Although it is likely impossible that we, as the human race, will ever know all there is to know, as science expands and knowledge increases, we understand more and more about our human condition and what that means in the realm of whole-body wellness. In addition to the physical and mental elements of health, experts have long recognized the human need to believe in something beyond ourselves. More than this, solid science recognizes that human health is altogether incomplete when only the physical and mental aspects of a person are nurtured and well kept. Though many would argue against this point, it has become altogether evident that we are spiritual beings. So what can a foundation of faith, this "God Time" as noted on our Wheel of Health, do for our life and wellness? We'll explore briefly some of the evidences below.
Researchers such as Dr. Herbert Benson (Harvard Medical School cardiovascular specialist), Dr. Andrew Newberg (University of Pennsylvania), T.M. Luhrmann (anthropologist), the National Institute of Health, and many others are recognizing more and more the significance of this spiritual element of human life and its overall impact on the whole being. They have discovered that individuals who daily experience a relationship with a loving God are found to extend their life expectancy by 2-3 years on average, compared to those who do not have an experience with God at all, or see God as punitive or arbitrary. Additionally, multiple studies have uncovered a correlation between daily prayer (to a loving God) and significant health benefits over those who do not pray. Some of the benefits noted are:
• Lowered blood pressure (40% less than peers)
• Increased immune function
• Lowered heart rate
• Relaxed breathing
• Improved recovery post-surgery or illness
• Deactivation of genes that trigger inflammation and cell death
Additionally, studies have also noted that individuals who feel that they have a direct connection with this loving God (in comparison with those who do not feel a loving connection with God or no god) experience:
• Less loneliness
• Lower stress levels
• Fewer psychiatric symptoms
Though experts agree that individuals who have this life-changing experience exhibit increased levels of dopamine and a greater overall sense of wellness and joy, they are not in agreement with the physiological logistics behind it. Some would argue in favor of the idea that some things in life simply cannot be explained. Whatever the case may be, the evidence is growing in relation to the benefits of such a relationship on human health.
To actively ponder and seek out the real answers to the deeper questions in life is part of what makes our lives as human beings meaningful: What is good? What is pure? What is noble? What is honest? What is just? What is right? What is truth? To challenge our own beliefs and determine to find the truth (like we did when we discussed the difference between foods that are "tasty" versus those that are truly "good"), not as we choose to perceive it, but as it really is, is a beneficial way to improve our overall wellness. It is incredibly important, at a neurological level, to ensure that our pondering is lively and stimulates beta wave production (that which is active during thinking and reasoning processes), as this helps stimulate our frontal lobe function and improve our overall health. This is the type of thought that takes place when one ponders the deeper meaning of a proverb or learning a new skill. When we allow ourselves to "zone out" and become hypnotized by repetitive thoughts or ideas, or allow ourselves to partake in passive thinking (such as being absorbed by modern forms of entertainment), our frontal lobe function shuts down, and with it, many vitally important psychological processes, such as reasoning.
And finally, in connection with prayer, we consider the spiritual component of gratitude. Our tendency as humans is often to dwell on that which is negative. Cultivating an attitude of gratitude can benefit us enormously. Additionally, our gratitude should find an outward expression in the way we deal with ourselves and with those people and creatures outside of ourselves. One of the health experts I have learned the most from over the course of the last five or more years, Dr. Neil Nedley, offers a challenge to his participants during every wellness class he facilitates. This is the challenge of positive thinking. The idea is this -- to complete successfully the task of not thinking or speaking negative words towards or about anyone or anything for a consecutive 14 days; and, if someone does say or think anything negative, they must begin the fourteen day period all over again -- even if they completed the first 13 days successfully! It is a hearty challenge, to be sure, but one that can tremendously help improve our health.
We hope that this journey around your personal Wheel of Health has given you further insight into the areas you may need to focus more strategically on at this point in your life in order to achieve your goals and dreams. We salute all of you for your efforts this month, and wish you a very wonderful Thanks-Giving full of wisdom, watchfulness, and gratitude for the blessings in your life.
Until we meet again...
NOTICE: The information provided herein is meant for educational purposes only. We accept no liability for your use of the information provided. As always, use your best judgment and if in doubt, please consult your healthcare provider to determine the best course of action for your particular situation.