Hello and welcome back! Over the next sixteen weeks, we will be exploring the answer to "What's God got to do with my health?" This series will hopefully help you make connections between the way you live and your holistic wellness (or lack thereof). We will progress through the sixteen (plus) lifestyle areas that I address with my clients, starting with the base of my Wellness Pyramid, Thought Life.
Let me start today by asking you some questions. Do you consider your thoughts to be part of your physical health? In other words, do you believe your thoughts can add to or detract from your health and wellbeing? And how about God? Do you believe God has spoken on this aspect of life, or any detailed part of life for that matter? Do you believe He's interested in the minutia of our day-to-day or do you view Him as being relegated only to "larger more pressing issues" like war or famine? The way you view God has everything to do with your health and wellbeing and it's my aim to help you see and embrace this. As I said in the first post of this series, I see far too many people compartmentalize their physical health separate from their spiritual life. It's heartbreaking and confounding because, in believing our material experience is separate from our spiritual experience, we block the very power necessary to live well and experience a better life.
So, let's talk about the impact thoughts can have on our physical health. The brain and the gut (digestive system plus enteric nervous system) are integrally connected, meaning one directly impacts the other. In utero, they start off as one developing mass of tissue and eventually separate to grow into individual organs, but remain forever connected by the largest nerve in the body, the vagus nerve. The brain and gut are inseparable right from conception and talk back and forth to one another throughout life. This is commonly referred to as bidirectional communication. So, if our thoughts are negative, angry and toxic, our guts will be adversely affected. If we feed our stomachs poor quality foods, our brains (and thereby thoughts) are adversely impacted (as well as all of the other systems throughout the body). We know that the vast majority of our health and immune system originates in the gut. It is estimated that 85% of our feel-good hormones are produced in the gut. These hormones are then delivered to the brain, resulting in high mood and generalized feelings of happiness and motivation. But, if we aren't eating well or are living with chronic stress, that impedes the production of these hormones thereby blunting our ability to "feel good." When we don't feel well, we think negatively, and the back and forth downward spiral begins and worsens over time.
Everything we do, every decision we make, first begins as a thought. Everything. So, there's no sense in addressing upstream issues without first addressing that which makes up one's thought life. By evaluating this lifestyle area from physiological, relational, emotional, psychological and spiritual perspectives, we stand a much greater chance of ordering the thoughts in a healthy way. Once the thoughts are healthy, decisions and choices are much more likely to be healthy. That's why Thought Life is the base of the pyramid. Everything else builds on it.
That briefly explains the physical component of this lifestyle area. Now, what does God have to say about it? From Genesis through Revelation, there are myriad verses that address the power of our thoughts. I'll highlight just a couple.
And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. -Philipians 4:8
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. -Romans 12:2
Be careful how you think; your life is shaped by your thoughts. -Proverbs 4:23
Clearly God's design for us is right thinking so that our lives will be defined by peace, not pain. That Proverb is one I share with every client so she understands the power of her mind. Our lives are indeed shaped by the way we choose to think. So, to answer the question that drives this series, "YES, our thoughts absolutely have a direct impact on our health and wellbeing." And, "YES, God is deeply vested in the lifestyle area of Thought Life." Just like the bi-directionality of the gut and brain, there exists a bi-directional relationship between each of us and our Creator. He speaks to us through His word providing guidance on how to best live and we, through free will, respond and choose. "Notice the way God does things and then fall in line." -Ecclesiastes 7:13
I hope this has encouraged you to consider more intently the way you normally think and choose. I also hope that you will invite God into the process of renewing your mind so that your thoughts are the springboard to your best life.
Next week we'll look at Diet and uncover what God has to say about that area of our lives.