For a Healthier Holiday, Tap Into Your Spirituality

For a Healthier Holiday, Tap into Your Spirituality

© GLOW IMAGES Models used for illustrative purposes

by Don Ingwerson

As the holidays approach, individuals respond to the season in both positive and negative ways. Many worry about overindulging in food and drink, others are painfully reminded of past events, and still others experience increased loneliness.Continue Reading

Effects

Effects

© GLOW IMAGES
Model used for illustrative purposes

Ingrid Peschke, media and legislative advocate for Christian Science in Massachusetts, has written a blog post on health. You can also read this post at Metrowest Daily News on her syndicated blog, “Health Conscious.”

Smiling people dance in a field of summer flowers under a blue sky without a care in the world. Then a fast, cheerful voice-over begins listing some pretty awful symptoms that could occur if you take the drug being advertised.

Only the United States and New Zealand are permitted to directly advertise pharmaceutical drugs to consumers. These advertisements list side-effects that often sound far worse than the targeted problem. You’d think consumers would say, “No thanks, I’d rather just live with my condition.”

But what if people feel they have no choice?

A new study by the Mayo Clinic reveals that almost 70 percent of Americans are being prescribed at least one prescription drug. (US Becoming A ‘Medication Nation’ With Rampant Use of Prescription Drugs.)

To compound this problem, a Boston Globe article, Warning Patients of Drug Side-Effects May Trigger Symptoms, raises the question of the nocebo effect, sometimes referred to as the “evil twin” of the placebo effect.

Globe health reporter Deborah Kotz writes, “Recent research has demonstrated that when doctors and nurses inform patients about a laundry list of symptoms that a drug can cause — such as headaches, anxiety, dizziness, and nausea — they may unintentionally trigger these symptoms via the power of suggestion . . .”

The placebo effect, simply put, is a non-pharmacological procedure, such as a fake surgery or administering a saline solution or sugar pill, that produces an improvement in the patient’s condition. It’s not the pill or procedure that helps the patient, but the patient’s mental state that produces the result. The nocebo effect is just the opposite, producing a negative effect simply through the power of suggestion.

Increased administering and spending on prescription drugs is now reportedly the fastest-growing drug abuse problem in the United States.

Despite these disturbing trends, there are some signs that people, in growing numbers, are seeking relief from illness and pain through modalities that are more natural and don’t produce side effects. One of these is prayer.

According to Discovery Fit and Health, “Prayer is the number one complementary medicine for Americans,  more than vitamins, herbs or therapeutic exercise like yoga.” And studies show that at least half of the American population prays about their health. (Read: The Positive Health Effects of Prayer, Huff Post.)

In his book, Prayer Is Good Medicine, Dr. Larry Dossey writes, “If the evidence favoring prayer is valid, as many experts believe, are physicians justified in ignoring it? If prayer works, how can we physicians justify not informing our patients that prayer may help?”

Prayer is certainly a prescription for health without negative side-effects. Take for example, Andy’s story.

Andy always thought he wanted to study medicine. He took pre-med classes in college and he was interested in what helped people get better. But he was uncomfortable with the prevalent use of drugs in medicine and their accompanying side-effects.

He had always been interested in the mental aspect of healing and welcomed learning about different ways this was applied, including the placebo effect. Just before he finished college and had to decide whether to go on to med school, he started reading a book written by Mary Baker Eddy called Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. He thought the book would provide insights related to the mental aspect of healing he was so interested in.

What Andy discovered in his reading was something even bigger. Beyond simply the mental aspect, the book explained a spiritual component to health and healing related to divine laws that were more powerful than the physical laws he’d been studying in college.

Although Andy was accepted to several medical schools, he ultimately decided not to pursue a career in medicine. He found that relying on a spiritual practice for healing was very effective. He began to trust more and more in the divine laws of healing he was learning about, rather than in the various medicines he’d routinely taken since childhood. Before long he stopped taking these medications all together.

Andy says, “If anything there’s always been a beneficial side-effect and never a negative side-effect” from his prayer-based approach to health.

Dr. Dossey concluded in his book that “prayer is making a comeback in medicine.” And perhaps for good reason.

Whole-Body Healing…Good Step

Whole-Body Healing...Good Step

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Model used for illustrative purposes

A guest post written by Rich Evans, Christian Science Committee on Publication for Arizona, and is the spokesperson for Christian Science to the media and to Arizona governmental entities including the state legislature.

The Arizona Republic recently ran an article (Thursday, January 3, 2013) titled, “Integrative medicine is growing in popularity” written by Ken Alltucker. The article focused on patient centered, integrative medicine.  Good news…the founder of the term “integrative medicine” is in our backyard.  While the field is growing, the term and concept have been developed by Dr. Andrew Weil, who heads the University of Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine (CIM). As the article indicates, integrative medicine, while viewed in various ways, can be defined as “the practice of combining conventional medicine with complementary and alternative medical techniques that are supported by medical literature or evidence”.  This is a breakthrough article for this column.

The article further described that the CIM has opened an office in Phoenix, the Arizona Integrative Health Center, which approaches health with the patient at the focus of the practice, rather than the disease. Then, there are several examples given of work being performed at the Mayo Clinic and by an individual psychiatrist in their respective practices using integrative medicine techniques successfully. I find all of this encouraging, as it begins to recognize healing as involving a more complete understanding of the whole person as patient. The examples given demonstrate that solutions emerged when either habits of thinking or acting were corrected, demonstrating the importance of thought on the body and its connection to healing.

One has to appreciate the courage, candor, and clarity shared by Drs. Bergstrom (Mayo), Hernandez (independent psychiatrist), and Rula (medical director of the CIM), as they push the frontiers of their professions into a more holistic frame.  In the article, among the varied healing strategies of patient centered, integrative medicine, there was a brief mention of spiritual well-being as part of the “whole.” Given that among the stated purposes of the CIM are evidence-based and lower cost methods, spiritual well-being may be key to achieving those goals.

The spiritual basis of healing is perhaps the longest running method in the spectrum of integrative healing, actively utilized well before that term existed. Not only can we find numerous accounts in Biblical history, especially after the establishment of Christianity, but there is ample evidence today of its efficacy. My own experience includes healing of pain, viruses, malaria, and many other disorders all through spiritual prayer…prayer that is not wishful thinking or a function of the human brain, but a recognition of divine, loving consciousness, divine Mind, if you will, reflected in our individual thought and lives. More than a remedy, the advantage of spiritual well-being is that it includes a fulfilling sense of identity and health for all, without economic barriers.

I like the direction of The Arizona Republic article and hope that the “whole-body” concept continues to expand the role of spiritual well-being. Perhaps we will learn that it is at the center of our health. It certainly is for me.

Link to Evans blog.

For a Healthier Holiday, Tap Into Your Spirituality

For a Healthier Holiday, Tap Into Your Spirituality

© GLOW IMAGES
models used for illustrative purposes

by Don Ingwerson

As the holidays approach, individuals respond to the season in both positive and negative ways. Many worry about over indulging in food and drink, others are painfully reminded of past events, and still others experience increased loneliness. These emotions can result in poor decisions about food consumption and behaviors, so these dangers need to be thought through prior to the season’s activities. However, there is another way of avoiding the pitfalls many experience during the season’s festivities. A well-planned holiday can provide the opportunity for expressing many health-giving attitudes and feelings of emotional completeness that have lasting benefits.

Decades ago, when my wife and I relocated from the Midwest to Southern California – right before the holiday season – we felt very much alone and it appeared that only long distance phone calls to friends would bring us joy and happiness. However, after a Thanksgiving church service, a family of four invited us to share Thanksgiving dinner with them. Upon hearing there would be guests from far away, one of the young girls in the family quietly asked her mother, “Do people from the Midwest speak English?” Today, decades later, that girl is still sending us holiday greetings.

That outreach to share Thanksgiving dinner and that family’s festivities didn’t stop there – it was a model for our family over the many holiday seasons that followed. And since then our home has consistently been open to share family activities without hesitation.

I’ve found that sharing the warmth of my family’s festivities with others gives spiritual depth to the holidays. In an article written by the Mayo Clinic staff, “Stress and depression and the holidays: Tips for coping,” the Mayo staff suggested that stress and depression can ruin your holidays and hurt your health. The clinic staff offered many tips and some of the leading ones were: acknowledge your feelings, reach out, be realistic, set aside differences, stick to your budget, and plan ahead. Each of these tips includes at least two important elements – physical and spiritual.

In considering the spirituality aspect, associate editor Therese Borchard discusses how spirituality and prayer relieve stress. She quotes Dr. Roberta Lee, who states, “Research shows that people who are more religious or spiritual use their spirituality to cope with life. They heal faster from illness, and they experience increased benefits to their health and well-being.”

Harold Koenig, MD, Associate Professor of Medicine and Psychology at Duke University, reviewed more than 1,000 studies that appraised the effects of prayer on health and then recorded these findings in his book, Handbook of Religion and Health, comments, “Faith attaches meaning to events. It gives folks hope, the ultimate stress reducer. Hope, doctors say, is about the best thing you can do for your body. It’s better than a placebo.”

Physical aspects also need to be addressed. Although much of the news and conversation about the holiday season seems to be about food, dieting, weight gain, calories, and exercise, some researchers are critical of existing nutrition studies. John Ioannidis, a respected meta-researcher at the Stanford School of Medicine suggests a simple approach: ignore them all. That’s good advice when worrying about overconsumption that causes holiday stress.

Even though we celebrate Jesus’ birth on Christmas, what he said later in life is a good guide to a healthier holiday. (Matt. 6:31) He told us not to worry about food and drink. He even advised his followers to eat whatever was served to them.

The lesson I take from Jesus and others is to nourish the mental diet, to feed the soul, so to speak. As spiritual aspects instead of physical concerns become our focus during the holiday season, these aspects become the real health-givers. Spiritual qualities, like affection, joy, patience, and self-control actually produce better health for the individual, resulting in a sense of purpose, less stress, more harmony, and peace.

Article first published in Blogcritics

Holiday Stress? Stick to the Plan and Enjoy Better Health

Holiday Stress? Stick to the Plan and Enjoy Better Health

© GLOW IMAGES
models used for illustrative purposes

by Don Ingwerson

Do the holidays have you feeling overburdened? Well, I have good news for you. You’re going to be just fine – if you develop a plan and stick to it.

I recall approaching a frustrating holiday season without a plan to accomplish what needed to be done, and whom to spend time with, and found myself spending time with friends instead of family. The result? I felt rudderless and unhappy with myself over the poor choices I’d made.

I needed to find what was missing in my life, so I delved into ways to find satisfaction during the holiday season. What I learned was that I needed to connect the season’s activities with deeper, more meaningful ideas, which would allow me to connect with my spiritual being, and provide a basis for a sound holiday plan.

Recently I found this observation in Dr. Roberta Lee’s The SuperStress Solution, that “people who are more religious or spiritual use their spirituality to cope with life,” most helpful. Why? She further explains, “They’re better able to cope with stress, they heal faster from illness, and they experience increased benefits to their health and well-being. On an intellectual level, spirituality connects you to the world, which in turn enables you to stop trying to control things all by yourself. When you feel part of a greater whole, it’s easy to understand that you aren’t responsible for everything that happens in life.”

You may ask: Why will using these ideas work for me?

In Handbook of Religion and Health, Harold Koenig, MD, Associate Professor of Medicine and Psychiatry at Duke University, gives three good reasons why these ideas work. “First, religion and faith provide social support, a consistent element of happiness and good health. Second, religion reinforces a belief system, people bond when they hold common opinions and beliefs. Third, religion and spirituality do what a parent or supervisor at work does: give you ten laws to abide by. And, although you may not like the regulations set upon you and try to break a few, you are glad they exist, because for the most part, your life runs more smoothly when you follow them.”

So it turns out that the basic idea is to connect with the spiritual dimension first, “then get a plan for the holidays” and follow it.

How can you avoid a holiday plan that doesn’t work? The following suggestions from the Mayo Clinic staff (“Stress, Depression and the Holidays: Tips for Coping“) can be helpful and supportive:

“Be open and honest about your feelings of sadness or joy. Feelings of loneliness or isolation should be addressed, not ignored. Don’t feel guilty if everything doesn’t work out the way you planned. Set aside your differences and find things you have in common with others. Watch your budget limitations and include gifts from your own hands and heart.”

These suggestions for making life more meaningful during the holiday season are not unimportant. I’ve also found a biblical statement by Jeremiah especially helpful when striving for a happy, stress-free holiday: “And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart. And I will be found of you, said the Lord.”

I’m looking forward to comfortably enjoying this season because I know that both my physical and spiritual needs will be met by sticking to my holiday plan. I hope you will develop your own spiritual plan for stress-free enjoyment of the holidays!

Article first published in Blogcritics

Thinking About Health

Thinking About Health

Photo illustrated by Brian Hillegas

A guest post written by Robert B. Clark, Committee on Publication for Florida

Just when you thought there were already way too many diseases, here comes a new one, “Mass Phychogenic Illness” or MPI. Where did it come from? Most recently, from a group of teenage girls in upstate New York. Is it something to worry about? Probably not…unless you think about it too much.

It turns out that if enough people in a close population believe themselves to be ill, a sort of mental contagion takes place and a group sickness is born. The phenomenon, as described here in the Wall Street Journal’s Health Blog, is common enough to have earned itself a name and a place in the growing catalogue of diseases.Continue Reading

Choosing Health

 

Choosing Health

Photo illustrated by Jeff Wilcox

A guest post written by Robert B. Clark, Committee on Publication for Florida

Research shows that stress is a leading cause of serious health problems. When confronted with stress and the health problems it may cause, do we have any choice in the matter?

The Mayo Clinic’s website, in an article titled, Stress management, tells us that “Over time, high levels of stress lead to serious health problems” but then adds a hopeful note, “You don’t have to let stress control your life.”Continue Reading

December Cycling and Prayer Closets

December Cycling and Prayer Closets

Photo illustrated by Roland Tanglao

A guest post written by Ken Girard, Committee on Publication for Massachusetts – article posted December 1, 2011, on the Arlington Patch

This workweek had been very intense and long-houred.  So when I got to take the day off today, I headed out on my bike for some alone/quiet time.  And the back roads of Concord, Acton, and Carlisle are perfect for that.

It’s beautiful riding at this time of year.  The air is crisp, the sun is that stark December light, the trees minus their foliage provide unseen views.  But more than anything, there’s a stillness.Continue Reading