Good health is something it’s easy to take for granted, until suddenly you wake up and find it gone.
At least, that’s how it was for me, the one time in my life that I was seriously ill. I was 24 and overnight developed a bad case of mononucleosis, complete with fever, chills and a wicked sore throat. When the acute symptoms subsided, I was left with chronic fatigue that went on for months. Like many people who suffer from auto-immune issues, I looked fine. But I could barely get out of bed long enough to eat a bowl of soup. That experience permanently did away with any youthful thoughts of invincibility I might have had. From then on, I have always been grateful for my generally good health.
These days, we have come to realize how tightly our individual health is tied into the health of our environment. If what we put into our body is unhealthy—whether it be water, air or food—then we can’t be fully healthy either. Mental health has also become an increasingly visible issue in western society, as more and more people suffer from depression and anxiety. Given the constant barrage of bad news, it’s easy to understand how our spirits can become oppressed by the pain of the world.
I quickly become sickened with heartache when I see pictures of dead sea animals littering the beach, read about violent wildfires wiping out thousands of acres of forest, or watch videos of divers searching bleached-out coral reefs for any sign of life. I can be swamped with sorrow when I hear about all the cruelties that some humans perpetrate on others, and on innocent animals.
I try to stop myself from sliding down into all-out depression by reminding myself that my being sad and upset will not help anyone. On the contrary, the best thing I can do is keep myself healthy, alert and active, ready to do what I can at every opportunity to make the world better. This is true for you too. Of course, we don’t always have control over our health. But to the extent that we do have the power to choose a certain brightness of spirit over the creeping malaise of our time, let’s do it! Joining together with likeminded others can help buoy our mood if we’re feeling down—even something like attending a live concert, or going to a bustling farmers’ market, can give us a good clean whiff of health.
Theologian Howard Thurman famously said, “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and then go do it. Because what the world needs is more people who have come alive.” This month, consider what makes you feel alive, in that healthy, go-get-em kind of way. When we do things that make us healthier, we make the world healthier too.