Practical Guidelines For Living a Life of Vibrant Good Health
Our country, indeed, the whole world, is fixated on COVID-19. It seems every aspect of life is being upended and reshaped as we respond to the fear of being infected and dying from the corona virus. Governmental response to the disease based on assertions of “public health” has resulted in economic devastation, business failure, massive unemployment, cratering of the educational system, relational breakdowns, restructuring of business practices, restrictions on faith practices and a culture of pervasive and widespread fear. It’s important to remember that COVID did not cause all these things. Our response to COVID is responsible for the outcomes we are experiencing. Regardless of what you think about COVID, one would be hard pressed to say that our responses to COVID have led to desirable results. Unfortunately, at least in the short term, we can’t do much as individual citizens about government imposed restrictions except make the best of the insanity. There are, however, many things we can do to improve our own lives and protect ourselves from disease.
The “expert” solutions to COVID avoidance are: stay home, keep away from people (aka social distance), no hugging or handshakes, mask-up if you do venture out, erect physical barriers between people, sanitize every surface and report any “violations” of the health mandates to the authorities. Also, we’re advised that all this goes away as soon as we have a vaccine for COVID. These practices are promoted as “taking personal responsibility” and being caring toward others.
What we don’t hear are the practical steps each of us can take to truly exercise personal responsibility for immunizing ourselves against disease. Let’s not wait for a vaccine…and what if we never even need a vaccine because our immune systems are so strong that we are impervious to COVID? Here are some guidelines for how you can protect yourself, from COVID and also from other diseases, which frankly is an even more important consideration.
Before we start, I’m not a trained medical expert. I’m a 65-year old healthy man. I’m an athlete, outdoorsman, martial artist, executive coach and entrepreneur. I haven’t done any “double-blind” studies on the recommendations I’m going to offer. But I do have a lot of life experience and a healthy portion of common sense. That said, stop now or read on and judge for yourself the validity of the following recommendations, which fall into four categories I call MEPS, which stands for the Mental, Emotional, Physical and Spiritual domains of life.
The Mental Game. Vibrant good health is, first of all, a mental game. We attract and we become what we think about. This is not some airy-fairy theoretical concept. It’s a truth that’s supported by the teachings of major religions, by psychologists, coaches, human performance experts and successful people in all walks of life.
If you want to be sick, fix your thoughts on illness. Focus on disease. Live in fear of getting sick. Make COVID your central focus. Worry a lot. Wind yourself up emotionally into a stress-filled state. Even if you don’t catch the corona virus, you will succeed at making yourself ill. Not only that, the quality of your fear-filled life will be dramatically reduced, as well as that of everyone you come in contact with. Fear is infectious. Sadly, many of the so-called “health” mandates are continually triggering people into a fear-filled state and reinforcing an underlying assumption that you’re going to catch the virus, you’re going to get very sick, you’re going to infect everyone else and you’re going to die a horrible choking death as you strangle on your own blood. Focus on that all day long and you’ll become sick. We call that "dis-ease."
Conversely, you can change your mental paradigm and focus on health. After all, 99.9% of people who actually contract COVID survive. Instead of organizing your thoughts about the .1% who die, you can choose to focus on the 99.9% probability. That’s what we do with every other activity, such as flying, driving, boating, swimming and all the other things that you can die from. We focus on the positive probabilities. Otherwise we’d be immobilized.
Here’s how to win the mental game:
Control what you read, what you watch, what you listen to and who you hang around with. The more negative garbage you allow in your mind, the more toxic your life becomes. That does not mean you should cocoon and disconnect yourself from the world. It just means, don’t let negative “news” and conversation consume and pollute your thoughts.
Control your thoughts. Most people don’t think. They just have thoughts. That’s a big part of the reason people are reacting to COVID in a state of mindless fear and panic. But you can choose what you think about. This is ancient wisdom. 2,000 years ago, the Apostle Paul wrote: “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” It’s good advice today. You can choose what you think about. Choose wisely.
The Emotional Game. We are living in emotion-filled times. About any negative emotion you can imagine is on active display. The emotions of fear, worry, anger, hatred, judgement, bitterness, sadness, grief, and depression are all around us. It’s easy to fall into the trap of following how you feel and being led by your emotions. Winning the emotional game is actually quite easy, however, when you realize that, as valuable as emotion is, it does not have to lead your existence.
Emotions don’t emerge from nowhere and demand that we organize around them. Emotions come from thoughts. Consciously or unconsciously you tell a story about what a situation “means” and out of that story flow emotional responses. Then, you choose, (again a thought process) to engage in the emotions or not. The more you engage, the stronger the emotional experience. Here’s an example: something happens that you think is unjust. This triggers a feeling of annoyance. As you think more and more about the injustice, your annoyance grows and becomes anger, perhaps even eventually turning into mindless rage. Most people live as victims to this process, thinking they are led by their emotions and there’s nothing to be done. After all, it’s how they feel, and no one should negate or deny their feelings, right? Well, actually, not. The truth is, we do not have to be victimized by our feelings. We can control our thoughts and manage our emotions accordingly.
Although emotional responses such as anger, fear and sadness are appropriate at times, in excess they can become negative emotions, along with other negative emotions like envy, hatred, and bitterness. If you allow yourself to be consumed by negative emotions you create a toxic environment that makes you sick and fills your life with dis-ease.
Alternatively, you can choose to generate, embrace and reinforce positive emotions, such as love, joy, hope, enthusiasm, gratitude and confidence. You can do this through how you think, and you can do this through how you act, as physiology also controls emotions. Positive emotions create a healthy environment for you and all those around you. You are not a victim to your emotions. You are in control. You get to manage how you feel by the thoughts and actions you choose. Choose wisely.
The Physical Game. Most of the health mandates are focused on creating external physical barriers to COVID. However, the internal barriers you can create are far more important. You need to build up your immune system in ways that increase your resistance to disease and increase your ability to recover when invaded by disease. Unfortunately, when people are led by their emotions, their body suffers. They get too little exercise. They shelter in place and stay inside. They eat too much. They gain weight. They eat too much sugar, salt and processed foods. They drink too much. They smoke. They take drugs. They drink too much soda, coffee and too little water. They stay up late and stress all night, getting too little sleep. They manically sanitize everything and distance themselves from anything that might carry a bacteria or virus. And thus, they set themselves up to get sick. If not from COVID, then from things much worse, like diabetes, heart disease, mental illness and a host of other ailments.
The solution is quite simple. It’s not rocket science or even complicated medical science. Simply do the opposite of all the above and dramatically increase the quality of your life and the probability that you’ll enjoy vibrant good health. Although the solution is simple, it may not be simple to reverse course. That’s why the CDC reports that 100 million Americans are living with diabetes or pre-diabetes. We refuse to change course. And we get sick.
Good health requires a decision, where you reach a point of saying, “I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired,” and decide to change. Then it requires the discipline of choosing and sticking to healthier habits: habits of healthy eating and drinking, habits of clean living and exercise, habits of meditation, rest, peace and calm, habits of sleep, habits of moderation, habits of proper nutritional supplementation, habits that promote long life, not premature disease and death. These are the things that have always built immunity and they work for COVID as well. You can choose sickness or health. Choose wisely.
The Spiritual Game. As important as the mental, emotional and physical aspects of life are to good health, we also must attend to our spiritual health. I’m a Christ follower, so my Christian faith shapes my perspective. You may have different beliefs that will shape yours. Regardless, each of us must pay attention to our spiritual health, since, although it’s last on the MEPS acrostic, it’s actually first in importance. Our spiritual paradigm informs and drives our behavior in all the other three domains of life.
So, permit me to address this from my spiritual beliefs, and if they vary from yours, find your own spiritual equivalent – but to ignore the spiritual game is foolish.
The first spiritual topic to address is death. We must come to terms spiritually with the reality of our own mortality, otherwise we will spend our time on earth with such fear of death that we never truly live. As a Christ follower, I believe that my decision to accept Christ as the way, the truth and the life and the only path to salvation opens the door to heaven and a life spent now and eternally in the loving presence of God. Therefore, although I don’t desire death, I don’t fear it, since, for me, only God things and good things are ahead forever. Therefore, I can live fully today, without fear of tomorrow. How have you resolved for yourself the reality of your own mortality and your ultimate destiny? Until you do, you will live in a perpetual state of dis-ease.
Our spirituality shapes our mental game. The Apostle Paul urged us to be “transformed by the renewing of our minds.” Our spirituality determines what we read, watch, listen to and who we associate with…and thus what we think about, who we become and what we attract in life.
Our spirituality shapes our emotional game. The positive emotions of hope, love, joy, peace flow out of a settled spirit that leads our mind, will, heart and emotions.
Our spirituality shapes our physical game. It drives what we do. James, the brother of Jesus taught: “For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.” It’s easy to tell the state of a person’s spiritual health. Just look at what they do and how they behave.
The Bible also teaches that our bodies are the temple for the Spirit. Jesus taught, “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!” Spiritual health leads not only to physical health, it also inoculates against over-dependence on physicality, which will ultimately fail, leaving only spirituality. It’s been said we are not physical beings having a spiritual experience, but rather spiritual beings having a physical experience. Holding that perspective leads to Mental, Emotional, Physical and Spiritual health.
Conclusion. Here’s the truth. You can do everything the health experts advise in regard to COVID and it won’t make you healthy. It won’t necessarily keep you from getting infected and it won’t guarantee you aren’t going to die. In fact, in many ways the public health mandates can actually make you less healthy. Your health is your responsibility and good health requires proper Mental, Emotional, Physical and Spiritual choices. Choose wisely. Live well. Live fully.