Healthy Habits: promoting health and well-being


By Lindell Joseph

The timeliness of this column causes me to pause and reflect as a registered nurse. We initially planned to introduce the idea that attaining wholeness is achievable through the Christian life based on the premises of the Healthy Habits Program at St. Patrick Parish in Iowa City. You will see that topics in Scripture such as prayer, activity, nutrition and rest have been shown to enable wholeness. Wholeness encompasses related spiritual habits. Therefore, this bi-monthly column will provide biblical and supportive healthcare evidence to enable health and well-being.


With the emergence of COVID-19, I am reminded of two important healthcare pioneers and facts:

During the Crimean war, Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing, recognized that the disastrous mortality that the British army experienced was largely the result of sanitation issues and its impact on survival rates. She saw that many soldiers were not surviving. Therefore, she experimented with hand washing, nutrition and sunlight and fresh air. With these strategies, she was able to increase the survival rate by 10%.


The concept of hand hygiene was first introduced by a Hungarian physician named Ignaz Semmelweis, who found that when physicians washed their hands before delivering babies, it prevented deaths in postpartum women. Although Semmelweis was initially ridiculed for this suggestion, eventually it was recognized that he was correct.

How interesting that we are being asked to engage in similar habits to challenge COVID-19. This is just a reminder, that the evidence on handwashing and taking prudent measures is not new. The power of hand washing continues to contribute to survival rates, health and healing in today’s health care systems.

So what are four important Heathy Habits and Scripture passages for COVID-19? These habits can be done individually, with your families or community:

Healthy Habit #1: Community Engagement

Can you engage with friends and family to pray by using Zoom or Skype? Many Catholics are becoming creative using technology and engaging in nightly prayers such as the Liturgy of the Hours, Divine Mercy, the rosary, and Way of the Cross.

Healthy Habit #2: Prevention

Did you know that any type of physical activity or exercise can improve your health and reduce the risk of developing several diseases? Sitting and other sedentary activities can increase your risk of disease and chronic illness. Remember, exercise increases muscle strength, which in turn increases your ability to do other physical activities. Most importantly, regular activity can improve your quality of life, improve your outlook or mood, reduce stress and build resilience. It is a part of weight management strategies.

Scripture #1: Prayer — Mark 11:24

Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.

Scripture #2: Physical Activity: Isaiah 40:31

But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint or become tired.

Call to Action:

Remember engaging in healthy habits through health and well-being is part of the Christian life. Therefore, wash your hands for 20 seconds and ponder God’s WORD during COVID-19!

(Lindell Joseph, PhD, RN, FAAN, is a nurse, professor, and director of the MSN/CNL program at the University of Iowa College of Nursing. She is a parishioner of St. Patrick Parish in Iowa City and is married to Hector Guadalupe. They have a daughter Geneva Guadalupe. Lindell also is a lay Carmelite who co-chairs the Healthy Habits Ministry at her parish.)

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