It’s Monday. I wake up with a heavy heart. I feel like sh*t.
I meditate, but still can’t get rid of this feeling. I remember my mantra—“This too shall pass”—which has helped me over the years. I sit with this gloomy feeling and try not to fight it anymore.
As the day wears on, I reflect as to why I’m feeling this way. I go through my personalized 12-step program. There is nothing significant to report. I’m in a good place. Then it comes to me: I didn’t sleep well. It’s as simple as that.
This is in great contrast to a few years back, when waking up in such a bad mood would spiral me into a mini depression that would ultimately manifest into some sort of sickness—a flu or a stomach bug.
The lack of sleep triggered the heavy feeling I woke up with. As the day progresses, I manage a power nap in the afternoon and I feel much better.
Our physiology affects our state of mind much more than we like to acknowledge. We need to understand the difference between a state of mind, which is temporary and general well-being, which is an overall state of affairs and is more permanent.
Happiness is a fleeting feeling, which makes us feel elated for minutes, hours or even days—watching your football team win a game in the last few minutes, enjoying a night out with friends or feeling good after a great yoga session—but it won’t last for the rest of your life.
Well-being is how we feel about ourselves most of the time. It is a fixed predisposition on our state of being that takes stock of the mind, body and spirit. Well-being is not short-lived but rather enduring and underpins the way to live “the good life.”
Studies have shown that people who win the lottery, or those affected by a traumatic accident in their lives revert to their original level of well-being—the way they felt about their lives—before the happy or sad incident happened.
There are three realms of well-being—the physical, emotional and spiritual that must be regularly monitored if we are to live a long, happier life.
This article focuses on three ways to take care of our physical well-being:
1. Eating well.
“Every time you eat or drink, you are either feeding disease or fighting it.” ~ Heather Morgan
There is a plethora of information on what is the right diet. There are some that work and many that don’t. However, there are general principles that apply all the time. It’s also scientifically proven that what we eat affects our energy levels, our moods and allows us to fight off diseases and illnesses.
Eating well also means understanding what’s happening in the big picture of the food production. Cows are eating corn instead of grass; chickens are being given Prozac to reduce their anxiety so their meat doesn’t get tough, the mercury levels in fish are at incredibly high toxic levels. Tomatoes are being picked early and then ripened by ethylene gas—all so that the big food industries can make more money.
We can’t keep ignoring these practices as one-off stories found in interesting documentaries made by vegan eating environmentalists. We must start taking personal responsibility by making sure our foods are bought from healthy and organic sources.
I’ve found that eliminating processed foods, sugars and starchy carbs together with adding more vegetables to my diet has worked wonders. I’m trying to buy and eat organic where I can, something easier said than done if a Whole Foods store is not nearby.
I make sure I eat at the right times, which means eating within an hour of waking up, splitting my meals into three small ones and two snacks, and not eating after 7:00 p.m.
2. Exercising and moving regularly.
“Physical fitness is not only one of the most important keys to a healthy body, it is the basis of dynamic and creative intellectual activity.” ~ John F. Kennedy
There are many scientific studies that confirm exercise is a magic pill, surpassing anti-depressant pills as the best way to fight depression. Our lives have become too sedentary and as such we need to have more general movement in our lives that is not limited to exercising at specific times and days.
Many exercise plans exist and we should explore what’s best for us, always going along with what we enjoy doing, as that means we are likely to stick to practicing it. It could be soccer, dance or some form of martial arts.
I try to exercise for a minimum of 40 minutes per session for four days a week. This could be running, if my knees are up to it, working out in the gym, or taking spin or cross-train classes.
Movement for me would also include trying to stand every hour for a few minutes when seated at the office. Taking the stairs instead of the escalators. Walking whenever possible especially when discovering new cities or needing to clear space in my mind.
I’ve also found that as I age, I need to stretch my body and as such, I do two yoga sessions per week.
3. Sleeping well.
“A good laugh and a long sleep are the two best cures for anything.” ~ Irish proverb
Most people take a good night’s sleep for granted. We need to get between seven to eight hours of sleep regularly. When asleep, our minds don’t shut down. Our bodies don’t become lifeless. Rather it’s time that is needed for self-regulation and rejuvenation where we get the daily maintenance that we desperately need.
We can get away with sleeping five to six hours for a while, but then it catches up on us. Suddenly joy is replaced with stress and we become miserable without even knowing why. Lack of sleep is the new smoking and is fast becoming a silent joy killer.
I make sure I’m in bed by 9:30 p.m. and read poetry for about 30 minutes. I then rise early at 5:00 a.m. I feel refreshed after sleeping my required quota; it gives me the strength that I don’t know I have until I have a bad night’s sleep.
These days my body is giving me the right signals. I feel energised and healthy. I am at my optimized weight level since I was 16 and physically strong enough to handle other areas of my life that aren’t working well.
Our body is a gift that was given to us not only to house our soul, but also to facilitate it to explore and experience the wonders of life. Physical well-being is vital to our overall well-being as it is also inextricably linked to our emotional and spiritual realms.
Author: Mo Issa
Image: Wikimedia Commons
Editor: Catherine Monkman