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Faith, Thanksgiving & Health

Anthony Lui

Health is Never Confined to the Body
In ancient China, the life goal of many people was to be immortally venerated due to their virtue, merit or words. Nowadays, most people’s life pursuit is wealth, power and fame. No matter what you pursue, health is always the prerequisite. Once health is in question, all pursuit becomes futile and meaningless. After all, it’s difficult to enjoy the fruit of your pursuit if you are in frail health. As health is so critical a factor, how to preserve health and improve health have always been the common concern of the human race, regardless of ancient or modern times! Just take a glance at our world today, everywhere we are inundated by enterprises selling health food, body sculpture, martial art or physical exercise to achieve the "perfect" body. The prices for these products are high, yet the health and body image businesses thrive reflecting how keen modern people are yearning for better health!

A western idiom says “healthy soul lives in healthy body.” The close relationship between the health of the soul and the health of the body is signified. Kong Rong was a knowledgeable intellectual living at the end of the East Han Dynasty. He was acclaimed as one of the “Seven Renowned Scholars of the Jian-An Era”. In his essay entitled “Commentary Note on Sheng Xiao-Zhang”, he stressed that living under prolonged adversity of loneliness, threat, worry and melancholy would jeopardize one’s health, and reduce his life expectancy.

In the Bible, Proverbs Chapter 17 declares that “A cheerful heart makes good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” All these well-known quotations are pointing towards the same direction. Health of the body can be affected by health of the mind and spirit. Health is never confined to the body. Health embraces body, mind and spirit. These three components of health are intertwined and interactive with one another. Such a holistic concept of health shared by both the eastern and the western cultures is also echoed by the Bible!

Research Studies on Faith & Health
As the health of mind and spirit affects the health of body, and faith affects the health of mind and spirit, the relationship between faith and health naturally has become a key issue of academic research studies. There are lots of outstanding philosophies from different religions of the east, such as Hinduism, Taoism, Buddhism and Zen. They excel in how to relieve stresses, achieve peace of mind, and strengthen health through the practice of meditation, emptiness and quietness, self-reflection and cultivation. To gain more international recognition, they need to accumulate more clinical research with sound methodology, sufficient sampling, cross cultural application and quantifiable data.

Dr. Randolph Byrd conducted a research with far-reaching implications in 1988. A total of 393 patients of the San Francisco City Hospital were randomly assigned to two groups. Christians were invited to pray for the patients of one group. Patients of the other group were without any prayer support. All the patients were not aware to which group they had been assigned. Dr. Randolph Byrd was startled by the result that the health of those patients with prayer support improved much more than those without any prayer support. They suffered less complication, less heart disease; and they needed less antibiotics. This research has conveyed an important message beyond our rational understanding: Christians’ prayer brings about supernatural healing of the patients.

Another large-scale study was co-sponsored by the Time Magazine and CNN. It indicated that as high as 80 percent of the Americans believed faith could help patients recover. In addition, 63 percent Americans contended that physicians should keep their patient informed that their faith could help them recover. Under certain circumstances, Americans expected physicians to pray for their patients’ recovery.

In his book entitled God, Faith and Health authored by Dr. Jeff Levin, a research on the Mexican Americans was reported. It showed that frequent church attendees enjoyed higher level of well-being, experienced less disabilities, fewer days in bed and fewer symptoms than those less frequent church attendees. The risk of death due to heart diseases, emphysema, cirrhosis of the liver, suicide and certain types of cancer among the monthly church goers was only half of those non-church goers. After analysing a huge amount of data, the researcher came to a conclusion that faith had positive influence on people’s immune system and their capacity of recuperation.

Being Thankful Saves Your Life
A recent news report on the issue of faith and health was carried by the Vancouver Sun on Oct. 10, 2015. The title of the report was Why Being Thankful Could Save Your Life. It depicted a research on 200 patients with heart-related symptoms like shortness of breath, dizziness and palpitation. Patients were requested by the researcher to complete the Gratitude Questionnaire, and then drew blood for examination. It was noted that patients who scored higher on the gratitude scale had lower level of C-reactive protein, and also lower reading of other markers of inflammation in their bloodstream. In other words, the higher the patient’s gratitude scores, the greater the possibility of their recovery!

In the same research, some of the patients were also asked to keep a diary of 3 to 5 things that made them feel thankful every day. After a period of 8 weeks, patients who kept the diary had higher heart rate variability which implied that their hearts were more capable to cope with stressors. They fared much better than patients who did not keep the diary! This research was conducted by Laura Redwine, Assistant Professor of the Department of Psychiatry, University of California, San Diego. She has found out that raising patients’ sense of gratitude is a non-drug intervention that could relieve patients’ inflammation and lower their blood pressure, thus enhancing their possibility of recovery.

Based at the University of California, Davis campus, Dr. Robert Emmons is a pioneer in the field of gratitude research. He described gratitude as “a disposition to notice kindness and benevolence, and to give back the goodness received”. Gratitude was not just an impulsive and sporadic emotion, but a long-term positive and active mentality. He noted that the mentality of gratitude helped to reduce pain. Patients who wrote a gratitude diary on the average slept 30 more minutes per night than those who did not write the gratitude diary. All were proven to be beneficial to patients’ health and recovery.

With Love in Order to be Healthy
Human being is the soul of all creatures. Among all the species, human being is the most intelligent. Throughout history, human beings have been consistently searching for the answer to the following three fundamental questions: “Where did I come from?”, “Where shall I go?” and “What is the meaning of my existence?” It is when one does not know the answers to these three fundamental questions that life becomes meaningless, ridiculous and futile, just similar to a well without water, or a tree without roots! Such a life can never be a healthy one. Only faith can provide complete answers to these three fundamental questions; and give every human being a distinctive and noble identity, value and goal in this awesome boundless universe.

To sum up, without love, one’s life will quickly wither. Lack of love results in difficulty growing into healthy maturity! The possibility of abandoned kids having health issues is much higher than kids brought up in affectionate families with both parents. With love, life becomes robust and resilient. To know love, we have to experience love. But love is so scarce and imperfect in our world. It is impossible for such scarce and imperfect love to satisfy our insatiable expectation of love. Should there be no faith through which we can be bonded with the Great Love of the Universe, our thirst for love can never be quenched. And our search for the health of body, mind and spirit is just empty words!

Once people are bonded with the most supreme, most decent and most beautiful Love of the Universe by their faith, love flows unceasingly into their life. Their body, mind and spirit would be completely nourished. Those who have experienced the Great Love of the Universe are overwhelmed by a sense of thanksgiving. They learn how to love themselves, how to accept others’ love, and how to love others. Their body, mind and spirit would go through a string of complicated and miraculous chemical, psychological and supernatural reactions. Both their immune system and recovering capability are tremendously enhanced. When the great Love of the Universe descends to the world, people would be deeply touched. They realize such mighty love has filled up the entire earth and heaven. Their lives are transformed inside out to become more and more abundant and healthy. They would earnestly share this great Love of the Universe with their loved ones, wishing them all enjoy the blessed and healthy life!

The Canadian Health Awareness Society is a registered non-profit organization. Our Mission is to promote health awareness on health issues for all Canadians by education, support and advocacy.