Any physical unease is a message…. to look after yourself.

How connected are you to a healthy lifestyle? Sometimes you may catch a cold or your blood pressure may rise for no apparent reason, sometimes you may be plagued by a continuous headache that refuses to go away until you have a painkiller… The advantage of being fit is that you bounce back within two days as against the usual 10. Nevertheless, any kind of unease is a message: “Look after yourself. Examine where you’ve been going wrong and get back on the right track.” Ah yes, ask and act:

Have you been eating mindlessly? Chances are you’ve been overeating fat foods. Cut out fats altogether — a light body heals faster. If you must have your ounce of fat, eat slowly to allow your brain time to signal “I’m full”. According to a new psychological study, the mind believes you’ve eaten a larger amount when you take in more pieces of food. So, chew 10 smaller morsels instead of five big mouthfuls. After you’ve finished eating, be full of gratitude for this sustenance instead of thinking about a second helping. Such fullness of the spirit really stops us seeking fullness of the stomach.

Have you been thinking without controlling your thoughts? Remember, lack of mental peace also creates poor physical health. Ayurveda puts it simply: “Banish movement of thought in the mind and you banish decay in the body to a great extent.” Sages retreated into caves to find peace. Make your room, cabin, desk and mind a cave of peace. Thrice a day, sit where you are without thinking of the things you have to do. Close your eyes. Get to know your breath — follow it closely as it moves in and out of your nostrils. In this tranquil, alpha state, promise yourself that you’ll always ‘think up’ a rainbow, not a storm; a smile, not sadness; a promise, not worry; blessings, not trials; a sweet song, not a sorrowful sigh; contentment, not dissatisfaction. Let utter peace prevail in your inner cave…

Have you been over-indulging yourself? Sure, you want to celebrate birthdays and other functions with friends and family. But, be aware of a recent study that says people increase their risk of dying by 14 per cent on their birthdays. We must understand that imbibing excess alcohol and/or eating excess fatty foods puts an enormous strain on the heart, which even the joy of celebrating with loved ones does not always balance out. Ah yes, moderation is the key. Tips: Chew gum at such events. Keeping the mouth busy decreases temptation. A polite way to refuse when coerced by enthusiastic hosts is to nod “I’ll have it a little later.” Prune your attendance. A personal rule such as ‘only one party per month’ helps. If you can’t refuse, make a guest appearance and a quick exit after offering good wishes.

Have you been skipping too many workouts? It’s amazing how many exercise sessions people miss for innocuous reasons — including “I’m not in a mood” or “I’m feeling too low.” What follows a sedentary lifestyle is not health and cheer, but inertia and illness. It is understandable that when you’re feeling mentally fragile, it’s tough to pick up weights, for example. But, please stir yourself up. Rub your palms together. Massage your neck and shoulders. Take a leisurely walk. Pedal on your stationary cycle. Keep repeating silently in your mind, “I raise my energies with joy.” The affirmation chanted continuously draws the brain’s energy away from the ‘low’ and focuses it on a positive thought until it gets stimulated and re-energised. Tip: Vow never to miss an exercise session. Live up to your vow.

Have you been procrastinating? It’s subtly stressful to know that certain things have to be done but remain undone. As the ‘undones’ pile up, the mind goes out of kilter easily. But always remember you are more important than things. Take three deep breaths and calm down. Then take one small step — just make your work-desk look more orderly. That’s all. One small task done gives huge relief. A sense of confidence sets in that things are manageable. A new resolve glides in powerfully.

Have you gone through some change in your life and been knocked down by it? Any change, big or small, can bring on fear, insecurity, sorrow, hurt, anger, inadequacy, anxiety, shame… Honour your feelings. If you wish to withdraw for some time, it’s fine. Or wish to talk it out, that’s fine too. Sometimes, telling your story a few times helps blunt the fear, inadequacy, and so on — it’s the beginning of healing. Stick to a regular routine — a routine is reassuring, as it takes away the inner hollowness. Don’t get involved with people who lead complicated lives — their dithering, unpunctuality can add further stress to your distress. Know for sure that you are gaining wisdom in this situation and that, one day, you’ll guide others and help them to heal.

Finally, end each day with these four beautiful words: “This too shall pass.” And rest in this truth.

The writer is the co-author of the book Fitness for Life.

(This article was published on March 14, 2013)
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