It's not just the food we eat - what would be your top 10 list of healthy thoughts?
Food – is that all there is to health?
©Glow Images

Isn’t there more to our health than what we eat?

Every day we read articles regarding foods that experts say are proven healthy to eat. *One recent article in theTimes Colonist gives a top ten list, complete with photos. “These 10 superfoods are proven, expert-beloved disease fighters and energy boosters,” says “Add them to your meals and get on the fast track to a super-healthy body”.

Whilst I am all for eating or drinking in a healthy way, the problem is that the lists keep changing. What is a superfood today may well make the “bad food” list tomorrow. I am the first to admit how confusing I find all this information about food. Wandering down the food aisles has never been so hard!….

And it is not just the food we eat, but what we drink too. For years we have been told to drink lots of water – because we need to hydrate. Millions of us trot around with designer water bottles, or pay through the nose for expensive bottled water. Multi-billion dollar industries have sprung up around all kinds of water and sports drink products that claim to promote better performance, fitness and health. Now a new study by two researchers in Alberta has been published  in the British Medical Journal, seriously questioning whether we need to drink so much water or invest so heavily in popular sports drinks. (Edmonton Journal)

Never before has society been so preoccupied with food– what we eat, how many calories? how much fat or sugar? what vitamins are carried in each serving of food or drink? Then there is local versus commercial food, organic or natural. It is clear, society thinks way too much about food, but are our thoughts about it helpful to our health or just confusing? Isn’t there more to health than worrying about what food or drink is healthiest?

In all this discussion about care for the body, almost unnoticed, lies a far more important conversation regarding the thoughts we entertain and take in, and how they can have an impact on our health, as well as on how we eat and why. We know for example that stress, bitterness, anger, anxiety and so on have a definite negative impact on our health, and often send us running to the cookie jar for comfort food. Numerous studies have documented this fact. Anyone who has been through a weight loss program, learns that how we feel or think affects how and what we eat. Also being mindful of what we eat, and keeping track of it is vital we are told. So then, should we keep track of how we think?

A little bit of research revealed a list of thoughts that have been proven to make for a healthier life. This is my top ten list.

1. A positive attitude

2. Love

3. Joy (happiness), including a sense of humor

4. Gratitude

5. Patience

6. A sense of peace

7. Honesty

8. Courtesy

9. Generosity

10. Creativity

There is more to our health than what or how we eat or drink or how much we exercise. In his wise, deeply spiritual teachings to his disciples, Jesus, in allaying all these concerns, says “…do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?” To me, Jesus is challenging us to see beyond the obvious, regarding our health,  encouraging us to perceive a deep spiritual connection to God as the basis of health. Jesus’s reassuring statement has been a definite influence on how I consider the question of my health in regard to food and drink, and has taken the worry out of it.

So what conscious spiritual footsteps do I take to ensure my thinking is healthy in considering food and drink, as well as in other areas of my life? This is where contemplative prayer becomes a very powerful step in the process. It takes us beyond “positive thinking” towards mindfully cultivating a spiritual dimension to our day that has a practical outcome. One way I have found helpful, is to spend time with just one of the healthy thoughts listed above – say joy – at a time, rather than trying to think them all at once. I also keep a daily journal about what I learn from doing this. In effect, I am being mindful of my daily spiritual intake.

Over the years, this approach to focusing my thought on the qualities I want expressed in my life has led to making healthy choices about eating and drinking. This approach to food is especially helpful during difficult times, when joy or peace, for example, seem very far away, and the stresses of daily life seem to make the cookie jar draw closer. But we can learn to have control over our thoughts, and this control, through the discipline of  prayer, can provide a healthy stimulus for both mind and body. This regimen can begin gently, one healthy thought at a time.

This article was first published in the Times Colonist blog, Spiritually Speaking, August 23 2012