Thank you to Rev. Grace Hackney for the following commentary.
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Clergy Health Initiative
If you are foolish enough to have given major bookstore chains your e-mail address, you may have noticed that you're being bombarded this month with discount coupons for self-help and diet books, since January is the month when we're all supposed to "Do something!" about our lives. The Connection also has succumbed to this annual temptation (see our posts on eating plans, advanced directives). But here's some counter-cultural advice: it's winter - make like a bear, and rest.
It has been a whirlwind of a year, and as it begins to close, I take stock of the "lost" and "found" in my life.
As I get older, I find great delight in little things that remind me how richly blessed I am to be alive. These include yesterday's e-mail from my high school English teacher and old friend, checking in to see what I'm up to, marking a forty-year friendship of great value. Also, re-reading a favorite early-winter poem, The Bat, by Jane Kenyon. Last Sunday there was the pleasure of hearing my church's tiny choir of five transform Lo, How A Rose E'er Blooming from its rehearsal hash into a quiet Advent invitation.
From the New York Times, here is a recent piece on the health benefits of giving – benefits, that is, for the giver.
The article is partly tied to holiday giving. But the writer gives a nod, not just to material gifts for the names on our shopping list, but also to gifts of our time and care. She cites numerous studies that show improved health outcomes for people involved in helping or volunteering. One study describes an endorphin rush or “helper’s high” from altruistic behavior, and finds that “[t]he strongest effect was seen when the act of altruism involved direct contact with other people.” So writing a check is not as revivifying as giving our time and attention to a person in need.
One of the "gifts" of aging is an alteration in our sleep patterns, causing us to have difficulty falling or staying asleep. Insomnia affects about a third of all adults, and can have significant effects on our health. This post addresses ways to alter your environment to improve sleep. Future posts will suggest ways to adjust your behaviors and identify the point when you should seek medical help for poor sleep.
Those are my hopes for my own Thanksgiving, anyway. My wife and daughters and I are heading to West Virginia to visit my extended family over the Thanksgiving weekend. Weather permitting, I hope we can toss a football with the kids on my uncle's lawn, in addition to enjoying some football on TV.
Our health coaches at Davidson Clergy Center are beginning to advise us that we should talk about “The Wall” – that phenomenon that occurs about three months into making a planned behavior change. Suddenly, the great plan doesn’t seem so great and workable any more, and with the change of time, weather, season, workload, suddenly “back-sliding” ( a medical term) can occur. This is a normal, expected stage in making long-term change.