“Joy, temperance, and repose, slam the door on the doctor's nose.” Although this was said in the early 1800s by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, it’s as relevant as ever today. Think about it, too much of anything is bad. Even drinking too much water can be deadly. Wouldn’t you agree that we need to keep our habits in check?
Take the sun for example. Sunlight is a great example of moderation for health. It only takes a few minutes of full exposure in the middle of the day to convert adequate amounts of vitamin D. Yet, while enjoying 20-30 minutes in the sun can have an amazingly positive influence on our mood, spending too much time in the sun can lead to sunburn, and even cancer.
Some of you may associate the word “temperance” with the Temperance Movement of the 1800s, which, among other things, urged or prohibited the consumption of alcoholic beverages. But temperance is much more than avoiding alcohol or limiting yourself to one lump of sugar in your tea. Try to think of temperance as a state of mind wherein you seek to practice balance with your body and your passions. It’s really an age-old conflict, stretching back to Ancient Greece and even to the dawn of mankind. If you remember the story, the first humans Adam and Eve struggled with intemperance in diet and wound up eating the forbidden fruit.
So how do we practice moderation in our own lives? As mentioned earlier, we need to figure out how to control our bodies and our actions. An extremely challenging place to do this is in our diets. Obesity in much of the advanced world is becoming a widespread public health issue that if left unchecked, will soon become the leading cause of death. So when it comes to your food choices, think and choose temperately. Eat enough to sustain your physical needs, and choose nutrient rich foods that will make your body happy.
Other products that stimulate our senses like nicotine, caffeine, and depressants like alcohol are another subject I’d like to touch on. Historically, temperance had a strong association with alcohol. Recently, many scientific studies have been conducted on the health benefits of drinking small amounts of alcohol but they haven’t done much but muddy the waters. One long-standing truth remains clear: what starts as occasional, or “light” drinking can quickly become a habit, and habitual drinking is clearly a health hazard. Because of this, although we’re talking about moderation, I think alcohol might be an area where total abstinence is a better choice.
When it seems like our lives are spinning out of control, temperance can help us regain direction. It is about balance and control, remember? In our exceedingly digital world, most if not all of us could probably spend much of the day with our eyes glued to some form of screen. Where’s the life in that? Where’s the joy? Practice temperance with your reliance on technology and take a moment to collect your thoughts and simply breathe. Spend a little extra time with your friends and family and engage in a real conversation without a television blaring in the background.
The true key to living a temperate lifestyle lies in our minds. We need to learn to safeguard our thoughts and carefully monitor our emotions. If you’re the type to give rise to anger easily, take a few deep breaths and learn the power of forgiveness. If you’re prone to bragging, give way to more humble conversation. If you’re the judgmental type, give compassion or empathy a try. Think of your mind as a springboard for all of your actions. If you can learn to use your mind carefully and wisely, you will have won the battle against intemperance.