Tag Archives: Health

“Would this be a good time for deep breathing Dad?”

So the other night Brynden (our 13-year-old) and I were headed to a dad/son gathering when he mentioned that his neck has been sore whenever he stretches it. I’m no doctor but he is healthy in every other way so I suggested that it might be tension or stress.

Supreme_pizzaHe tends to get worked up rather easily and is just a couple of months into a new school semester after two and a half years of homeschooling. It was his idea and we believed he was ready but he was still fairly nervous heading into it.

So we talked a good 10-15 minutes about learning to relax.

I explained that it’s not that uncommon for most people to get tense without even realizing it but that our body feels it and lets us know with little aches and pains. I mentioned that clenching or tightening our shoulders is a biggie and could easily cause the kind of neck soreness he was describing.

When I talked about being intentional with learning to relax he asked if that was why I did stretching every morning. I told him it was and explained that stretching is half of it while the other half is breathing deeply while doing them to help push oxygen all through the body.

I even mentioned learning to be aware of certain situations that make us tense and being careful to practice deep breathing whenever we felt the tension building.

About that time we pulled into a pizza place to pick up our order.

Five of the pizzas we ordered were ready but they had forgotten to cook the sixth one. I don’t eat pizza very often so when I do I make sure to get at least one that I especially enjoy. Guess which one they forgot to make? Yep! My favorite.

We substituted a couple orders of bread sticks but I was ticked. When we got back in the car to leave I growled and yelled “Dang it! That makes me mad!”

That’s when Brynden, in a matter-of-fact sort of way, asked:

“Would this be a good time for deep breathing Dad?”

“Yes! Yes it would! Thanks!”

[In… out… in… out… slow it down…]

When I talked with Brynden about learning to relax I hadn’t planned on having to practice it so soon, but it was good to know he had been listening.

I know… it was only pizza. But the point is that we all need to learn to be more intentional about relaxing. Perhaps that is a part of why David wrote, “Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10)

Some of us wear hurry and stress like a badge of honor even though it tends to destroy our health and attitude.

May our breathing today be slow and deep no matter what we are facing. And remember, nothing we come up against is a surprise to God; and He is still on His throne!

***

© Richard Alvey and iLife Journey, 2013. All rights reserved.

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Filed under Adversity, Anger, Frustration, God, Health & Wellness, intimacy with the Lord, Relationship with God, Religion and Spirituality, Rest, Trusting God

A radical health and fitness secret

A couple of months ago Susan and I bumped into a friend that we’d not seen in a while. She had lost considerable weight and when I asked how she’d done it she said… Get ready. You’re going to want to write this down.

“Eat less, move more.”

I know, I know. It will take a few minutes to wrap your head around such a radical concept. Take your time. Let the layers of wisdom unfold as you pause to reflect on it. And don’t get too upset. Reread the title of the blog. I never said it was a “new” secret.

I don’t know how much money is actually made yearly on new diet plans or books but I am sure it’s no small amount. Add to that the endless parade of new exercise products or workout programs and we could make a sizeable dent in reducing national debt.

But in the end it all comes back to simple common sense and basic physics. Eat less, move more. What great advice!

Susan and I have been doing that for a few months now with riding bikes and eating smarter – more protein and less carbohydrates. Besides losing weight and feeling better, it’s fun to rediscover a whole new wardrobe in your closet.

And along with a changed waistline is a change in what we enjoy. Riding bike wasn’t all that fun to begin with but now we look forward to it. Our bodies long for it if we skip a couple of days. And we no longer crave the junk food.

First, we made a conscious choice to exercise and eat better; then our bodies began to long for and enjoy those things more and more.

The same is true of God. The Spirit abides in us to stir our longings for fellowship with God but we can make a conscious choice to spend more time with God.

We can make time to enjoy His company in silence and solitude. We can intentionally do life with Him as we go through our day.

The more we give ourselves to fellowship with our Creator, the more we will long for it above everything else.

“As the Scriptures say, ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’ So humble yourselves before God… Come close to God, and God will come close to you.” ~ James 4:6, 8

It’s a new day and it’s our choice.

 Will we choose to draw closer to God?

***
© Richard Alvey and iLife Journey, 2012. All rights reserved.

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Filed under Christianity, Desire, God, Health & Wellness, Holy Spirit, Humility, intimacy with the Lord, Relationship with God, Religion and Spirituality

What did you say?

[The setting: Our family room on an ordinary, routine morning.]

Susan: “Blah blah blah, blah blah… blah blah…”

Rick: “Blah blah blah!”

Susan: “Do you realize you interrupted me?”

Rick: “Nope. I thought you were done. Go ahead, I’d rather hear you hear it.”

(Awkward pause and strange look from Susan!)

Rick: (working feverishly to get out of the hole) “Wait! ‘…hear you hear it…’ Does that mean I’d rather say it than listen to you say it? That’s not what I meant.”

I suppose you could call it a Freudian slip but I think it reflects a common ailment in our world today. We are too eager to be heard and not eager enough to listen; and this causes all manner of problems.

  • Misunderstandings…
  • Individual assignments dropped…
  • Hurt feelings – directly and indirectly…
  • Fights or arguments due to all the above…

As Mom would say, “There’s a reason God gave you two ears and one mouth.”

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. ~ James 1:19-20

Slow down! Take a breath! Listen!

Someone just might say something today that God wants you to hear!

***

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Filed under Friendship, Life in General, Loving others

Practical suggestions for boosting your energy

Having been made in the image of God we are both physical and spiritual. It’s easy to ignore the physical but it greatly influences our journey with God.

So along with the traditional habits of Bible reading, prayer, fasting, etc… we also need to pay attention to our body; and especially our energy. So here are some practical suggestions to help boost your energy.

Pursue intimacy with God. We are physical/spiritual creatures made in the image of God and every aspect of life flows from our connection with Him.

Watch your attitude. A positive or negative mindset will take us in a good or bad direction. “For as a man thinks in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7). And pay attention to your relationships, some people add to the positive while others do the opposite!

Feed your brain. You’ve heard the old saying, “Garbage in, garbage out.” This applies to the world of computers, but it also applies to our brain. Reading is a great habit and no, TV is not a good substitute.

Exercise regularly. There are too many benefits to list here. Set aside excuses and get active. There are few things that have a more positive effect on the body than physical exercise. And involve your family!

Good nutrition. Take a good multi-vitamin, drink LOTS of water, eat more vegetables and avoid simple sugars. And yes, it’s easier said than done! But it’s possible.

Get plenty of rest. I can tell you from personal experience that this is a BIGGIE! Beyond just making us grumpy a lack of sleep can cause some serious health issues. Don’t ignore this most basic of human needs!

Good energy is vital to every other aspect of life. Make the most of it by making good choices!

***

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Filed under Choices, Health & Wellness, Rest

A test I desperately wanted to pass!

I’ll be honest. Working hard at school was never a strong point for me. I did OK and even graduated college with honors but unless a subject grabbed my attention I wasn’t the most disciplined of students. But last week I took a test I desperately wanted to pass.

A stress test!

As I got hooked up to a boat-load of wires and briefed on how the treadmill test actually works, the nurse informed me that my target heart rate for the test was 171 bpm. But about 3 or 4 minutes into the test she informed me that we were shooting for 145 bpm.

When I asked about the 171 mark she explained that my blood pressure was already rather high and they had to take such matters into the overall process. When I hit 145 bpm I was not experiencing any bad effects so we kept going.

About 10 1/2 minutes into the test I called it quits with a heart rate of 160.

Whew! I was sucking air BIG TIME!

The nurse said it normally takes 3-5 days to hear back from the doctor unless something critical is found. So no news is good news. When the doctor’s office called later that same day I started to freak out but it was just a nurse letting me know that a prescription for high cholesterol had been sent to the pharmacy.

Finally, yesterday, six days after taking the test the doctor’s office called and a pleasant-sounding nurse said,

“There is no evidence of coronary heart disease.”

I was only mildly concerned about the outcome of the test but I was very glad to hear those eight simple words. My struggle on the treadmill was due to being out of shape. WAY out of shape.

As I was driving home later that day and reviewing the good news about my stress test struck me that this was no guarantee of having lots of time left here on earth. Any number of other health issues could pop up or even a fatal accident.

I’m not trying to project a morbid outlook on life; I’m just saying that we tend to live with a false sense of safety – thinking that we’ll be around for a long time. And yet none of us knows that we’ll wake up tomorrow.

Our very breath is a gift from God! Living with the awareness of our mortality tends to help us make the most of every moment!

How would you fill your day – what would you do, who would you talk to – if you knew that this was your last day to live?

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You’ve only got one body, take care of it!

It happened faster than I imagined it would. They laid me on a horizontal surface covered in white linens. Four probes connected me to their monstrous machine. Then the surface I was on slid inside a large donut shaped metal object that hummed and beeped. And a voice that came from nowhere told me to take a breath and hold it.

No, I’m not describing an alien abduction but rather a heart scan done at our local hospital. It’s a simple procedure that checks for hard plaque or calcium. It’s very non-invasive and only took about 20 minutes. I didn’t even have to empty my pockets or put on one of those infamous robes with the slit down the backside.

Given my family’s history with heart issues it was long overdue. And though I don’t have the results yet at least I’m moving in the right direction. I’m only three years younger than my dad was when he died of heart issues; and his brother and father died the same way – and at a young age. Some people inherit money or good looks or rare talent… then there are the rest of us. Ha!

I don’t have many regrets in life but I do wish I had taken better care of myself physically. It wasn’t an issue when I was younger and working construction; staying in shape came naturally. But entering full-time ministry was a drastic change in my lifestyle and activity level.

I know that our body is only temporary but that’s no excuse to not take care of it. Along with being stewards of all of God’s creation we are also responsible for the care of our own physical health.

I would rather be writing an account of success at having eaten better and exercised more. I’d rather be telling you how healthy I’ve gotten over the last couple of years. But I can tell you that it’s never too late – as long as we’re still breathing.

God is not honored by those who put too much emphasis or pride in their physical physique; but neither is He glorified in our neglect of such a rare and one-of-a-kind resource. So here’s my mantra starting today.

Eat better, move more!

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Filed under Glory of God, Health & Wellness, Life in General

Toward healthier relationships

Since honesty is good for the soul let me go ahead and admit it… I’m not very relationship savvy. Oh I know how to be cordial and polite and engaging. But I sometimes wrestle with the weightier issues that are critical elements of healthy relationships.

I whole-heartedly believe that God wired all of us to be relational in how we do life because it’s at the core of what the Father, Son and Holy Spirit share – perfect community, sacred connectedness. But that also makes relationships a prime target of the enemy – Satan.

He started by disrupting Adam and Eve’s relationship with God by planting a seed of doubt as to whether or not they could trust God. We see his handiwork in Cain killing Able. And today, we are a people largely clueless about pursuing healthy relationships. That’s why I find the following insight so valuable.

Confess, forgive, give, celebrate. These are the habits that will change everything. Once these four routines define the rhythm of your heart, life will be noticeably different. Why? Because these habits empower you to settle your outstanding debts with others, God, and even yourself. Removing the debt-to-debtor dynamic from a relationship paves the way to better communication, understanding, and openness.

Confession allows us to come out from hiding. Forgiveness allows others to come out from under cover. Generosity allows us to partner with God as he shows himself in tangible ways to the world around us. Celebration makes us a vehicle through which God communicates his pleasure. That’s what you were created for, and that’s why these habits have the potential to change so much about our lives. Nothing goes untouched.
— Excerpted from Enemies of the Heart by Andy Stanley

Pause and reflect on your relationships. Ask God to speak to your heart about anything you might need to do to take the next step in building a healthier relationship with the people in your life. And if you wrestle with not wanting to do the hard stuff – as I often do – then ask God for grace.

We are never more like Jesus than when we intentionally pursue healthy relationships built on trust, honesty, forgiveness, compassion and mutual respect. We see it lived out in how Jesus did life with others – setting an example for us.

“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” ~ John 15:12

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It’s as simple as holding hands

Touch is absolutely essential to human beings. Just holding hands, sharing a hug, giving a pat on the back, a hand on the arm or other simple touches can have a tremendous impact on our mental and physical well-being; not to mention the state of our relationships. The opposite is equally true.

Babies deprived of touch don’t develop normally because certain connections in the brain actually disappear. Orphans who receive very little touch often die as a result, and those who survive can experience permanent physical and/or mental retardation.

Kids who don’t get enough touch often grow up to become aggressive and antisocial adults. Older adults who don’t get enough touch also suffer, becoming senile sooner, and dying earlier.

We’re all affected by touch, and it’s not “all in the mind”; rather it’s the result of complex hormonal responses which actually change our bodies and brains. The primary hormone involved in this amazing process is called oxytocin.

We of course need to be mindful of appropriate touch and not violating someone’s personal space. But we shouldn’t let that concern stop us from the kind of healthy, beneficial touching that God wired into us.

A recent poll of 4,000 couples found that those spouses who described themselves as “very happy” tended to hug one another at least four times a day. Think you’re doing that in your marriage? Go ahead. Keep track for a few days. You might be surprised at what you discover.

The same is certainly true with our other family members, close friends and daily acquaintances. Touch not only creates positive emotional and physical changes within that person, but it creates positive feelings in that particular relationship.

I think that’s why I like the time our church family takes to greet one another at the start of every worship gathering. Some might consider it old school or old-fashioned; I consider it just plain healthy for a variety of reasons.

Go ahead! Love on someone today!

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Filed under Family, Friendship, influence with the world, Loving others, Marriage, Parenting

More evidence!

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, His love endures forever.
~ Psalm 136:1

Yesterday I blogged about the health benefits of giving thanks or expressing gratitude. Here’s a bit more for your consideration…

Grateful people have more positive ways of coping with the difficulties they experience in life, being more likely to:

  • seek support from other people,
  • reinterpret and grow from the experience,
  • and spend more time planning how to deal with the problem.

Grateful people also have less negative coping strategies, being less likely to:

  • try to avoid the problem,
  • deny there is a problem,
  • blame themselves, or
  • cope through substance use.

Grateful people even sleep better, most likely because they think less negative and more positive thoughts just before going to sleep. (Kittens must be very grateful!)

In one study concerning gratitude, participants were randomly assigned to one of six therapeutic intervention conditions designed to improve the participant’s overall quality of life. Out of these conditions, it was found that the biggest short-term effects came from a “gratitude visit” where participants wrote and delivered a letter of gratitude to someone in their life. This condition showed a rise in happiness scores by 10 percent and a significant fall in depression scores, results which lasted up to one month after the visit.

Out of the six conditions, the longest lasting effects were caused by the act of writing “gratitude journals” where participants were asked to write down three things they were grateful for every day. These participants’ happiness scores also increased and continued to increase each time they were tested periodically after the experiment.

In fact, the greatest benefits were usually found to occur around six months after treatment began. This exercise was so successful that although participants were only asked to continue the journal for a week, many participants continued to keep the journal long after the study was over.

Why not try a “gratitude visit” or “gratitude journal” this week?

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It’s healthy! Who knew?

We’re coming up on Thanksgiving, that time of year when we are especially mindful to be grateful for all our blessings in life. I’ve spent this last week preparing two messages – one for Sunday AM as usual and another for the Nettle Creek Community Church Service at Sugar Grove Church in the PM.

I wasn’t surprised at how often the directive to be thankful is mentioned in Scripture, and I’ve long believed that being grateful is a generally good habit. But I wasn’t expecting to learn that such an attitude brought about notable health benefits. One article I read stated that:

A large body of recent work has suggested that people who are more grateful have higher levels of well-being. Grateful people are happier, less depressed, less stressed, and more satisfied with their lives and social relationships.

Gratitude has been said to have one of the strongest links with mental health of any character trait. Numerous studies suggest that grateful people are more likely to have higher levels of happiness and lower levels of stress and depression.

I suppose it shouldn’t surprise me. God doesn’t set boundaries or give directives just because He can; but because they lead to a richer, healthier life. Want to feel better? Stop and count your blessings. Want to experience greater well-being?

Express gratitude to God or someone you appreciate today!

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Filed under Gratitude, Life in General, Thankfulness