For many, health care is no longer just about caring for their body. People are waking up to what they can do to contribute to their health on a mental level. That often means considering the healthy impact of their spiritual practice, whether that involves regular visits to the temple, the mosque, a meditation room, or church. There's now plenty of research to support these findings.
This mindful vs. physical approach is perhaps born out of disillusionment with what has been America's more mainstream approach to health care. That is, according to several documentary films gaining notoriety, one recently nominated for an Emmy award and several others that are about to be released.
This year's news and documentary film Emmy nominee, Escape Fire: The Fight To Rescue American Health Care, shows how our health-care system is more of a disease-care system with an over-dependence on drugs and surgeries designed to keep a person in the system alive, but not usually well enough to live a healthy life without medical support.
Yet another film, Fed Up, takes a cold hard look at our food supply in the United States, which consists of 80% packaged and processed foods. The film uncovers a food industry that is "in the business to make money, not to keep America healthy." Sugar is the new drug, hidden in the majority of foods on grocery store shelves and keeping customers coming back for more. Katie Couric, who provides commentary throughout the film, says, "Over 95% of all Americans will be overweight or obese in two decades." And LA Weekly's Amy Nicholson says, "Fed Up is poised to be the Inconvenient Truth of the health movement."
And that's where a variety of approaches to health nimbly enter the scene. Of course, sound nutrition practices, as well as regular exercise seem the obvious first solutions. But these are still practices based on a physical approach to health. A quiet, strong voice for the decidedly mental nature of health has also stepped up to the plate. But not for the first time.
Mary Baker Eddy, a 19th century visionary on health who introduced a way to care for one's health based entirely on a spiritual practice, had this to say: "The elements and functions of the physical body and of the physical world will change as mortal mind changes its beliefs. What is now considered the best condition for organic and functional health in the human body may no longer be found indispensable to health. Moral conditions will be found always harmonious and health-giving" (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures).
People are recognizing that they can do all the right things physically and yet still not be entirely healthy. Does this have something to do with what Eddy refers to as "changing beliefs"? Margarine used to be the new butter. Now experts say to eat the real thing. And what about diet drinks? Sugar substitutes, like saccharine, went out of vogue and now natural sugar is still preferred (in moderation) by nutritionists. Is our health only as stable as the latest fluctuating theory?
Eddy described her system of Mind-healing--a reliance on a distinct divine Mind vs. the human mind--as having both a practical pharmacy and medicine: "Its pharmacy is moral, and its medicine is intellectual and spiritual, though used for physical healing" (Science and Health).
What is for sure is that physical solutions and outcomes will forever fluctuate and change, whereas "moral conditions" such as expressing compassion, peace, honesty, forgiveness, etc. remain the same. These health-giving, spiritual qualities are innate to each one of us.
Dare I suggest the benefits of living a life of inspiration and prayer and loving yourself and others has staying power that surpasses even the currently perceived benefits of kale smoothies or a few hours on the yoga mat?