Martinez recognized that it didn’t work for systemic illness. So what was missing?

We know the mind and body communicate and the mind has an effect on the body, but how does the mind respond? Dr. Martinez found that culture is the key for understanding this communication. He explains that everything happens in the context of one’s culture. In his research, he realized that for the mind to really change, we needed to understand that cultural context. In other words, he added culture to science and created the term biocognition. Biocognition recognizes that the merging of anthropology, cultural neuroscience, and psychoneuroimmunology with science.

After studying centenarians (people 100 years of age and older), in five continents, Dr. Martinez found that genes were not the deciding factor of health, it was really the cultural beliefs they had and the way they lived that determined their wellbeing.

The Secret Behind Telomeres, Stress, Immunity, and Aging

Telemores are the protective caps at the end of chromosomes. Scientists have proposed that the length of telomeres determine how long we will live (the longer they are, the longer you live). However, this is only part of the picture!

The latest research of super centenarians — people close to 110 and above — shows that telomere length does not predict successful aging.

Shame Causes Inflammation

Shame creates an inflammatory response, which contributes to disease and aging, while pride boots the immunity and promotes health.

When someone shames you, they disempower you and self-esteem goes down. So how do you create a healing field for shame? Dr. Martinez recommends creating an honor consciousness. Practicing an honor consciousness creates a healing field, so that you can support your immune system. You can learn how to do this in The MindBody Self.

The More Time You’ve Had to Learn Wellness, the More Wellness You Have

Studies have found that once you reach the age of 90, the probability of getting sick is lower than someone who is 60 who’s had illness. But do centenarians have a good quality of life? Dr. Martinez says yes, because they embody wellness. Centenarians hardly go to the doctor.

Centenarians are the fastest growing segment of the population in the United States. Those who live to 100 tend to intuitively create a culture of wellness, and you can learn their culture of wellness at any age.

How Can Culture Keep Us From Growing?

Cultures don’t want you to get out of the collectivism because if you do, you’re no longer providing for the collectivism of the culture. Carl Jung says you have to move into individuation in order to grow, but the culture will punish you by shame, abandonment, or betrayal.

We are designed to pay attention to “culture editors,” people in the culture with a lot of power (mother, teacher, etc.). We pay attention to when we feel comfortable or uncomfortable and we create perceptions as we grow and develop. While over time, you may move into a new culture of influence, it’s the original culture editors (e.g., family), that still have the most power.

Affirmations & Why You Can’t Think Your Way Into A Better Life

Your brain creates neural maps based on perception, so it needs evidence in order to create change.

Affirmations are great if you embody them, this means that whenever you say the affirmation, you check your body, to see how it responds. If your body doesn’t believe what you’re saying, it will create stress. Let’s say you tell yourself you are a good person. The brain won’t buy that you’re a good person if you don’t believe you are. If you feel the stress in your body, you can begin to shift this simply by paying attention to it, rather than trying to make it go away.

Here’s how to change your perception so affirmations can work:

  • Pay attention to the stress in your body after saying your affirmation. In this case: “I’m a good person.” Notice the signature of how you respond to something you don’t believe. A signature is like a symptom, like pressure in your chest, a clenched jaw, or whatever you notice as your body’s response.
  • When you’re more relaxed, bring in memories of when you were a good person. As these memories come out, there’s a whole cluster of associations from your body (your immune system, nervous system, cognition, etc.). This is biocognition. Now, embody this – feel it and as you notice this, it creates neural maps about that perception, giving you evidence of the belief.
  • Support the neural maps in growing, creating more evidence for your bran that you are a good person. Neurons that work together get stronger and stronger, creating neural maps. To do this, ask yourself, what will I do today and going forward to reinforce that I am a good person.

You can learn how to work through this process in The MindBody Self.

Rituals Can Create Health

It’s in our DNA to exchange information in order to survive. It’s a way of fostering cooperation and communication. When you bond with others, you secrete oxytocin, the love and social bonding hormone. Oxytocin has a beneficial effect on your heart, immunity, and stress reduction.

  • Sitting down to a family meal – breaking bread with people you love.
  • Having one of something they love – one centenarian had a ritual of a shot of rum before bed and another had a cigar every morning, however, they only had one and never abused what they loved. They enjoyed their ritual with love.
  • Healthy self-esteem – one centenarian would talk about how all the women he saw loved him and he believed it! Truly believing everyone loves you or anything wonderful about yourself is a great ritual to practice.

How Medicine Is Shaped by Culture

Medicine is cultural. In the US, if you have a migraine, it’s considered vascular. In the UK, the same migraine is gastrointestinal and in France, it’s considered related to the liver.
In Germany, when they give you an EKG, there’s a 60% greater chance that it will be abnormal than in the US, because they believe that as you get older, there’s “heart insufficiency,” even though it’s not true.

In the US, antidepressants are prescribed more often than anywhere else in the world. In France, more medications are prescribed for the liver than anywhere in the world.
How medicine is practiced is shaped by the perceptions in the culture.

Tips from Centenarians:

  • Get to know your body.
  • Ask questions – If the doctor tells you to take a medication, ask why you have to take it. Ask about side effects. Inform yourself.
  • Look into integrative medicine because the ultimate healing comes from the immune system. Talk to a medical doctor and alternative health practitioners (acupuncture, homeopathy, etc.), get exercise, meditate, and consume healthy foods.
  • Empower yourself – When seek help in order to help yourself, you are putting the locus of control in your own hands. Studies have shown this helps you heal faster.

Toxic People and Milligrams of Love

Sometimes, as you modify your culture, you may also have to modify your coauthors. In other words, you may have to find new friends who support your culture of healing if your old friends are reinforcing a culture that keeps you stuck. When it comes to family, this is a harder decision. Dr. Martinez recommends you consider how many “milligrams of love” your family member can take before they get negative. Once they go negative, they have had all of the milligrams of love they can take in that experience and you can end the conversation.

The Law of Attraction and Other Illusions

If you believe that the universe fulfills your needs or in the law of attraction, these can give you some positive benefits. However, the minute you set an intention and it doesn’t happen, you may end up feeling like you did something wrong. In this way, you may end up disempowering yourself.

Instead, consider bringing the locus of control back into your hands, rather than relying on something outside yourself, like the universe or law of attraction. You can bring the locus of control back into your own hands by creating selective perception and embody it, for example, you might say “I am worthy of making more money,” and then check your body, following the guidelines in the section on affirmations, above.

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As a coach, writer and recovered former executive, I understand the challenges of creating a balanced, healthy lifestyle when over-scheduled. In my journey to radiant health, I created a whole health system of eating, exercise, renewal and recharging -- a roadmap toward health & vitality. I empower clients to create their own whole health systems, in their own unique ways. I have seen amazing results in working with my clients!