Is The Joy of The Lord Your Strength?
According to the book of Nehemiah, the leaders of Israel declared to the people, “The joy of the Lord is your strength.” The people then went away to eat, drink and rejoice at these words.
There are several facets of strength, including mental toughness and moral courage. There’s also literal physical strength, along with good health. So, is the joy of the Lord your strength in terms of health and wellness? Does rejoicing in the Lord make a person healthier?
As it turns out, there’s real evidence that faith and gratitude are good for your body as well as your soul. Interestingly, much of this evidence comes from secular studies.
Faith and Physical Well-Being
A Stanford survey of research indicates that people who profess faith report feeling physically better. There’s even an indication that these folks enjoy improved immune function. Some Mayo Clinic cites studies demonstrate that a spiritual dimension to the treatment of illness speeds recovery. Other research indicates that people with a religious affiliation actually live longer.
There could be practical reasons that these things are true. For example, many religions emphasize care of the body. This often includes abstention from alcohol or moderation in its use, as well as avoiding activities that are risky or self-destructive. Also, people of faith appear to be mentally healthier. They are less subject to loneliness and depression and are blessed with superior coping skills.
For people of deep faith, the relationship with God is a personal one. For those with a vibrant prayer life, MRIs have indicated that talking to God and talking to a human friend are similar in terms of brain function.
Is Gratitude a Health Factor?
If people really understood how good gratitude is for their health, everyone would be practicing it every day. Studies indicate that thankfulness improves sleep, elevates your mood and enhances your immune response.
In a gratitude research study, one group wrote about things they were thankful for, another wrote about things that had irritated them and a third group simply described events that happened without calling them positive or negative. After 10 weeks, the grateful group felt better and showed more optimism. Moreover, they were exercising more and reported fewer visits to the doctor.
Why is gratitude so good for you? For one thing, you pull your attention away from what’s going badly and focus on what’s going right. Also, you draw your attention away from yourself and toward those factors that have benefited you. For the person of faith, that means a strengthened focus on God.
Making Gratitude a Habit
Not everyone has been able to come to faith, but anybody can practice gratitude. A couple of suggestions:
Set aside some time to be grateful every day. Think of the good things before you get out of bed in the morning or perhaps after mealtime or at night.
Maintain a gratitude journal. Keep track of the blessings of life as they happen day by day.
So why not take advantage of the free health benefits of gratitude? There’s no copay, and your insurance company doesn’t have to approve the treatment!