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Lifelines: Cultural Messages

The culture is full of messages that run counter to a true understanding of wellness. Choosing to take your health care into your own hands begins with understanding you are created for a relationship with God. If this is your starting point for recognizing wellness in your own life, you’ll begin to distinguish the messages in the culture that work against wellness even though buzz words try to convince you they are good for your health.

  • Join a gym and get fit!
  • If you look like this, you’ll be happy.
  • This way of eating will solve all your problems.
  • Get thin in just minutes a day!
  • You can do it all.
  • Technology makes your life easier.
  • Faster is better.

This is not an exhaustive list of cultural messages that get in the way of health. No doubt you can add to the list. But any one of these messages can take a chink out of the picture of wholeness that is the core of being healthy. Put several of them together—as most people do every day—and they become disempowering, rather than empowering. Food, exercise, relationships, and meaningful work are all important components of wellness. But listening to the wrong messages about these areas of your life derails the pursuit of wellness, rather than supports it.

You are the expert at taking care of yourself. The doctor you see when your body is not working right is only one piece of your health. When it comes to health, people are used to being told what to do. I’ve had patients finally stop drinking because I told them to, though I doubt they did not already know drunkenness was a dangerous lifestyle. For some reason they needed the “expert” to say it.

You are the one who knows what is going on in your life. You are the one who knows what brings you joy and what stresses you out. You are the one who knows if you are lonely or tired or energized or filled with purpose or discouraged or excited out of your mind. No one else can look at your life and tell you five easy steps to health—and in only two easy weeks.

Cultural messages can be disempowering because they quickly steer us toward the negative. We fail, when measured against those messages. We fail to have the body of the model in the ads. We fail to lift 180 pounds. We fail to stick to the diet that deprives us of our favorite foods. We fail to do as much as we think we should. We fail to attract as many Facebook friends as everyone else—or so we think.

Perhaps we’re supposed to hear the messages and be inspired to achieve them. For some people that works. For many others—perhaps most others—failure is just one more thing to feel crummy about.

Blessing is a far more powerful motivator. A kind word from someone in a support group will do more for your overall wellness than a month of weights. Where are the blessings in your life? Who are the people who make you feel loved? Who are the ones who stand with you in suffering? What activities make you feel better for having done them—without regrets? Where do you find meaning in your life? How do you draw closer to God? Where do you find the connections that enrich your experience of body-and-spirit humanity?

No one can answer these questions for you, but these are the messages that will contribute to your health. Are you listening to your answers?

Excerpted from God, Health, and Happiness by Dr. Scott Morris (Barbour Publishing, 2012). Dr. Morris is the founder and executive director of the Church Health Center in Memphis, TN.

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Rev. G. Scott Morris, MD, is founder and CEO of the Church Health Center in Memphis, Tennessee. This is the largest faith-based, not-for-profit primary health clinic in the United States, providing health services to over thirty-thousand patients who are working but uninsured. Dr. Morris is a physician and a United Methodist pastor.

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Dec. 2008: Healing Touch

Jan. 2009: Keeping Sabbath

Feb. 2009: Commercial Diagnosis

March 2009: Unthinkable Words

April 2009: Financial Anxiety

May 2009: Martyrs of Memphis

June/July 2009: H1N1 FAQ

Aug. 2009: Recommended Reading

Sept 2009: Letter to a Future Doctor

Oct 2009: Make Your Christmas Healthy!

Nov/Dec 2009: Fine and Blessed

Jan. 2010: Heartbreak Healthcare

Feb. 2010: Keep Out!

March 2010: Our Fast-Food Addiction

April 2010: How to Visit Someone in the Hospital

May 2010: A Matter of Healing Both Body and Spirit

June/July 2010: Medicine as Ministry

Aug. 2010: The Body of Christ

Sept. 2010: God Works in the Body-and-Spirit

Dec. 2010: Aliyah

Jan. 2011: Better Relationship or Better Resolution?

March 2011: Ruins

July 2011: Micah's Triple Aim

June 2012: Cultural Messages

July 2012: Water--A Weapon of Kindness

November 2012: Feasting on More than Food

December 2012: Worship and Discover

January 2013: Dreams of Justice

February 2013: Life Flows from the Heart

March 2013: Why Lent is the Right Time to Ponder Life

April 2013: Look What Love Can Do

May 2013: In Season and Out

June 2013: The Light of Summer

July 2013: How to Change the World

August 2013: Changing Faith Changes Health

October 2013: What Does “Health Literacy” Really Mean?”

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January 2014: Power in the Blood

February 2014: Start with God's Love

April/ May 2014: He Knows My Name