How can we determine what is good or detrimental to our health?
It seems hard to find answers when there’s such a constant stream of changing information to sift through. Now there’s even the concept out there that it’s not how you eat, exercise, and work that matters, it’s what you think about how you are doing them that actually makes the difference!
Of course, all you need is common sense, right?
It’s not that easy.
Let’s take a look at what common sense tells us about stress, for instance. It’s been generally accepted that stress is detrimental to health by creating disease within the body, while joy and happiness create healthy bodily conditions. But a stress study of 30,000 people conducted over an eight-year period didn’t find that to be the case. The lead researcher, Dr. Kelly McGonigal, now believes stress can be good for your health – but this beneficial result is dependent on making stress “your friend.” Taking this counterintuitive approach enables a person to be more social and have a more extensive social support system, instead of trying to battle stress and living with negative reactions, McGonigal says.
That seems confusing, doesn’t it? It appears to contradict everything we’ve been told about stress. Or is it a hint of progress – showing us how our perceptions of health are key to our wellbeing, and thus moving us toward a new understanding?
Someone who thoroughly studied the mental nature of health and health care certainly recognised that correlation. Mary Baker Eddy wrote about the power of thought on the body in the 1800s. She said,
Hold thought steadfastly to the enduring, the good, and the true, and you will bring these into your experience proportionably to their occupancy of your thoughts.
Yet this wasn’t about positive thinking. To Eddy, “the enduring, the good, and the true” referred back to a more spiritual view of life – an understanding that spirituality is not just a part, but the whole, of who we actually are. She named God, divine Love, as the healer that “…inspires, illumines, designates, and leads the way.” Many have found that trusting divine guidance can become the basis for leading thought in a new, healthy direction.
The idea that stress is neither good nor bad, but can be either, depending on how it is perceived, means that stressful situations can also be times of joy and courage. A powerful example of this is in Unbroken, where Louis Zamperini competed in the Olympics, survived torture as a prisoner of war, overcame what we would now call PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), and finally forgave his cruel captor. This example shows how, with the right spirit and mentality, not only are amazing achievements attained, but better health is promoted.
I have seen in my own experience how thought is the most powerful influence on health. So when the prevailing health advice of the day seems somewhat mercurial, we have another option. We can spiritualize our thought and find health.
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