Deeper in Faith
Taking Control of Your Health
by Edward E. Moody, Jr.
Health and health care are hot topics! How will the decisions made in Washington impact health? Will the latest medical advances help defeat disease and illness? While government decisions and research breakthroughs are important, the key to better health for most Americans lies in good decision-making.
After examining the results of a long-term study, Friedman and Martin (2011) noted that the best surgical procedures and most powerful pharmaceuticals of today are considered very successful if they extend life for several years, but our daily health decisions have a much greater impact in determining the length and quality of our lives.
What determines your health?
The health you enjoy (or endure) is a product of your genetic composition, life experiences, and decision making. Your genetic makeup and past experiences increase your risk for heart disease, cancer, stroke, and dementia. Your decisions about how you live can increase or decrease your risk for illness too.
Therapeutic Life Changes (TLCs)
Therapeutic Life Changes have been found to improve health, reverse the impact of bad decisions, and mitigate the impact of bad genes and experiences. The 10 TLCs described in First Aid for Your Health were derived from research. However, it is interesting to see they also are found throughout Scripture.
The first three TLCs actually address spiritual health, which is intertwined with physical health. In an examination of 42 studies involving 126,000 participants, the results indicated that religious involvement increased survival by 29%. Though these studies involved many religious practices, a large number of the participants characterized themselves as Christians and church attenders. Consider a few of the Therapeutic Life Changes that will improve health.
Really go to church. Attending church weekly out of intrinsic motivation (based on a devotion to God) benefits physical health. One study involving 5,286 people examined the risk for death over a 28-year period. Those who attended church weekly were 36% less likely to die during follow-up than non-attenders.
In fact, an examination of 21 studies with 107,910 participants indicated that religious attendance was associated with a 37% increase in survival. Sadly, many head off to the gym on Sunday morning thinking it is good for their health, unaware that spiritual health provides a more solid foundation.
Have a daily quiet time of Scripture reading and prayer. When we read our Bible and pray, it helps develop a sense of coherence, which is linked to better health. Sense of coherence is a research term for how people make sense of the world and deal with the challenges and pressures it presents.
Throughout a six-year study, those who engaged in quiet time activities were 47% less likely to die during follow-up. Many studies indicate that Scripture reading has a calming effect that lowers blood pressure and mitigates the impact of anxiety, stress, negative thinking, and a tendency to exaggerate problems. Prayer, in particular, may lead to stronger Natural Killer (NK) cell response. NK cells strengthen the immune system. When they are weak, we are at greater risk for cancer and other health problems.
Sleep well. Good health is tied to good sleep. Insufficient sleep is linked to the development of many chronic diseases. If you have sleep problems, develop a consistent sleep and wake schedule by formally marking the end of daytime activities and the beginning of evening with relaxing activities.
If you have trouble falling asleep, avoid caffeine after lunch. Avoid bright light in the evening, especially in the hour or two before bed. This includes light from the television and computers. Avoid taxing activities around bedtime (heavy study, text messaging, Facebook, or prolonged, intense conversations). Instead, read in a quiet room or listen to calming music help to prepare you for bed.
If you are a follower of Christ, your body is the “temple of the Holy Spirit,” so it is important to care for it. Consider the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30) from the perspective of good and bad health. If you’ve been blessed with good health, remember that maintaining good health puts you into a position to serve. If you have bad health, use the health you have to the best of your ability.
I challenge you to practice these simple TLCs as a good steward of the health God has given you.
About the Writer: Edward E. Moody, Jr. chairs the Department of Counselor Education at North Carolina Central University. He also pastors Tippett’s Chapel in Clayton, North Carolina. He is a Licensed Professional Counselor. To order materials from his First Aid series, visit www.RandallHouse.com.