Guest column/Health more than meets eye

“Who are you wearing?” The favorite opening query of many a red carpet reporter is taking on new meaning these days for anyone focused on health.

A new crop of designers is making a name for themselves, but you probably haven’t heard of any of them yet. Their creations are called wearables, clothes and accessories that monitor your body’s vital signs. It’s one of the hot trends in health care.

Everything from socks to bras to bracelets is included in the drive to weave technology into everyday wear for the purpose of evaluating our health. The idea is simple enough – collect as much information as possible about what the body is doing and evaluate the data. Search for meaning and patterns in the numbers accumulated and hope it yields some practical information that can be applied to enhance well-being.

But not everyone is convinced the numbers add up. Experts are divided on whether they can deliver on the health promises being made. After all, wearable health sensors, biometrics and algorithms don’t begin to tell the whole story of you. Here is what I mean:

If I asked you to describe in detail a friend or loved one, most of our conversation would revolve around their abilities, attitudes and demeanor, unique soulful qualities. Much less time would be spent on physical characteristics. You can tell more about a person in the glint in their eyes than in their color. Temperament paints a better picture than say shoe size.

Health care professionals are paying closer attention to these non-physical descriptors and their impact on health and healing. This, too, is a hot trend in health care.

“Quantified self” meet the “spiritual self”.

Mike Denny, a retired surgeon, is a good example of this shift in health strategy. In looking into health practices and promoting better outcomes, he has found meaning in the comprehensive being, not just body stats. In his book, “Nobody’s Boy, An Old Doctor and a New Science,” he advocates “that all medical research and practice should include not only quantity but also quality, not only the objective but also the subjective, not only fragmentation but also wholeness, not only matter but also spirit.”

Spirit? Think of the spiritual self in terms such as soul, immaterial, metaphysical and that which is credited with thought, motive and individuality.

What does that look like? If you are a Bible reader you might recall this tip: “Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; forbearing one another, and forgiving on another.” As a matter of fact, individuals who express generosity, charity and forgiveness – all spiritual qualities – have reported better health in case studies. It seems just wearing a smile has health benefits.

While fashion is ever changing, health should be dependable and consistent. As we take greater interest in our own health, we come to recognize that there is so much more to us than what our bodies reveal. Health expert Mary Baker Eddy put it succinctly, “Man is more than physical personality.”

Taking the time to contemplate our inner self, those thoughts and things that make us exceptional, will go a long way in promoting our health and beauty. And it’s something we can do regularly no matter what we’re wearing.

It’s been said that clothes can make you feel like a million bucks. Health is priceless.

(Salt is a writer and blogger covering health, spirituality and thought. He is a Christian Science practitioner.)