My daughter, a mother of three young boys, recently asked herself what she could do to help protect the environment and decided that her family would do what they could. They were chosen as one of the three families in the nation to be spotlighted for their efforts. This past weekend as the film crews were working, I had the opportunity to listen to what they had accomplished. I was impressed with the fact that they didn’t have to dramatically change their lifestyle.
photo by Kevin Wong
They walked to their local Farmer’s Market for their fresh foods – not to save money but because these foods were fresher and supported local farmers. They headed up a fundraiser that saved a marine teaching station on the local pier used by schoolchildren and the public. They decided not to use chemicals to clean the house; sparkling water bottles were replaced with a sparkling water maker, and regular water bottles were replaced with filtered tap water, saving space at landfills.
This family was living in a manner that they felt was not only good for them, but also good for their community and the environment in general. They were developing habits and attitudes about their environment and educating themselves in the process.
As I listened to them being interviewed, I noticed that the reporters were not only interested in the discussion of the family’s physical environment, but also their mental rationale. The questions, “Why are you doing this? What did you hope to accomplish? What do your friends think about your lifestyle?” were answered with sincerity and consistency. Clearly the family had decided to protect their environment and in so doing let the environment work for them.
Having the environment work for a person is important when it comes to health, too, because health and a person’s environment are intricately linked. In “Better Neighborhoods Linked to Better Health,” Jens Ludwig of the University of Chicago feels that environment could be about as important as health care in fostering families’ well-being. “Investments outside the health care system can be really important complements to spending within the health care system,” he said, later adding, “there’s an effect on these really important health outcomes that’s in the ballpark of lifestyle and medical interventions.” In other words: Environment matters.
As the influence of the environment on health continues to grow, so does the concept that health is more than maintaining the physical body. Instead it is about the whole person.
While pursuing the concept of the whole person, many are seeking to know about mind-body connections, alternative medicines, and complementary therapies. A 2002 NIH study listed 10 complementary therapies used by the public. Of the 10 listed, prayer was the most used (43%). Along with prayer being the most used CAM, scientists have been studying the power of prayer. In one such study highlighted in “Tap into the Power of Prayer,” those who pray are able to demonstrate certain qualities to a greater degree than those who don’t pray. The article reports a landmark study in the 1980’s that states, “…prayer was tested in heart patients in a large hospital. Half of the patients were prayed for; half were not. The results revealed a significant therapeutic effect from the prayer.”
Isn’t it interesting that an individual has the power to change his environment, which affects his health?
I was interested recently in a comment my daughter made during a frustrating freeway delay. She said it was not possible to get to a meeting they were to attend. Her seven-year-old son quietly stated, “Mom, you don’t know that!” The mental environment changed and they did get to the meeting on time. It would appear that the frontiers of health and environment are beginning to be redefined with mind-body connections opening new vistas.
Thought is a powerful force.