Daily Cup of Wellness

Wikimedia Commons

Wikimedia Commons

Parents are always looking for more ways to get their children involved with their faith. A recent study by Barna, however, has found that the key to becoming a more spiritually active household is to become a more active household overall. The key, however, is that activity needs to take place together. It is not enough for people to scatter to a variety of different hobbies and activities. The key to an active spiritual life seems to be deliberately choosing to do things with others. As Barna put it in their report, “good fun, good work and good faith seem to go hand in hand, indicating spiritual growth is yet another way of being present, interested and engaged in the lives of those [in a person’s life]…[so] the more housemates engage in general activity, the more they engage in spiritual activity.”

In their study, Barna divided households into four categories: vibrant, devotional, hospitable and dormant. Vibrant households had the greatest spirituality, but they were also exceptionally devoted to finding time for “togetherness and play. They have meaningful, fun, quality time with [their loved ones.]” Vibrant households made it a point to spend time together every day. The vast majority of vibrant households shared meals on a daily basis, and over 75 percent of them made it a point to eat dinner together on a daily basis.

“One of the more surprising and encouraging findings from this study,” said Brooke Hempell, Barna’s senior vice president of research, “is that any sort of interaction—including just having fun—is correlated to faith formation. In other words, forming deeper bonds with our household members helps us grow our faith! The importance of fostering intimacy, sharing rituals and having fun with household members, as well as friends and other non-family guests who become a part of one’s extended household, cannot be overstated.”

Fostering such intimacy also helps alleviate the crippling loneliness that has infected so many people in the digital age. Churches are thus in the unique position to be able to attack loneliness on two fronts. Faith formation goes hand in hand with emotional intimacy, a known cure for loneliness, and strong faith has been shown to help stave off loneliness as well. It becomes an upward spiral. An emphasis on relationships and fun can also help churches break free of their reputation for being solemn and stuffy.

“Ministries have a duty to help their members understand and experience all of life as worship,” said Hempell, “as well as to emphasize closeness, collaboration and fun as signs of life in the church. Churches that foster healthy spiritual growth should encourage Christians not only to know God but also to know their brothers and sisters in Christ, especially through gathering together outside the walls of the church. Our research finds that faith formation is best aided not just by services and sermons but by play and friendship as well.”

The world has shrunk dramatically. Transatlantic journeys that once took months take a few hours. Emailing someone in Japan from England takes less than a second. Phone calls can reach Australia with as much ease, clarity and speed as they do a neighbor. This is advantageous to anyone who has studied abroad, worked in a field that required international communication or simply wanted to talk to someone who lives a long way away.

The shrinking of the world in a logistical and communication sense is deeply advantageous in many ways. The world, however, has also shrunk in an emotional sense. It has, for many people, shrunk down to a single person: me. Despite having the entire world at their fingertips, people have fewer meaningful relationships and conversations than ever. They have fewer relationships and conversations period. Many people get most of their human interaction through quirky, snarky or gushing comments on social media or images with a clever tag line. This has led to a complete dearth of real human connection, and depression, drug addiction and suicide rates are rising as a result.

According to an analysis of data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of deaths attributed to alcohol, drugs and suicide in 2017 was the highest since federal data collection began. The national rates for deaths from alcohol, drugs and suicide rose by 6 percent. Suicides alone increased by 4 percent. Increases of 4 and 6 percent may not feel like much, but those numbers translate to an extra 2,200 suicides and a total of nearly 152,000 deaths from drugs, suicide and alcohol. When compared to numbers around the turn of the millennium, the suicide rate has increased by 62 percent, the number of alcohol related deaths has increased by nearly 90 percent and the number of deaths caused by drugs has jumped by a staggering 280 percent.

Many people have attributed these tragic numbers to the lack of real human interaction. That lack of social connection and emotional intimacy fuels hopelessness which in turn increases a person’s likelihood of seeking solace in addictive substances or looking for an even more tragic, final solution. Given the rise of ever-more impersonal forms of communication, such as texting in place of calling people, one of the best things people can do to help combat the rising tide of loneliness is go back to old-school forms of interaction. Call people instead of sending them a social media message. FaceTime instead of sending a SnapChat. Better yet, set up a face to face meeting where you two can look each other in the eyes and connect in the way that humans were always meant to connect.

Which states are the friendliest for women? WalletHub decided to find out. The survey pulled information across what they identified as the 24 key indicators of living standards for women. Among these indicators were things such as highest median earnings, number of women in poverty, percentage of businesses owned by women and insurance rates among women. So, how did the states rank?

The Best

The most woman-friendly state, according to WalletHub, is none other than the State of 10,000 Lakes, snowy Minnesota. Minnesota was ranked first for “women’s economic and social wellbeing” and third for “women’s health and safety rank.” The total score for the state was 79.34. The next highest state, Massachusetts, lagged noticeably behind Minnesota with a total score of 73.01.The top five states for women were rounded out by North Dakota, with a score of 70.27; the District of Columbia, with a total of 69.72; and New York, with a total score of 68.96.

The Worst

The lowest of the low was, unfortunately enough, found in the Bayou State. Lovely Louisiana is apparently not so lovely for women according to WalletHub. The Pelican State came in second to last when it came to economic and social factors and was ranked 48 out of 51 when it came to health and safety. Mississippi barely edged out Louisiana to take spot 50 instead of 51 with a score of 36.26 compared to Louisiana’s 36.25. South Carolina did not do much better. The Palmetto State was the worst when it came to economic and social wellbeing and earned a total score of 36.44. Alabama and Arkansas completed the bottom five by earning scores of 39.99 and 37.56 respectively.

Economic Powerhouses

According to WalletHub, north is the way to go for women who want economic prosperity. Minnesota, North Dakota, Maine, the District of Columbia and Massachusetts were the top five states when it came to economic and social wellbeing. The lowest ranked states in this category were very similar to the overall worst ranked states. South Carolina, Louisiana, Mississippi, Idaho and Alabama were the bottom five in economic and social wellbeing.

Safest States

It is safety first in Massachusetts. The Bay State was the top ranked when it came to women’s safety. Connecticut, however, was right behind Massachusetts. The top five were rounded out by Minnesota, Hawaii and New York. As for the lowest ranked states, the list once again mirrored the overall rankings. Arkansas took home the dubious title of most dangerous state for women, followed closely by Oklahoma, Mississippi, Louisiana and South Carolina.

The wellness of women is a topic of great interest to many. As such, it is interesting to see how the states stack up next to each other. As a general rule, though, it may be best for women to ditch the sun and grab a winter coat. It seems like the cold, snowy states are more welcoming for women, despite how many more women would prefer to be relaxing on a Carolina beach rather than battling Minnesota winters. It is just proof that there are trade-offs in everything.

Heart attacks are normally the sort of thing that people expect to occur in elderly people. Recent studies, however, show that the young are becoming increasingly vulnerable to cardiac events. Heart attacks especially are on the rise among adults who are in their 30s or younger. In fact, the proportion of heart attack patients who are 39 and younger has been increasing at a steady rate of 2 percent each year for the last decade.

Dr. Ron Blankstein, a preventative cardiologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, noted that it was once “incredibly rare” to see heart attack patients who were under the age of 40. Now, however, it is becoming more common to see cardiac patients as young as their 20s. “It seems that we are moving in the wrong direction,” said Blankstein. To find out why the average age of heart attacks seemed to be dropping, Blankstein began examining patient treatment information from over 2,000 people who were hospitalized between 2006 and 2016.

There was no clear cause for the sudden rise of all the heart attacks in young people, but he did find that a growing percentage of young people carried one of the largest risk factors for cardiac events. They were taking part in substance abuse. Young people in the emergency room had illegal drugs such as marijuana and cocaine in their systems. Abusing such dangerous substances greatly increases a person’s risk of having a heart attack or stroke. As such, the increase in drug use among young people canceled out the fact that they drank less alcohol.

In addition to climbing heart attack rates, younger Americans are also at an increased risk for strokes. Strokes still tend to affect elderly individuals, but there has been nearly a 45 percent increase in young adults being hospitalized for strokes in the last 10 years. Strokes remain the second most common cause of death worldwide.

Despite the alarming news for young people, the overall statistics about cardiac events and strokes are encouraging. Fewer heart attacks are occurring overall in America despite the nation’s obesity epidemic. As for the rising attacks in young people, the most dangerous risk factors for heart attacks are preventable.

“It all comes back to prevention,” Blankstein said. “Many people think that a heart attack is destined to happen, but the vast majority could be prevented with earlier detection of the disease and aggressive lifestyle changes and management of other risk factors. [Swear off tobacco,] cocaine and marijuana because they’re not…good for your heart.”

One would think it would be common sense that dangerous drugs could cause heart problems, but sometimes the obvious needs to be restated. If stating the obvious gets young people to quit and take care of their hearts, shout it from the rooftops so that everyone can hear and do what they need to do to protect their heart.

People like to be happy, and they like to be healthy. Given that the two go hand in hand, it is no surprise that they are often measured together. So if you are looking to move, it makes sense to aim to land in a state that is known for making its residents happy rather than being filled with people who are miserable. There are, however, 50 options to choose from. Which of them is the happiest state according to Gallup National Health and Well-Being Index?

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Aloha State takes home the crown when it comes to the happiest and healthiest residents. The rest of the top five, however, was filled out by states that are very different from Hawaii’s sunny beaches. Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Utah were states two through five. All of them are mountainous and tend to have cold, snowy winters. Interestingly, none of the sunny southern states made the top 10. Both Dakotas, however, broke into the top 10 as did Colorado. The most southern state in the top 10 was Delaware.

This is relatively normal for this particular poll. According to the study, “The Northern Plains and Mountain West are higher wellbeing areas, along with some Western states and pockets of the Northeast and Atlantic. The lowest wellbeing states are concentrated in the South and extend northward through the industrial Midwest.”

When ranking the states, the Gallup poll used five main markers: career, enjoying one’s job and being motivated to achieve their goals; social, having supportive relationships; financial, managing economic responsibilities to reduce stress and increased security; community, liking and feeling safe in one’s living environment as well as having pride in one’s community; and physical, having good health and enough energy to get things done each day.

It is this last component that has consistently dragged down West Virginia, the state that has consistently ranked in the bottom five. “It’s the same story that we’ve seen in the past,” said Dan Witters, the research director of the Gallup National Health and Well-Being Index. “Your eyeballs just about fall out of their sockets when you look at the diabetes number. Their exercise, produce consumption and eating habits are all near the bottom of the nation… They have a lot of work to do from a well-being perspective.”

Unfortunately, the numbers show that most of America has work to do from a well-being perspective. The overall well-being index across states has been falling each year. The declines were not as sharp this past year, but they were still noticeable. Social and career scores dropped the most, while community and financial scores fell smaller amounts. The good news, however, is that America is at least trying to increase her well-being. The physical score for American’s well-being improved noticeably in the last year with a jump from 60.5 to 61.0, an increase nearly large enough to offset the decrease in all other categories. Hopefully, future years will see similar jumps in the other categories as Americans become, overall, healthier and happier in equal measure.