A Michigan man and four friends set up camp in freezing temps in front of a Best Buy the week before Black Friday, complete with a generator, heater, and flat screen TV. The retailer happily let them use their restrooms. (NPR’s Morning Edition) I wondered, Would they also be cooking a Thanksgiving turkey in their tent?
“Giving Tuesday” is a refreshing concept in response to the culture of “Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday” which encourage competition to be first in line for the best deals and a buy-buy-buy frenzy. This new day is a reminder to simply give, which after all is the true spirit of the Christmas holiday.
Giving Tuesday has gained momentum nationwide and around the world, with over ten thousand global partners and over thirty-three hundred #GivingTuesday Social Media Ambassadors. They’ve also helped coin the phrase #Unselfie. The idea? Upload a photo of yourself and your giving activity to Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram with the hashtag #UNselfie and #GivingTuesday so you can join your efforts with others doing the same.
Turns out the benefits of giving come right back to you, too. And it doesn’t have to be a monetary gift. Continue reading →
Dossey is a medical internist and former chief of staff of Medical City Dallas Hospital, who at that time did some less-than-gentle stirring by suggesting that compassion and empathy play a key role in a surprising number of doctors’ practices, and that many doctors would like to see those qualities receive a lot more institutional support.
Dossey also shared his insights in a gathering in The Mary Baker Eddy Library in Boston, during which he confirmed that, as he saw it, religious affiliation can be a key factor in healing. He said: “We know enough now about interviews with effective healers and pray-ers to be able to say that love and compassion are probably the most important factors accounting for the success of prayer, which we’ve been able to identify.”
At a conference in Bethesda, Maryland, on “The Science of Whole Person Healing,” Dossey defined spirituality as a “sense of connection with something that’s generally considered a higher power.” He said that one of the reasons to “respiritualize medicine” is that “medicine is in trouble, and is viewed by millions as too inhuman, remote, cold, detached, mechanical, expensive, uncaring, and unavailable or too late.” Continue reading →
I recently met John, a trim, silver-haired, energetic man in his mid-sixties who was a guest at our church. In my remarks at our evening service for the community, I shared some of the ideas I had gained after attending a lifestyle medicine conference.
John introduced himself to me afterwards and offered his story. We both feel our meeting wasn’t a coincidence.
A few years ago John was a self-described chocolate and Mountain Dew addict, ate the “American” diet of meat and potatoes, and was 70 pounds overweight. He often felt tired and had no energy. His doctor diagnosed him with diabetes and said he would have to take medication for the rest of his life, progressively requiring more pills as the years went by. John followed his doctor’s orders for a year and he got a little better, but when his health took a turn for the worse, his doctor told him he should expect more of that.
Health experts often point out the connection between diabetes and obesity. In the Metrowest Boston area where I live recent reports found that “18.1 percent of adults are considered obese, more than 76 percent of the region’s adults aren’t eating the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables each day, and more than 16 percent aren’t getting enough regular exercise” (Community Health Assessment, Metrowest Daily News).
In my remarks during our church service, I shared how I’d learned that many doctors and their patients are finding that diseases, such as diabetes, can be reversed by changes in lifestyle. I also pointed out that I felt encouraged that more health professionals are acknowledging the necessity of mental changes, not just physical ones. This makes sense because behind each physical change–whether it’s a change in the food one eats or daily exercise–is a thought. We all know that diets don’t work unless they substantially change poor habits for better ones. So behind each “lifestyle” change is a commitment to do something good, to bring balance, restraint, order, etc. to one’s life. Continue reading →
You can also read this blog on Huffington Posthere.
Is happiness preventive medicine?
That probably depends on how you define it. If you think of it as fleeting and resulting from factors outside of yourself, like a new job or a Hawaiian vacation, well then it’s probably not so beneficial. But if you see it as inherently within you–something you give, rather than get–then it’s a different story.
This might sound like a tall order or even blue-eyed optimism. But what if behind this attitude was the grounded belief that good is natural and happiness is permanent, based on a more spiritual view of your life? Perhaps more in line with what nineteenth century theologian, religious-founder and author, Mary Baker Eddy, had to say: “Happiness is spiritual, born of Truth and Love. It is unselfish; therefore it cannot exist alone, but requires all mankind to share it” (Science and Health With Key To The Scriptures).
Beginning from the standpoint that happiness is spiritual and that it naturally benefits and includes “all mankind” changes the equation from one of “getting” to “sharing.” And that just might be a life-changing, health-altering approach. Why health-altering? Well, it’s hard to overlook the results.
For instance, Martin Seligman, PhD describes a case study involving severely depressed people in his book, Authentic Happiness. These people had just one task a day: to go to a website and record three good things that happened to them over the course of their day. After 15 days they went from a label of “severely depressed” to “mildly or moderately depressed” and ninety-four percent of them reported feeling better. All they had to do was focus on the good in their lives and they were happier.
You could say focusing on the good is an active prayer that has transformative results.
Perhaps you’ve heard of the ambitious 75-year Harvard Grant study that set out to answer the question, “What predicts a happy life?” Considered the longest study of human development of its kind, it followed the lives of 268 male Harvard undergraduates–considered the best and brightest–from the classes of 1938-1940, regularly collecting detailed personal data.
The many decades and twenty million dollars expended on the study ended up pointing to one simple conclusion: Giving and receiving love = happiness.
Dr. George Vaillant, a Harvard Medical School professor of psychiatry, directed the study for more than three decades and recently published a summary of insights the study yielded called, Triumphs of Experience (November 2012). In Vaillant’s own words: “ ‘Happiness is love. Full stop.’ ” He goes on to say “Happiness isn’t about me.” In other words, our lives have meaning when we are in the business of giving to others. This echoes the point that “happiness is unselfish and cannot exist alone . . . “
In a video produced by The Atlantic, Vaillant comments on the impact of working with these men over a long period of time, “If you’re going to study lives, you’ve got to study trees. Redwoods are a whole lot more interesting than saplings!” (I particularly related to that analogy, since my childhood home was built in a grove of the towering giants and I often pondered their long lives–how these beautiful trees endured fire, wind, rain, earthquakes, and yet still stood tall.)
Vaillant says his image of real happiness in the Grant Study is that of a man whose laundry room was filled with dirty clothes because his children and grandchildren and extended family all came to his home to help him garden or sail and that resulted in dirty laundry that needed to be cleaned. This man and his wife lived their lives as matriarchs and patriarchs–connected to loving relationships–and that amounted to happiness and meaning.
Vaillant says probably the greatest human skill you can have is the ability to take love in and “metabolize it.”
The study doesn’t point to money and social class as a means to happiness. Vaillant himself told The Take Away’s John Hockenberry, “I think if you asked my children they would all say that I’ve been more interested in having a brilliant career, and less interested in just hanging out with them. And if I had it to do over again, I would’ve spent more time with my children.”
In a recent interview I had with Dr. Eva Selhub, author of The Love Response, she also pointed to love and connection to people who cared about her as the number one contributing factor to health and healing in her own life.
When was the last time your doctor prescribed a regimen of love and care, rather than a prescription drug for depression or even a lifestyle change with diet and exercise? In Dr. Lissa Rankin’s new bestseller, Mind Over Medicine she writes, “…the scientific data linking happiness and health is shocking enough that it just might convince you that treatments aimed at increasing happiness should take center stage when you’re interested in preventing disease.”
What if you approached each day with the perspective: Today I am going to live and give joy. I’m going to see it as an unlimited commodity that I possess. I’m going to guard it like a prized possession even if something unexpected happens that threatens my peace.
Happiness is a treatment we can all prescribe for ourselves and watch as it truly does take center stage in our life.
Watch Dr. George Vaillant discussing the Harvard Grant Study:
You can also read this post at Metrowest Daily News on my 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.”
Guest blogger Kim Shippey has traveled widely as an international journalist and is now a full-time writer and editor based in Boston. He spends his leisure time learning life lessons from his grandchildren, or relaxing in his garden.
Have we ever been under quite so much stress as we are now to conquer stress in our daily lives? A tsunami of information whirls through the social media about the bondage imposed by overcrowded lives and the detrimental effects upon health, family, social intercourse, and business profits.
The World Health Organization points out that stress costs United States businesses an estimated $300 billion annually; and sleep deprivation adds another $63 billion a year in lost productivity (The Huffington Post, June 1, 2013).
Huffington Post recently organized a women’s conference in New York that emphasized well-being and personal fulfillment, rather than money and power. Scholars and business leaders gathered to discuss ways to tackle the epidemic of stress in American workplaces, and find success in ways that are both meaningful and sustainable.
“Humans aren’t meant to be in permanent fight-or-flight mode any more than gazelles are,” says the Post’s Arianna Huffington. Gazelles run only when they absolutely have to.
So perhaps we might take a lesson of sorts from the gazelle, which knows when to stop running and graze. Continue reading →
For some, this is fast becoming a rhetorical question.
Dr. Lissa Rankin, author of the New York Times best-seller Mind Over Medicine, said in a recent TED talk, “The Shocking Truth About Your Health,” that the most important part of your health is not daily exercise, taking vitamins, getting enough sleep, or eating a well-balanced diet.
But isn’t that what all the experts seem to be telling us to do?
“These things might all seem like important, even critical factors to living a healthy life,” Dr. Rankin says, “but what if I told you that caring for your body was the least important part of your life? What if I told you that the medical practice had it all backwards.” Continue reading →
Guest blogger, Kim Shippey, is a full-time writer and editor based in Boston. He is a keen runner, and has organized many fun runs and marathons.
I smile every time I turn to the June issue of the magazine Christianity Today. It keeps falling open to page 39, which shows a minister standing in the carpeted center aisle of his church in Virginia in a dark tracksuit and snazzy sneakers. His T-shirt says Losing to LIVE, and he looks poised to jog at least 50 times around the sanctuary, with church members in hot pursuit, in an effort to lose some weight.
The feature article by Leslie Leyland Fields explores ways in which some churches across the country are whipping members into shape with highly marketed, faith-based health programs. Fields points out that this Christian wellness trend has unfolded amid national debates about health care, overweight children, government-banned large sugary drinks, and who or what is to blame in a country where about one in three adults is clinically obese.
Yet this fresh interest in the development of the whole person–body, mind, and spirit–is not new. You need only go back to Charlie Shedd’s 1975 bestseller PrayYour Weight Away to be reminded that, as Shedd wrote with gentle humor, “if our bodies really are to be temples of the Holy Spirit, we had best get them down to the size God intended.” Continue reading →
Guest blogger Kim Shippey has traveled widely as an international journalist and is now a full-time writer and editor based in Boston. He spends his leisure time chasing footballs and grandchildren.
Innumerable surveys have been published in recent years about the importance of “social support” to moderate or buffer the impact of “psychosocial” stress on physical and mental health. This includes “burn-out” in various jobs–air-traffic controllers, surgeons, teachers, caregivers, and even professional writers. In newsrooms merciless deadlines take their toll, and writers working alone on book projects fear the menace of “writer’s block.”
But it’s been heartening to note how many studies have also explored the spiritual and religious aspects of support structures that lead to healing. One is a new book by Lisa Harper, due for release in September, Overextended . . . and Loving Most of It! (Thomas Nelson). Harper includes a chapter titled “Blasting Through Burn-Out,” and never hesitates to challenge her readers with questions such as, “What would God want for us?”
Harper suggests God would want us to “leap off our towering cliffs of fear, uncertainty, shame, anxiety, resentment, and religious propriety into the crystal blue sea of extravagant faith in Jesus and compassion for others, because we just know our divine Dad is in the water waiting for us.”
I happen to be deep into a poignant and comical novel by Jess Walter, Beautiful Ruins. In the scene I’ve just read, a teenage boy is sitting at the feet of a would-be writer, who, even in the idyllic peace of the sun-drenched Italian coastline gets only one chapter done in seven years. He explains to the young boy: “A writer needs four things to achieve greatness–desire, disappointment, and the sea.” Continue reading →
You can read and share this post from my syndicated blog, “Health Conscious” at Metrowest Daily News.
“I believed when the brain dies, that’s the end of consciousness. I know now that’s not true. I have a far grander view of science today than I ever did before my coma.”
That’s how neurosurgeon, Dr. Eben Alexander, opened his remarks to a packed audience of at least 400 people (many turned away at the doors) at the New Bedford, MA First Unitarian Church on May 16. I couldn’t help but notice the largely female audience. The man next to me said he came with his wife and had only read about the event in the New Bedford news. He was unfamiliar with the book, but said he was curious to hear the doctor’s message: “I know a few neurosurgeons and they’re all the same. Very precise…like engineers.”
Dr. Alexander was there to talk about his best-selling book, “Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey Into the Afterlife” (Simon and Schuster) that recounts his meningitis-induced coma and near-death experience, which (according to his doctors) virtually destroyed his neocortex (the part of the brain that makes us human) and brought him to a 1% rate of survival without a normal life.
But to the surprise of his doctors and family he opened his eyes on the seventh day, just before they were making the difficult decision to cut off the antibiotics and take him off life support. “It was prayer that brought me back and gave me the same feeling of being in that heavenly realm right here on earth,” he claims.
Today he tells his story two or three times a week to audiences around the world. Continue reading →