On December 21, 2012, my wife and I happened to wake up at 4:00am. As we were talking, the power went out.
Being familiar with apocalyptic predictions for that date based on the Mayan calendar, we looked at each other with an eerie feeling. I said, “You’ve got to be kidding me!”
As you probably know, the world didn’t end. Our power came back on in a couple of hours. There was a tomorrow and I’m confident there will be many more.
In thinking about that morning and its implications on health, I remembered a famous comment by the great jazz pianist, Eubie Blake. Near the end of his 96 years, (he’d been a smoker for 85 of them) he quipped, “If I’d known I was going to live this long, I would have taken better care of myself.”
Since it looks like we’re all going to be living longer here on the earth, health care still matters. Some survivors of 12/21/12 are currently striving to follow through on New Year resolutions to be healthier. And they’re reaching for that common goal from many different angles.
The most popular health pledges include eating a healthier diet – although exactly what that includes is under constant debate. Another is to exercise regularly – although how best to do that is also besieged by conflicting theories. And then there are the classic resolutions to stop bad habits, like smoking.
Yet it seems that even as we devote more and more money and effort to better health, the trend is not so good. A new report put out by the United Health Foundation, the American Public Health Association and the Partnership for Prevention, basically says that while we’re living longer, we’re sicker. “As a nation, we’ve made extraordinary gains in longevity over the past decades, but as individuals we are regressing in our health,” according to Reed Tuckson, MD, medical adviser to United Health Foundation.
Many who are dissatisfied with the results of conventional methods for achieving health are trying fresh approaches. In fact, they’re doing it so much that it’s no longer unusual.
A way of pursuing health that has become more mainstream, is paying attention to mental health. I’m not talking about mental health per se, but rather how our mentality affects our physical health. People are realizing that the quality of their thoughts has a direct bearing on their bodily well-being.
Studies demonstrate that the expectation of healing can have marked positive physical effects. Even how we think about the actual treatment or medicine itself profoundly influences the outcome, as hundreds of placebo and nocebo studies have shown.
And so Americans are seeking spirituality in order to improve the quality of their thinking and therefore produce positive health effects. One avenue in the quest for spirituality is prayer itself.
A study conducted between 2002 and 2007 reported that, either as a complement to other treatments or in place of conventional medicine, 49% of American adults turn to prayer for their health care. The percentage rose from 43% to 49% during that five year span. And a 2011 analysis concludes that the use of prayer for health benefits has increased in recent years among adults of all ages.
Of course the link between spirituality/prayer and health is nothing new. The Bible, especially the New Testament, records many accounts of healing and health achieved through prayer.
I’ve been relying on prayer for my health needs since 1982. And I can honestly say that I’m in better health now than I was then.
Perhaps I’ll be on the earth as long as Eubie Blake. Perhaps even longer. Either way, I plan to continue taking good care of my health through mental means.
Joel Magnes blogs on spirituality and health and is a Christian Science practitioner. He lives in Edina with his wife, Brenda, a canine behaviorist (think dog whisperer). They have a charming Havanese dog, Rafi, and a chubby orange tabby cat, Wally. You can see more on his website, called "HealthThoughts." Follow Joel on Twtter @CSinMinnesota