I have had the opportunity over the holidays to reflect on how to approach health in 2019 and below is the summary of my thoughts.
I have used the Pathways to Wellbeing template as the basis of these reflections.
What is the mind ? Thoughts and feelings.
Mostly we go through the day responding to thoughts that are generated automatically in the brain. This is how human beings work in the “default” mode.
We respond to these thoughts and feelings and they determine how we experience and function in life.
Every brain is pre-disposed to generating ANTs or Automatic Negative Thoughts. These influence all aspects of living.
A key change we can cultivate in 2019 is to become aware of the “trail” of ANTS, that is, where the negative thoughts and feelings are taking us.
Learning to observe thoughts and feelings and determining which ones to pay attention to and which ones to let pass on by is part of the fundamental training given in our More Than Meditation Course.
The science around what constitutes appropriate exercise is expanding. Although walking, jogging and running have significant health benefits these forms of exercise are in themselves not enough to confer the full spectrum of health.
There is now strong evidence that high-intensity interval training, safely lifting weights, flexibility exercises and just keeping moving throughout the day (as opposed to long periods of sitting) offers more robust benefits exercise.
Flexible Body, Flexible Mind
Each year we tend to spend more time with a flexed body posture. Sitting, looking down at our phones and computers is driving postural imbalances. This influences movement patterns and contributes to the epidemic of body pain.
Setting reminders during the day to simply move and stretch is a simple way to re-balance our body and in turn our minds.
The debate about what constitutes optimal nutrition continues to rage with multiple research papers providing contradictory advice notably on: low-fat versus high-fat; high-protein versus low-protein; and are carbohydrates good or bad?
However, there is universal agreement to increase vegetable consumption and to keep sugar consumption to a minimum which includes fruit (fruits are now cultivated to have much higher sugar levels).
There is growing support for the idea of not eating too frequently during the day and particularly extending the time from the last meal of the day to the first meal of the day. Having an 18 hour or greater period of not eating ( time restricted fasting) seems to confer multiple health benefits and I anticipate we will hear more about this in 2019.
Our automatic breathing patterns are controlled by the nervous system and are a reflection of our level of stress at any one time.
Purposely controlling the breathing for a period each day confers significant health benefits and trains the nervous system. The increased number of Breathing Apps reflects the growing awareness that using the breath well can bring balance to the nervous system and hence to the rest of the body. Here is a link to 2 simple breathing practices.
The stress response is our means of survival. In healthy individuals, the acute stress response is followed by a natural period of recovery.
All illnesses are exacerbated when the stress response persists beyond it useful duration. The risk of illness and accelerated ageing are consequences of a malfunctioning stress response system.
We are all capable of learning how to beneficially alter the stress response. See Meditation below for an action plan.
The number of medical research articles highlighting the benefits of a meditation practice was still peaking in 2018.
To gain the health benefits of meditation the length of time spent meditating each day is being refined and the More than Meditation Course reflects this change. Shorter periods of meditation and many meditation experiences throughout the day can produce benefits which traditionally were thought to occur only with long periods of practice.
In 2019 having a meditation practice is an essential ingredient for healthy living.
We are constantly interacting with our environment through the senses of the body. Paying attention to the five senses allows us to recognise the negative and positive effects of our various environments so that we can choose to change or enhance them even in simple ways, for example, by introducing a flowering plant or the smell of pleasant essential oil to a room. It is a 2-way communication. We impact the environment as it impacts us.
Power of The Group
Humans are genetically programmed to function best when connected to a community.
Increasingly, the use of social media and devices is changing the way humans connect and/or disconnect. We are now all part of an experiment that may have uncertain consequences.
Being isolated from others or living within a negative community adversely affects health and well-being. Finding ways to connect with others on a regular basis is something that now needs to be actively pursued.
In 2019 the concept of group dinners with people coming together to cook and eat a meal is food for the soul.
Health is enhanced by having a brain that is constantly growing and changing. Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to form new neural connections throughout life.
Being creative in a myriad of ways drives neuroplasticity. Being conscious and challenging oneself to do common daily tasks in different ways is a simple exercise to form new neural connections.
Service To Others
Being of service to others acknowledges that we all share this world and that the well-being of each is connected to the well-being of all.
When you share in and experience the interconnectedness of all beings, your health is enhanced. Our service serves us as well as others. You might like to forward this blog on to someone who would gratefully receive it?
We can live most of our life and function on “autopilot” looked after by our subconscious brain, nervous systems and hormones. But this can have negative consequences if we drift into health behaviours that are not helpful and may be harmful. We can become unconscious as to how we live and not notice that we are drifting off course.
Being intentional is consciously choosing a direction or goal to override the subconscious brain.
Intentionally considering and acting upon any of the ideas presented here may provide you with more tools and a new template for enhanced living in 2019.