Have you followed the “Blue Zones” movement started by the folks at National Geographic? A group of researchers studied areas where clusters of people lived to the age of 100 in relatively good health. They searched for commonalities, or lessons, these healthy people could teach the rest of us. They came up with lessons that include move and exercise naturally every day; know your purpose; down-shift, or have regular routines for relieving stress; eat moderately — stop eating when you feel 80% full and eat an early and light supper; eat very little meat and in small portions; prioritize time with family; and develop a close group of friends.
Another lesson they learned is that of the 263 relatively healthy centenarians they studied, all but five were engaged in a faith community. In his book on Blue Zones, Dan Buettner says, “It appears that people who pay attention to their spiritual side have lower rates of cardiovascular disease, depression, stress, and suicide, and their immune systems seem to work better (p. 288).” He and his team go on to suggest that people who are engaged in worship four times a month and truly feel part of their faith community live an extra four to 14 healthy years.
This is not to say that the faithful do not have challenges and health problems. And the reason to worship God is not because we want to live longer. God is worthy of our worship. This research does point to some clues about who we are as human beings, however. We need regular worship. We need regular rituals to help us unplug and reflect on what really matters in life. We need ways to see our lives more clearly. We need the support of others.
What does it mean for you to “Honor the Sabbath and keep it holy?” In a culture that is quickly shedding Sunday as a time set aside for rest, family and worship, the burden falls more and more on each individual to carve out time for healthy rituals and routines. We pray that you will find a healthy rhythm. It is worth the struggle.
The King-Nobles are lead pastors at First United Methodist Church, Normal. Contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org
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