Lent came early this year – tough to have Valentine’s Day the second day of this season if you gave up chocolates! While certainly not everyone practices Lenten observances, I think most people are familiar with the general concept of offering some sort of self-discipline as part of a religious practice, so this is a good opportunity for me to share a thought about the mix of religion and medicine.
As a physician- especially as a Catholic one- I really appreciate Lent. Just as New Year’s resolutions for healthy changes are fading away, in comes Lent to save the day! All kidding aside, while many of us have wonderful intentions of limiting sweets, sodas, alcohol, nicotine, or you-name-it in the name of HEALTH, a good portion of us need that extra nudge of discipline that comes when these intentions are linked to a higher good. One way to do this is indeed the traditional practice of a “fast”from an earthly pleasure. If every time we start to reach for or simply crave our “off-limits item”, we instead check ourselves and take a minute for prayer or reflection, how great is that? Not only are we not harming our body with an unnecessary substance or calorie load, but we gaining the peace and lower blood pressure that comes from meditation. Definitely a win-win! (Of course, if we gripe and grumble and feel extremely self-deprived every time, that’s a whole different ballgame…)
Whether it is fasting, prayer, meditation, or acts of service for others, religious practices can be a wonderful asset to our health- both physical and mental. In my practice, I have seen tremendous success when patients combine their spiritual and physical efforts in a very practical manner.
BOTTOM LINE: Harness the power of your religious strength to give you that extra push to stick to healthy life-style choices!