September 7, 2017

How to Master an Essential Life Skill that most of us Ignore.


“Our bodies are the result of everything we have done up to this moment. Everything we put into them, everything we did with them, and everything we exposed them to has an impact on how our bodies are feeling right now, in this particular moment.”

Every morning at the beginning of my yoga class, I use these words to remind my students to love and embrace their bodies for where they are—what they can and cannot do—and work with that, instead of against it.

But I want to sit with the second part of that phrase for a bit: “the result of everything we have done until this moment.”

What does this mean and what does it imply?

It means that what I did yesterday, or last year, or as a kid, has had an effect on how my body operates today. It implies that what I do today, will have an effect on how my body will operate tomorrow, next year, and in three decades.

Maybe now I have your attention!

We tend to think of our bodies as a static entity. Once we reach adulthood, fill out, and grow hair in all the right places, we have a stretch of several decades before decay starts to become a daily reality check. In that period, our bodies seem to remain more or less the same.

This is a false belief.

Almost every cell in our bodies gets renewed on a regular basis. Some cells get replaced every few weeks, or every few months. When we are sick or injured, even more cells die and get replaced.

Those cells are not made out of thin air. They are created with everything we put into our bodies on a day-to-day basis.

With every choice we make today about what we allow into our system, we are shaping our bodies of the future. Our parents created us, but once we are alive, we are the constant co-creators of ourselves (and everything around us—but that’s a story for another blog).

“You are what you eat” is a slogan we often hear. It is true, but it’s not just what we eat.

People often ask me what I do to stay in shape. I always tell them that I have never been a heavy drinker, never smoked or used drugs, never been a big soda drinker or fried-food consumer, and have always exercised moderately and slept well. I also do my best to minimize stress.

I still live that way, but if I had started this lifestyle only yesterday or last year, most likely I would not be in the pretty darn healthy shape I am in at 52.

I didn’t realise it when this healthy lifestyle became my preferred way of living two decades ago, but I had started a career in investing in my future healthy self. Once I figured this out, it became easier to make the healthy choices and stay away from the bad habits.

But while nobody wants to be sick, it can be tough to let go of the choices that lead us there. Here’s my one investment tip that always works:

Every time that we’re about to succumb to an unhealthy decision, we can ask ourselves: “Is this a healthy investment in my future body (as in: past the moment of instant gratification)? Will it make my body (and life) better or worse in the next year or next decade?”

Even when our ego-mind starts to come up with all sorts of excuses not to follow this sound investment-advice, for fear of losing the short-term satisfaction, the fact that we have stopped ourselves for a mindful moment to contemplate is usually enough to make the right choice, opting for better long-term results.

Try this the next time you’re sitting in front of a pile of junk food and wondering if you should eat it.

The decision to invest in short-term or long-term results can be used not only for our daily food and drink choices, but for basically every choice that has an impact on our physical and emotional well-being:

>> The choice to opt for the gym instead of the couch. Investing in an active lifestyle instead of a sedentary one can make a huge difference in our overall health.

>> The choice to go to sleep instead of mindlessly scrolling another hour on social media. Investing in a rested body makes us better equipped for the next day. With a clear mind and more energy, we can tackle a difficult situation or a heavy work load with less stress.

>> The choice to get up 10 minutes earlier to meditate and start our day in a mindful way. Investing in the way we begin our day determines how our whole day will go.

>> The choice to leave the car at home and take our bike or walk. This is not only an investment in our own physical health, but also in our environment. A healthy environment is essential for our well-being, and a walk is not only good for the body, it also calms the mind and lifts our mood!

>> The choice to use natural (and maybe more expensive) products instead of cheaper, chemical-filled ones. This goes for anything from shampoo and deodorant to clothes, furniture, and mattresses. The hidden toxicity of many products is a major threat to our health and well-being in the long run. Spending that extra money now on natural alternatives can bring better health and lower medical bills in the future.

>> The choice to invest in the benefits of a regular therapeutic massage now, instead of dealing with a worn-out-too-soon body in the future. When my clients tell me they only get a massage when they are on vacation, I scold them, pointing out that the money and time they think they are saving by not getting regular massages will not buy them a new body when it’s worn and useless 20 years from now.

>> The choice to decide how much energy we spend on “toxic” people, either in our private or professional lives. The emotional stress we experience from our interactions with them can have a strong impact on our bodies.

>> The choice not to react in the heat of a difficult moment, but instead take a time-out and invest in a mindful response. In this way, we create space for a solution instead of long-term, unhealthy situations of mutual frustration, anger, and resentment.

>> The choice to embrace the risk of fulfilling our dreams, instead of staying in the security of our comfort zone. A long life of ignoring that nagging discontent can lead to chronic disease in our bodies at some point.

The list is endless, because being mindful of the long-term effects of each choice we make applies to anything we do, think, or say. And this practice benefits not only our own bodies and lives, but also our environment and the people around us.

Once we become aware of our own power of creation, it becomes easy to see the value of investing mindfully in our future selves. When we consciously forego a short-lived moment of instant gratification or the easy way out, we are choosing to invest in a long-lasting, healthy, and happy future instead.



Author: Leontien Reedijk
Image: lion heart vintage/Flickr
Editor: Nicole Cameron
Copy Editor: Taia Butler
Social Editor: Yoli Ramazzina

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