Tuesday, November 30, 2010

DAY 57 - A Real Gift This Holiday

This piece was first published in the Ventura County Star on December 25, 2001 with the title
"Make a pledge this holiday season to take care of yourself".

Give the gift that everyone wants to receive, but that we’ve never seen advertised. Give the gift that we all can afford to give, and that we can’t afford not to give. What is it? The gift of your own health and well being.

There are cultural voids and misconceptions that either interfere with giving this gift, and more often, simply make its giving inconceivable. One factor is that our culture doesn’t focus on health. We are fixated on disease, its treatment, and the covering of its symptoms with medications. Also, we have little or no life-experience showing us that daily health practices result in a better life. Additionally, most of us would not intuitively think that improving our own life, would be a gift to others.  Finally, try as we might, we still believe that a gift is a physical object; love is great, but where are the presents?

Ask your mother, your father, your spouse, your brother, your sister, your child; “Would it feel like a gift to you if I had less pain, felt more rested, was happier, stopped smoking, began exercising, lost weight, recovered from chronic illness?” If these people are feeling loving toward you, the answer will be YES. Turn it around. Is there anyone, family or not, that would be giving you a wonderful gift by becoming healthier?

When a child cries from the pain of an ear infection, struggles to breathe with the wheezing of asthma, or cries in fear of a painful medical treatment, we too feel pain. When that child, in a healthy state, smiles and giggles we feel her comfort and joy.

How painful to watch an adult, limping in pain, hunched with pain, breathing or swallowing with difficulty, depressed by chronic pain, hooked to tubes and monitors. How uplifting to watch a spry, happy elderly person hiking, dancing, or playing with a small child.

The gift of your health is a blessing to all; each and every day. It is a blessing for the future because it reduces the probability of you becoming disabled, suffering with chronic disease, or dying early. Your commitment to health also reduces the risk that your loved ones will have to suffer with you during a prolonged illness or premature death.  In a still larger sense, the more days of your life that you are healthy, the greater your ability to contribute to others. The more days ill, or in a bad mood generated by poor health, the more that others will have to contribute energy to accommodate for you and lift you up.

We each have a choice, not a guarantee, but an opportunity to give the gift of our health to our family, our friends, and to the world in which we live. There are few gifts that we will ever give that will be more important or more appreciated.

Each time you wish out loud or to yourself that others would begin to make changes to regain their health, remember that someone may be wishing the same of you.

It is critical to understand that the absence of obvious and active disease is not the same as optimal health. Our bodies gradually, often imperceptibly, lose function and reserves until they periodically, and then ultimately breakdown. Conditions and practices of daily living are the keys to health. How many of these are regular parts of your life: loving relationships, organically grown food, low sugar and starch consumption, aerobic and stretching exercise, plenty of rest and sleep, hope?

Give a gift that really matters.

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