Vacations – Unplugged And Then Some

Vacations - Unplugged and Then Some

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A guest post written by Bob Cummings, media and legislative spokesperson for Christian Science in Michigan.

Friday [June 20] marked the official start of summer, and for many, summer is vacation time.

Research has found that vacations are beneficial for health and well-being, at least in the short run.

For example, one study looked at fifty-three employees and measured physical complaints and the quality of sleep and mood both 10 days before and 3 days after vacations. These measures all improved. And then, again, five weeks after vacations, the employees still reported fewer physical complaints. The study concluded that vacations may improve well-being on a short-term basis.

Perhaps not surprisingly, though, it depends on the nature of the vacation. For example, other studies have found that:

Stress has adverse effects on health, which means that reducing stress is good for health. So one point of a vacation is to vacate our work and it’s responsibilities and any related stress.

But talk about a stressful vacation situation: I recently watched the movie “What about Bob?” again. A Psychiatrist – Dr. Leo Marvin played by Richard Dreyfuss – goes on a month-long summer vacation at a beautiful lakeside home with his family and Bob Wiley – one of his patients played by Bill Murray – shows up at his doorstep. Trying desperately to preserve his vacation, Dr. Marvin tells Bob to just take a vacation from his problems. Of course, Bob takes that vacation where Dr. Marvin is taking his vacation so that he can see him each day, and Bob even ends up staying at Dr. Marvin’s vacation home one night. Well, you get the point – the doctor’s vacation doesn’t turn out so stress free, to put it mildly.

Our work doesn’t usually pursue us quite that much. But still, it can be challenging today to leave work behind for a helpful vacation. According to the Pew Research Center, 34% of American adults (almost 80 million) own a tablet computer and 56% of American adults (over 130 million) own smartphones. It’s so easy and tempting to stay connected to work while away.

Paul Miller of The Verge recently finished an experiment where he stayed off of the internet for a whole year. At first he experienced less noise and anxiety and more peace. He described it like this:

  • “As my head uncluttered, my attention span expanded.”
  • “I found I was more aware of others in the moment.”

But later in the year offline, he found he could make different but equally poor or passive choices of things to do while offline – things that were no more useful or stress free simply because he was doing them offline.

study by the University of Michigan Health System published in Explore: The Journal of Science and Healing examined the health benefits of a nondenominational spiritual retreat. It measured depression, hope, spiritual well-being and perceived stress. The group with the best results – especially an increase in hope and decrease in depression – used a four-day intervention that included guided imagery, meditation, drumming, journal writing, and nature-based activity.

Spirituality & Health Magazine headquartered in Traverse City, Michigan has an online listing of over forty retreats. Their website says these retreats are opportunities to:

  • Walk in silence;
  • Jump in an ocean;
  • Snowshoe through a meadow;
  • Practice meditation;
  • Open your heart;
  • Quiet your mind.

A vacation is a little different than a retreat – less formal and more individual perhaps – but it can provide similar opportunities. And some people do of course take retreats on their vacation.

Earlier this month I vacationed in Traverse City and enjoyed spending more time with family, sitting in a chaise looking out over the bay, reading a novel, laying in the sun, and spending time praying. It allowed me to leave the demands and stress of work behind and “quiet my mind.”

Even centuries ago, when life certainly wasn’t full of online demands, getting away was helpful. The Bible relates how Jesus, who was sometimes pressed upon by crowds of people seeking his help, once went up into a mountain to get away and pray. And evidently he was inspired and rejuvenated because when he returned he was able to help many who were sick find comfort and health.

If that was the result of his version of a vacation, just think what benefit we might all derive from choosing quiet, unplugged time to commune with the divine.

If you’re taking a vacation this summer, let it be one that’s good for health. And, of course, have fun!

The Power of Love to Improve Mental Health

The Power of Love to Improve Mental Health

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Models used for illustrative purposes

A guest post written by Bob Cummings, the media and legislative spokesperson for Christian Science in Michigan

Mental health can be improved and maintained by treating the whole person and by helping the patient feel connected with – and loved by – others and the divine.

Treating the whole person

In 2007 Malkia Newman was appointed to the board of the Oakland County Community Mental Health Authority and she now chairs this board. Speaking at last month’s Public Services Committee meeting, she shared her insights from being the only person ever to be treated by the program and, then, to become its board chair. “Having received the treatment, having received the education, because education and treatment go hand in hand – you can’t just throw medicine at a problem, you have to treat the whole person.”

And she is passionate about this. She said, “I came out of the darkness and I walk in the light.” “I have a life that I never had before.” She shared how, after 30 years of going undiagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, she is now able to be in a marriage and be active in the community.

Jeffrey Brown, Executive Director of the Oakland County Community Mental Health Authority, also spoke at this Public Services Committee meeting. He said, “Mental health… is a part of someone’s whole being. It’s the health of thinking, the health of feeling, the health of interpreting and perceiving information…” It’s “being able to participate [in the world] as a full human being.”

The Bible (in KJV Mark chapter 5) relates that Jesus once healed an insane man who was then found “in his right mind” and on another occasion, before restoring him to health, Jesus asked an invalid, “Wilt thou be made whole?” (KJV John 5:6). These give us a glimpse into how to improve mental health through a broader approach that takes into account spirituality and the patient’s wholeness as intrinsic aspects of their health.

Feeling connected

Having a connection with others allows for participating fully, with others, in the world.

In a Daily Mail article in the U.K. entitled, The power of prayer: Believing in God can help treat depression, Rachel Reilly writes of research conducted at McLean Hospital in Belmont, Massachusetts, saying, “Researchers concluded that a belief in God is associated with improved treatment outcomes in psychiatric care.”

So, it’s not only feeling connected to other people but also to the divine that’s beneficial.

Professor John Swinton of the University of Aberdeen says: “…good dementia care has to do with enabling the persons to remain in relationship with God and with one another despite the ravages of the condition.”

Feeling loved

But another study found that people who believe in an angry, vengeful god are more likely to suffer from four psychiatric symptoms: social anxiety, paranoia, obsession, and compulsion.

What are we to make of this? It appears that a connection with a higher power helps with mental health when it results in feeling loved, and this is hindered – even reversed – when one conceives of the divine as punitive. What helps is understanding that the divine is beneficent and loves, and then feeling a connection to this view of a higher power and being.

In his book entitled, Proof of Heaven, Eban Alexander, M.D., a neurosurgeon who spent fifteen years on the faculty at Harvard Medical School, writes about the healing effects of finding a loving connection both with family and with the divine.

Dr. Alexander was adopted at birth and he knew of that from childhood and he loved his adoptive parents. But as an adult, he longed to find his biological parents. After struggling unsuccessfully to connect with his birth mother, he said, “over the next few months an ocean of sadness opened up within me… And I watched in disbelief as my roles as doctor, father, and husband became ever more difficult to fulfill.”1 At this point, his ability to “participate [in the world] as a full human being” was impaired, perhaps similar to that of Malkia Newman before treatment from Oakland County mental health services helped her.

When he finally met his biological mother, she told him of how she loved him so much and how she had tried so hard to find a way to keep him. Dr. Alexander writes, “Discovering that I had been loved, since the very beginning, began to heal me in the most profound way imaginable. I felt a wholeness I had never known before.”2

And later, through a near death experience during seven days in a coma – which is the main focus of his book – Dr. Alexander found his connection with the divine and says that the message he received was:

  • “You are loved and cherished.”
  • “You have nothing to fear.”
  • “There is nothing you can do wrong.”

And he says that if he had to boil this down to one sentence, it would be, “You are loved.”3

Dr. Alexander emphasizes that the characteristic that makes this love so powerful is that it is unconditional. He writes, “The unconditional love and acceptance that I experienced on my journey is the single most important discovery I have ever made, or will ever make…”4

He calls this both an emotional truth and a scientific truth.

Dr. Alexander found his mental capacities restored: language, memories, recognition, and even his sense of humor. He put it succinctly, “I wasn’t sick, or brain-damaged. I was completely well.”5

And he offers this insight: “The (false) suspicion that we can somehow be separated from God is the root of every form of anxiety in the universe, and the cure for it…was the knowledge that nothing can tear us from God, ever.”6

When it comes to mental health, perhaps the apostle Paul connects the dots for us when he said, “God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”7

References

  1. Proof of Heaven, A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife by Eben Alexander, M.D., © 2012, Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, New York, NY, page 56.
  2.  Ibid page 67.
  3. Ibid page 71.
  4. Ibid page 73.
  5. Ibid page 123.
  6. Ibid page 76.
  7. KJV 2 Timothy 1:7

Link to Bob Cummings blog

What Cuts the Chance of Catching the Cold or Flu by up to 50 Percent?

What Cuts the Chance of Catching the Cold or Flu by up to 50 Percent?

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Model used for illustrative purposes

A guest post written by Bob Cummings, media and legislative spokesperson for Christian Science in Michigan

Your mind can cut your chances of catching a cold by 40 to 50 percent.

Really? Yes – according to a recent ABC News report by Susan Ince entitled, “15 Ways To Prevent Colds and Flu” which lists meditation along with other methods of prevention such as exercise, getting enough sleep, and frequently washing one’s hands.

Here’s some interesting numbers on the effectiveness of different methods of preventing colds and flu:

  • Meditation and mindfulness (according to study mentioned below): 40 to 50 percent
  • Exercise (according to study mentioned below): 20 to 30 percent
  • Hand washing (according to the World Health Organization): 16 to 24 percent

Ince writes, “Your mind can cut your chances of catching a cold by 40 to 50 percent, according to a 2012 University of Wisconsin, Madison, study. Fifty-one people who used mindfulness techniques logged 13 fewer illnesses and 51 fewer sick days than a control group during one cold-and-flu season, probably because meditation reduces physical effects of stress that weaken the immune system.”

Lead author Dr. Bruce Barrett, a family medicine physician and associate professor at the School of Medicine and Public Health there, conducted the study cited by Ince. It found that symptoms were reduced by 40-50 percent for the group that received mindfulness training and by 30-40 percent for the group that received exercise training. However, it is important to note that this study is quite new, is just one study and it used a fairly small sampling.

Still – it’s something to think about.

Prayer is a type of mindfulness practice commonly used by many people to improve their health and wellbeing. In fact, almost half of Americans use prayer for health concerns, a percentage that has been increasing over the past decade according to the American Psychological Association 2011 Psychology of Religion and Spirituality report.

The Bible offers this assurance: “I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected endThen shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you.”¹

If our thoughts can reduce the chances of cold or flu, then availing ourselves of divine aid and comfort through prayer should have practical results. And that’s definitely something to think about.

Playing Cards May Benefit Mental Health

Playing Cards May Benefit Mental Health

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Models used for illustrative purposes

A guest post written by Bob Cummings, media and legislative spokesperson for Christian Science in Michigan

GO FISH anyone?

New research suggests that playing cards may help preserve mental health.

A December 13, 2012, PRWEB article republished by the San Francisco Chronicle (SFGATE.com) states, ”The Project for Natural Health Choices Inc. encourages playing cards and board games as these may actually contribute to a healthier brain according to new research conducted by Rush University Medical Center and the Illinois Institute of Technology. The research results, presented on November 25, 2012 at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America, suggest that playing cards and board games can help fight brain aging.

As a kid I played cards often – games like “Flinch” and “Hearts”. It’s nice to know this may be helpful and healthful. If it is, then this is a little tidbit worth taking note of.

Research also suggests that meditation and prayer are associated with improved health and positive changes to the brain including changes in the memory, empathy, stress and sense of self regions of the brain.

I use prayer as my primary means of maintaining mental health. So did my grandmother who was pretty sharp mentally right up to her passing at the age of 101.

I pray with Biblical thoughts such as these:

  • In thee, O Lord, do I put my trust: let me never be put to confusion. (KJV Psalm 71:1)
  • God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.  (KJV 2 Timothy 1:7)

Sweets that are Good for Health

Sweets that are Good for Health

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by Don Ingwerson

Normally I have legislative or media highlights posted on Thursdays, but since today is Valentine’s Day, I thought you might me interested in reading a guest post by Bob Cummings, Committee on Publication for Michigan. He has a new take on sweets. Wishing you a very happy Valentine’s Day!

It seems that chocolate and other sweets are everywhere right now.

Last Saturday Chelsea, Michigan held their 5th Annual Chocolate Extravaganza. On Sunday a good friend gave me a jar of homemade chocolate sauce that I enjoyed on ice cream. Tuesday was Paczki Day and today is Valentine’s Day (can you say, “box of chocolates”?)

Would it be an understatement to say that we like sweets?

It seems we’re fascinated by sweets. Researchers have conducted over 800 studies involving chocolate. Much attention has been given to the effect on the body of cocoa and sugar.

But what about “sweet” words and the messages and feelings they convey to thought, and the impact that has on the body? Do they go even higher by invoking a feeling of connection with the divine?

I remember a time during my college years when I was sick and feeling miserable and my Sunday School teacher called and shared some very encouraging and comforting words. The next day I felt much better and I truly appreciated her kind words.

Are the words we “give” to others sweet? Here are some questions to consider before we open our mouth:

  • Will our words leave a bitter taste in the recipient?
  • Are they sincere and not at all self-serving?
  • Are they kind?
  • Do they encourage or discourage?
  • Are they judgmental or cast blame?
  • Will they cause the recipient to feel appreciated, loved and cared for?

The Bible gives this thought-provoking insight: “Pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones.” ~Proverbs 16:24 (KJV)

Here’s wishing you sweets of the higher sort, and with them, good health!

Need an Emancipation Proclamation for your Health?

Need an Emancipation Proclamation for your Health?

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A guest post by Bob Cummings, media and legislative spokesperson for Christian Science in Michigan

Do you sometimes feel like a slave to disease? Or to its treatment? Or know someone who does? How do chapped lips, Abraham Lincoln’s visit to Kalamazoo, Michigan, and a case of poison ivy shed light on needed emancipation?

Abraham Lincoln made only one visit to Michigan – to Kalamazoo in 1856. Why did he make that visit? To address slavery, of course.

A recent article in the Kalamazoo Gazette, no doubt spurred on by the new Spielberg movie entitled, “Lincoln”, relates that Lincoln told the crowd in Kalamazoo, “This is the question: Shall the government of the United States prohibit slavery in the United States?”

Of course we know how this turned out: with the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 during the Civil War and the eventual end of human slavery in this country.

But there is another kind of slavery. Many suffer a form of slavery to disease. And others, seeking relief, all too often end up exchanging slavery to disease for slavery to drug-based treatment.

In the past, illnesses tended to be ‘acute,’ meaning that they occurred and were treated, and the patients either got better or died. But today, most illnesses are chronic and complex.” “… [The] condition will be with him for life and will need multiple treatments, many medications, and probably a number of hospitalizations…” according to Dr. Stephen C. Schimpff, M.D. in The Future of Health Care Delivery.

In light of the connection between thought and the body, might we find freedom by exploring how our thoughts either enslave us or through an understanding of spirituality free us? It’s a growing field of medical research but not really something new.

Shortly after the Civil War, Mary Baker Eddy, a pioneer in researching the relationship between thought, spirituality and health, wrote this: “Legally to abolish unpaid servitude in the United States was hard; but the abolition of mental slavery is a more difficult task.” And she shares this insightful observation, “I saw before me the sick, wearing out years of servitude to an unreal master in the belief that the body governed them, rather than Mind.”

An experience I had taught me about the mental slavery of illness and what happens when you become a slave to the treatment as well.

As a child, I suffered often from chapped lips. It was especially troublesome in the Michigan winter. I used a lip balm (Chap Stick) and I got to the point where for years I used it year round. I fell into a habit of licking my lips, getting chapped, applying the lip balm, and then licking my lips again. This went on all day long, all year long. I carried a tube of lip balm in my back pocket year-round.

I was essentially a slave to chapped lips and to an ointment that wasn’t solving the problem.

After a number of years of this, one day, when I came down with poison ivy, I prayed to God for healing. I found comfort from Biblical statements in Genesis that caused me to feel God’s love and care for me. Through this prayer I also came to realize that this plant did not have dominion over my body, but that my thought – through connection with the divine – was empowered with dominion over my body and over the plant. This resulted in quick and permanent healing of the poison ivy.

But what I find really interesting is where this realization led next. I then saw that just as I was free from mental slavery to poison ivy, on the same basis I could also be free from the mental slavery of thinking I was dependent on lip balm. This was like an emancipation proclamation for me. I threw out my tubes of lip balm and have been free, still living in Michigan, ever since.

Perhaps this is the kind of freedom Jesus was referring to when he said, “… ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

I wonder if the question Lincoln presented to the Kalamazoo crowd could be paraphrased to ask, “Shall we prohibit all forms of slavery, including mental slavery?” Shall we? Can we? The answer is “yes”.

Healing Power of Love

Healing Power of Love

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A guest post written by Bob Cummings, media and legislative spokesperson for Christian Science in Michigan

Let’s see if I can help him with a jolt of energy, a thought of love and perhaps a prayer.” writes Phil Mikan in the New Britain Herald in Connecticut last Sunday. This is what he thought when he came across a wounded butterfly.

It’s interesting to me that he had been researching “the energy we call love” for several months leading up to this.

Mary Baker Eddy also found that Love heals. She grew up in New England and founded the Christian Science church and wrote in a message¹ to her church, “The energy that saves sinners and heals the sick is divine: and Love is the Principle thereof.”

This experience with a butterfly is, as Mikan himself calls it, a very special story. He also calls it a miracle story or event that seldom happens, but really it is quite natural – certainly natural to the divine – and shouldn’t we find this kind of thing to be more commonplace?

His account is not preachy or terribly long but is truly heart-warming and well worth a read. To see exactly what happened to the butterfly click here.

_______________________

¹ Message to The First Church of Christ, Scientist, June 15, 1902, page 8

Walking a Tightrope

Walking a Tightrope

Niagara Falls – Photo by Joe Shlabotnik

A guest post written by Bob Cummings, media and legislative spokesperson for Christian Science in Michigan

Could YOU walk on a wire across Niagara Falls? Nik Wallenda made it look pretty easy. He was so calm and looked to be always in control. In interviews with Wallenda on TV I heard two elements of a spiritual practice that helped him achieve this remarkable feat: praying and monitoring thought.

The closest I’ve come to this feat was probably when I walked across a wooden footbridge over the Royal Gorge in Colorado years ago. The bridge is suspended with large steel cables and it is wide enough for a car to drive over. So, this clearly was not in the same league as Wallenda’s amazing feat at Niagara Falls. But it was my own tightrope experience because I had long been afraid of heights.

That weekend, I had been praying and feeling close to God. I overcame my fear of heights, and with slow, deliberate footsteps walked across to the other side.

In 1859, in the days before television, Charles Blondin walked across the Niagara Gorge on a tightrope near where the Rainbow Bridge is now. He performed this feat a number of times, each time increasing the challenge. Since 1896 no one has repeated it until now, and Wallenda is the only one to ever walk directly over the falls.

“A lot of praying”

When ABC-TV’s Hannah Storm asked Wallenda how he stayed so calm, he replied, “A lot of praying, that’s for sure“.

The Bible gives insight on dealing with fear. It says, “There is no fear in love.” (1 John 4:18). Thought filled with love or filled with feelings of God’s love for us cannot at the same time be filled with fear. You can’t be loving and fearing at the same time. You can’t be feeling loved and be fearing at the same time. Praying is a way to fill thought with love, with a connection to the divine, and even a sense of God’s protection.

Monitoring thought

Wallenda added another insightful piece of information about how he prepares for these feats mentally. He said that many news reports leading up to this event focused on the risks involved and talked about how difficult and dangerous it was. He said that he had to monitor how much of this he takes into his mind so he can stay calm and focused. It’s a practice applicable to all aspects of our lives.

Citing Blondin’s experience in her major work on spirituality and health entitled Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy sheds more light on this, ”Had Blondin believed it impossible to walk the rope over Niagara’s abyss of waters, he could never have done it. His belief that he could do it gave his thought‐forces, called muscles, their flexibility and power which the unscientific might attribute to a lubricating oil. His fear must have disappeared before his power of putting resolve into action could appear.” (Page 199).

Keeping suggestions and reports that foster fear out and using prayer to let love in enable us to be fearless, calm and focused and to achieve what may even seem impossible.

I don’t think you’ll ever see me walking across Niagara Falls on a wire like Wallenda did. You probably won’t try it either. But the mental and spiritual tools he used can help us in lesser feats in our daily lives – as it did with my fear of heights.

Have you had a tightrope experience?

Thought Controlled Robotic Arm

Thought Controlled Robotic Arm

Photo illustrated by ACWA

A guest post written by Bob Cummings, media and legislative spokesperson for Christian Science in Michigan.

“They’ve found that it is possible for a person to mentally control a robotic limb in three-dimensional space.”

This profound news comes from Roderic Pettigrew, M.D., Ph.D., director of the National Institute of Health’s National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering, in a press release today (5-16-2012).

Back in 1982 my wife and I attended the World’s Fair in Knoxville, Tennessee. One of the big highlights for us was an exhibit showing a new machine called a robotic arm. It was big, yellow, and computer-programmed to draw a picture of the symbol of the World’s Fair. We waited in line and then it drew one for us.

Since then, computer-controlled robotic arms have been implemented extensively in manufacturing, including in automotive factories such as we have here in the Detroit area.

The NIH-funded research has been working on what it calls BrainGate, which is a neural interface system which uses an implanted sensor to capture signals that direct movement and link those to robotic devices. The big news out right now is that for the first time, “by using her thoughts“, a woman paralyzed by stroke was able to direct a robotic arm to reach for a drink and then take a sip on her own. Impressive!

In the press release, researchers indicated that the ultimate goal is, as one might expect, to reconnect the brain to paralyzed limbs instead of a robotic arm.

While this story is primarily about the connection between the brain and the limbs, the story does seem to indicate that it is thought that initially directs movement. The brain is next in the sequence, with the limbs at the other end of the process – although some might argue about the distinction between thought and the brain. So, does the brain control thought, or does thought control the brain? Does the brain move limbs or does thought direct the brain to direct the limbs to move? When it comes to movement, is thought the master? (The press release said that the woman moved the robotic arm “by using her thoughts“).

If thought is the ultimate master of movement, then when thought decides that movement is restricted by injury or disease and fails to initiate or control movement, could thought be freed from such limitation by the influence of a higher power?

The Bible (in Hebrews 12:12-13) challenges thought with this: “… lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees; And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed.”

According to the Bible, Jesus healed paralysis (see Matthew 15:30).  So did some of his students (see Acts chapter 3 for an example).

And today?:
Account of stroke symptoms healed through prayer – click here.
Restricted movement healed through prayer – click here.

Food for thought!

To read the NIBIB 05-16-2012 press release – click here.

Placebos, and an Impossible Study

Placebos, and an Impossible Study

Photo illustrated by e-Magine Art

A guest post written by Bob Cummings, media and legislative spokesperson for Christian Science in Michigan

Explosive! That’s how correspondent Lesley Stahl described it.¹ And a study on the implications it raises for all drug-based therapy would be impossible – or would it?

In her recent 60 Minutes report on Placebos, Stahl interviewed Irving Kirsch, Associate Director of the Placebo Studies Program at Harvard Medical School. The explosive news: that placebos (inactive pills, such as sugar pills) have virtually the same effect as antidepressant drugs for those who are mildly or moderately depressed. This certainly would seem to shatter the conventional view about antidepressant drugs. (She wisely also mentioned that patients taking such drugs should not drop their use cold turkey but consult their doctor).Continue Reading