I stumbled across an interesting article this week, and it made me stop and think about whether I truly live a holistic life...
I came to the conclusion that I don't - at least, not right now. I am so focused on the future, and the goals I want to accomplish (quitting my job, making a living doing what I love and having the freedom to work when and where I want, etc.), that sometimes I miss some of the present - which is all we really have when it comes right down to it, right?
So yes, I realize I'm not exactly practicing what I preach right at this second (though I'm working on it), but I hope you will take the time to read this and think about what living a holistic life means to you. Are you there yet? Are any of these aspects listed below lacking in your life - or missing altogether? Do you see areas of your life you need to work on to regain balance?
Here are 4 ways to live a more healthy, holistic life, starting today:*
I've talked before about the importance of listening to your body - something that very, very few of us in today's society actually do anymore. We tend to drown out our body's cries for help with medication, food, alcohol, or merely mental stimulation such as TV, rather than really listening to what it needs, and then giving it.
When it comes to food, this is especially true. Some natural health experts have said that we are the most undernourished overweight society on the planet. While we eat a huge amount of food, most of it is greatly lacking in nutrition and the healthy building blocks needed to create strong, healthy bodies. Rather than paying attention to what our bodies actually want, we give in to cravings fueled by addiction, stress, and malnourishment - and usually end up choosing foods that only feed and worsen our cravings, rather than satisfying them.
Food is incredibly important in all aspects of our lives. It can affect our moods, our relationships, and how we function in our daily lives. That's why, to live more holistically, it is important that we pay close attention to the foods that we eat, and to how they make us feel, and what they do to our bodies. When you notice a craving, ask yourself why. Did you skip a meal today - or eat mostly foods with little sustenance (e.g. lots of sugar and processed ingredients)? Then, pay attention to how that food that you were craving makes you feel when you eat it. Are you energized? Or do you feel tired or lethargic? Do you crave more and more of it, or are you satisfied?
Learning how specific foods affect you will help you learn to listen to your body more, and provide it with more of what it really needs. You don't have to deprive yourself. But by listening to your body when you crave something, and when you eat it, you will learn which foods are naturally better for keeping you healthy, energetic, and feeling great - which is, after all, the goal of holistic living!
2. Move Your Body Often
Okay, now I know you're probably thinking - "Ugh, here comes the lecture about how I need to get to the gym every day..."
But that's not exactly the case. I am not all about pounding it out for hours at the gym - as you probably know if you follow this blog, or my exercise blog. In fact, there is evidence that shows that that kind of high-intensity sustained exercise is actually bad for your health, and can put your body through a lot of unnecessary wear and tear.
However, getting lots of movement into your day is essential for good physical health - and mental health as well! Not only does exercise strengthen your muscles, increase flexibility, improve blood flow, and clear out accumulated toxins, but it also eases tension, stress, and anxiety, improves sleep, and boosts your immune system.
That's a lot of benefits just from getting up and moving on a regular basis - and it's totally free!
You'll notice I'm not recommending any particular form of exercise - and I haven't even mentioned the word "workout." That's because the form of exercise you do isn't as important as actually just doing it. Find something you enjoy - something that feels so good to you that you want to do it often - not just something that some fitness guru says you "should" do. And then do it. It doesn't have to be the same thing every day, and it doesn't even have to be a formal workout. But whether it is walking your dog around the park, dancing in your living room, rolling out the yoga mat, or going for a run, do it often. And make it a habit to move around more throughout the day as well.
Instead of thinking of exercise as a chore, begin thinking of it as an essential part of your life that helps you to feel and function at your best. This mindset shift is one of the most important things you can do to live a healthier, happier, and more holistically balanced life!
3. Learn How to Breathe
What? I can hear you saying now, "I learned that when I was born!" But if you really start paying attention to your breathing, I bet you will be surprised to learn how often you hold your breath. You probably also breathe a lot more quickly and shallowly than is healthy.
Why? Stress is a major culprit. When we get stressed or anxious, we tend to close off our breathing, or limit our breath to just the upper part of our lungs.
Learning to breathe deeply into your belly has actually been linked to a longer life in some cultures, but it also has lots of short term benefits as well, such as better sleep, more stamina and energy, and less stress.
I find that I am calmer, and better able to handle stress when I have been doing a lot of yoga - partly due to the breathing exercises that are used in my favorite Kundalini yoga workouts.
Pranayama is a yoga practice that focuses specifically on the breath, but if you're not into yoga, you can still benefit from learning the breathing techniques. Or just do a search online for "learn deep breathing," and you will find lots of helpful resources.
4. Practice Good Self-Care
Okay, this is an area that I have to admit I often fall short on.... Sometimes it is hard for me to grasp the fact that self-care is not selfish. Taking some time for yourself to do what you love to do actually gives you more energy to care for others. By taking care of yourself first, you can be a better spouse, parent, friend, or employer.
We all (and I am terribly guilty of this) say that we will do more of this "someday," when we have the time. But we never actually seem to have more time, do we? If anything, we just get busier and have less and less of it...
You need to make time for yourself a priority. Carve out a chunk of time just for YOU, put it on your calendar, and give yourself the attention you need. This might be difficult at first. It might mean learning to say "No" to some things, but ultimately, by saying "Yes" to your own needs, you will find that you have more energy and vitality for other things that are important to you. Whether it is reading, cooking, praying or meditating, going to a movie, gardening, or spending time with friends, make sure to make regular time for the things that relax, nourish, and fulfill you.
Remember that living a healthy and holistically balanced life incorporates aspects of all of your self - body, mind, and spirit. By recognizing, respecting, and caring for all of these aspects, you will find more health, fulfillment, and happiness in all aspects of your life.
To your (holistic) health,
* These tips were based on an excellent article by Beth Pocock. I highly recommend you check out her article for more on holistic living, including a delicious and healthy recipe for "Guilt Free Spaghetti Bolognese."