Posts tagged ‘prayer’
By John D. Clague, Christian Science Committee on Publication for Oregon
I have a friend who suffers from SAD — seasonal affective disorder. The long periods of clouds and rain depress her so much that she feels she can no longer live in the northwest. She and her husband are actively looking to work and live in a sunny climate.
My friend is not alone in her depression. The Center for Disease control estimates that 1 in 10 adults in the U.S. suffer from depression.
Moments of temporarily feeling blue are not uncommon for most people at some point in their life. Chronic depression, however, goes far beyond temporary bouts to a persistent state of sadness without a cause or as a response to an event beyond what would be considered normal.
But feelings of sadness aren’t all that’s at stake.
The CDC also reports that
“Depression is a mental illness that can be costly and debilitating to sufferers. Depression can adversely affect the course and outcome of common chronic conditions, such as arthritis, asthma, cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, and obesity. Depression also can result in increased work absenteeism, short-term disability, and decreased productivity.”
Left untreated this relationship between depression and other chronic illnesses can have serious consequences.
Even though a common treatment is to prescribe antidepressant medications, what’s interesting is that research is showing that except for the most severe cases, the active ingredients in the pills isn’t what makes the patient feel better. Rather, it’s the placebo effect, a belief that the treatment will help, which improves their outlook.
Researchers such as Irving Kirsch, Associate Director of the Placebo Studies Program at the Harvard Medical School, are finding that a key reason placebos work is that the recipient’s relationship with the person caring for them, or administering the drug, is therapeutic in and of itself. It doesn’t matter which drug they are given, whether a placebo or a bona fide antidepressant. Randomized clinical trials studying placebos are showing this to be true.
If antidepressants work through the placebo effect, and therapeutic relationships are a key factor in the effectiveness of placebos, then perhaps there are other relationships that can effectively treat depression without the ritual of pill-taking.
Carmen is a nurse practitioner who found herself in a deep depressive mental state after her son enlisted in the Army and was deployed to Iraq. She describes her journey on her website Naturally-Holistic.net. She eventually worked her way out of the depression, and without apology she claims that: “No matter how you look at it, there is a relationship between depression and spirituality.”
She makes four important points about how she emerged from her depression that have a direct connection to my practice of spirituality. Two of them are making the choice to be happy, and finding gratitude in every situation. The other two points, however, center on relationships.
She tells us to nurture important relationships, especially with God and to find “…something to love about every situation-even when it was really hard. Choose Love EVERY time.”
Not surprisingly, Carmen’s experience is backed up by research.
“Studies have shown that religious people are less likely to become depressed and anxious than their nonreligious counterparts. Frequent churchgoing was shown to be associated with lower levels of anxiety and depression
Whether people are religious in the sense of being church-goers or simply individuals who embrace a spiritual relationship with a higher power, this premise seems to hold up. For example:
“…people who practiced prayer or meditation to reduce moderate to severe anxiety showed marked improvement after three months”
Research is important in learning what’s effective in treating depression. But personal experience is just as important in understanding these dynamics as I found with Carmen’s story.
I have a daily practice of reading the Bible. It helps me to maintain a spiritually-based “therapeutic relationship” with a higher Being, or God, that keeps me grounded on a meaningful purpose in life. One passage in the New Testament that I’ve found helpful says:
“… I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.”
Depression is very real and serious for those who suffer from this condition. It’s encouraging to know that there are options that don’t carry negative side effects, and which aren’t based on the trickery behind placebos.
Perhaps nurturing a relationship, spiritually, with a higher Being is the therapy that will lift the fog and let the light shine.
By John D. Clague, Christian Science Committee on Publication for Oregon
Simplifying our life seems to be getting more complicated. But never fear, there is an app for everything nowadays. Managing each aspect of the most intimate everyday details is being digitized through applications running on ever faster and smarter devices in astounding numbers.
Almost everyone I know owns one of those ubiquitous smartphones or tablets. They seem to be able to do everything a computer can, and then some.
The technological wonder of these devices is surely one reason for their popularity. They can perform more commands per second than the computers in Apollo 8 by an order of magnitude in the thousands. They are cheaper and have far more memory. And you can easily carry them in your pocket.
And then the proliferation of software written specifically for mobile devices has a lot to do with their popularity.
Individual applications, or “apps”, exist for every conceivable function and service. And there are thousands of them. Apple has approved for download more than one million apps. Consumers have downloaded apps from their store more than 25 billion times. The Android download numbers are impressive too.
Managing health has not escaped this trend.
According to Research2Guidance, a global market research firm, nearly 247 million mobile phone users worldwide are expected to download a health app by the end of 2012. There are as many apps to manage health functions as there are health issues: losing weight, monitoring blood pressure or diabetes, exercising and so on.
There is even a proliferation of apps to assist physicians in making quick and accurate diagnoses and prescribing indicated treatments.
Are all these apps on our mobile devices the ultimate in making us healthier?
One person who might not think so is Dr. Marc Siegel, MD. Through a personal crisis he discovered a phenomenon he calls the inner pulse. It’s an awareness, or “sense”, about what’s happening with one’s body. He says it’s :
“… the fulcrum of a person’s life force, the place where the physical and the spiritual combine. It is the link between your body’s life force and your soul, tangible proof of your connection to a larger reality and of that reality’s strong presence in your body.”
“The inner pulse is more than just instinct and intuition.”… “Clearly, being aware of the inner pulse can change your life dramatically in a positive way.” (pg. 15)
Perhaps, though, the inner pulse, as Siegel describes it, goes beyond being aware of what’s lurking in our body. The inner pulse may not just tell us what condition the body is in, but may be able to affect health in a dramatically positive way, if we know how to access it.
Olympic skier Janine Shepherd tells the story of her remarkable return from a biking accident that left her paralyzed, yet she went on to a whole new life as a pilot. Told that she would never walk again, she asked, “Why me?” But at her lowest point she began to realize that it wasn’t just about her life. It was about life itself. She began to see that she was not her broken body. In the uncertainty of her circumstances, she found that she was free to explore life’s infinite possibilities. She felt she was responding to a spirit that was bigger than she was.
One day she looked up and saw an airplane flying overhead and said, “That’s it! If I can’t walk, I’ll fly.” She started by taking a flying lesson and went on to learn to walk again, to fly a plane and then to become a flight instructor.
Janine’s experience shows that there is an unmeasurable spirit that can bring out strength and ability far beyond what an app would be able to measure in the body. I call that God, and don’t ever want to underestimate the power it can have to restore a measure of health when human hope is gone.
The Bible says:
“There is a spirit in man, and the inspiration of the almighty gives them understanding… Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me. (Job 32, Ps. 139)
Janine may know nothing about these Bible passages, but her life certainly embodies the energies of what I call a spiritual sense. I believe this spirit is available for everyone to tap into and receive an impulse like Janine did. Perhaps Dr. Siegel’s “inner pulse” is another way of naming this resource.
I haven’t yet found an app to make that link, but when I do, I will definitely let you know.
by John D. Clague, Christian Science Committee on Publication for Oregon
It’s never easy to see tragedies that undo lives and families and communities. In my 30 years of law enforcement I encountered plenty of this sort of thing. Our hearts go out to the community of Newtown, Connecticut, and to all parents and teachers across the country. And yet, as we enter the season of good will and peace on earth, we are challenged to find a way to address the unexplainable. Without some view of the nature of life that transcends all the shortcomings of the human experience I’m certain that I would be adrift in despair.
I have found, though, that in holding onto and affirming what, for me, are fundamental truths, I can find peace.
This is what I feel:
I don’t know why this happened in a cosmic sense, and it’s futile to try and figure it out. My heart says that God did not cause this tragedy, nor turn His back on us.
To me, God is the essence of goodness. And God is complete love. As such, I feel that God loves each one of us as His own creation, including all involved at Sandy Hook School. That love is still with those dear children and staff, embracing them and holding them close. They are with God. More importantly for those trying to cope with the aftermath, divine Love is closer than ever to comfort and strengthen families and communities.
I believe we must be more persevering in our search for solutions to prevent future violence, whether it involves one person or thousands of people. For me, it means praying to know that a loving and good God will guide our desires and actions towards finding solutions.
I, and others, might find ourselves letting go of some cherished beliefs and ideologies in this search for solutions, no matter how uncomfortable that makes us initially feel. Motivated by love for our children and our communities, embracing each other with more patience and attentiveness, we must find a way to work together toward that end.
I believe that being willing to pray for real solutions will bring them to us. We can still feel the “peace that passes all understanding” during this season and beyond by insisting that we will not become cynical and afraid, and knowing that God has not turned away. And when we do that we will find a way to hold these crimes in check.
First published on OregonLive
John Clague is a retired sheriff’s office captain, father of two grown sons, and husband. He now works with the media to ensure accurate representation of Christian Science.
By John D. Clague, Christian Science Committee on Publication for Oregon
As a father, I remember many times assembling toys for my children. Some of them were complicated and required carefully following the provided instructions. My mechanical intuition just wasn’t adequate.
In the end, when I patiently followed the steps for putting these toys together, I was happy and my kids were happy.
There are other areas in life, too, where following some steps brings about good results.
Sven Eberlein, a freelance writer and journalist in San Francisco has come up with what he calls 9 Simple Steps to Improve Your Health, all of which are supported by research. His list was published in Daily Good, News That Inspires.
Health is probably something most people are interested in. Some approach improving their physical health as a two-step process. One, go to the doctor. Two, do what the doctor says. Pretty simple.
Other people find this doesn’t always work for them.
Even though Eberlein’s approach has more steps, it does more than help us stay healthier. It can enrich our lives in other ways as well.
Several of his steps stand out to me. They are:
Laugh to your heart’s delight.
“Laughter might be one of the only things in life that can be done outside of moderation and still reap the benefits,” muses Dr. Michael Miller, director of the Center for Preventive Cardiology at the University of Maryland Medical Center.
Research shows that seniors engaged in activities like singing, creative writing, or painting are healthier and happier than those who aren’t.
Work with friends
Israeli researchers found that people who get along with their co-workers in a friendly and supportive work environment live longer.
Chat with the neighbors
A 50-year study centered around Roseto, Penn., a close-knit community of Italian-Americans, showed the lowest rates of heart disease in the nation until the town became more “suburbanized” in the 1960s.
Hope like your life depends on it
We know enough about anxiety and depression to drag us down for several lifetimes, but a truly uplifting new study by Harvard’s School of Public Health gives reasons to rejoice. “Happy and optimistic people with a purpose in life tend to have a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease,” says researcher Julia K. Boehm.
This is an expansive list of steps for improving your health. But I’m wondering if it’s complete. Could there be a spiritual step to a healthy life?
Journalist Richard Schiffman writes that “…regular prayer and meditation has been shown in numerous scientific studies to be an important factor in living longer and staying healthy.”
This seems like a nice complement to the list above. Even though Schiffman has found recent research to support prayer as a path to health, this is not a new idea.
In the nineteenth century, health researcher and theologian, Mary Baker Eddy, made these same observations. Beyond demonstrating that prayer has a health benefit, she showed that prayer in and of itself could be approached through a reasoned process, beginning with a premise and reaching conclusion. Through this process she found the elements of prayer that heal consistently.
For a complex issue like health, going beyond the two-step to include more of the emotional and spiritual elements may be a way to a happier, healthier life.
First published on OregonLive.
By John D. Clague, Christian Science Commitee on Publication for Oregon.
Everywhere I go there’re runners. Here in TrackTown, USA there’s almost always an atmosphere of “get out there and go!”
But when Eugene hosts special track and field events the atmosphere is electric.
The University of Oregon is a track and field powerhouse, thanks to Bill Bowerman, one-time US Olympic track coach, and other great coaches, as well as Phil Knight, both co-founders of Nike. It hosts significant meets every year at its famous Hayward field, such as the NCAA West Preliminary Round, the Prefontaine Classic, and the USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships.
But the creme-de-la-creme came this year, just like 2008, with the U.S. Olympic Team trials.
I’ve often wondered if the cheers of the crowd make a difference in the performance of top individual athletes. I’ve noticed that teams often win more games on the home field or court.
So what about the Olympics? In my quest to answer this question, this is what I found.
[C]ountries see an increase in their medal market share in the games after they are awarded host status, and then see another increase in medal market share in the games they host.
So if athletes appear to perform better in the Olympics and other sporting events when surrounded by their fellow countrymen, what about the rest of us? Could it be that having our own “cheering section” could help our performance somehow? Or is it more than that?
What about other areas of life? Could the home court advantage of fellowship with those that share the underlying commonality and approval of our values, culture, and spiritual ideals affect our health somehow?
There is some research to suggest that it does.
Faron Dice of SmileFM in Michigan discovered a number of studies that show there are health benefits that come with simply attending church:
-Church attendance is the number 1 predictor of marital stability (Journal of Marriage and the Family, 40)
-Attending church is helpful in the prevention of cancer, heart disease, and mental illness (National Institute of Healthcare Research in America, June 2000)
-Teens who attend church are 4 times less likely to commit suicide (Journal of Chronic Disease, 25)
-Church attendees stay half as long during hospital stays (Duke University)
-There is an additional life expectancy of 7 years (Demography, May 1999)
-People attending church report a 50% higher weekly average income (UCLA School of Medicine)
-Church goers have fewer heart attacks (National Institute of Mental Health)
-People attending church are physically healthier and less depressed (American Medical News, 03/96”
Based on their research, Doctors Michael Roizen and Mehmet Oz have found that “People who go to services more than once a week have half of the risk of major depression as those who attend less often — possibly because singing in the choir or visiting the sick makes you part of a group of caring, like-minded people.” They say, “a deeper understanding of the mysterious connections between spirituality and health will be medicine’s next big frontier.”
Looking back on my own experience, I do feel it’s helped me to live a healthy active life, and now research confirms it. I spend time with “caring, like-minded people”. They cheer me on and I cheer them on. We try to bless our fellow beings, and we share the conviction that spirituality is important to health.
Back to the Olympics. On Friday, August 3rd when Mo Farah won a gold medal and Galen Rupp won the silver in the 10,000 meter run, Farah acknowledged the crowd, which enthusiastically cheered him throughout the race.
“If it wasn’t for the crowd, I don’t think that would have happened,’ he said. ‘They give you that lift, that boost. It’s just incredible.” Rupp, too, benefited from the cheering.
‘I knew they were cheering for Mo, but I kept envisioning that I was back at Oregon at Hayward Field,” he said. “I got that same kind of rush that I did back then, and I was trying to feed off it as much as I could.’”
My congratulations to the Brits for hosting the Olympics and all their success. Just as these games represent thousands of hours of solitary, intense labor for athletes, many of us work hard during the week and need an occasional few moments of uplift and encouragement. My sincere hope is that we all have a cheering section like I found through worshiping and fellowship at church.