Evidence Based Food for the Soul

February 22, 2007

Evidence-Based Food for the Soul: It’s a Great Time to Contemplate Wellness in the Larger Sphere 

 Competency # 21 Meditate; #22 Friends; #24 Contribute. Reference:The How of Happiness by Sonja Luybomirsky 

 Ok, this isn’t an article on food and nutrition. But it is about how to keep us well. As we are in the Christian season of Lent, and many of us are contemplating our own inner life, here is something that rounds out the fullness of wellness. I find there are beginning to be many articles that are based on sound research that contribute to our sense of wellness. So, if you would excuse me the stretch. Here is some food for your own spiritual journey. 

Based on research by Sonja Luybomirsky, a psychologist in California who has been widely reported on, here is a list of 9 healthy habits we can try to bring into our daily lives that will go a long way to making you “happier” or more contented. Dealing with stress, or being distressed, is at the top of our lists for making our lives more livable. This has worked for me. Here goes. You will recognize this list. It looks like the spiritual journey made holy by many religious traditions. A spiritual journey is open to all of us.  

These are the habits that work. 

 1. Attitude of Gratitude. Count your blessings. Name them one by one. Do it once a week. Write them down. Put them up on your fridge. Think about them. Aren’t you lucky! Watch your mood lift as you feel the power of recognizing the blessings in your life. We all have them. 

 2. Practice Kindness. Get in the habit. Make it part of your life. Let the person on the road turn left in front of you. Let the lady at the checkout line with two kids go first. Make being polite and aware of those around you a habit. Meet their needs, and watch with amazement how the kindness comes back to you. You change. That’s the key. 

 3. Savor the Joys. The flavor of a good strawberry. The smell of a flower. The giggle of a small child. The affection of a pet. Take a mental picture of that moment and impression. Fill your heart with its pleasure. Take that picture with you. 

 4. Thank a mentor. Each of us has one. Someone around you has been a mentor to you. Pass it on. You mature as a mentor as you learn to thank those who have made your place possible. Say it out loud. Thank you. In person. In a note. In an email. It’s part of my journey to mentor those around me. 

 5. Learn to Forgive. We’ve all been mistreated. The wounds last longer if we save the pain. Don’t take a mental picture of that pain. Forgive and erase the file. Move on. Forgiveness has much more to do with your place in the universe than remembering and holding the grudge. It’s an amazing gift to yourself. Practice with little forgivenesses. Big ones follow. You win. 

 6. Make Time for Family and Friends. Just do it. Strong personal relationships count. And you can only develop them with time. Make the time. Invest in your chosen family. 

 7. Take care of your body. Good food. Good sleep. Good exercise. Good relaxation. Read this column. 

 8. Develop Strategies to Deal with Stress. Life has stresses. No matter how rich or powerful. Think of it as practice to make you stronger. A chance to live your values. Believe that you have a reason to live. Religious traditions are proven supports. The Buddhists say, “Be grateful for your enemies, they give you a chance to practice patience.” I want patience listed in my portfolio. Beats 100 shares of GM. 

 9. Be Involved. Find out what it takes to make you wake up with excitement. What do you look forward to. Every day. Get involved with something you can dream about. A cause. A charity. A friend. A project. Habitat for Humanity. Big Sister. Sunday School. 

 WWW: What Will Work for Me? For me to change and grow, I need ideas to think about. I learned many of these ideas as a child. I have an inner journey that I need to be on. Hope these help you too.

The column is written by Dr. John E Whitcomb, MD, Brookfield Longevity, Brookfield, WI. (262-784-5300)