Health and happiness are something we all desire. Many people claim to have found the solution to lasting health and happiness and are quick to offer answers in a nice package that can conveniently be shipped to our front door. But often the results of these products and programs leave us feeling like something is missing.
People all over the globe are looking for something to fill the gap. Most people understand the fundamentals to achieving health. We know we need a good balance of nutrition, exercise, and sleep in order for our bodies to function well. Despite our knowledge, we often eat food with little nutritional value, sit the majority of the day, and don’t get the appropriate amount of sleep, which all contributes to both physical and emotional stress. Our bodies are resilient and can often compensate well under short periods of stress. However, long-term chronic stress can have devastating effects.
The World Health Organization has identified stress as being an epidemic in the 21stcentury. Dr. Rangan Chatterjee states in his book The Stress Solution that chronic physical and emotional stress have negative impacts on our health and can be directly associated with an increased risk for depression, anxiety, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, irritable bowel syndrome, hormonal issues, and Alzheimer’s disease (2018). As we struggle coping with the negative side effects of stress, we often look for ways to find temporary relief. Poor coping strategies adopted by those looking for relief from stress often include self-indulgent behaviors with negative consequences, which ironically further increases stress. These patterns are not only affecting adults and children but it also has significant adverse side effects on relationships, families, and communities.
Geneen Roth—an internationally known author and speaker whose focus is helping people understand how binge eating and perpetual dieting are related to their lives and beliefs—suggests that our relationship with food reflects the feelings of our self-worth. Roth states that people are really hungry for divine connection and explains that “replacing the hunger for divine connection with double stuff Oreos is like giving a glass of sand to a person dying of thirst” (Women, Food, and God, 2009).
Binging on unhealthy food is only one example of an unhealthy coping strategy. There are many others that plague our society such as pornography, excess gaming, inappropriate use of social media, unnecessary spending, obsession with superficial appearances, gambling, substance abuse, and others. In our quest to find answers to what is missing in our life, are we reaching for a glass of sand when we are dying of thirst? Why, when we have more technology, better means of communication, and more access to nutritious food than any time in human history, do we find ourselves more stressed, lonely, and unhealthy?
Answers That Make a Difference
As the long-term health consequences to stress, loneliness, and poor diet become a worldwide concern, we seem to be frantically searching for answers. However, are we willing to accept the answer if it were given to us? Perhaps our reaction may be similar to Naaman’s initial response to the health advice given to him by Elisha in the Old Testament. Naaman, who was afflicted with leprosy, was not convinced that following the prophet’s advice would improve his health. Fortunately, Naaman had someone close to him that had the courage to speak up and say, “If the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it” (2 Kings 5:13)? Naaman meekly followed the prophet’s instructions and was healed!
Bonnie L. Oscarson said in the April 2018 general conference, “We have noticed that many more of you are struggling with issues of self-worth, anxiety, high levels of stress and perhaps even depression. Turning your thoughts outward, instead of dwelling on your own problems, may not resolve all of these issues, but service can often lighten your burdens and make your challenges seem less hard. One of the best ways to increase feelings of self-worth is to show, through our concern and service to others, that we have much of worth to contribute” (“Young Women in the Work”).
We have been asked by our prophet, President Russell M. Nelson, to minister to those around us in “a new, holier way” (“Let Us All Press On”, April 2018). The simple act of praying that someone else’s burden may be lightened can help restore eternal perspective to our own individual struggles. Seeking for guidance from the Holy Ghost on how we can serve others helps increase our divine connection.
As we offer our talents to benefit others, a few things naturally follow that help shift the body out of the stress response. Our self-esteem improves, we have an increased capacity to love others and ourselves, we become more aware of our blessings and have increased gratitude, and we alleviate loneliness by connecting with others. Additionally, we often get out of the house, breathe fresh air, and move our bodies (without even worrying about the number of calories burned).
Another example of following the prophets to achieve health and happiness is keeping the law of the fast. Isaiah teaches that fasting relieves heavy burdens and by participating in fasting our “health shall spring forth speedily” (Isaiah 59: 6, 8). Joseph B. Wirthlin further explains that “fasting and prayer can help develop within us courage and confidence. It can strengthen our character and build self-restraint. Each time we fast we gain a little more control over our worldly appetites and passions. …Fasting in the proper spirit and in the Lord’s way will energize us spiritually, strengthen our self-discipline, fill our homes with peace, lighten our hearts with joy, fortify us against temptation, prepare us for times of adversity, and open the windows of heaven” (“The Law of the Fast,” April 2001).
Today intermittent fasting is a popular topic among health gurus looking to improve gut health and manage weight. Scientist are just beginning to understand that fasting has positive health benefits. However, they do not understand the spiritual process associated with fasting, nor do they understand the full benefits that our prophets are able to teach us. They focus on the positive effects that fasting can have on the individual physically, whereas the Lord’s way is much more comprehensive. President Gordon B. Hinckley asked, “What would happen if the principles of fast day and the fast offering were observed throughout the world? The hungry would be fed, the naked clothed, the homeless sheltered. … A new measure of concern and unselfishness would grow in the hearts of people everywhere” (“The Law of the Fast,” April 2001).
Isaiah also teaches us to connect with God by making the “Sabbath a delight” (Isiah 58:13). President Russel M. Nelson further testifies, “the Sabbath was His gift to us, granting real respite from the rigors of daily life and an opportunity for spiritual and physical renewal. God gave us this special day, not for amusement or daily labor but for a rest from duty, with physical and spiritual relief” (“The Sabbath is a Delight”, April 2015). Elder Jeffrey R. Holland reminds us that, “Fatigue is the common enemy of us all- so slow down, rest up, replenish, and refill. Physicians promise us that if we do not take time to be well, we most assuredly will take time later on to be ill” (“Like a Broken Vessel”, October 2013).
Loving Ourselves and Feeling God’s Love
Health issues are complicated and can afflict us all, even when we have done all we can to make healthy choices, connect with God, and follow His prophets. We need to be careful not to judge others and have compassion and love for each of God’s children, including ourselves. Part of our responsibility in this life is to learn to manage and care for our body. No matter the state of our physical, emotional, or spiritual health, we all have the opportunity to progress during mortality. We will not progress faster by being critical of ourselves or others. Geneen Roth explains that “for some reason, we are truly convinced that if we criticize ourselves, the criticism will lead to change. If we are harsh, we believe we will end up being kind. If we shame ourselves, we believe we end up loving ourselves. It has never been true, not for a moment, that shame leads to love. Only love leads to love” (Women, Food, and God, 2009).
As we seek connection with our Heavenly Father and His son Jesus Christ we are filled with love that satisfies our “hunger” (John 6:35). The blessing of divine love helps us recognize our individual worth and love ourselves and others. Our Heavenly Father loves us and through the gift of His divine Son we have been taught “the path that leads to happiness in this life and eternal life in the world to come” ("The Living Christ," April 2000). God’s prophets remind us how we can stay on this path by teaching us what we should do with our limited energy and time that will make meaningful positive changes in our lives.
Lead Image: Shutterstock
Kim is a nurse and health coach. Kim encourages improving health by being attentive to our fundamental needs to rest, move, nourish, and connect. Kim understands that balancing all our needs is crucial, however, Kim teaches that connection with God and understanding our identity is the foundation for optimal health. To find out more about Kim, her podcasts and programs visit her website at www.kimyadonrn.com.