Dr. Lou Ritz Lectures on Spiritual Wellness, Nov. 12

In the hustle and bustle of your average stress-filled day, take a moment to relax and learn about how maintaining a positive attitude can brighten your day and lower your medical bill. Dr. Louis A. Ritz, a professor of Neuroscience in the McKnight Brain Institute at the University of Florida, will deliver a speech entitled “How Spirituality Impacts Our Wellness” for free to all interested students, staff and faculty at 2 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 12 in Buiding P, room 260, to discuss the effect of spirituality on the mind.

“Researchers over the past 30 years have been asking: if you can worry yourself sick, can you will yourself to be well? They’ve found you can actually improve your well-being when you have a positive outlook,” said Gregory Jones, a professor of biology at Santa Fe College.

Bringing Ritz to campus has been Jones’s goal for over a year. Ritz has lead honors undergraduate courses about “neurotheology” and spirituality in healthcare. As part of a wellness initiative at Santa Fe College, Jones himself has been teaching free weekly mindfulness meditation workshops on the first floor of the Tyree Library and offered courses such as Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction and Management for Health Care Professionals. According to Jones, these classes are being offered in direct response to a societal need.

“Mindfulness is something that has been lacking in today’s culture, but we are seeing a resurgence, especially now that we can measure the results in meditative practices,” said Jones. “Here in the West, we like to have hard data, and as that data is being shown with various types of people, this kind of medicine is being accepted into the medical community.”

Spiritual practice, meditation, and mindfulness or other “contemplative” practices, have been clinically shown to relax and restore balance to the lives of individuals who find themselves in a great deal of stress.  Contemplative practices, often referred to as prayer, exist in some form in all of the world’s spiritual traditions. According to Jones, many misconceptions about meditation or other mindfulness practices stem from their popularization during the 1960s and 1970s, when they became associated with “the psychedelic hippie movement.”

“People think it’s about making the mind go blank–that’s never going to happen,” Jones explained. “People also think you need to go into another-worldly state. It’s not that either. It’s actually a form of mental exercise that can improve your physical and psychological well-being, just like physical exercise. You’re just using your mental muscle instead of your legs or arms.”

Jones hopes that this lecture will help educate people about the importance of maintaining the mind as well as the body–and he has support from numerous academic departments which are sponsoring Ritz’s visit, including the Center for Mindfulness in Health Education, Sciences for Health, Natural Sciences,  Humanities and Foreign Languages, Lawrence W. Tyree Library, and Social and Behavioral Sciences.

“People always talk about ‘mind over matter’ and ‘the power of positive thinking.’ These sayings don’t exist for no reason. They’ve been shown to have some truth to them clinically,” said Jones.

For more information, contact Greg Jones at 352-395-5088.