Today is Columbus Day, 2013. Over 500 years ago, Columbus explored beyond the limits of the African coast as a way to get to India. He sailed west and quite by
surprise, found a new land. He opened the way for many of our ancestors who took a similar trek across the ocean, either by boat, ship or plane to find a new “life”.
Yesterday was the Chicago Marathon. Runners, most of whom trained for years, also were “explorers” – they explored beyond their limits – beyond personal bests, and all sorts of limitations that would say they could not compete at this level or finish this race.
We are all explorers of one kind or another. Many of us are “health explorers” – looking for ways to be and stay healthy. We desire to live outside the limitations of diagnosis or disease. I have found many different qualities that researchers are finding to be health-giving. Recent blogs of mine have discussed the health benefits of forgiveness, humility, friendship, compassion, and even church attendance.
Just this week, another article came across my desk declaring the health benefits of volunteering. In an article by Ryan Scott entitled, “Doing Good Keeps the Doctor Away”, Scott stated that a study of United Health Group employees produced the following effects: 94% of individuals who volunteered reported that they had improved moods, 75% had less stress and felt more peaceful and calm, and 96% felt volunteering enriched their sense of life.
They concluded that volunteering is closely linked to improved health and in some cases even helps people manage chronic conditions.
Dr. Andrew Weil, noted integrative medicine expert, has described his term, “infectious happiness”, as an emotion that can spread from person to person. Weil said, “…there is no question that who you choose to associate with can raise or lower your spirits, make you happy or sad, calm or anxious, comfortable or uncomfortable.”
Volunteering makes a person feel good about what he or she is doing – and they can then share that happiness with others and make them also feel good.
That is one way of exploring health – finding attitudes that contribute to one’s wellbeing and living them. Can we train and stretch our patience, forgiveness, gratitude and love and allow them to define how we run the race of living? In a letter to the Corinthians (I Cor. 9: 24) written millennia ago, St. Paul wrote, “Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain.”
Most of the participants in the Chicago Marathon will tell you that even though they did not place first, they won the prize of overcoming limitations. Even Columbus would say that even if not the first to journey across the Atlantic, he won the prize of preparing the way for generations to come.
It’s you turn. Overcome your limitations. Stretch and strengthen your living of spirituality – compassion, friendship, gratitude, volunteering, yes, even attending church – and explore new depths to your health and wellbeing.
©2013 Christian Science Committee on Publication for Illinois