A couple of weeks ago I was talking to my son as he was recapping the latest on his house-remodeling project. I’d been hearing about the ups and downs of remodeling the kitchen and bathroom – important high-traffic areas – and after months of disruption a date had finally been set for the cabinet installation. As you can imagine, after months of having kitchen materials stacked and piled on the dining room table and floor, the thought of finally having order restored brought relief.
Then one contractor flaked at the last minute and another contractor was brought in. When this new contractor called at the last minute to say he was going to be late, my son decided to ask why there was going to be a delay. It turned out that this contractor had been hired to install a closet for a client whose son had been killed in the Boston bombing and whose daughter had lost a leg. She was returning home soon and the family wanted to surprise her with a new closet. With that explanation, my son immediately assured the contractor that he could take all the time he needed, and it snapped my son out of worrying about his own schedule and into what was going to work for everybody.
What struck me about this conversation was that my son did not make this offer out of personal gain, but instead to fulfill another’s need. It’s the type of action that reduces stress, does away with a “me first” attitude, and leads to a giving, helpful, and positive environment. It’s also a personal example of what studies have found – that altruism leads to better health.
Of course this isn’t so surprising, as ancient wisdom has indicated it for millennia. One Biblical text, for instance, says, “I [God, or Spirit] will restore health unto you and I will heal you of your wounds.” Many are starting to see a connection between harmony in consciousness and in health.
Deepak Chopra, in his article “The Great Divide,” insists that the time is long past for ignoring the mind-body connection. Instead he shows how everyday decisions and modes of thought can and do affect health.
Herbert Bensen and Gregory Fricchione also support the conclusion that thought and health are linked. In Stress and Health: The New ‘Apple a Day’ Prescription, Bensen describes how individuals who practiced regular meditation had better health. “The ideal is to develop a routine, a time to bring forth the relaxation response that becomes as much a part of the day as brushing your teeth.”
I particularly appreciated the simplicity of Bensen’s suggestion as to what practicing the relaxation response does for health. He suggests that people should practice the relaxation response once a day for 10 or 20 minutes. I’ve found that a similar practice, one of early morning meditation, has helped me be mindful of those around me, which I feel has helped with my own health.
Without realizing it, my son did a lot for his health when he exhibited helpful characteristics, instead of a “me-first” attitude, which helped meet another person’s need. These small efforts to support a sense of harmony and peace when another individual is experiencing stress may seem like a trifle, but knowing that they can help maintain your health is a good clue that it’s wise to incorporate such efforts into your day.
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