Spiritual Wellness -
Aim of Chapter
To help you evaluate, assess and measure yourself on the spiritual concept of wellness.
The learners will identify and implement 6 wellness concepts in the following 6 areas but the main emphasis is spiritual wellness.
“WELLNESS!” It is a hot term thrown around health circles but what does it really mean? What impact does it have on the Christian lifestyle? In its broadest sense, wellness simply means “healthy living.” So why are Americans having such a difficult time living well?
If our lifespan is related to our lifestyle then we need to examine or re-examine how we live. Did you know that the typical American currently maintains good health for only eighty-five percent of his life? And although life expectancy is currently at an all-time high of seventy-six years, a healthy life comprises only sixty-three years, making a whopping thirteen years filled with impaired living. If you are the typical college age, between ages 17-35, what implications does this have on the way you live your life now?
First, let’s briefly look at the six concepts of wellness and see what areas need improvement. The daily, seemingly meaningless life decisions you make now have a direct bearing on the quality and quantity of your lives in the future (and the lives of those around you).
Wellness is the ability to live life fully,
with vitality and meaning!
1. Physical wellness
Physical wellness is not only freedom from disease but includes physical fitness. A major area of behavior that promotes wellness includes being physically active. Americans are on an alarming slide downward with sixty-seven percent of adults who are either overweight or obese.
Obesity kills. Over 300,000 Americans die annually because of their poor eating habits. Obesity costs. Over 40 million lost work days each year is contributed to obesity.
A decade ago, only 1 in 8 Americans hit the obesity mark - which is 30 and over on the BMI (Body Mass Index) scale. Today, more than 1 in 4 Americans are obese. Most alarming is the recent findings that show the typical college-age student (age 18-24) is the least physically active age group in the United States.
What we eat impacts physical wellness. Americans must choose a healthier diet in order to maintain a more balanced body weight. It’s vital that you make healthy lifestyle choices now, such as saying “yes” to bright colored fruits and vegetables, and fiber-rich foods and “no” to fatty, greasy, fried foods.
The latest news reveals that individuals who are overweight by 10-30 pounds could shorten their lives by 3 years and those who weigh over 30 pounds could lose about 7 years from their lives. And to bring it home, Tennessee is becoming one of the fattest states in the country with about 25 percent of its population is overweight or obese (anything over 20 percent is a serious problem).
2. Mental wellness
Keeping minds active through life-long learning is the goal of mental wellness. One of the most important factors of mental wellness is managing stress.
How do you handle stress now? Do you binge eat when you get stressed? Do you procrastinate on important tasks that need to be accomplished? Do you smoke when you’re stressed? Does stress have a strangle hold around your neck?
Is it not a wonder that more than eighty percent of all physician visits are for stress-related complaints? You must learn to build coping mechanisms to help combat life’s stressors. The old adage is true: “Life happens!” But it is how you react to life’s blows that will impact every area of your life, and those around you.
3. Social wellness
Social wellness is the development and maintenance of meaningful interpersonal relationships that enhance quality of life. The counselor’s offices are jammed full of people trying to make sense of important relationships in their lives.
The Bible is clear. We need each other. God wants you to share your life with others. Hebrews 10:23-32 strongly encourages social interactions, especially not forsaking regular church attendance.
Other social issues involving wellness is abstinence of sex before marriage and the avoidance of tobacco and other drugs. Alcohol, nicotine, marijuana, and cocaine are the most widely used and abused drugs in the United States. Eighty percent of American college students drink alcohol; and drunk driving needlessly and tragically impacts thousands of lives.
4. Emotional wellness
Emotional health includes self-esteem, emotional stability, and the ability to cope with routine stress.
A recent study revealed that 70 percent of Americans today are walking around angry. This is manifested through high homicide and suicide rates. And “road rage” anger is running rampant along our highways and byways, killing innocent lives and destroying home life.
Tennessee’s suicide rate is 20 percent higher than the national average. The three major emotions common in suicide are helplessness, hopelessness, and loneliness.
The best way to combat emotional distress is to read and apply God’s Word to our lives. Be particularly careful not to allow hurt feelings to fester, like an infected wound, because it can germinate, causing bitterness. Nothing blocks communication with God quicker than resentment. Powerful prayer can lift depression, anger, and resentment so it won’t contaminate lives. Forgiveness is crucial to emotional wellness and in fact, to the Christian, choosing to forgive is not an option; it’s a lifestyle.
5. Environmental wellness
Environmental health encompasses more than you might think at first glance. It goes beyond making America beautiful by cleaning up trashy roadsides and making drinking water pure.
Did you know that the average American family’s home can contain fifty percent more air pollutants than the outdoors? A baby that crawls on the floor inhales pollutants equivalent to four cigarettes a day. The average home collects over forty pounds of dust a year. And guess what the most damaging of all air pollutants is? Second hand smoke.
Another area that has a direct affect on your environment is what you say. It is vital for the Christian to daily check how often he or she speaks a negative, critical or judgmental word that cast pollutants into the atmosphere.
6. Spiritual wellness
Man is first soul; then mind and body. The spiritual component is the glue that holds all the other dimensions together. Spiritual wellness must be the #1 priority. If this slips from the top, it will cause the other dimensions to unravel.
Science and spirituality have come a long way in one decade as “the NIH wouldn’t have reviewed a protocol with the word “prayer” in the title,” said a Duke University director of one of the largest randomized prayer studies. At John Hopkins, they are using NIH (National Institute of Health) grants for research to see whether prayer has meaning to people that translate into biology, which affects the disease process.
According to Dr. Dale Matthews of Georgetown University and author of The Faith Factor, seventy-five percent of studies on spirituality have confirmed health benefits. Currently, over a third of the nation’s medical schools offer courses in alternative medicine.
Dr. Harold Koenig, leading researcher in the area of spirituality and health, compiled powerful evidence that religious faith not only promotes overall good health but also aids in recovery from serious illness, said, “By praying to God, faith patients acquire an indirect form of control over their illness.”
In a study of 455 elderly hospital patients, Koenig found that people who attended church more than once a week averaged about four days in the hospital. People who never or rarely attended church spent about 10-12 days hospitalized.
Dr. Herbert Benson, a professor of Harvard Medical School said, “Repetitive prayer slows a person’s heart and breathing rates. It lowers blood pressure, slows brain waves, all without drugs or surgery.”
Dr. Larry Dossey, a former internist and author of Healing Words and Prayer is Good Medicine, prayed for his patients daily and said, “I decided that not using prayer on behalf of my patients was the equivalent of withholding a needed medication or surgical procedure.”
A 6-year Duke University study of 4000 men and women over 64 years of age and of various faiths, found that the relative risk of dying was 46 percent lower for those who frequently attended religious services.
A professor at John Hopkins School of Medicine said, “There is strong evidence that prayer and religion are associated with better health, longer life, and better outcomes when illness strikes.”
A Duke University study showed that those who participate in religious activities (church attendance, prayer, Bible reading) were 40 percent less likely to have high blood pressure.
6a. Spiritual Wellness - Honoring the Giver of Life
The body is a complex creation. Each part, whether it is a cell, a tissue, a structure, or organ is fully dependent on the rest of the body to fulfill its purpose.
Scripture clearly teaches that man was created by a specific act of creation (Genesis 1:27;2:7) and that as believers we are to honor and glorify God in our bodies because we are His (I Corinthians 6:19,20). As Christians, it is our stewardship to not only take care of not only our bodies, emotions, and social needs but above all, our spiritual neediness.
According to Pamela Johnson and Delyte Morris who wrote Physical Fitness and the Christian said, “A steward has significant responsibility and accountability but does not have ownership. The good steward is required to be faithful (1 Corinthians 4:2), to be trustworthy and dependable in doing what the Master has given him responsibility to do.” These implications provide excellent guidelines for taking better care of our spiritual wellness.
6b. Spiritual Wellness - Our Image Bearing Role
Studies have shown that body image plays a major contributing role in the development of our self-concept. In I Corinthians 6:19,20, it states that our bodies are the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit. We are created in God’s image. His body is included in this image-bearing role.
Genesis 1:26 says, “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth. So, God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him: male and female He created them.”
Our body is not our own. We rent it. We lease it from God – it’s on loan to us. Our body is the mode of operation that God has designed to accomplish His work on earth. What are you doing with it? Are you trashing it? This body of ours is the way we communicate and testify to the world.
In The Message Bible in I Corinthians 6:14,15 states, “Didn’t you realize that your body is a sacred place, the place of the Holy Spirit? Don’t you see that you can’t live however you please, squandering what God paid such a high price for? The physical part of you is not some piece of property belonging to the spiritual part of you. God owns the whole works.”
The Message Bible states further, “You know the old saying, ‘First you eat to live, and then you live to eat?’ Well, it may be true that the body is only a temporary thing, but that’s no excuse for stuffing your body with food, or indulging it with sex.”
“Since the Master honors you with a body, honor him with your body! God honored the Master’s body by raising it from the grave. He’ll treat yours with the same resurrection power. Until that time, remember that your bodies are created with the same dignity as the Master’s body” (I Corinthians 6:10-13).
No other group should be able to successfully live “wellness” than Christians. And when you do, He promises abundant life, eternal life, and overcoming life.
So, why aren’t more Christians living a balanced victorious life?
So why aren’t more Christians living in wellness because of the abundant life inherent in Christ Jesus?
6c. Spiritual Wellness - A Need for Balance
I speed! Yes, I have a heavy foot on the accelerator when I drive my automobile. But the sole of my foot isn’t what God is after in my life. Rather, He’s concerned with the soulish matter of my heart.
Why am I speeding through life so recklessly? I must slow down and learn to ride the wind and not try to be one with the wind. It would befit me to become more like David of Scripture. He specialized in pondering and meditating on the wonder and majesty of God.
At onset, this area needing improvement in my life would seem to fall under environmental wellness. But at further glance, it isn’t exclusively environmental as a wreck could damage the body (physical), a wreck could cause emotional havoc, a wreck would be distressful, and effect several lives (social) besides my own. As you can see, the wellness components often interrelate and impact the wholeness of an individual.
The chart below reveals from dozens of research studies that “religious” people (“religious” means those who attend church regularly, read Scripture, and pray) have substantial health and wellness benefits.
6d. Scientific Evidence on Spirituality and Health
Dr. Harold Koenig founded the Center for the Study of Religion/Spirituality and Health at Duke University Medical Center. He serves on the faculty, is an author of 14 books, and 150 scientific articles. He has completed over 25 research projects exploring the effects of religious faith on health.
The following 12 insights and 10 statistics from his book “The Healing Connection” will shed light on spirituality and health with an empirical bent.
1.Many, many people, when they become physically ill or experience other life stress, turn to their religious faith for strength, comfort, and meaning.
2.Those people who have a strong faith and use this faith to help them cope experience less depression and less anxiety over their problems and adjust more quickly to whatever difficulty they are facing.
3.Even when people become depress over difficult health problems, they recover more quickly from depression if they have a deep, intrinsic religious faith.
4.When deeply committed Christians encounter difficult physical health problems, they are more likely to experience psychological growth and become stronger.
5.People who participate in the religious community and attend church regularly have better mental health and greater social support.
6.People who provide religious support and encouragement to others – through prayer, scripture reading, etc. – experience greater quality of life and less depression when physically ill.
7.People who attend church and pray or read religious scriptures regularly are less likely to abuse alcohol or smoke cigarettes.
8.Better mental health, greater social support, and healthier lifestyles among those who live their faith also translate into better physical health.
9.People who are actively involved in the religious community may have more stable immune systems that are better able to fend off infection and protect against other diseases.
10.People who regularly attend church, pray, and read religious scriptures have lower blood pressures and are less likely to have the disease hypertersion.
11.People who attend church regularly live longer, an effect that is equivalent to wearing seat belts or not smoking cigarettes.
12.People who are actively involved in the religious community and those who have strong religious faith need and use fewer expensive health services.
1. Are healthier and live longer
2. Are less depressed
3. Have healthier immune systems
4. Deal better with addiction
5. Need fewer pain medication
6. Have shorter post-operative stays
7. Fewer complications in intensive care (“if prayed for”)
8. Three times more likely to survive open-heart surgery if they depend on their faith
9. Have a higher morale
10.Are agitated less, less lonely, less apt to feel dissatisfaction for life
The Crux - Are you ready to change?
Now that you have perused through the six components of wellness and looked a bit deeper into spiritual wellness, do you see an area you need to improve? If so, begin with the spiritual component as it will help you confront the others. As you continue self introspection, the rest of the chapter deals with four challenges that will help your transformation process.
Here are the four questions to ask yourself:
1. “What do I want to change?”
2. “Where do I hope to be?”
3. “How do I get there?”
4. “When can I get there?”
While driving down a highway recently, my eyes were drawn to big bold black letters on a billboard that pronounced, “Change is rut prevention.” How true! Everyone likes progress but it’s the rub of change that causes friction. Yet change is vital for growth.
We cannot encounter God and not be changed. Change shakes the dust of dormancy from underneath our footing.
How has God brought about change into your life? You need not look too far. Perhaps God is using your roommate as a catalyst for change in your life. God sometimes chooses the opposite of our personality traits to develop His character in us.
Or maybe God is teaching you joy in the midst of sorrow. The “peace not of this world” is developed, not by making things go as planned, but by seasons of chaos. How many irritating interruptions occur in your daily life? Is it possible that God divinely arranged them?
Integrity doesn’t just happen. Integrity is integrated into your life when you choose not to take the short cut of compromise. What about humility? It is worked into you, much like when a chief kneads yeast, when you deny pride.
Christ changed men. He transformed them. He made them new and called them to live renewed lives. Therefore, we must not resist change, but embrace it.
This chapter has been written from a Christian theistic perspective. This perspective is based on the presuppositions that while the physiological and psychological principles to wellness apply to everyone, it’s vital to Christians.
The spiritual component of wellness is far more important than any other dimension (social, environmental, mental, emotional and physical). The decision for eternal life over eternal death is one every person will face. And the sooner one chooses eternal life; the more powerfully effective his or her life will be on earth.
The Christian addresses his soul’s need by confessing his sinful nature to God, asking for forgiveness of his sins. He then embarks on a living and powerful relationship with Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior in which John 3:16 describes, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” If you have not accepted Jesus Christ as Lord, do so now. It will be the best decision of your life.
So, are you ready to change a behavior? an attitude? a dress size? an addiction? Will you be more environmentally friendly? more prayerful and worshipful?
In order for us to undergo a metamorphosis,
it is important to understand the meaning of stewardship from God’s point of view. When we take care of our spirit, body, mind, emotions, people, and the world around us we are honoring the God who created it all.
Homework Assignment #1
6 Wellness Objectives with Scripture Application
1. Briefly explain how you will improve on each objective in your life. For instance, for enviornmental you might state that you have been inconsistent in wearing your car seatbelt or for social, you might desire to be more amiable toward strangers.
2. Next, peruse the Bible to locate verses that falidate your personal objectives. Seek two verses for each Wellness Objective for a total of 12 verses. Be selective in your verses as they will inspire you while striving toward your goals.
3. Conclude by writing a brief paragraph on how you plan to apply these throughout this semester.
Homework Assignment #2
6 Areas for Change:
Spiritual, Emotional, Social,
Physical, Mental, Environmental
• Write it!
(Write your specific goals for the semester on paper)
• Sign it!
(Sign it at the bottom of the page – like a contract)
• Date it!
(Write a deadline date you hope to accomplish these goals)
• Proclaim it!
(Clearly communicate each of them to an accountability partner/student)
• Witness it!
(Ask accountability partner to sign his or her name next to your name)
Sample Assignment for #1
SCRIPTURES WITH OBJECTIVES
“I will make a 3.7 GPA this semester.”
How: “I will take better notes integrating them with examples for reallearning to occur. I will also look over my notes even when I don’t have a test so I might gain wisdom.”
O.T. Scripture: Ecclesiastes 1:13
“I devoted myself to study and to explore by wisdom all that is done under in heaven. What a heavy burden God has laid on men!”
N.T. Scripture: I Timothy 4:15
“Be diligent about these matters: give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress.”
“I want to make 5 new friends this semester.”
How: “I will not gossip. I will not leave anyone out of a conversation. I will be more of a leader to my peers.”
O.T. Scripture: Proverbs 11:14
“A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy man keeps a secret.”
N.T. Scripture: Romans 12:8-13
“If it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently.”
“I will get fit, stay fit, and help others do the same.”
How: “I will eat less red meat, more veggies & fruits, and more frequent smaller meals.”
O.T. Scripture: Isaiah 55:2
“Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest fare.”
N.T. Scripture: 3 John 2
“Dear friend, I pray that you will enjoy good health and that this may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along with you.”
“I need specific guidance from the Lord.”
How: “I will let God lead me in all my ways, everyday.”
O.T. Scripture: Exodus 15:13
“In your unfailing love you will lead.”
N.T. Scripture: Romans 8:14
“For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.”
“I will change my perspective on suffering.”
How: “I will be more compassionate towards others.”
O.T. Scripture: Isaiah 38:17
“Surely it was for my benefit that I suffered such anguish. In your love you kept me.”
N.T. Scripture: Romans 5:4
“We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance.”
“I will reduce, reuse, recycle.” (reduce speeding, reuse bags, recycle cans & papers)
How: “I will reduce my food portions (and not feel compelled to eat every item on my plate. I will decrease sodas to one a day and increase my water intake to 1 liter a day.”
N.T. Scripture: John 6:12-13
“When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over, let nothing be wasted. So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.”
O.T. Scripture: Proverbs 5:15
“Drink water from your own cistern, running water from your own well.”
Summary comments from students who completed this assignment:
•"Some think of the Bible as pointless because it all about history. However, as seen through this exercise, if I will read the Bible and follow it, then the results will be a healthy life - without really focusing on the health of life!"
•"I really had not understood God's health plan until I began to study His Word through this assignment. Now that I know God's plan, I am going to try my best to stay healthy in all of the wellness dimensions."
•"I understand now! God originated these components of wellness and man therefore discovered them. The Bible is therefore, the premier fitness book in the entire world."
•"Each of these verses represents something different in my life. Setting goals is one thing but with Scripture to back up your goals, it makes me want to achieve my goals more than ever!"
6 WELLNESS OBJECTIVES
WITH SCRIPTURE APPLICATION
First, in one sentence, state how you will improve on each wellness objective in your life
Second, peruse the Bible to locate verses that falidate your personal objectives. Find two verses for each Wellness Objective for a total of 12 verses (it is preferred that you locate one verse in the New Testament and one in the Old Testatment). Write out your verse.Be selective in your verses as they will inspire you while striving toward your goals.
Third, conclude by writing a short paragraph on how you plan to apply these throughout this semester.
1. MENTAL WELLNESS
2. SOCIAL WELLNESS
3. PHYSICAL WELLNESS
4. SPIRITUAL WELLNESS
5. EMOTIONAL WELLNESS
6. ENVIRONMENTAL WELLNESS
CONCLUDE WITH A SUMMARY PARAGRAPH ON YOUR
EXPERIENCE AND HOW YOU PLAN TO CHANGE YOUR LIFESTYLE
Colbert, D.1999. Walking in Divine Health. Lake Mary, FL: Siloam Press.
Cooper, K.H.1997. Faith-Based Fitness. Nashville: Nelson Books.
Jacobson, M. 2000. The Word on Health: A Biblical and Medical Overview of How to Care for Your Body and Mind. Chicago, IL: Moody Press.
Johnson, P., Morris, D.1995. Physical Fitness & the Christian. Dubuque, IO: Kendall/Hunt Publishing.
K. O’Bannon & L. Richards.1999. Health & Nutrition: God’s Word for the Biblically –Inept. Lancaster, IN: Starburst Publishers.
O’Mathuna & W. Larimore. 2001. Alternative Medicine: The Christian Handbook. Grand Rapids: Zonderran Publishing.
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