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Don’t play March madness with your health

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Posted: Friday, April 4, 2014 9:51 am | Updated: 9:53 am, Fri Apr 4, 2014.

Can maintaining good health be more predictable than filling out a March Madness bracket?

One of the saving graces of enduring a long winter is the arrival in March of Madness. Filling out a bracket, predicting what teams will make it to the sweet sixteen, the elite eight and through to the final four is great fun and the focus of many an office pool.

Each year lower seeded teams upset higher seeded teams making March Madness a huge game of chance. Let’s face it, the probability of choosing all the winners is north of 9 quintrillion (1 million x 1 trillion = 1 quintrillion). This year, Warren Buffett, has offered a billion dollars to anyone who has the perfect bracket, picking every winner of 64 games.

Does our long term health have any more predictability than a March Madness bracket? Is it always subject to a change in weather, contagion, aging or stress that would knock us out of our “bracket”, our goal of robust health and freedom?

As in most sports, success in basketball hinges on practice, practice, practice, working on the small things that may make a big difference. This same approach applies to our health. Daily decisions and actions can make a huge difference.

Before my feet hit the floor in the morning I turn my thought toward a higher power, give thanks in advance for unexpected opportunities to bring wisdom, poise and patience to the challenges that may come my way. During the day I work to be alert to express forgiveness instead of irritation, joy instead of anger when things don’t go was expected.

What does this have to do with health? Here’s just one example.

Dr. Fred Luskin is a professor at Stanford University and author of “Forgive For Good.” A colleague of mine recently did an interview with Luskin and wrote the following:

As Luskin describes it, forgiveness is one of the best tools we have to protect ourselves from further pain, mentally and physically. He also describes forgiveness as an innate if latent quality of thought – something that can be taught, encouraged, nurtured.

“Forgiveness is one of those ways where we wipe clean a major threat to our well-being,” “That causes the body to have more time to repair. Immune function goes up, blood pressure goes down.”

I really like the idea that forgiveness can be “taught, encouraged, nurtured”. Like hitting free throws in basketball, the practice of forgiveness under all kinds of conditions increases our probability of success. And didn’t one who walked this earth over two thousand years ago and brought health to many suffering with disease advise us to “forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors”?

I don’t know if any of my top four picks – Florida, Michigan State, Creighton and Virginia – will arrive at the final four in Arlington, Texas on April 5, but I do have confidence that practicing patience, kindness and forgiveness will keep me in better health.

Welcome to the discussion.

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