What Are The Important Lessons You Can Learn From Being Sick? - Tips for a better life

What Are The Important Lessons You Can Learn From Being Sick?


Falling ill, everybody hates it. You feel miserable and you can’t wait to recover.

If only you were healthy again, then you could do whatever you want. ‘Why did this have to happen to me?’ You want to do things, but you just lack the energy and motivation. You can’t wait to recover and thank your healthy body.

I guess there is nothing left but to rest and wait.

But I suggest another method …

I invite you to use sickness as an invitation for self-reflection and investigation. The disease causes a dis-ease that shows us where the physical and mental tension is.

Let’s turn our attention to that tension. Let’s use our sickness as a contemplative meditation to look at the root of our problem.

Maybe we can learn something from eastern medicine …

Western – Eastern medicine

Western medicine asks ‘What is this person telling us about the disease? Cure symptoms and give this person  medication to take care of the external problem.

We even notice it in our use of language. ‘You got sick’ or ‘that made you sick’. Something outside us caused the sickness.

We ‘fall’ ill as though the process were as fateful as gravity. We ‘catch’ a germ as though it were an accident. We are the ‘victims’ of cancer. We ‘get sick’ and we go to the doctor to ‘get cured’. And all we can do is be ‘patient’ while the doctor treats us. All these words and phrases are in the passive voice. We assume that we are under the command of some fate and we can do nothing about it
– Rollo May –

Let’s contrast this with eastern medicine. Eastern medicine asks the question ‘What is this disease telling us about the person?’ It looks from a broader perspective. A disease is understood in the context, personality and lifestyle of the person suffering the disease.

Your body is capable of fighting off most invasions. It is only when the immune system weakens that the body is vulnerable. You run out of energy to fight off pathogens.

So you notice there is a difference of focus between the two methods. In western medicine the disease is being investigated. In eastern medicine they look at the person and the environment.

In the west, we want the quick fix. We have no time to take time. We want to move on, but unfortunately a perfect opportunity for reflection is missed. In eastern medicine a disease is an opportunity for self-investigation.

​Sickness as a method of contemplation

Research has shown that people who view their illnesses as an opportunity to investigate and re-educate themselves have a better physical and psychological health in the future. Therefore:

We propose placing the self in the center of the picture of the bodily health. It is ‘I’ who grows sick or achieves health. We propose the active rather than the passive voice in illness. We propose that illnesses, whether physical or psychological be taken, not as periodic accidents which occur to the body (or the personality or mind’, but as nature’s means of re-educating the whole person
– Rollo May –

There is added benefit. You start to look at things that are under your control, which gives you power to prevent it the next time. You need a balanced life and body awareness. You need to recharge and relieve your body of stress. If you don’t take care of yourself, you’re bound make yourself sick.

Sickness is a kind of meditation and self-reflection that shrinks your reality so much that you have to look inward. An injury can become an in-jury who investigates who committed the crime and who were the accomplices.

One of the first principles of healing should be, if possible, to remove the cause and any of the factors that contributed to the sickness or injury.

Avoiding serious injury (mental, emotional, physical) is less a matter of being cautious than of being conscious
– George Leonard –

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You can treat your disease like a learning experience. Here are 4 questions to ask yourself when you’re sick.

4 Questions to ask when you are sick

1. What were the energy robbing people?

Some people drain energy. I call them ‘energy vampires’. They feed off negative attention. Always complaining and focusing on problems. When you solve a problem a new one pops up. Dealing with these people for a long time can be exhausting. You need to cut these people out of your life.

2. What were the energy robbing events that led up to this?

Some events have a huge impact on the body, especially when you don’t rest. Examples include working overtime, excessive partying, prolonged drug use, not relaxing, pushing your limits, pushing deadlines, …

3. What were the energy robbing thoughts, attitudes and beliefs?

This can be negative thoughts, depression, grief, anxiety, frustration. Your body doesn’t distinguish between a real or a perceived threat. Mental attacks can deplete your body. Worrying gives you the feeling that you have no control, so you lose mental and physical stability.

4. How did you treat your body?

Did you eat well? Did you exercise too little or too much? Did you sleep enough? Did you ignore warning signals of your body?


When you get ill, it’s almost never sudden. There was something that led up to this. The more you ask yourself the above questions, the more you ‘ll be in tune with your energy system. You ‘ll learn and feel your limits and boundaries. 

How do you feel right now? Do you feel strained and rigid? Then it’s time to relax and take a step back and restore the energy balance. You’ll get more in tune with your body and mindstate.

Drop some comments and share your ideas. What do you learn from being sick? What led up to it? Let me know!

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Filip Van Houte