Wellness and the Holidays

Christmas candlesThe holidays stretching from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day can be a time of weight gain and related health problems, but they’re also a time of celebration of the human spirit. This is a good time to look at qualities of the human spirit as related to health. That is the subject of the December newsletter.

The Major Key to Health

Love is a quality of spirit that almost everyone recognizes as being important in life. Yet many people don’t recognize its key importance to health. The scientific fact is that love is a major key to life and health. The heart is universally recognized as the symbol of love. Valentine’s Day has made this clear for centuries. Science has now proven that the heart secretes oxytocin, sending it to trillions of cells throughout the human body. Oxytocin is called the love hormone because it is released in high levels in loving situations, nurturing harmony and improved overall functioning. More than a symbol, the heart truly is the seat of love.

Love is the key to creating healthy families and communities. It is love that brings husband and wife together, empowering them to produce loving families. Babies and children nurtured in a loving environment become healthy young people and adults. Cities filled with caring citizens make healthy communities, and strong healthy communities are the foundation of healthy nations. The key ingredient in all of this is love. When caring love is absent, the risk of dysfunctional individuals, families, and communities escalates dramatically. Love can do more to heal our chaotic hurting world than anything else known to man.

Happy father smile to his childI learned a pithy little passage that pertains to this when I took Introduction to Philosophy over 60 years ago as a freshman in college:

    People were made to be loved;
    Things were made to be used.

Reversing this order – using people and loving things – causes most of the problems we find in the world. Even though I don’t remember much else from that year, I’ve never forgotten this simple little homily. It summarizes this essay’s theme very neatly.

Love is not Weak Permissiveness

Some people dismiss the value and importance of love on the basis that it’s a weak kind of permissiveness. Real love is not a weak permissiveness that involves abdication of responsibility more than true care. Love, by contrast, gives others room to bloom and grow, but is always available in a supportive encouraging way. In I Corinthians 13: 4-8 love is characterized as follows:

“Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.”

A person who has this kind of loving spirit is a strong person indeed.

Beautiful Qualities of the Spirit

There are other qualities of the spirit that complement love. Galatians 5:22-23 describes them this way:

“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”

These qualities are beautiful in their own right, but they also support health in wonderful ways, enhancing mental and emotional health and giving a strong boost to the immune system. They’re not only excellent for mental and emotional health, but they’re also good for us physically.

Holistic Health

My training and career were devoted to caring for bodily health, and I continue to spend much of my time writing about this. Yet I say without hesitation that matters of the spirit are more important than physical health. Scripture says that your body is a temple for your God-given Spirit (I Corinthians 6:19.) Body and Spirit are both important, but spirit is eternal, whereas bodies are temporal. Nurturing the qualities of spirit has lasting value.

Even though your body is finite, it is fearfully and wonderfully made, as the Psalmist proclaims. There is great value in taking good care of your body. Body, mind, and spirit are all interconnected, which is why a holistic perspective of health is so valuable. May you enjoy wellness of body, mind, and spirit this Holiday Season.

Be Well!

Ed Dodge, MD, MPH

P.S. Beginning 2017, the Wellness Newsletter will become quarterly. Watch for it in your inbox in March, June, September and December.

Please feel free to share this newsletter with any of your family or friends who might be interested. New subscribers are always welcome!

This post was published first in Dr. Ed Dodge’s Wellness Newsletter, Volume VIII, No. 12 • December 17, 2016.