Entries with tag health .

An Orthodox Guide to New Year’s Resolutions

We all need a new start. We hope for the opportunity of a second chance, we dream sometimes of a fresh beginning. Maybe tomorrow we’ll be on track where today we strayed a bit. We like to think that in the future, things will be better: that the next season will offer something we didn’t have today. When it’s winter, we dream of the beach; when it’s summer, all we want is for it to cool off a bit.

 

So it seems natural that when the calendar year starts fresh, we’d want to make a fresh start ourselves. Maybe we want to quit some bad habit, or begin a better one. We hope for better health and finances, we pray we’ll start to overcome the struggles of last year.

 

But more often than not, we realize that the new year is just the day after yesterday and yesterday’s struggles didn’t seem to disappear. We might make lofty promises and strong New Year’s resolutions, but after a few days, we start to doubt we’ll have the will to keep on. How can Orthodox Christians get past the temptation of extremes and then best direct their attention at the start of the new year? What should we keep in mind as we chose our resolutions?

 

1. A resolution needs regular renewal

 

New Year’s resolutions tend to be breakable because we forget the meaning of a resolution. If I make a resolution, I am resolving or choosing to do something; I’m making a commitment. Every Sunday, we make a commitment to Christ as the priest calls us to “commit ourselves, one another, and our whole lives to Christ our God.” We are called to commit ourselves to Christ regularly, throughout the Liturgy, and every week. Just as easy as it is to forget to commit ourselves to God, it is so easy to forget about our resolutions and then give up following through when we prove imperfect. Seeing our resolutions as commitments reminds us that a resolution needs renewal when we are tempted to drop it instead.

 

We can also see a resolution like a vow or a promise. Viewed like this, we might treat our New Year’s resolutions the way that Christ tells us to keep a vow. Instead of swearing by anything on heaven or earth, Jesus says that Christians should let their “yes be yes” and their “no be no” (Matthew 5:37). A Christian should stick to their word, and their word should be a solid enough foundation that they don’t need to swear by anything.

 

So whatever we chose to resolve to do this new year, we shouldn’t do so lightly. We should be committed to doing it and then regularly recommit to keeping up with it.

 

2. Physical, mental, and spiritual health

Many of our New Year’s resolutions revolve around our health. We might want to start exercising to get fit, to lose weight, or just to feel a bit more active. But when we aren’t used to exercising, it can be hard to keep up with it. Similarly, the spiritual life can feel the same way. If we aren’t used to praying and reading scripture, it can easily fall by the wayside as “more pressing and immediate concerns” of life take precedence.

 

This year, we might want to look at all aspects of our health: physical, mental, and spiritual. As Orthodox Christians, we cannot ignore our spiritual lives and focus only on our physical health. But we also can’t neglect the body and the mind in favor of the spirit. If we’d like to improve our physical well-being this year, we should aim to make progress in our spiritual life as well.

 

Along with a healthier diet and exercise, we can have a healthier approach to prayer and reading scripture. If we are setting aside time to walk or run, we can set aside time to sit in silence and pray. If we are eating healthier foods, we can also take in healthier reading by meditating on scripture and the lives of the saints. And, if we can limit unhealthy foods for the sake of physical health, we can also fast with the Church for the sake of our spiritual health.

 

3. One day at a time

 

If we are choosing to commit ourselves to something, and are regularly choosing to continue on with it, then we will already see the wisdom of taking things one day at a time. Instead of focusing on the entire year and feeling the pressure of the possibility of twelve months of failure, we can instead commit to our resolution this week and more specifically today.

 

One way to keep our focus on today is to spend a few moments every night reflecting on our day. How did we do following through with our resolution today? What were our highs and lows of the day? By seeing our lows in the context of our highs, it can be easier to be grateful even for our day’s small failures or imperfections.

 

We are imperfect people who are called into a relationship with a perfect God and it is He who can give us the strength we need to get through today.

 

Another benefit of taking one day at a time and reflecting on what we are grateful for each day is that we will be able to accept the fact that there will be days that we don’t stick to our resolution. We will be able to accept that we weren’t perfect today, but that with God’s strength, we can make a fresh commitment tomorrow.

 

*****

 

Another year has come and gone and now we’re in 2017. As we choose our New Year’s resolutions, we as Orthodox Christians can benefit from seeing our resolutions as commitments that need to be renewed regularly. We can remember to keep the balance in caring for our physical and spiritual health. And, we can take it one day at a time with our resolutions, and not fall into despair even if we fail today.

 

Are you making a New Year’s resolution this year? How might taking it one day at a time help you to follow through with your resolution?

 

Want more from Y2AM? Subscribe to our email list and get weekly tips for your spiritual life every Monday! And you can support Y2AM even more by becoming a monthly Patreon supporter. As little as $1 a month can help us continue the work we’re doing.

 

Sam is the Pastoral Assistant at Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church in Virginia Beach, Virginia. He grew up in Powhatan, Virginia and studied International Affairs and Spanish at James Madison University. Sam received his MDiv from Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in 2013. He loves food, languages and good coffee.

Photo Credit: depositphotos

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How We Achieve A Truly Healthy Life

In the Orthodox Christian understanding of a healthy life, both spiritual and physical healing have long been considered complimentary. This begs the question: can we truly be healthy if we focus primarily – or even exclusively – on the physical aspect of health? This is not to say that physical wellbeing is not important. There is a long tradition of the Orthodox Church promoting physical health, from St. Luke the Evangelist serving as a physician to St. Basil establishing an infirmary. This year, on the Feast of the Holy Unmercenaries Sts. Cosmas and Damian, we are reminded that the Orthodox Church has played a central role in health and medicine throughout history. We learn, however, that the health of the soul has often been viewed as superior to the health of the body. The only way we are fully healed is through prayer as well as application of medical science, as shown through the example of Sts. Cosmas and Damian.

 

Brothers Sts. Cosmas and Damian were given the gift of healing by God, inspiring them to travel around and treat individuals suffering from various ailments. Called unmercenaries because they refused to accept payment for their services, the brothers told the infirm, “it is not by our own power that we treat you, but by the power of Christ, the true God. Believe in Him and be healed.” This generosity and compassion for their fellow man set the standard for how we as Christians are to aid the suffering and demonstrate the approach to becoming a healthy person. As unmercenaries, Sts. Cosmas and Damian sought a joint effort to unselfishly assist others in need and love those around them. While they were given the physical tools to heal, they reminded the faithful that only through faith in God could a person be truly and fully healed.

 

St. Basil articulates the Orthodox standard for medicine and health: “The medical art has been vouchsafed (granted to) us by God, who directs our whole life, as a model for the cure of the soul.” As Orthodox Christians, we believe that life is a gift from God, and it is our duty to both protect and enhance it. This must be done through spirituality and medicine, with both positively impacting the physical health of all. Sickness is associated with original sin, thus demonstrating man’s disharmonious relationship with God and reflecting the need to address both spiritual and physical ailments. How do we know that spiritual healing encompasses yet surpasses physical? In the Epistle of St. James, St. James articulates: “Is there any one among you suffering? Let him pray ... Is any among you sick? Let him call for the presbyters of the Church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven” (James 4:13-15).

 

Struggling with our physical illnesses, while maintaining faith, is essential to our development as persons. During this process, we strive for the courage to acknowledge our mortality and also recognize that suffering (spiritual, mental, and physical) is part of our salvific journey in Christ. Only through Christ can we achieve the fullness of health, both in body and soul.

 

 

Anthony Balouris is a Fellow at the UN for the Department of Inter-Orthodox, Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America (un.goarch.org)

The Archdiocese is an accredited Non-Governmental Organization at the United Nations through the Department of Public Information (UN DPI) and has General Consultative Status under the Economic and Social Council of the UN (ESOSCO). It has been actively working at the UN for 30 years.

 

Sources:

 

http://www.goarch.org/ourfaith/ourfaith8076

http://www.antiochian.org/morelli/the-ethos-of-orthodox-christian-healing

Let's Stop Chasing Skinny

This summer, my four-year-old cousin refused to show me her stomach, claiming that she was wearing a one-piece bathing suit because she was too “fat” for a two-piece.

 

When I heard that, I realized that there is a huge problem with the way that we all treat ourselves. By we, I mean human beings. And especially young girls and women.

 

My cousin, I’ll repeat, is four. How does she even know the word “fat”? While she will probably (God willing) forget this memory, it will stick with me for a long time.

 

I’ve heard far too many people I care about call themselves fat, put themselves down for how their bodies look, and do (at best) unnecessary and (at worst) harmful things to change the way that they look. It is so painful to see someone be self-destructive for the sake of “beauty.”

 

And that’s because I am probably the worst perpetrator of it. I’ve been there.

 

When I was in high school, I was the girl restricting my caloric intake and spending my evenings walking or running on the treadmill to burn off the small amount of calories that I actually let into my body; I was there. When I ate things that I didn’t want to eat in a vain attempt to lose weight, I was there. And most of all, when I cried in my bedroom because I weighed a hundred and fifteen pounds or so and didn’t know how to maintain it, and then again when I gained five pounds and could barely handle it, I was there.

 

So when I see someone else repeating those patterns or thinking that their bodies are not good enough, I’m really right beside them, hurting because I know they are hurting.

 

Just as Jesus is at my side, hurting because He has seen me hurt, and His love is so great that my suffering is His suffering, too. The way that it pains me when I see younger girls (and boys) getting down on themselves is how I imagine Christ looked at me during my lowest point.

 

As I write this, a significant (and healthy) weight gain is only one of the things standing between me and that girl I used to be. I also have had my confidence and self-worth reinforced, and, most importantly, renewed my relationship with Christ.

 

The good news: I am so much healthier now. The bad news: I fought with my body for a long time. I sometimes still fight with my body, seeing it not as a gift from God but as an obstacle to overcome in pursuit of pretty.

 

I absolutely abhor the idea that anyone else would do the same things that I did. That anyone else treats their body as anything less than a vessel of the Holy Spirit. Because that’s what it is, plain and simple.


So I’d like to take this chance to say this to my younger sisters, cousins, campers, GOYAns, and anyone who has felt badly about their bodies: “Skinny” is this weird and elusive thing that I can assure you that you will never reach. You will never be happy if you are striving to have a “perfect” body. This is not the perfection you were meant for. You are meant to appreciate the body that Christ gave you because He gave it to you and He only makes good things. You’re not meant to desecrate it or tear it apart with unkind thoughts, words, and actions; not meant to make it anything other than a vessel of grace.

 

Your worldview should not be shaped by the words “fat” and “skinny” and what you see on social media. Your worldview should be shaped by Jesus Christ. I would much rather you worship Christ than “skinny,” and work on your relationship with Him in order to not ruin your relationship with food and working out and the many other things that being obsessed with your weight will ruin.

 

Throughout this very, VERY slow process, I am learning to appreciate the body that Christ gave me simply by virtue of the fact that He gave it to me. And it contains His body and blood! I can’t fathom the idea that I have treated myself so badly when Christ lives in me.

 

Please, if you are struggling with body image, know you are not alone. I was there, I am there. But also know that you are loved by Christ and meant for His goodness. There is nothing truer. I will always be grateful that He has helped me realize that my body is sacred and His, and I am trying now to treat it that way. Try with me.

 

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Want more from Y2AM?  Subscribe to our email list and get weekly tips for your spiritual life every Monday!  And you can support Y2AM even more by becoming a monthly Patreon supporter.  As little as $1 a month can help us continue the work we’re doing.

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Maria is the Administrative Coordinator of Y2AM. She is a New York native who isn't completely sold on the city's charm, yet has never left. A proud graduate of Fordham University and occasional runner, she is happiest whenever chocolate, a sale, or a good Gilmore Girls reference is involved.

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Health and Literacy: An Often Overlooked Connection That Impacts Lives

 

2016 marks the celebration of two important milestones: the 50th anniversary of World Literacy Day and the implementation of a new United Nations agenda, the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These targets converge on many issues, but one important one is often overlooked, namely, literacy. Broadly defined, literacy is the ability to read and write, and ultimately comprehend information. While these skills are important by themselves, they can be impactful on essential aspects of daily life, particularly health and wellness, and they can affect morbidity and mortality rates. Since the right to health has been declared by the UN since 1948 Declaration of Human Rights, this suggests that these issues are intertwined in such a way that when one improves, the other will consequently improve.

Literacy is a tool used to educate and empower individuals around the world. It is part of Sustainable Development Goal #4, which seeks to “ensure inclusive quality education and promote literacy as an instrument to empower individuals, communities and societies.” But literacy means far more than a person’s ability to read and write: it has a direct connection to a person’s quality of life and mortality. Studies have shown that limited literacy acts as an indicator of poor health. It leads to life-threatening errors when taking medication, poorer understanding of diseases and their root causes, as well limited access to preventative care measures. Barriers to literacy also limit people’s ability to address chronic conditions and various other health-related issues. These studies have shown that when a person’s literacy is poor, they face difficulties that others do not, including communicating with healthcare professionals about their health.

Imagine, for example, a scenario where a person has a condition that is not easily diagnosable through basic examination. If the patient lacks the cognitive ability to either describe his or her symptoms, or is incapable of comprehending the instructions given by the medical professional, they will suffer accordingly.

According to the 2015 figures articulated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), 757 million adults presently lack literacy skills. This means that a significant portion of the world’s population has an increased mortality rate and a higher risk for health problems. The World Health Organization (WHO) has concluded that the majority of deaths are the result of chronic conditions. This includes physical ailments like diabetes and hypertension, but also various mental illnesses such as Alzheimer’s disease. Here is where the two issues converge, creating an opportunity to improvements in both health and literacy.

Health Literacy describes a patient’s ability to process information related to their health. This means that the patient should be able to comprehend the information provided to them by medical professionals, thereby avoiding diagnosis and treatment problems. If a person is unable to obtain or lacks the skills to comprehend certain information, he or she will be unable to properly look out for him or herself, nor make appropriate health-conscious decisions. In order to combat the rise in these conditions, it has been argued that individuals need to engage in the practice of self-management, which outlines the skills and practices needed in order for a person to learn how to live with certain conditions, thus improving their daily lives while simultaneously reducing mortality.

With improved literacy, individuals will be able to self-manage a significant portion of their ailments. Due to the day-to-day nature of many chronic conditions, individuals must be able to understand health information, including instructions regarding a particular health regimen, or the ability to plan and execute any lifestyle changes that need to be made. In countries and particular populations with low literacy rates, the ability to self-manage is diminished. Thus, those individuals are at a higher risk for health problems. For example, an individual with poor literacy skills who suffers from diabetes may be unaware that they are presently living with the condition, or if they do know about it, they may be ignorant of treatment methods. Diabetes typically requires vigilant control over one’s diet and the constant checking of blood sugar, both of which, if done correctly, allow for a relatively normal life. Ignored, and that person may struggle to participate in daily activities. With increased literacy will come the recognition of self-management skills, namely that blood sugar needs to be maintained.

Recognizing the correlation between literacy and health will ultimately benefit both issues. After fifty years of acknowledging literacy as an essential issue, connected to many facets of life for the world, things have certainly improved. There are 50 million fewer illiterate people in the world today than fifteen years ago thanks to the work of governments, the private sector and various organizations dedicated to this issue. Despite this, however, work remains to be done.  According to the UNESCO, 250 million children are likely to enter adulthood without basic literacy skills. And these problems do not exist in isolation of other problems: many exist because of a particular population or country’s inability to escape from a cycle of poverty and illiteracy. By improving at least one of these issues, literacy, you will be potentially removing a burden to escaping that cycle, while simultaneously creating a healthier existence for many.

 

Anthony Balouris is a Fellow at the UN for the Department of Inter-Orthodox, Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America (un.goarch.org).

The Archdiocese is an accredited Non-Governmental Organization at the United Nations through the Department of Public Information (UN DPI) and has General Consultative Status under the Economic and Social Council of the UN (ECOSOC). It has been actively working at the United Nations for 30 years.

 

 

Sources:

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