I woke up with a sore throat. I noticed I had pressure in my head and was developing a headache. Sore muscles and fatigue started to set in. I was getting sick.
How did this happen? My family had been sick, and although I was in close proximity to them, I washed my hands. I had not shared utensils or drinks. I kept my distance. Still, I caught the virus.
Was there anything more I could have done? How about my daily habits? Could they have played a role in whether I fought off or contracted the cold?
Well, come to think of it, I hadn’t been drinking enough water, and I had really been enjoying some sweets over the past few days. I had also been staying up late on Facebook and surfing the Internet. I started to see a trend of actions leading to lowered immune function as I recalled the past week’s actions. I then set out to fight back against this cold. Lemon water, vitamin C powder, tea with honey, lots of water, chicken soup and going to bed early every night were my weapons.
After I started to get sick, I decided I needed to pick up my healthy habits that I had let slip. By committing to restarting my good health habits and taking control of my actions, I could better take care of my health in the future.
What should you do to take care of your health? Where do you start? Why should you care?
Many times our actions (or lack of action) lead to future consequences. The same is true when it comes to health. Although much focus should be given to our lack of spiritual character or diligence, this spiritual void may show up in our physical lives.
We must diligently observe our actions when we’re young to analyze whether a change of behavior is needed. If we continue with bad habits, they become instilled in our nature and much harder to stop. The same can be said of good habits—once they are established, they can become part of godly character that will help us through life.
Treating your body as a holy temple
The apostle Paul spoke to the Corinthian church about taking care of our physical bodies, because that is where God places His Holy Spirit after baptism. “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
Not only are we showing love to God through taking care of our bodies as the creation He made, we show concern for others by not wanting to be the reason they contract an illness or fall into bad habits of health.
The book of Proverbs contains some words of wisdom about how to control bad habits: “Whoever has no rule over his own spirit is like a city broken down, without walls” (Proverbs 25:28). If we recognize behaviors in our lives that seem to have more control over us than we have over them, we are made vulnerable to more bad choices. Heartfelt prayer and repentance coupled with wise counsel from parents or ministers can help us to overcome areas of weakness.
Making your health a priority
First, pray for guidance from God and the ability to see the need to change your habits. Many times our bad habits are ones that are already ingrained. We need God’s Holy Spirit to convict us and show us what we need to change.
Second, analyze the way you are spending time. Keep a journal or write down notes of what you do each day and for how long. Do a quick Google search. Many time management tools, apps and time sheets are available online. These can help you prioritize your time each day.
Ask yourself, after analyzing your time usage, “Are my habits helping or hindering my health?”
Third, what are you putting into your body? Our bodies need fuel they can easily use. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, good quality protein and water are a few of these (http://hopkinsmedicine.org/healthlibrary/conditions/pediatrics/healthy_e...).
Lastly, pay attention to the amount of sleep and exercise you engage in. These are both keys to good health. The National Sleep Foundation has a lot to say about the importance of sleep. “Sleep is vital to your well-being, as important as the air you breathe, the water you drink and the food you eat. It can even help you to eat better and manage the stress of being a teen” (sleepfoundation.org/sleep-topics/teens-and-sleep).
Practical ways to start building a habit of health
If you want to eat better, pick one thing to eliminate and one thing to add to your diet. Changing habits consists of replacing bad actions with beneficial actions. Keep a journal listing what food and drink you consume, and how you feel before and after consuming them. Look for patterns.
If you want to get more sleep each night, consider your habits. Staying up late is a common factor, but you also may not be getting enough exercise (http://choices.scholastic.com/blog/physical-activity-may-improve-teen-sl...).
Additionally, using electronics before bed can make it difficult to fall asleep. Try drinking non-caffeinated hot tea before bed, reading a book or getting your school work done earlier in the day, and set a consistent bed time. Using an alarm clock or timer can remind you to get to bed by a certain time and help you wake up more refreshed.
If you have a goal to exercise more, consider what type of exercise you enjoy. Set a time of day to exercise, and choose how many days per week you will focus on this goal. Keep a journal of your workouts, and try to find a workout buddy. “One of the biggest reasons people drop an exercise program is lack of interest: If what you’re doing isn’t fun, it’s hard to keep it up” (http://kidshealth.org/en/teens/exercise-wise.html).
Even physically fit athletes can find it hard to stay active during the off-season. If the coach does not require mandatory practice, muscle atrophy and lack of discipline may seep in. By making a plan to change up your exercise routine to keep things interesting during break, your strength will easily return and even be increased by the support you have given your body throughout the year.
Look for accountability. Talk to your parents. Tell them your plans and goals. They will be proud of your commitment to taking care of your body, and may have advice to help with your specific challenges.
Spiritual nourishment is an essential part of our health
In the book of Matthew, Satan used Jesus’ physical weakness after 40 days and nights of fasting as an opportunity to tempt Him to create bread to satiate His hunger, but Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God’” (Matthew 4:4, New International Version).
Pray to God. Lay out the plans you have made in prayer. Ask Him to provide people and resources to support you. “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps” (Proverbs 16:9, English Standard Version).
Share your goals with your friends. Support each other in positive self-improvement. Talk about things that each of you would like to change in your lives, and help each other stay committed to the goal.
Sticking to your goals to maintain your health may prove difficult during times of transition. Take time to assess your goals again each month, and as the stages of your life change, i.e., during summer break, family sickness, church camp, when preparing to go to college.
Taking care of your health may seem unimportant right now, but creating a habit of health will help you develop the discipline and self-control to grow spiritually. If God has given you the blessing of good health, don’t take it for granted. Set yourself up for a physical body able to serve others, and to enjoy each healthful day.