THOUGHT: A poet’s guide to health

Undated handout photo of the Rev David Clarke, elected Wednesday February 8th 2006 as the new Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland. Rev Clarke, who has been minister of Terrace Row Church in Coleraine, Co Londonderry for over 20 years, is the son of a butcher, and his brother played professional football for Sunderland. See PA story ULSTER Church. PRESS ASSOCIATION photo. Photo credit should read: PA
Undated handout photo of the Rev David Clarke, elected Wednesday February 8th 2006 as the new Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland. Rev Clarke, who has been minister of Terrace Row Church in Coleraine, Co Londonderry for over 20 years, is the son of a butcher, and his brother played professional football for Sunderland. See PA story ULSTER Church. PRESS ASSOCIATION photo. Photo credit should read: PA

Scarcely a week passes without fresh medical evidence being adduced to support certain life-style choices.

In recent weeks we have been told by academics at universities in Cambridge and East Anglia that in terms of boosting performance, sugar-filled sports drinks are no more effective than water. Researchers at Queen Mary University in London claim that statins, normally prescribed to reduce cholesterol levels, also seem to improve heart health; while an Oxford University research team contend that even moderate drinking in middle age (a glass of wine a day) can shrink the brain. You have been warned!

The American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, improved on the adage, ‘an apple a day keeps the doctor away’ with a snappy couplet;’ Joy, and temperance and repose, slam the door on the doctor’s nose.’ Modern researchers could hardly improve on that!

Laughter is a mighty restorative. ‘A cheerful heart is good medicine’ runs an Old Testament verse (Proverbs 17;22). How often our dull hearts are lifted by someone with a ready wit, whose cheery companionship has delivered us from self-absorption. Laughter helps us to put our own problems in perspective. While we often ask God to forgive us for our sins, ought we not also to ask Him to forgive us our sadnesses, so often the fault of self-importance.

Longfellow also urged temperance as an avenue to good health. The Oxford research team, warned that warned moderate drinkers are more likely to have atrophy of the brain that teetotallers, and to have a steeper rate of cognitive decline. A teetotal life-style has been a feature among advocates of all religions. Yet no one can insist that a teetotal lifestyle is a Christian command. it may be commended in Scripture, but is not commanded. What is shunned is drunkenness, whereby, as Shakespeare said, we put something in our mouth ‘to take away our brains.’

Repose was Longfellow’s third suggestion. The need for rest and sleep, ‘knitting the ravelled sleeve of care’ is widely acknowledged. God built that provision into our nature when he set aside a day for rest (Exodus 20;8) and Jesus advised the disciples, ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest (Mark 6;31). Yet in our day of social media, it seems no one takes time to reflect. Health and happiness are better served when the mind and body are rested.