Nothing is more wanted than good health, especially when you don’t have it. Lord Beaverbrook, the greatest media magnate of his day, once told eminent British historian and author, Paul Johnson, “Aw, Mr. Johnson, success is much less important than health. You can be the richest man in the world, and the most successful man alive, but if you lose your good health you will be a very unhappy man.”
The World Health Organization defines health as a “state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” Health is never one dimensional. Health is the overall soundness of body and mind and spirit. To reduce health to merely physical well-being is to dissociate the body from one’s unified self. Case in point: those patients in mental hospitals, physically they may be as healthy as a horse, but mentally, emotionally, and even spiritually they are sick.
I am not a medical doctor. But I would like to offer some advice from the emotional side of life that if practiced would help you to become healthier.
It begins with the heart. While that blood-pumping organ needs to be strengthened, the heart I’m referring to is our thought life and our emotions, that which motives us and moves us. Our thought life dominates and shapes our attitudes; our attitudes lead to our actions; our actions direct our achievements. An anonymous author wrote: “Sow a thought, Reap an act; Sow an act, Reap a habit; Sow a habit, Reap a character; Sow a character, Reap a destiny!” We must protect the heart from influences outside itself that might jeopardize its integrity. When the heart is guarded there is order even in the midst of confusion; there is calmness even in the midst of chaos; there is stillness even in the midst of a storm.
Closely linked to guarding our heart is to maintain a healthy mental attitude. William James observed, “The greatest discovery of my generation is that human beings can alter their lives by altering their attitudes of mind.” Recent studies are proving that one’s health depends largely on what goes on in one’s mind. If a person is filled with resentment and hate, fear and anxiety, the result will be ill health. Neuroscientist, Candace Pert, states, “How you feel, how you react to stress, and the emotions that you repress, all play a role in your health.” Mental and physical well-being is inextricably intertwined.
Not only do we need to loosen up, we need to lighten up. Thom Meigs, one of my graduate school professors, said, “Humor is a gift from God that can promote healing and health.” It has been said that the best doctors in the world are Dr. Diet, Dr. Quiet, and Dr. Merryman. According to medical experts, laughter actually produces positive psychological results. A good laugh exercises the lungs and stimulates the circulatory system. Laughter releases chemicals in our bodies called endorphines—internal drugs that serve as painkillers. It is a legal tranquilizer that carries no side effects. Your body is revitalized by what could be called internal massage.
Raymond A. Moody, Jr., a Georgia physician, credits his sense of humor for getting him through the terrible grind of medical school. Yet not once, in all those years of training, did Moody’s professors bring up the health benefits of laughter. “As time went on,” Moody relates in his book Laugh After Laugh: The Healing Power of Humor, “I came to feel that a human being’s ability to laugh is just as valid an indicator of his health as are all those other things that doctors check.”
No only do we need to laugh—often and much; we need to go to church. You are probably thinking, “Well, you’re a pastor, of course you are going to say such a thing.” Let me quote Gregg Easterbrook, writing in The New Republic: “Recent studies indicate that men and women who practice in any of the mainstream faiths have above-average longevity, fewer strokes, less heart disease, less clinical depression, better immune-system function, lower blood pressure, and fewer anxiety attacks, and they are much less likely to commit suicide than the population at large. These findings come from secular medical schools and schools of public health. . . . In the most striking finding, Dr. Harold Koenig of Duke University Medical Center has calculated that, with regard to any mainstream faith, ‘lack of religious involvement has an effect on morality that is equivalent to 40 years of smoking on pack of cigarettes per day.’ . . . Another new study, conducted mainly by researchers at the University of Texas, found that those who regularly attended worship services lived an average of seven years longer than those who never attended.”
Here’s the next piece of advice: Get some rest. The fact is that we are a tired and restless people. The person who burns the candle at both ends is not as bright as they think they are. We are physically exhausted and emotionally drained. Our bodies were never intended to be run at full throttle all the time. If we don’t come apart we will come apart. Dr. Cheryl Spinweber, a sleep researcher at the Naval Health Research Center in San Diego says, “We Americans often short ourselves on sleep. We don’t skip meals, or miss our favorite television program, or stay away from a good party. But we don’t seem to care if we miss out on sleep. And that’s not good for one’s health.” So go home and take a n
Not bad advice, is it? In fact, I’m going to practice some of it now by taking a nap.
Recently I wrote a book on Psalm 23, Soul Therapy: The Healing Words of Psalm 23, that speaks to the heart, quiets your spirit, and eases loneliness. This psalm is a picture of contentment; it represents that mental state and physical place for which everyone longs. I share how Psalm 23 can comfort and empower your life. Click here to claim your copy.