Healthy Community and Chiropractic

I knew at 16 that I wanted to be a chiropractor. I was inspired by a visit to a Chiro in who had signed photos with some of my rugby idols on his practice wall. And I thought to myself yep that’s the profession for me. If I can’t play for the Wallabies at least I can work with them.

Well I can tell you that hasn’t happened yet but in the mean time I’ve had many great opportunities, the greatest of which is running a family practice here in Manly for the last 12 years.

I achieved my bachelor of science and masters of chiropractic at Macquarie University in 1998 and 2001. After graduation I started practice with one of my neurology lecturers, a great chiropractor,  and now great friend in Crows Nest and Castle Hill.

After two years learning and practicing, Europe called me. Settling in Ireland for 3 years I continued my career in a country that knew little about chiropractic.. It was fantastic fun, i was able to help a lot of people, we were able to travel and life was grand as they say in Ireland. but we missed our family and decided to move back to Australia after my dad fell ill and in the same year we lost two dear friends our age to misfortune and cancer.

We felt very far away.

I remember one time sitting in a sauna in our local Dublin gym with my wife. We closed our eyes and pretended we were lying in the sun on the very golden sands a block from where my office is today. This is where we wanted to be. It was the first time I felt the urge to put down roots.

I have had the honour and privilege to work with many people over the years. One of the defining elements of chiropractic care is the understanding that the human body repairs itself if given the right conditions and a nervous system free of the pressure caused by poorly functioning vertebrae. There is good evidence to suggest that with enough time, and sufficient quality movement, nutrition and a healthy mindset people heal. Chiropractors don’t use anything that artificially diminishes symptoms.  We just use our hands! It’s this that has made us get very, very good at coaching our clients on healthy lifestyle changes to improve their health.

I have known for a long time that practice members that embrace this concept and alter their behaviour get the best results from their time as chiropractic patients.

It’s because of this that many of our clients continue with their care beyond the resolution of their original complaint. Similar to someone who sees a great dentist in a crisis and continues to have regular checkups and enrol their family in regular checkups to maintain their dental health for years afterwards.

But Im not here to talk about the relative virtues of chiropractic care.

I want to talk about our community.

You see whether we like it or not, we’re all in this together and we are all influenced by each other.

We’re also wired to be like each other. We do this in a tribal sense. From what I understand our brain is populated with cells known as mirror neurones. Their first role is to help us mimic our parents as we develop into childhood and I wonder if they might be linked later on to help us ‘fit in’ to form tribes. Its the same mechanism that gives us the same smile or tone inflection of our parents or why when i hang out with my south African cousins i start to develop an accent like them. It’s not easy to see it in ourselves but very easy to see in others. Think of teenagers on the corso. They look, dress and behave like each other even though they believe they’re being individuals. Its a way of fitting in and feeling safe.

The same mechanism is at play when people join the bold and beautiful swim group, it’s happening when we decide to choose paper bags over plastic (and vice versa) or ride our bike instead of driving our car. We are neurologically geared to fit in to a tribe or community.

Our brain is actively working to help us to determine what it is that people like us do.

But its not all that fatalistic we don’t have to be victims to our neurology.

And this is where it gets fun

We can be the architects of our own environment and in turn influence how we’re influenced.

And that’s why i have been so focused on sharing this message.

I want you to decide to be the architect of our community. What behaviours do you want others to mirror. And knowing you’ll be mirroring them what behaviours do you want to be mirroring back. It sounds a bit like when you look into a mirror with another mirror facing it.

Ask whether you want an active, inclusive community that appreciates the individual and strives to achieve the greater good. Or a more isolated and fearful community.

In my mind a healthy robust community offers opportunity for all who want to contribute positively to it. From handstand man Sam perfecting his incredible art form with a generous smile and wave to any and all or to Quentin who sweeps my steps in exchange for chiropractic care. Or to Phil who’s vision for Ruby Lane started as an idea and was brought to life with hard work and sacrifice or my two mates who turned a disused hotel drive thru bottle-o into a thriving health club or the multitude of families with kids in the local schools who have chosen Manly as their home over any other place.

In my mind Manly has a unique opportunity to be an example to the world of how life can be.

Do you remember the first time you turned up to the beach at sunrise? Everyone thinks they’re going to be the first one there. Only to be confronted with swimming, cycling, running, surfing, yoga, walking, meditating and coffee drinking. Its incredible.

So take some time today. What are you going to put into action today that will positively influence you? How about planting edible herbs in your front planter box or smiling at a stranger, pay for someones coffee, or start a community project. Its up to you.