Can we create health? What if we could? How would that affect our own health and our nation's health care system? • Don Berwick, CEO and founder of the Harvard-based Institute for Health Improvement, has said, "We would be better off to redirect some of our health care enterprise from fighting illness to pursuing health, going from health care to health creation." • How can we make that shift on an individual basis? Here are some practical ideas for our own health creation — or, for you fellow etymologists, "salutogenesis."
1 A healthy mind: Actually, the word salutogenesis has another meaning, too: the origin of health. So where does health originate? Conventional wisdom would say it comes from some combination of genetics, environment and behavior. But let's be unconventional for a moment and consider a more radical idea. The current mindfulness trend, which Parade magazine recently claimed to be the "#1 Health Booster for 2015," points to the mental nature of health.
This leads to an even more radical idea, namely that "Health is not a condition of matter, but of Mind," as Mary Baker Eddy wrote in Science and Health With Key to the Scriptures. This statement points a little deeper still, to the divine mind — uplifting the human mind and its concept of health by accessing the divine. The effect of human thought, especially when inspired by the divine, on human health is beginning to take its rightful place in both health management and health creation.
So ... take some time to pray, meditate, reflect or just be quiet for an extended period. The book Sabbath, by Harvard theologian Wayne Muller, not only extols the health benefits of mindfulness, it also explains that the concept of sabbath, while religious in origin, has powerful application to everyday life for both the religious and the nonreligious among us. Muller shows readers "how to create a special time of rest, delight, and renewal — a refuge for our souls." This can be an invaluable health creator.
2 Healthy practices: The word "spirituality" is beginning to be heard more and more in relation to the word health. But is spirituality something we just read and talk about? What happens when we actually practice it? I've found the active practice of spirituality to be one of the most powerful health producers around. For example: the active practice of gratitude. Finding fresh ways in which to say thank you, keeping a gratitude journal and consciously trying to stay in a grateful frame of mind really do promote physical health. This is a proven scientific fact. Here's another: The active practice of empathy and compassion is a proven health creator. Developing the consistent mental ability to put yourself in the other person's shoes is a healthy practice and often turns contempt into solution-oriented thinking. Solutions to unhealthy situations — homelessness, corruption, crime and disease — become more accessible in the presence of true empathy and compassion.
3 Healthy habits: Let's be honest (a healthy habit in its own right!). We all have some unhealthy habits. Facing and conquering them is a health creator. Here's an example. A friend realized at one point that her habit of harboring critical thoughts was unhealthy, mentally and physically. She took some time to pray about a solution. A familiar Psalm from the Bible came to thought. It strongly recommends not sitting in "the seat of the scornful." She prayed a bit more to know how to stay out of that hot seat and avoid critical thinking. The answer that came was simply to love more, to consciously challenge and replace every critical thought with a loving one. This is hard to do overnight, but the cumulative effect of persistent improvement is a much healthier life.
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4 Healthy responses: We are all tempted to react with unhealthy responses to local and global events. But what if our responses were always consciously healthy? That might seem hard, but it is always within reach. Here are a few examples of healthier responses that can be practiced both locally and globally:
• Respond to anger with compassion.
• Respond to rudeness with grace.
• Respond to ignorance with understanding.
• Respond to fear with love.
The most efficient and cost-effective way to enhance value in our health care system may be to become more active health creators in our homes and communities. Creating better health in our own lives is a powerful way to have an active role in our own well-being as well as our nation's.
Bob Clark is a Christian Science practitioner from Belleair. Read his blog at simplyhealthyflorida.com.