Over 80% of us are online searching healthcare issues. These issues range from finding out about a particular disease to exploring alternative treatments. Quite often when I am part of that 80% it is because I, or someone I know, is experiencing a health problem and is in need of help.
Another highly searched area is the cost associated with a particular procedure or solution. These results continue to lead us to the conclusion that health care costs are spiraling out of control. They make up just over 1/6th of our current GDP and are rising rapidly. For instance I recently received a notice from my health insurance company that my premiums are going up 28% starting in September. We all need to consider how to control these costs.
Graph of the Milken Study
This data was conducted in the Milken Institute study, “An Unhealthy America: The Economic Impact of Chronic Disease.” Notice this study not only highlights the economic impact of chronic disease, it also shows a great loss in worker productivity.
And a recent New York Times article pointed out that 75% of health care spending is for chronic diseases that could be prevented.
Surely these statistics urge us to ask: Is there a place in this discussion for how our everyday thoughts and choices affect our physical health? Each of us can consider: In my daily choices of activities, diet, and social events, can I make better choices which will help bring down healthcare costs? One choice that is increasingly made by many – and has worked consistently for me – is to incorporate spiritual practices into our regular routine.
I attempt to include prayer in my daily routine (some days are better than others). My prayer is to affirm a divine guidance that is constantly present and available to me and all of us here on the spinning rock called Earth. This divine Goodness is known to me as a divine sense of Love, not just any old type of love. It is a unique spiritual love.
Allow me to elaborate. In Western culture, the word “love” is one word attempting to describe an almost infinite number of types. I say, I love my wife; or I love my house; or I love my daughter; or I love pizza; or I love God. Now I know that I do not love my wife as I love pizza (no jokes here, she is reading this). There is a wide range of meaning here, so when I equate God with Love it is a love that I am growing into every day and not some shallow sense of fleeting passion.
This past January, I felt really ill one morning, just as I began my morning prayer and reading of the scriptures. I remember at first thinking how angry this situation was making me and how fearful I was of its outcome. Sitting there I wondered how in the world I could ever learn a deeper sense of love when these thoughts of anger and fear were overwhelming. As I continued, I let the Bible fall open as I do every morning. It opened to I John where the writer says, “God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him… perfect love casteth out fear.”
This idea of God as love helped me see that I was loved unconditionally and I should do the same without worry or fear. As I continued my day, I felt better physically.
Daily personal prayer might just be one component in controlling costs of choice-based, patient thought-centered care. One study from the Stanford Neuroscience and Pain Lab that has looked at the effect on people who are in pain when they experience different types of love concludes, “when people are in this passionate, all-consuming phase of love, there are significant alterations in their mood that are impacting their experience of pain.” It goes on to conclude that it should be possible to use non-pharmacologic means to reduce the experience of pain.
Similarly, at the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education, studies into “simple interventions” or “contemplative traditions” practiced over thousands of years – such as having compassion for others – have shown they can reduce stress and increase indices of adaptive immune function. Both of these can lead to improved health.
Does adding mindfulness and/or spiritual practices to our healthcare improve the quality and cut the costs? In considering your health and its care, what ways have been effective for you to help lower the nation’s “out of control” healthcare costs? Let’s continue the discussion here. I would love to hear your story and have you share your thoughts in the comments section.