Living a healthy life isn’t only about a having a strong body. It’s also about emotional intelligence, spiritual connection, and awareness. It’s about your ability to heal even when hurt. To find peace in the middle of craziness and goodness in the midst of despair. It’s about finding your passion, living your purpose, and making a positive difference in the lives of others.
To feel healthy and live well no matter what’s going on around you, you need strengthen your physical body, as well as your spiritual connection and emotional resilience.
These days, I’m practicing ways to bring the three into alignment, to strengthen my body by bringing more activity into my day and to boost my mind and spirit by living consciously with awareness. Nothing is separate and when you cultivate the three together you step into your best and strongest self.
Here are some ways to do it.
1. 100 steps of gratitude. I am a writer with arthritis which means I sit. A lot. It’s easy to limit my activity on the days when I’m sore or stiff, but I never miss my gratitude practice. So, I’ve combined the two to get me physically and spiritually moving. In my home I have a 100-step route, through the kitchen, around the living room, down the hall. On warm days I also hit the deck. With each of the 100 steps I take, I give thanks for something. I do it aloud. The practice keeps my joints moving and appreciation flowing.
2. Mindful eating. This is a toughie for me, because I’m impatient. I eat fast. But, it’s so important. Not only will present-moment focus on the meal slow you down which is better for your digestion (you’ll also end up eating less) it also makes the food taste better and the meal more enjoyable. Before eating your next meal, slow down to give attention to what is on the plate. Then, take one bite. Put your fork back on your plate and just savor the flavor and the chew. Take it all in. When you eat mindfully, you make meals a time for physical and spiritual nourishment.
3. Have fun and get moving. Play is essential to our emotional and physical health and, well, so is exercise. So, what if you framed exercise as fun? In yet another study that demonstrates the power of how we talk to ourselves, researchers led by Carolina Werle discovered that people who do physical activity that they call or think of as fun, tend to eat less, feel less fatigued and report greater happiness after the activity than those who view the movement as exercise. If you view the activity as a “scenic walk” you’re bound to make healthier choices than those who describe the walk as “exercise.” Lesson here? Find a physical activity that you like, one that really is fun, and talk about it as a recreational event rather than a required activity and you’ll reap greater reward.
4. Do something. It’s easy to excuse your way out of exercise, but there are plenty of things that do have to get done and you can use them to build activity into your day. Wash dishes, pull the weeds, make the beds, vacuum. When you pull the milk jug out of the fridge for the morning breakfast, do a bunch of bicep curls. My physical therapist suggests to get up and do jumping jacks or some other activity during television commercials. I do my stretches during the breaks. Do something to interrupt the amount of time you sit still, and when you do move act deliberately. If you give mindful attention to the chores, or the commercial-time activity, if you really become present to your actions in the moment, your powers of awareness and concentration grow right along with your muscles.
5. Practice self-acceptance. Finally, be accepting what is. Don’t judge your body for its shape or size or how well it moves or doesn’t move. Don’t harsh on yourself for sometimes having a bad attitude or not being mindful at times. Just notice how you are responding, physically and emotionally. Just pay attention. Acknowledge where you are in this moment without judgment and that shift will help you do better.
When we judge ourselves, we shut down any growth. Think about it – if somebody is constantly criticizing, telling you how rotten you are, or how you will never succeed, that feels downright defeating and we are more likely to quit.
You wouldn’t talk that way to your kid or friend (I hope) so don’t do this to yourself. Instead, offer yourself encouragement. Acknowledge this moment without judgment, knowing too that the next moment will be different. Accept who you are and be compassionate.
I did a wall sit a few weeks ago (I do this while brushing my teeth – just a little way to add in activity) and I barely made it 20 seconds. I didn’t judge or condemn myself for my weakness. I just made a mental note: “I did a 20-second wall sit.” Then, I continued on. I did a wall sit every night after for a couple of weeks. Last night, I did a 2-minute wall sit without breaking a sweat. We are more likely to continue on and make healthy progress when we feel safe and supported. Give that to yourself with acceptance.
By creating opportunities for physical, mental and spiritual growth you’ll have the fuel and inspiration you need to live a happier, healthier life.