Most of us are so caught up in our busy lifestyles, that taking some time off for ourselves seems close to impossible. As the vortex of the daily grind sucks us in deeper and deeper, important aspects like our physical and mental health take a backseat. If we take a moment to pause and ponder if anything we’re doing even matters if we’re not in good mental and physical shape, we can hear the obvious answer loud and clear in our heads.
Cure.fit health expert Manasa Rajan throws some light on this topic.
Most people segment their lives into work, leisure, family, and create priorities accordingly, the conventional way. Little time then, is left for self care. Yet, caring for ourselves today, is exactly what determines the quality of our life, body & mind, for decades to come. Our brains process every experience — physical, mental & spiritual, as an input. As Deepak Chopra says, “True self care embraces a person’s entire life. This is a new model for success and happiness, a model that abundant medical evidence supports.”
1. Respect for the body & self — The approach to food choices, should come from a place of respect for the body & self. Food should be eaten for nourishment & wellbeing, rather than just as a response to hunger. If we chose each of our meals, with the intention of caring for our energy, immunity, digestion, skin, and mental clarity, how would we eat? Wouldn’t it be easier then, to eat more whole foods, plant foods, and less of refined sugar, processed foods, and junk?
2. Mindfulness — Mindful eating helps us to tune in to our hunger and appetite. As we multitask through our meals — checking emails, conducting discussions, watching shows; there is little focus on important aspects of eating like chewing well, experiencing the different textures & flavours in the food, and most importantly on avoiding a stressful state (which interferes with digestion). Many of us eat as per schedule or as a social/entertainment activity, and less led by hunger, leading to overconsumption and inefficient digestion. Making the switch to mindful eating in a calm environment, can really change the way we eat and absorb nutrition.
3. Intermittent Fasting — There is a lot of evidence to support the health benefits of ‘fasting’, especially for weight management, slower ageing, and disease prevention. If we restrict the time window of eating to 8–10 hours, and the fasting period to upto 16 hours a day, keeping the eating schedule close to our sleep-wake biological cycle (circadian rhythm), it can improve the quality of our sleep, recovery, hormone balance and metabolism. This means, eating the first meal of the day, closer to waking up and to keep the last meal 3–4 hours before bedtime. Following this is also important, because digestion is an energy consuming bodily function(have you noticed a sense of lethargy post a heavy meal?). A longer eating window means lesser time/energy for the body to focus on cellular regeneration, repair and recovery.
Simple lifestyle changes
1. Reset — As a culture, we encourage and applaud the state of being ‘busy’. Feeling a lack of time for exercise, sports, reading, or for quality time with loved ones, is usually an outcome of choices that we make. When we allow our brains to reset, by taking regular downtime, and create pleasurable moments in the day to completely relax or be in the moment, like by practising Yoga, dance, or meditation, or even enjoying a moment of solitude with a cup of tea, we can truly improve our productivity, reduce stress, and strengthen focus.
A really quick way to reset, is to do belly breathing or diaphragmatic breathing for a few minutes, which can help lower blood pressure, heart rate and stress levels.
2. Gratitude— Living life, feeling positive and thankful about one’s experiences, can impact immunity, stress levels, and even mortality. Happy people tend to live longer, healthier, and age slower. Each emotion we feel & experience, and the reactions we have, also have a physiological impact on the body. Negative emotions lead to inflammation, and an adrenal and hormone response.
We can develop an attitude of gratitude, and train our minds to see the positive side of situations by maintaining a daily journal to write about things, events, or relationships that we are thankful for, and by practising meditation.
3. Purpose — It’s important to feel a sense of purpose and meaning, have a higher vision, and see ourselves as a part of the larger picture, to lead a fulfilled life. This can mean very different things for each of us. Some people find purpose in their work, some in the love for their children or family, some in religion or a belief system, and others in a cause that can impact change in the world. A deep purpose in life, is linked to longevity, reduced inflammation, increased immunity, and also acts as a buffer against stress.
Discovering our sense of purpose may require some introspection on what motivates us daily, what our long term goals are, and what our life goals are. Is it aligned to our present path and our short term goals?
If our present actions and time spent, is aligned with our long term life goals, we feel a sense of connection and purpose. Our work and play, then becomes integrated and seamless, creating a greater sense of fulfilment.
4. Forest Bathing — Spend time in nature. This can be on the terrace, caring for your potted plants, or getting away from the city, to spend time in the hills, at a lake or near the sea.
Immersing ourselves in nature, changes our perspective on the concept of ‘time’, how we feel tied to it, stressed by it, and enslaved by it. It can positively impact stress, anxiety, blood pressure and heart health.
5. Stretch — Deep stretching has benefits far beyond flexibility. It releases the stress that we hold in our body, helps active recovery, and negates the impact of too much sitting & poor posture (both of which are common concerns for most of us). Stretching helps the body feel light, supple, pain free, and improves joint mobility.
While the above is not an exhaustive list, it is a starting point to help view our health more holistically, and to impact it accordingly. These simple tips can go a long way in improving your mental and physical wellness.
When the mind and body are healthy, the impact trickles down to everything we do in our daily lives, from mundane to complex activities. You don’t have to take our word for it. Try out any of the suggestions for yourselves, and see the difference it makes in your lives.