Working for or against your health?
We can never know about the days to come
But we think about them anyway...
Carly Simon's hit, "Anticipation" opens with a truism that has proved to be at times comforting; at times, calamitous. And when it comes to the near or distant future, anticipation about our health can be a good or a bad thing. It depends how you think about it.
Let's face it, we're mental time travelers. We spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about the future and the past, possibly at the expense of the present. Rehearsing events and conversations that have yet to take place is a favorite pastime (future-amusement) for us mortals.
Why do we do it? Preparing for all the possible scenarios in life, anticipating outcomes within those inner conversations we have with ourselves is a curious habit. For one thing, it is believed to be a protection technique often used to avoid unpleasant surprises.
Ted Kaptchuk, Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, gave a talk recently at TEDMED and referred to the brain as a prediction machine. He related this story:
"You're in a forest, you're walking along, you know the forest is full of snakes and you see a long slender object. Your brain's visual processing will see that object as a snake, even though it's a stick. Anticipatory mechanisms are critical for human survival. It's built deep into us."
Unless we are careful, though, repetitively anticipating something harmful can come back to bite us. After all, if you jump off a cliff to avoid the stick you thought was a snake, you haven't accomplished much.
Wanting to be proactive in our health care does not mean regularly getting ready for bad news and expecting the worst. I'm thinking about incidents like the man in the Bible who has been waiting for 38 years for relief from a crippling disease, who when asked if he wants to be healed can only confirm his past troubles, current difficulties and limited prospects. That's not healthy.
We defend our health by keeping tabs on our thoughts and deductions, confronting negative impulses, and promoting our wellness through peaceful, prayerful, contemplative means.
"Admitting only such conclusions as you wish realized in bodily results, you will control yourself harmoniously," confirms health advocate, Mary Baker Eddy. More than wishful thinking, this approach is a formidable, mind-enhancing way to erase the fears that would encroach on our normal, healthy standing.
Something as simple as counting our blessings can be a prescription for health. It helps to tame the unreasonable fixation of looking everywhere for harmful potentialities (snakes in the grass). Staying alert to our God-given wholeness does a lot more for our health than dwelling on the stress-inducing fears of possible illness. In fact, it seems to me it's exactly what Jesus directed the fellow at the pool to do – resulting in him standing and walking away free.
Carly belts out: "Anticipation, anticipation is making me late, is keeping me waiting." We don't need to get mired in the repetitive cycles of doubt and negativity that promote unhealthy conditions. We can be health activists. We can work for healthy outcomes. That's something worth thinking about.