Your Health and the Virtue of Temperance
Amazing Discoveries™ |
7 min read
Temperance is a word that we don’t often hear these days. If you’re familiar with the history of the prohibition era, the word may conjure up images of women in Victorian-style dress marching with placards denouncing the evils of alcohol. But temperance, applied in a very broad sense, is not an old-fashioned idea and may just be the key to optimal health. Webster’s Dictionary defines temperance as “moderation in action, thought or feeling” and also says that temperance is a “habitual moderation.”1 Another way to put it is “Moderation in those things that are healthful, and abstinence from all things that are harmful.” Temperance is trading what is harmful for what is helpful; exchanging what might seem like fun in the moment but, in reality, is detrimental in the long run for the simple things God wants us to enjoy short and long term.
How can temperance help you live a better life?
We know that in order to have a better quality of life we should avoid things such as smoking, doing drugs, drinking alcohol or not exercising. These behaviors have been shown to have a negative effect on health. However, there are many substances commonly accepted as safe that can be just as harmful as the things we know we should avoid. These common foods and beverages are socially acceptable and seen as fun, stimulating, or as a release from stress or pain.
Caffeine, for example, has become so commonly accepted that even many young people use it regularly. Among adolescents, 83.2% drink caffeinated beverages regularly, while 96% are occasional consumers.2 Coffee in all its variations, colas, and tea, “energy drinks,” and other caffeinated beverages are consumed by nearly everyone in society on a daily basis. Many people don’t know how to function without the stimulating effects of caffeine, and believe that in moderation, caffeine is safe.
Dark chocolate is another substance that’s often considered healthy. However, that’s more likely due to misleading studies that are too often funded by those in the chocolate industry, than to any real practical benefit from eating chocolate.3 Chocolate contains caffeine and other harmful ingredients that are best to be avoided.
Although alcohol is a known toxin and is responsible for 3 million deaths per year worldwide,4 many people believe that it’s ok to drink moderately. Alcohol is an extremely addictive substance with a variety of harmful side effects, even at very low doses.5 Recreational drugs also contribute to an intemperate lifestyle and can have a harmful effect on your health.
All of these substances have the potential to cause harm or become addictive. Even when consumed in moderation, they can have a health-destroying impact. For optimal physical, mental, and spiritual health, it’s best to abstain completely from things that are known to be harmful.
It’s not just substances like alcohol or drugs that can keep you from living a temperate life. Overeating6 is an enemy to temperance and good health. Even if you follow a healthy diet, eating too much puts strain on your body and can negatively impact your health.
If you have some unhealthy habits, don’t despair! You can create a temperate life. The good news is living a moderate lifestyle doesn’t have to be uninteresting or bland. Instead of eating primarily for pleasure, choose foods that will support your body and fuel you for the day. Find better alternatives to the things you enjoy now. Many alternatives taste just as good or even better than their less-healthy counterparts. You will also have peace of mind knowing that you’re not harming your body.
Rather than relying on stimulants like caffeine to keep you energized throughout the day, prioritize good sleep and make time to exercise each day. Healthy habits will give you energy without the many side effects7 that can be caused by caffeine. Instead of reaching for an alcoholic or caffienated drink, go for a walk, have a meaningful conversation with a friend or family member, or volunteer for a local church or school.
Balanced living is also an important part of a temperate life. It’s important to have a varied routine that makes time for work, relaxation, exercise, and proper rest.
You probably know yourself well enough to recognize when stress is helping you get motivated, and when it has become too much and starts wearing you out. When you focus too much of your energy on one activity, such as work, your life becomes imbalanced. Imbalanced living is a major contributing factor to many of the physical and mental health issues that are prevalent today.
Consciously choosing to establish temperate habits will help you create a balanced and happy life. Change your lifestyle choices where you can. As lifestyle educator Walt Cross says, it’s easier to make good choices than to deal with problems that arise from negligence. Reduce sources of stress. Set a limit on how much work you will do each day so that other important things such as family time and sleep don't get pushed aside. Work through each area of your life to introduce temperance until you have found balance in every way.
Aside from managing your stress and making healthy choices, it’s also important to use moderation in everything - even the good things. Weigh the benefits and possible drawbacks when thinking about adding something to your lifestyle. Before adopting a certain diet or using a popular remedy to fix potential problems, it’s a good idea to make sure that the practice is guided by sound and balanced principles. These days there is no shortage of diet programs, all of which claim to provide the solutions to your problems. Before you adopt any program, do your research. Make sure it’s not just a fad that is potentially dangerous, unsustainable, and could possibly make things worse.
An important part of a temperate lifestyle is consistency. For optimal health, we must consistently make good choices and do the right thing each day. Being temperate some days and intemperate other days will not result in the noticeable long-term benefits that result from consistency. Living a mostly-moderate lifestyle while hanging on to one or two bad habits will not benefit you. In order to have optimal health, a full commitment to healthy habits in all areas of your life is necessary.
It can be easy to give in to temptation, and fall back into your old way of living. If you make a mistake, don’t be hard on yourself. Try to do better the next day. Do your best to make it easier to stick with your new, temperate lifestyle (such as not keeping unhealthy food in your fridge, or getting rid of your coffee-maker) so that you won’t be tempted to revert to your old habits.
Although it may take time to see improvements in your wellbeing, stick with your good habits. If you practice consistency, you will soon see the benefits of living a temperate life.
Temperance is eliminating things that are harmful and using good things in moderation. By living a temperate lifestyle you can enjoy better physical and mental health. Although it can be difficult to adopt a new way of life, you can do it! Practicing consistency will help you form better habits and reap the benefits of temperance.
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