“Treat your body like a temple, not a woodshed. The mind and the body work together. Your body needs to be a good support system for the mind and the spirit. If you take good care of it, your body can take you wherever you want to go, with the power and the strength and energy and vitality you will need to get there.”
~ Jim Rohn
I’m sure you know from your own experience that when your body is not functioning optimally it can impact your emotions and your thoughts. If you’re not feeling well, it is very easy to feel grumpy and miserable. Of course, the other extreme is also true. When your body is in tip-top health, your emotions and thoughts seem to come along for the ride, and life is wonderful.
Your body is the foundation from which you operate, and treating your body like a temple means taking a holistic approach to your health. There is plenty of information around nowadays telling us to eat organic, cut out sugar, do this, don’t do that. Sometimes it can be a little overwhelming, especially when you’re already overloaded and overwhelmed with life. Where do you start?
To keep this fairly simple I’ve started with a quick health check and some references on how to progress further on your own if you want to go into more depth. Depending on your current level of health, your journey to optimal health may be a quick one, or it may require more time. If your health does need some work, then don’t panic, and don’t worry about how long it will take. Once your body starts healing it’s amazing how quickly it seems to regenerate on its own. It seems to become an exponential process.
Below are some basic tips to get you going:
Take in positive fuel. Ideally eat organic, locally grown, good food. Eliminate, or at least reduce, processed foods. If you question why you need to go organic rather than stick with conventionally farmed produce, the answer is simple. Organic foods have been proven to have more antioxidants than conventional foods, have a higher nutritional value, and significantly lower levels of pesticides (Andrews et al., 2008).
Listen to your body. Is that headache telling you that you need more caffeine, or is it saying slow down, drink some water, and take a rest. Take the time to listen to your body. Don’t just react with medications. Eat mindfully; notice what makes you feel more energized, and what makes you feel agitated, sluggish, and grumpy.
Get plenty of sleep. It has been proven over and over again that sleep is essential to ensure that the body and mind stay in top condition. Please don’t buy into the hype that to be a high achiever you need to be doing, doing, doing, and sleeping only four hours a night. This is a media created fallacy. I don’t know about you, but I used to read magazines and see the successful businesswoman with a family who would get up at 5am to go to the gym, get her kids to school, work all day, and then have time to look glamorous and go out for lovely boozy dinners with her friends until around midnight. These people are not real my friends, don’t buy into the propaganda. To quote Matt Walker, an Associate Professor of Psychology at UC Berkeley and Principal Investigator at the Sleep and Neuroimaging Laboratory, “simply put, the single most important thing you can do each and every day to reset your brain and body health is to sleep. Once you start to get anything less than about seven hours of sleep, we can start to measure biological and behavioural changes quite clearly.” Sleep is essential – make sure you are getting between seven to nine hours sleep a night.
Stretch, strengthen, challenge. We are all different, and our bodies require different levels, and types of exercise, depending on our own unique makeup. Develop your own balance of stretching (e.g. yoga, tai chi), strengthening (e.g. weight training), and challenge (e.g. aerobic activity). These days there are unlimited exercise options – why not try to keep it fun? Another way I like to think of this option is to make sure that you have plenty of movement included in your schedule. Movement is particularly important if you’re stuck in a desk job and find yourself at a computer all day. So get out there and go for a walk, don’t wait for your computer to crash, take some time now and move that body of yours.
Reduce stress. This modern day “nasty” has become so prevalent in our society that millions of articles have been written on how to reduce the effects of stress. We generally use the word stress when we feel that everything seems to have become too much. We feel overloaded and we wonder whether we can cope with the pressure we’re feeling. When we feel stressed the following things happen to our body: blood pressure rises, breathing becomes more rapid, the digestive system slows down, heart-rate rises, immune system functioning goes down, muscles become tense, and we do not sleep well. All up, it’s not good stuff. There are many ways to deal with stress; talking to friends and family, taking time out for yourself, relaxation techniques – meditation, yoga, breathing, and seeking help from a professional. Don’t let stress overtake you – it can and must be stopped before it does too much damage.
Don’t smoke, and go easy on the booze. In many countries smoking is the single most preventable cause of illness and is a risk factor for lung cancer, emphysema, heart disease, and numerous other cancers. And while many people use alcohol to “escape” from the stressors of their day they forget that alcohol is a depressant. It slows the function of the central nervous system and blocks messages trying to get to the brain. This point is pretty simple really, don’t smoke cigarettes and drink in moderation.
Schedule regular “me-time” to de-stress and regroup. What you schedule for this time could be as simple as retreating to the tub for a long soak or playing a game of tennis with a friend, or it could be as indulgent as a weekend away at a spa. Do whatever works for you, and make sure you schedule it regularly. I recently did an Ayurvedic detox in Bali that did my body a world of good. This type of detox is very gentle and is developed for your individual body type. I highly recommend this format if you can find a good practitioner. Ideally, try to schedule in a detox program once a year. It can be done on retreat or, if the cost concerns you, then at home with friends is a good option. Although, do be aware that detoxing tends to bring out any emotional baggage you may have stored up. So if you decide to do it with friends ensure that you have space to get away from each other when you feel any strong emotions emerging.
Slow down. My final point is to try to slow down. Nearly all of us are operating at a very fast pace these days, and our breakneck speed adds to our stress and ensures that we miss what’s happening day to day. I think you’ll be surprised by the paradox that, as you slow down, time almost seems to expand. Where you think you would get less done as you slow down, you actually get more done, and each action becomes richer and more enjoyable. Try it for a day or two. Aim to do as little as possible, mindfully, and notice what you have completed by the end of the trial period.
And one final comment to keep in mind as we continue this journey - as a life adventurer your body is the vessel that allows you to travel the oceans of this world. If you don’t keep it watertight you may find yourself sinking rather than surfing the waves of life. Please please please take care of your amazing beautiful body.
EXERCISE: BODY HEALTH
Take a few minutes to rate how well you’re looking after your body, and then based on your score follow the recommended action.
Rate each of these elements on a scale of 1 to 10.
1 = “I’m a slacker” 10 = “I’m blitzing it”
I eat mostly organic, locally grown food.
I always listen to my body.
I get plenty of sleep.
I exercise regularly, in a way that suits my body type.
I have good ways to handle stress.
I don’t drink alcohol or smoke.
I schedule regular “me-time”.
I operate in the “go slow” zone.
60-80: You’re living the dream. You are very healthy and don’t need to take any further action in this area of your life. You have a great foundation for moving forward.
40-60: You are fairly healthy. However, there are a few minor changes you could make to become invincible. See if there is any area that stands out as having a low score and start making some changes there.
20-40: You really need to work on this area of your life. Ideally, take the time to see a holistic health professional and get a full body check-up. You may need to make a lot of changes, and this can seem overwhelming at first. However, just choose one area at a time to work on before moving on to the next.
0-20: I hate to say this, but you’re in trouble. Your health is not good. You need to take urgent action to get your body back to optimal health. See a holistic health professional immediately.
This blog is an excerpt from my book Finding Your Bliss - you can find it on amazon.