No matter how you write the prescription, healthcare is expensive. We talk a lot about health care benefits, but not nearly enough about self-care benefits! The following eight “doctors” are specialists in improving mental, physical, and spiritual health. You can use them every day, and they will reduce the risk for many diseases, drugs, and doctor’s fees—now that’s a powerful self-care benefit package!
- Nutrition. Nourishing food strengthens both the body and the brain. Plant foods are rich in compounds and nutrients that lower stress and improve mental function and mood. Enjoy plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans, legumes, nuts, and seeds. Avoid junk food, saturated animal fat and trans-fats, sugary drinks, caffeine, and large amounts of refined sugar. Almost half of our calories come in the form of sweetened beverages like soda pop and fruity drinks. When you ditch those high-calorie drinks you can watch unwanted pounds melt away and increase real energy. For a real energy boost, drink at least 8 glasses of water a day.
When you eat better, and drink plenty of water, you will feel better and have the energy to make better choices.
- Fresh Air and Exercise. Exercise, especially outdoor exercise in nature, improves head as well as heart health: it is critical to mental and physical health. It has been said that motion balances emotion. If you’ve got the blues, get out under the blue skies and go for a brisk stroll. Exercise lowers stress, depression, and anxiety; it improves mood, well-being, and mental processing; it also increases learning power. It helps you improve physical health, reduce disease risk, and achieve a healthful weight. Get into the mind-set of daily exercise and you will experience both head and heart benefits! Claim the promise: “He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength.” Isaiah 40:29
- Rest. Our bodies are designed for mental, physical, and spiritual rest as well as action. It is important to plan times of recreation, relaxation, and reflection to minimize the depression that is linked to constant mental and physical strain. Also, regular early-to-bed sleep patterns rejuvenate the brain; help control stress hormone and blood sugar levels; reduce irritability, fatigue, and stress; and increase energy! New habits and routines are solidified during sleep, so help yourself to a happier, healthier brain by getting adequate, refreshing rest. Controlling stress, getting exercise out in the sun, and avoiding caffeine and late-night eating will promote sound, deep sleep. We are invited into God’s healing rest: “Come to Me…and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28-30
- Attitude. Someone once said that a bad attitude is like a flat tire—unless you change it, you won’t get very far. Studies show that a key factor in living a long, healthful life is a sense of meaning and purpose. Cultivate a thankful attitude, and check those negative thoughts! Make the choice to focus on solutions rather than problems, and look at difficulties and trials as opportunities for growth. God has promised to impart strength and wisdom for every difficulty. He will help you build the mental mettle to face life’s problems in a positive way. “Let the weak say, I am strong.” Joel 3:10
- Relationships. Cultivating healthy relationships is a lot like cultivating a garden: The more focused attention and care a garden gets, the more fruit it produces. In the same way, taking time to cultivate and maintain positive friendships and social relationships bears the fruit of joy, empathy, and unselfishness. Taking time for healthful relationships creates opportunities for giving as well as receiving. Other benefits include improved immune function, improved social skills, lower stress, improved mood, and longer life. Taking time for relationships is never a waste of time.
- Mental Fitness. Physical fitness requires determination, perseverance, and practice. Mental fitness does, too. You can give your brain a workout by engaging in challenging mental activities such as reading inspiring, challenging, and educational books, working puzzles, playing a musical instrument, or learning new skills. Such activities increase the brain’s neuronal neighborhoods, creating new connections and increasing mental flexibility. Along with a healthful diet and exercise, this improves the speed and accuracy with which the brain can solve problems and meet challenges. Challenge your brain and change your world.
- Positive Choices. Extreme makeovers may work on TV home improvement programs, but remodeling a life is a process that takes place over time and with God’s help. Never underestimate the power of little, daily positive choices in overcoming big, bad habits. Repetition and patience are the keys to crafting a healthy lifestyle. Successful people are not mistake free: they just refuse to give up! Remember: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13
Successful people are not mistake free: they just refuse to give up!
- Spiritual Health. Spiritual health is at the center of a healthy lifestyle. It is making peace with God and allowing His plan, purpose, and power to guide your life. Mencius, the Chinese sage was right when he said, “Knowledge imparts information, but not the power to execute.” With God’s help we may achieve steady growth and improvement in our lives, experience forgiveness when we fall short of our goals, and possess courage and cheerfulness to press forward in life’s journey.
The Living Word
The Scriptures teach that Jesus Christ is the Great Physician who came to establish His kingdom of love, life, and freedom from bad habits deep within our hearts. Even though we live in a world of sin, sickness, and sorrow, He has given us an eight-step plan—eight “doctors” we can use—that improves mental, physical, and spiritual health and reduce the risk for much needless suffering. His message of love may be calling to your heart right now: “My loved one, it is my prayer that you may do well in all things, and be healthy in body, even as your soul does well.” 3 John 2 (BBE) He is waiting for you now as your Great Healer, Savior, and Restorer!
–Vicki Griffin & Evelyn Kissinger
Vicki Griffin is an author, speaker, and Director of the Lifestyle Matters Health Intervention series and the Fit and free! Building Brain and Body Health series. She is the editor of Balance magazine and Balanced Living tracts. Vicki has a Master’s degree in Human Nutrition from the University of Bridgeport, and a Master’s degree in Public Administration from Cal State Fullerton. She is a member the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Her special interest is in the area of nutrition and cognitive function, brain health, and addictions.
Evelyn Cole Kissinger is a lifestyle consultant, registered dietitian, and teacher. She received her Dietetics degree at the University of Tennessee and her Master of Science in Administration at Andrews University, where she later taught health education and wellness classes for the nutrition department. She is a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.