Laughter & Its Serious Benefits

It seems strange to parse out laughter for health and life benefits, doesn’t it? Laughter is laughter, an involuntary response to something funny. That’s all. But you can feel it when you enjoy a deep, hearty laugh, cant’ you? Uplifted, happy, renewed.

When is the last time you laughed until you cried? (The presidential election doesn’t count.) When life becomes too serious, our minds and bodies notice. We’re sluggish, slumped over shells of life, barely making it through the workday. Laughter changes that. Perhaps, you’ve never thought of laughter as a source of health, but you’ve known it has restorative power when you heard someone say, “Thanks for making me laugh. I needed that.”

They were right. We do need that. Easier than healthy eating and cheaper than medication, laughter is the cheapest, most accessible, and unifying health decision we have available to us.

Here’s why stopping to enjoy a good joke is not a waste of time:

  1. Laughter reduces stress hormones and triggers the release of endorphins, which alleviates pain
  2. Laughing gives a healthy boost to your immune cells
  3. Laughter lowers blood pressure and improves cardiac health
  4. Having a good belly laugh improves lymph flow — our lymphatic system (our detoxification pathway) doesn’t have a pump, so it relies on our muscle contractions and breathing for circulation. You know what makes our muscles contract and us breath deeply? Freezing water. I’m joking, but I guess I’m not wrong, am I?
  5. As you might anticipate from our discussion about muscle contraction, laughter really does what it feels like it does: works and tones your abdominal muscles. Maybe you could trade in those old ab-exercise DVDs for a light-hearted friend?

It’s good to know how our everyday habits and experiences impact our lives. Now, when your office clown won’t stop joking around long enough for you to focus on your work, you can take heart by knowing that your laughter is actually adding much to your life (and productivity).

And the best news is that we have laughter all around us. (Especially when we fall down on the sidewalk in town, am I right? Just me? Okay.) Funny friends, hilarious videos on the internet, and every child in our lives make us laugh. When you feel sluggish and worn down, treat your mind and your body to an uplifting conversation with a friend or one of those shamefully funny videos you previously thought wasn’t worth your time. I know that’s a lot to suggest after you just read a blog post that’s barely worth your time. Did you giggle? You’re welcome.

Covered by God’s Grace

via Daily Prompt: Cloaked

Well, that’s an intimidating title to write content for! How big, how unprecedented and life-altering God’s Grace is! But when I read the prompt “cloaked,” I cannot help but to reflect on the divine cloak I’ve been given.

That sounds a little odd (because it is a little odd). God is at the same time a just and a merciful God. According to justice, sin (smiting God) must receive its due punishment. According to mercy, the sinner is pardoned punishment. How, then, can the Almighty fashion such a contradiction? Enter: Jesus.

Really, in almost every moment you wonder about God’s contradictions, Jesus enters! Sinless but became sin, God but became man, God but not the Father — what a paradoxical man! Through Him, every contradiction and paradox is made possible and made perfect.

Because of my sin (I’ll just call it ‘my sin’ since listing the individual reasons I deserve judgment would overload this platform), I should expect to meet God’s judgment. There is nothing I can do. How could I squirm my way out of it? Divine laws that don’t change with the times. Divine wrath and judgment proportional to my faults. How could one get out without being noticed by the Enforcer? Enter: Jesus.

Jesus has covered me. Someone had to countenance the punishment, because justice requires it. So, instead of bending His own rules (which would be fickle and ‘un-God-like’), He came down to us to satisfy judgment himself. So, now, when The Lord looks upon me, He sees a radiant, white light — Jesus cloaking me. On that day, Jesus became me and I became as Him. I’ve made a lot of trades in my life — I haven’t regretted that one.

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This is a platform to discuss and reflect on ideas, advancements, questions, and other musings. I am neither a health expert nor a member of clergy. The only authority I have to speak is my experience — I yield no degree or certification to give you medical, psychological, or religious advice. This is simply where minds come to meet and broaden. 

Rainbows & God’s Promises

Through every shadow, in every storm, under every burden, remember His promise.

bow

 I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. – Genesis 9:13

Building a new lifestyle is a frustrating mission (which isn’t surprising, since getting out of bed in the morning is a frustrating mission!). One’s current living, though, can be so plagued with painful, embarrassing symptoms and burdens that you cannot help but to seek a better lifestyle. I guess I’m speaking about myself.

Covered in chronic acne and eczema, I found myself weary of my symptoms and frustrated with mainstream medicine’s dangerous fixes. Desperate, I prayed often. I prayed for divine healing, I prayed for new wisdom, and I prayed for strength. (You know I hate to acknowledge it, but our suffering does carry a pretty big purpose if it draws prayer out of us, doesn’t it?)

And with The Lord’s strength, I ventured on. To holistic doctors, to acupuncturists, and with unique teas and supplements, I fought for health. And I lost as much as I won. Some ideas brought breakthroughs and others brought broken hearts. I faced disappointment when attempts failed and enjoyed triumph when approaches worked.

On a particularly sunny, autumn day, I went into my acupuncture appointment as usual. When I left, though, I walked underneath a radiant rainbow (it truly was radiant, though the picture I captured wouldn’t demonstrate that, because I was the one holding the camera). I was inescapably reminded of the verse in Genesis in which God declares His covenant with the Earth. And I remembered how thankful I am to be a part of the Earth that has a covenant with God.

This world is filled with woes. A fallen world is a deadly one, and one that continuously disappoints our hearts without fail — it is physically, mentally, and spiritually burdensome. However, how radiantly beautiful it is to be in a world underneath God’s rainbow. Even as we lay in the trenches, we are honored as we look up to see God’s presence.

Through every shadow, in every storm, under every burden, remember His promise.

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This is a platform to discuss and reflect on ideas, advancements, questions, and other musings. I am neither a health expert nor a member of clergy. The only authority I have to speak is my experience — I yield no degree or certification to give you medical, psychological, or religious advice. This is simply where minds come to meet and broaden. 

What We Eat & How It Affects… Everything

That’s a mouthful, right? (See what I did there?)

Ironically, as we accumulate more and more knowledge about how our bodies work, we seem to become less and less cognizant of the things we put into it. We put uniquely designed fuel in our vehicles, but with the fuel for our bodies, we are much less intentional.

Why is that? Have we become so detached from the consequences of our decisions that we no longer see that what we put into our bodies has system-wide effects? I think so.

And how could our food not have an incredible impact on our functionality? With 3 meals a day and all of those snacks we adore, our digestive system is continually churning through food. We can’t afford (literally and metaphorically) to ignore that important role any longer.

Some people disagree with that, reminding us that our digestive system has the strength to handle anything. Yes, it does, with acid strong enough to melt through the floor, our digestive system can certainly conquer the garbage we give to it. But should it?

I suppose that’s up to you. And it’s a decision that recalls the decision Lord Voldemort must make: you may go ahead and drink the unicorn blood to live, but you will have “but a half-life, a cursed life.” Okay, so it’s not quite that dramatic, but you get the point — you can choose to sustain a standard American diet of fast, processed, hormone-infused food, but you won’t thrive.

Big steps forward, and lots of small steps back

We have creatively crafted solutions to many olden ailments — polio, smallpox, and on. However, we have, at the same time, developed modern, western ailments, ailments that burden those in developed nations (who eat the food of the western world). From arthritis, anxiety, and acne, to eczema, depression, and diabetes, our bodies aren’t functioning well at all. In a time of unprecedented scientific and technological advancement, our bodies are failing. Why? It’s in the food.

Our standard western diet breeds inflammation, immune dysfunction, and obesity. It overloads our detoxification capacities. And it slowly, but persistently wears us down, indiscriminately making us chronically ill, fatigued, and unhappy.

My experience

While there are innumerable studies that demonstrate the inextricable link between food and functionality, I’ll share my own experience here. When I entered university, I was struck with crippling anxiety; the stress and the displacement was unnerving to me. Very swiftly, chronic, moderately-severe acne covered my face and persistent eczema covered the rest of me. As you would expect, I desperately sought the dermatologist, who issued oral antibiotics and topical creams that stopped the skin lesions from forming. While they eased my immediate suffering, they did me a great disservice by misguiding me: they didn’t tell me that skin problems come from within, not without.

After 2 years on the antibiotics, I knew that I had to seek an alternative (long-term antibiotic use has harrowing effects on us). As the acne was again overtaking my face, I called a functional doctor — a doctor who practices medicine considered alternative to our general medical field. He said, “I’d like to consider your diet.” I thought, “Well, he clearly isn’t taking this seriously. I have acne, not indigestion.” I had no digestive symptoms. 0. No bloating, gas, diarrhea, indigestion, reflux — nothing. I was desperate (and thankful that someone at least cared to try to seek a root cause), so I moved forward with him.

When I did an elimination diet (eliminating common offending foods like gluten, dairy, soy, corn, additives, etc.), I saw relief. When I paired food elimination with Glutagenics (a product designed to stimulate intestinal cell regrowth), I flourished immediately. The eczema eased, the acne dissipated, and, to my potentially greater surprise, my anxiety left. I found myself happy, peaceful, and healthy. It was in this moment that I realized that our modern medicine is missing the mark: we don’t need just new medications, we need a new diet. You can buy Glutagenics here:

Metagenics Glutagenics Supplement, 9.16 Ounce

Really, we need an old diet — one filled with organic meats, vegetables, fruits, and herbs. It’s been nearly 2 years since I embraced this new lifestyle, and it’s been incredibly rewarding. It’s not about eliminating the western diet; it’s about discovering a new diet that betters honors your life. And there’s a lot of good food out there.

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I would never recommend foregoing the doctor; we are fortunate to have access to modern healthcare. What I do recommend, because I’ve seen the incredible impact it can have, is to also explore a natural, holistic approach to health and healing. You might be delightfully surprised and relieved at what you find.

I seek not to push products or programs. I seek to share with others what the doctors failed to share with me: it’s in the food.

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This is a platform to discuss and reflect on ideas, advancements, questions, and other musings. I am neither a health expert nor a member of clergy. The only authority I have to speak is my experience — I yield no degree or certification to give you medical, psychological, or religious advice. This is simply where minds come to meet and broaden. 

We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

How I Dropped The Drug We’re All On: Acid-Suppressants

biotics

The ending of that title probably seemed anti-climatic, didn’t it? It might’ve been more thrilling had this article shared an exciting victory over addiction. I think there’s an equally enthralling victory story here, and perhaps one just as meaningful.

Upon waking after my first endoscopy procedure, the doctor notified me that the severe pain I suffered was caused by gastritis and eosinophilic esophagitis — two big terms for even bigger inflammation. As you would rightly expect, they prescribed to me 3-months of acid suppressant medication (proton pump inhibitors) and a follow-up endoscopy.

Very swiftly — and with much gratefulness! — I felt relieved, again full of life and the vinegar some have come to know and love! This relief lasted the course of the 3-month prescription period. Unfortunately (or fortunately, as this is part of a journey with a good ending), the endoscopy was scheduled about 4 months later than the first one, which meant I went for 4 weeks without the acid suppressing medication.

There’s something they don’t tell you about that medicine (Okay,  there’s much they don’t tell you. Do they tell you anything?). When you come off of it, you suffer a resurgence of your original symptoms with greater intensity and might encounter painful symptoms you didn’t even have before. This is known as a rebound period. So, should you remain on acid suppressants forever, you risk severe side effects, and if you use them short term, you suffer greatly at the end of your period of relief.

Though I’m sure you see it coming, I’ll tell you that my second endoscopy looked much like my first. But this time, I woke up in despair as the doctor explained that his only potential advice is to remain on acid suppressants long term. I asked for varying approaches, including prokinetics, but with calm certainty, he explained that acid suppressants were the only tools we had to stop my digestive system from suffering.

Two heads are better than one?

I researched. And I praise God for a mind that hungers to solve puzzles, because I would be months deep in acid suppressants if I didn’t have it. Quickly, I found that, on different occasions, cabbage juice has been successfully used to treat peptic ulcers more efficiently than standard medication. The methionine S-methyl sulfonium in cabbage (colloquially called ‘Vitamin U’) promotes proper digestive and intestinal function, with a uniquely helpful ability to stimulate mucous formation, which means Vitamin U, while doing a host of other great things, helps your stomach to build a mucous layer strong enough to protect itself from the acid (and sometimes bile) that can irritate the lining of the stomach, which causes a surprisingly long list of sufferings.

You know I had to buy the juicer. I couldn’t help myself. With a stomach burning and a mind churning, I purchased a juicer and several heads of cabbage (the rest of their story was pretty graphic!).

A pill worth taking

And I did something else. I also purchased Gastrazyme from Biotics Research Corporation. Biotics has created this supplement form of Vitamin U, for which I’m infinitely grateful (try juicing several cabbages a day. Did I forget to mention you’re expected to drink 32 oz a day for successful recovery?). Very soon after I started taking the supplements after each meal, that sweet relief set in again. The stomach pain has dissipated. The reflux has vanished. The tightness, soreness, and despair have gone their separate ways. And I haven’t touched the juicer in weeks (I know, I loved the juicer, but the supplements have been radically helpful, and I’m as lazy as the next one of us.).

Biotics Research Gastrazyme — 90 Tablets

In our modern healthcare, our knee-jerk reaction is to prescribe acid suppressing medication for seemingly every digestive woe. That over-medicated approach is both troublesome and disappointing. It’s troublesome because it carries with it heavy consequences and it’s disappointing because the scientists among us aren’t searching further for unique, creative solutions that better honor our bodies.

As with everything, there is a place for acid suppressing medication. It’s just not here.

Oh, and with the regained peace in my digestive tract, I’m able to enjoy coffee again — for that celebration, click here!

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This is a platform to discuss and reflect on ideas, advancements, questions, and other musings. I am neither a health expert nor a member of clergy. The only authority I have to speak is my experience — I yield no degree or certification to give you medical, psychological, or religious advice. This is simply where minds come to meet and broaden. 

We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

 

COFFEE: The Life-Blood Of Our Spirit

It has to be written in all caps, doesn’t it? Because that’s what it does to us — finds us in our lowercase, sunken state and helps us to take command our lives, bold and confident.

I recently had to go several months without enjoying the comforting touch of a warm coffee mug in the cool morning. With a stomach so inflamed and reflux so ready to emerge,  I had to put the coffee bean grinder to rest. But this morning (on International Coffee Day, she says very poetically), I am cherishing a rich, velvety cup. (If you’re interested in how I overcame digestive inflammation and reflux alternatively, read the piece published next week in which I explore that adventure.)

So, on this morning, we celebrate; we celebrate life-filled mornings, the aroma of coffee filtering through the house, and the promise of another day. And coffee isn’t the only guest I invited to this party. Here are 6 unique, unexpected coffee-inspired products that broaden coffee’s place in our lives (who knew it could be any more influential, right?):

Presse Coffee Brewer – $28.95

This thermos-style coffee maker evidently provides mobility, efficiency, and fresh, hot coffee – everything we want in a morning.

The brewer uses a ‘manual immersion brewing method’ that creates a bold cup of coffee in about 3 glorious minutes. Basically, you put your carefully-chosen coffee grounds in the thermos, pour water over them, and press a filtering, layered insert into the cup. In minutes, you’re drinking the coffee you created with your own hands. How majestically simple.

There is a curse that accompanies being a devoted lover of coffee; when put in a situation in which coffee is inaccessible, a werewolf-like transformation occurs. As is usual in our human condition, coffee love is often paired with coffee dependence. This thermos keeps the beast inside on during commutes, while hiking mountains, and on camping trips.

Grinds Coffee Pouches – $11.99

Now this is interesting. Grinds – a company with its heritage on Shark Tank, where somebody recognizes a great idea when they see it – has created small, delightful packets of flavored coffee grinds, much like chewing tobacco packets, but without the cancer and with the caffeine! Hurray!

Part of adoring coffee is adoring coffee products, and this one deserves to come home with us. The new, innovative thought behind the product is luring, and every coffee drinker appreciates a different way to weave coffee into their day.

If you’re a caffeine-loving smokeless tobacco user, this idea was specially designed for you! If using a coffee grind packet satisfies your craving for even an hour a day, that’s another win! Coffee and health and cravings satisfied – what more would we want?

Coffee Bean Cookies – $29.99

It’s a great age when you can buy fresh cookies on the internet. And the era is even greater when those cookies come with coffee beans baked inside to create potentially one of the best treats thinkable.

Not every coffee lover enjoys eating coffee beans (perhaps only the fiercest fans, one could argue!), but cookie dough and coffee beans are a pair happily cherished by enthusiasts. Most coffee shops are consistently stocked with chocolate-covered coffee beans because they understand that their customers just can’t get enough of sweetly-coated coffee beans.

Coffee beans baked into a cookie is something even loftier. How creative and delicious that thought! All of the best things wrapped into a unique dessert. Enjoy these cookies with only your favorite coffee-loving person. And – dare I suggest it – have these cookies with a hot cup of java.

Coffee bean plant — $9.95

15 Seeds Arabian Coffee, Mountain Coffee, Arabica Coffee, Coffee Shrub Of Arabia Coffea Arabica Plant

This is about as serious as coffee dedication gets. To help your favorite caffeine-crazed companion become a more avid coffee lover, to help them reach greater heights in coffee enthusiasm, here is the gift that transcends our artificial world to deliver the most natural coffee imaginable.

Growing your own coffee beans (which you would later peel, roast, peel again, grind, and make into incredibly fresh and aromatic coffee), enables you to be involved in every step of the coffee-creating process. How fulfilling! With full control over a rewarding project, how could your coffee-adoring gift recipient do anything but love you for providing them with this opportunity to create coffee?

The leap from coffee drinker to coffee creator is something uniquely enjoyable – to become part of what you love. Enjoy the coffee grown by your own hands!

Wine crate coffee table – $195.00

What better to go with a ridiculous amount of daily coffee than a simple, modern coffee table? Of course, we like our coffee to taste good and look good – ambiance matters much to us as humans, and this coffee table sets a calm mood perfect for a slow morning with one’s favorite coffee.

Because any coffee lover would cherish this (admittedly pricey) gift, coasters are a must, lest they ruin their new favorite furniture piece! Never let your coffee drinker wreck the things they love by ensuring coffee mug rings don’t touch the new coffee table. And that’s what we all need, right? Someone to keep us from wrecking ourselves and the things we cherish?

Heck, while you’re at it, just buy one of everything on the list.

Sugar Doilies – Prices Range

So…did doilies just become cool again? With Etsy, anything is possible.

As children (I say “as children” because it seems more appropriate, but really, it’s a fascination that carries through adulthood), we were enraptured by the little cubes of sugar our parents and grandparents dropped into their mugs. We didn’t much care for that bitter drink every big person adored, but if you got to have those delightful cubes, maybe it was worth it.

Our love for sculpted sugar is honored by these edible doilies. Coffee – the nectar of the gods – is perfect as it is. However, placing beautifully ‘woven’ sugar on the top of your cup, watching the sweet design become part of your drink, somehow makes it even greater. How regal you look with that lacey coffee!

 

 

 

Anthem Protests & Christ

That’s a fiery combination, right? Some people shame the former and others balk at the latter (and, yes, I wouldn’t forget the group that rejects both of these powerful controversies!). But kneeling during the anthem and Christ our Lord are much more than “controversies”, and they have a unique, apparently unexpected meeting place.

Whether you support full participation during the anthem, appreciate a peaceful protest, or don’t want to develop an opinion, we, as Christians, have to determine what is motivating our behavior. Is your die-hard patriotism making you intolerant of anthem protests, so much so that nothing can give you pause before vehemently shaming those protesting? Or is your penchant for rebellion swelling at the sight of protesting, such that it doesn’t matter the cause or consequences? Or is your fear of conflict or your laziness keeping you from fostering ideas about it at all?

As Christians, patriotism, rebellion, fear, laziness, and all other motivators are second-level. First-level is our obedience to Christ. The deciding factor — the Gospel in our hearts. Nations crumble. Emotions pass. But The Lord is forever. And what does The Lord have us do when conflicts arise? When ideas clash, societies rage, and people hurt?

What He always has us do: “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.” – Ephesians 6:18

On this occasion, and for every occasion, pause in prayer to listen to what God would have us do. Pray for wisdom. Pray for grace. Pray for whatever you need of God, but by all means, pray.

We should also use the tool God has given us to manage this ugly world: Scripture. And, using Scripture, might I suggest an application that you might not have yet considered? Ok, stay with me here.

When I consider the anthem protests, these Scriptures are on my heart:

“Speak out on behalf of the voiceless,
    and for the rights of all who are vulnerable.
Speak out in order to judge with righteousness
    and to defend the needy and the poor.” – Proverbs 31:8-10

“Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed.” – Psalm 82:3

I know it’s strange, unusual, and uncomfortable, because we haven’t seen it happen in a long time, but what is happening is this: we are being communicated with. Members of minority races and with impoverished backgrounds have taken up the burden of the oppressed (which is more than most of us can say) and spoken for the speechless, the unheard, the trodden. The kneelers, fist-raisers, and arm-chainers represent the minority, poor, and oppressed members of our society.

And, if you get nothing else out of this piece, take this: If The Lord has called us to be voice for the voiceless and defenders of the poor, how much more should we — at the very least — be listeners of the voiceless, oppressed, and poor?

This means that, while you might not “agree with the way they’re doing it”, this is how they’re doing it — and they deserve to be heard. Further, even if you believe you shouldn’t listen because you don’t agree with the way they’re telling it to you, listen to God. The Word doesn’t say “uphold the cause of the oppressed when they ask nicely or bear you gifts.” The Word says to uphold the cause of the oppressed. Representatives of the oppressed have asked you to conquer your pride to listen to their quiet voices — will you?

Consider for a moment the possibility that we don’t know everything — that there might be oppression and inequality in this nation as bad as they say. Research. Learn. Grow. And uphold the cause of the oppressed. We can’t do that with our eyes shut. (And by “eyes,” I of course mean hearts.)

It’s a scary thing, isn’t it, listening to others with our hearts? We shouldn’t be surprised, though, should we? God is always asking us to love with reckless abandon. Why should we expect him to let us sit idly now?

Maybe, as Christians, we’re just embittered because those “football men” have said more for the oppressed by kneeling once than we have our whole lives.

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