I used to think that being healthy had to do with my body–being physically healthy. I thought that taking good care of my body would make me a healthy person. I have come to realize, however, that health has to do with more than just physical health. Health includes four important aspects: emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual. If I neglect any one of these areas, I cannot truly be healthy. These aspects are interconnected–an imbalance in one area will affect the other areas. To really be healthy, I need to pay attention to all four aspects.
Here are a few suggestions for investing in a healthier you, in each area of your life. Please don’t get overwhelmed, however. Every journey is begun with one step. You don’t have to do everything all at once. What I would suggest is that you pick one area you think you’d like to start with, and pick one thing you’d like to work on. Then work on it for a month. Be as consistent as possible, but don’t set unrealistic goals. Gradually add new things to try in each area. Being healthy has a lot to do with growth, and allowing growth. Growth is part of change, and change and growth is what all of life is about. Everything is always growing and changing and evolving, so when we allow ourselves to grow and change and evolve we are in alignment with life.
We are complex organisms with a delicate balance of hormones and chemicals that keep us functioning. We have things like adrenalin, endorphins, serotonin, insulin, cortisol, and many more–I’m sure you’ve heard of all these things even if you don’t understand exactly what they do. But the fact is that when we are emotionally stressed, our bodies’ delicate chemical relationships are thrown out of balance and this begins the process of dis-ease. Scientific study has shown that our emotions have a very real affect on our physical health.
Here are a few things you can work on in this area:
- Become aware of your feelings! You may think you already are, but if you pay close attention you’ll begin to see that you frequently do not acknowledge having feelings–you may cover them up with an addiction (food, TV, smoking, alcohol, sex, etc.), you may just suppress them (they’re still in there and they’re doing damage), or you may express them (crying, losing your temper, raging, etc). None of these coping mechanisms releases us from the incremental damage of holding negative energy inside our bodies. The best way to deal with feelings is to acknowledge them, allow them, and make a conscious decision to let them go–to let the energy from our feelings flow through us, rather than leaving it stuck inside. Try practicing becoming aware of your feelings throughout the day. When you become aware of an uncomfortable feeling, ask yourself if you can just allow the feeling to be there (after all, it’s just a feeling, and it’s not permanent). Then ask yourself if it would be OK to increase your acceptance of the feeling, just for now. Could you increase your acceptance even more–and even more? Rate your acceptance of the feeling (rate your acceptance of it, not the feeling itself)–let’s say from 0 to 10 (10 being the most accepting), and see if you can ask yourself if it’s OK to increase your acceptance until you feel that your acceptance has reached 10, or at least until it has moved up significantly. Doing this little exercise will greatly increase your awareness of your feeling, and you will find that they “pass through you” much more quickly so that you can move on to feeling freer and less limited. There are many ways to learn to release feelings– the Sedona Method , EFT, or the Healing Codes are just three that I know of.
- Learn to stay in the present. This means stop looking back with regret and forward with worry! Appreciate this moment right now and do what you can now rather than getting bogged down in a pity party or in being a worry wart. You cannot fix past mistakes, and you cannot deal now with things that have not happened yet. The more you learn to stay in the present, the less stressed you will be. My favorite book about being present is “The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle. Tolle teaches you to “be the witness”–to stand back and observe yourself when you find yourself stressing over past or future events. When you do this, you bring yourself into the present which is the only place where you can really make choices.
- Practice gratitude! This can be very powerful–there is always something to be grateful for, but so frequently we allow our minds to spin into patterns we have repeated over and over again. You can take a few moments every day, or throughout your day, to ask yourself the simple question, “What can I feel grateful for right now?” Think of some one, some thing, some place you love, and let that feeling permeate for a few moments.
- Focus on what is working and what do you want. Stop focusing on what is not working and what you do not want. Our thoughts create our reality and what we focus on expands. If we spend time thinking of all the things that may not be right in our “reality,” we simply increase the power of that reality. When we focus on what we do want and what does work and what we can do, we create a far better reality for ourselves–one that has more possibilities, fewer limitations.
- Forgive. Forgive yourself, forgive others. Whatever you think you or they did wrong–was just a mistake. Don’t take things personally. When someone else is gruff, rough, unpleasant, or just plain mean–it has nothing to do with you! It’s their issue, and you don’t need to take it on. Simply forgive yourself or them, have compassion for yourself or them. Empathize and forgive. We are all perfectly imperfect and judging ourselves and others simply makes our lives miserable.
- These ideas are just the tip of the iceberg, but it’s a start!
Mental health, as I see it, isn’t emotional health (what I just described), but the health we gain by exercising our minds. I’m not talking about exercising your mind by allowing it to spin you into negative emotions! I’m talking about activities that stimulate your brain cells and strengthen the synapses between brain cells in memory transmission areas. Here are just a few suggestions:
- Read. Find things you enjoy reading that stimulate your interest or your imagination. Allow yourself to visualize or to engage in an internal discussion with what you are reading about.
- Have conversations with people who interest you–conversations about ideas, experiences, perceptions, not about the weather or the latest gossip. Allow your mind to be open to new ideas. If someone has new, unfamiliar ideas, allow yourself to hear them rather than going into a mode of fear (or fight or flight).
- If you’re addicted to TV, see if you can gradually wean yourself from the “boob” tube, or find some programs that have some real educational value. There are many interesting programs about science, nature, history, people, etc. that can stimulate and expand your thinking.
- Search out new experiences, go to new places, and stay open to the new perspectives you encounter.
- Do word puzzles, play strategy games, draw, paint, play an instrument, practice a new language.
- Write in a journal or work with your hands to build or create.
Are you getting any exercise? Are you flexible and strong? Are you happy with your weight? Do you feel energetic? Recent studies show that physical exercise can increase mental abilities 20% to 30%.
- Make a plan to be more active. Start small, but be consistent. I decided at the age of 50 that I wanted to age gracefully. I wasn’t extremely unfit, but I was 25 pounds over my ideal weight, was stressed, and was sedentary. I started by walking almost every day. Then I decided to alternate walking and running, about a minute at a time. I started with only about 12 minutes almost every day. I gradually worked it up to 20, then 30, gradually replacing the walking with running. Not everyone can run–but the point is there is something you can do, and it doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. Don’t beat yourself up when you forget or neglect to do it–just do it the next day. If you don’t do it for two days, OK, then–do it the next day, etc. Exercise not only improves your muscle to fat ratio, it improves your metabolism, it increases the oxygen in your system, it improves the functioning of your brain, it reduces fatigue, and it creates a chemical environment which causes more feelings of well-being. If you need the motivation of a group, find a yoga class, an aerobics class, a dance class, or find a walking, running, or swimming buddy. Or maybe just go for it alone–you may be surprised to find out you can!
- What are you eating? You are what you eat. Our bodies and our brains need certain nutrients to maintain physical health. Our bodies will build all of our cells from what we eat. When what we eat is junk, we gradually have bodies that turn to junk. Again, you don’t have to do this all at once. You can gradually add healthy foods to your diet, and gradually drop the not-healthy foods. Consult with a nutritionist or a naturopath to begin a plan of healthy eating or get yourself a book, subscribe to a magazine, or surf the web to get advice on healthy eating.
- Do you remember to breathe? Breathing brings oxygen into our bodies and brains and allows the fire to burn inside, the fire that metabolizes what we eat and distributes energy everywhere it is needed. Taking a few deep breaths when you are feeling stressed or anxious can calm you down almost immediately. Having a good supply of oxygen clears your brain and energizes your body.
Begin a spiritual practice. This does not have to be a religious practice. You can, but you do not have to go to a church, a temple or a mosque. You do not need to believe anything that does not resonate the truth for you. Allow yourself some daily time to reflect on or practice your spiritual beliefs.
- Start by just pondering some questions. Ask what is bigger, smarter, more intelligent, more powerful than you are? For some people the answer may be God. For others the answer may be god. For others the answer may be nature, the universe, higher self, higher power, Gaia, mother earth–but when you begin to ask the question, you will begin to get the answer. Once you begin to see answers to the question, you will begin to see yourself as part of the answer. You are a part of what is bigger than you are, you are what is bigger than you are! Start to see the part of you that is your ego-self as the part that is less real than your spirit self. Your ego-self is the part of you that wants to be separate, different, better, or worse than others. Your spirit self is the part of you that is interconnected with everything and everybody else. Begin to honor your spirit self and allow yourself to discover what feels true to that self–examine values like compassion, empathy, generosity, forgiveness, unconditional love. Beginning a spiritual practice can be as simple as beginning to ask the question, “What is true for me?” and see what comes up (like, “what feels truer, having a lot of money or helping somebody?” or “having a particular job, or doing something creative?” etc.) My own personal experience was that I started to develop my spiritual “muscle” by going to 12-step meetings. I gradually allowed myself to shift from being a total atheist to being open to the idea of “higher power.” Once I was able to believe that I am not all powerful, but I am part of something that is, I was able to move forward and grow in my life.
- Meditate. Meditation comes in many forms. It can just be as simple as just sitting quietly and allowing your mind to wander off, then bring it back to quiet when you notice. Some people meditate by using a mantra–any word or phrase that they repeat silently to help them bring their minds’ attention away from spinning off into projection, worry, or busyness. Others focus on their breath. Others ponder a question. Mediation has been shown to be beneficial to emotional, mental, physical and spiritual health. My favorite meditation “tool” is Holosync audio technology CD’s.
A life coach can help you in any of these areas. Life coaching is about taking action toward your goals and desires, it’s about opening up to new possibilities, it’s about opening up to new insights, it’s about discovering what you value. A life coach will support you through the process of self-discovery and setting and achieving desired outcomes in your life.
To find out if life coaching is right for you, sign up for a free life coaching session.