REDUCE STRESS, FEEL BETTER: YOUR HEALTH IS IN YOUR HANDS
“Be the change you want to see.”
As Ghandi’s great words state, it is your responsibility to take control of your own body, mind, and being.
Join the forward-looking pioneers who embrace a new model of health. Decide that from this day forth, you will live your life with faith in the wonders of the human body, rather than in fear of disease. You will focus on what’s right with your life.
Here are some suggestions for getting started.
Write your Owner’s Manual
Wouldn’t it be great if you came with an owner’s manual? It would describe what you were designed to do, spell out conditions for your optimal performance, and offer a trouble-shooting guide. Although you didn’t come with a written book, you do, in fact, have an owner’s manual encoded in the unfolding of your story. Your life experiences reveal your passions, your values, and your strengths.
Start your owner’s manual today. Write down five strengths and five passions. Get to know what makes you tick and how and when you feel most alive physically, mentally and emotionally.
Pay Attention to your Body
Your body’s design includes mechanisms that announce its needs, like the warning lights on the dashboard of your car. Start paying closer attention. I once saw a breast cancer patient whose tumor eroded through the skin. I asked her when she first noticed a problem, and she said, “A week ago.” Given our knowledge of tumor biology, it’s safe to say she could have felt the tumor two years earlier, seen a contour change in her breast six months earlier, and witnessed the erosion of her skin for weeks. If you’re wondering, “How could that happen?” I will tell you that most patients ignore the whispered messages from their bodies. The body often has to shout out with intense pain before it’s heard.
Our growing obesity epidemic demonstrates the consequences of disconnecting from the body’s signals. From birth, most of an infant’s needs are met with food. During my own childhood my parents became experts about the food that went into my mouth. They decided what I should eat, how much, and when. When I was able to make my own choices, and gratified my own physical and emotional hungers with food, my weight soared. Then I turned to dieting experts to tell me how to lose weight. It wasn’t until I finally listened to my body that I took off this weight and kept it off.
Make Health a Habit
We like predictability. That’s one reason why up to 90% of our actions are based on habits. Your health is a consequence of your actions. If you brush your teeth and floss regularly, you will enjoy better oral health. Changing just one habit can make a huge difference in your life. What one small change can you make? Using olive oil instead of butter? Taking the stairs instead of the elevator? Taking deep breaths when you’re stuck in traffic instead of getting angry?
Exercise: Just Do It
Exercise is powerful medicine that has direct health benefits. If you’re active, you avoid disease and recover more quickly if you become sick. You’ll put more life in your days and more days in your life. You don’t have to spend three hours each day in the gym to enjoy the benefits of exercise. You’ll see great things happen with 20 minutes of walking four times a week. How about going out for a 10 minute walk today and four days this week?
Treat Yourself with Compassion
There’s a reason for everything you do. Sometimes the conditions that led to a certain behavior changed, but we kept the behavior. We can always reevaluate and make different choices. Pay attention to times in which you berate yourself, and ask, “How has this onerous belief or action served me? What are other choices that would work better?”
Identify your Gifts
Yes, you do have gifts! They’re usually the things you do so effortlessly that you can’t believe that it’s not a snap for everyone else. Ask three close friends this week to name your strengths. Write them down in your owner’s manual. Then spend more of your time engaging in activities that use your strengths and gifts.
Tell the Truth
Choices that lead to health are founded in the truth. Always. Your body, as well as your mind, knows the truth. You may get an unpleasant physical sensation in your body when you lie. For the next week, declare a moratorium on lies, including the “harmless” little white lies.
Catch Yourself doing Something Right
Noticing what’s right helps you stay healthy. You’ve done lots of things right this week. Jot them down. Give yourself a pat on the back when you remember to keep yourself hydrated with water and a slice of lemon instead of soda. Recognize that you went to your much-loved yoga class, even though you were swamped at work. How about sharing something good that happened at a regular family meal? How about starting your next business meeting with success stories? Focus on what’s right, and the successes mushroom.
Who Do you Call? Stress-Busters!
Up to 80% of office visits to primary care doctors address stress-related symptoms. Your doctor often treats your symptoms, prescribing medication to treat stress-induced acid reflux. This doctor suggests you develop better stress management tools. Favorite stress-busters include exercise, writing in a journal, listening to music, deep breathing, and finding humor in your own personal sitcom called your life. How about making a list of your favorite stress busters, have your children do the same, and hang the lists on the fridge?
Connect with Others
Healthy relationships contribute to your overall health. Lonely people are more likely to smoke, overeat and abuse drugs. They are also three to five times more likely to experience premature death from all causes as compared to people connected in the community. Reconnect to family. Deepen relationships with friends. Be involved in your community. How about connecting with an old friend you’ve been meaning to call… today?
About 40,000 thoughts pass through your mind each day, and few are “Go, Girl” and “Atta Boy.” Your mind comes to believe your thoughts, even if they don’t reflect reality. Support health with new thoughts. Make cards with short positive sentences stated in present tense, and repeat them often. “I’m invigorated by my daily exercise.” “I effortlessly make healthy food choices.” “My actions reflect my values.”
Forgiveness supports health. Anger and resentment have health consequences that are measured on the same scale as smoking. Forgiveness, though difficult, is a skill well worth nurturing. How about forgiving one person for one thing today? Maybe that person is you.
Charge your Batteries
Self-care is a gift to yourself and to others. You function best when your batteries are charged. People-pleasers who take care of others at the expense of themselves ultimately limit their own ability to give. Make a list of activities that charge your batteries. Do at least one every day this week, even if it’s only for two minutes.
Plug Energy Drains.
What drains your energy? Excessive worrying or toxic people or nagging projects on the home-repair list? Plug energy drains by springing into action. Clear the clutter from the garage. Replace worry with information and support. Reduce contact with people who leave you feeling spent.
Adopt an Attitude of Gratitude
Each day I recognize and thank someone who makes a difference in my life. It might be the garbage man, a teacher or a helpful stranger. Saying “thank you” keeps your focus on what you do have, and avoids thinking about what you don’t. How about making a commitment to thank one person every day for the next 30 days? Before you go to sleep at night, think about the things for which you are grateful. This single practice is transformative.
Live in Abundance
You choose whether you live in scarcity or you live in abundance. Abundance isn’t about how much you have but rather your relationship to what you do have. Health means living in abundance. The best way to experience abundance is to give, which benefits the giver as well as the recipient. Give and you will enjoy greater health. How about giving your ill-fitting suits to an organization that helps people return to the work force? You achieve health one step at a time. Embrace health with action today. Teach this approach to your children and bring a culture of health into your business. Your actions are like stones thrown in a pond, sending ripples far beyond the site of impact.