World Health Organisation, 1948
Being healthy takes place on many levels: The physical, the mental, the emotional and even on a spiritual level. As a holistic therapist I understand that we can’t ignore either of these levels if we want to be really healthy. If we ignore our emotional or mental problems for instance, they will manifest themselves also on a physical level eventually.
So, how can we become more aware of our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual needs and how can we learn to balance our body, mind and spirit?
“Our bodies are our gardens - our wills are our gardeners.”
Several studies have shown that there is a positive relationship between exercise and subjective well-being. We are able to think better when we are healthy and fit and we are healthier and fitter when we think better - it’s all interlinked. There are also numerous studies claiming that the more active we are, the less likely we will suffer from anxiety or stress. But it’s not until recently that exercise is being recognized as an element in maintaining mental fitness.
The benefits of physical exercise are endless:
- Research has found that regular physical activity appears as effective as psychotherapy for treating mild to moderate depression. Therapists also report that patients who exercise regularly simply feel better and are less likely to overeat or abuse alcohol and drugs.
- Improves memory, planning and concentration
- Stimulates the flow of oxygen to the brain
- Stimulates the growth of new brain cells
Relax & Breathe
Physical Well-being starts with having a good posture and good breathing techniques:
- Relax and drop your shoulders
- Straighten up and breathe deeply
- Let your stomach stretch with each intake of breath through the nose and let the air out slowly through your mouth
- Stretch your neck muscles
- Roll your head
- Stretch yourself at regular intervals when sitting for long periods at a desk or computer
- Read more about the amazing benefits of breathing techniques here
- Most people might find it hard to motivate themselves to go for regular physical exercise. A great way to avoid this is to choose some exercise routines that involve other people, like going for a walk with a friend, engaging in a team sport or signing up for gym with a friend.
- An easy and cheap, yet very effective way for exercise is to avoid lifts, park the car further away and walk more.
- Search for physical hobbies and activities such as gardening, hiking, riding, sailing: any activity that is both physical and gets you out in a wonderful environment
- Yoga, tai chi, teakwondo, judo, pilates, gymnastics are increasingly recognised for their psychological as well as physical benefits. Eastern techniques are designed to improve flexibility, as well as, keeping the internal energy lines healthy and in balance. Research is finding more and more about the effects that yoga or judo have on our neurological systems.
- Regular exercise in a gym with a personal trainer is a very effective way to burn calories and tone up your body or get back into shape.
It’s long been understood and proven that feeling well also depends on what we eat and drink. Therefore it surprises me that in developed countries people are suffering more and more from obesity, diabetes, coronary disease or cancer than ever before. And yet we continue eating and drinking unhealthily.
- The body uses about 10 - 12 cups of water a day, through such things as breathing, digestion, elimination and perspiration. So we need to replenish it daily or our bodies will become dehydrated.
- It is required for digestion and absorption of food.
- It is needed to regulate body temperature and blood circulation.
- Water in the bloodstream carries nutrients and oxygen to cells.
- It is necessary for the kidneys to remove toxins and other wastes.
- Keep a glass of water by the kitchen sink and each time you visit the kitchen, drink a glass and fill it up again.
- Don’t binge drink or allow your consumption to pass 21 units per week for a man and 14 units for a woman.
- People who drink excessively suffer depression, anxiety, dementia and liver damage
- Keep track on how much you spend on alcohol each week or monthly and imagine what else you could afford if you didn’t spend so much money on alcohol.
- Make it an habit to drink a glass of water before and after each glass of alcohol.
- Caffeine in any form is also best enjoyed in moderation. Choose an herbal tea instead of tea or coffee sometimes.
Eat 5 portions of fruits and vegetables oer day. 5 A DAY is based on the advice from the World Health Organization, which recommends eating a minimum of 400g of fruit and vegetables a day to lower the risk of serious health problems, such as heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and obesity.
- They're a good source of vitamins and minerals, including folate, vitamin C and potassium.
- They're an excellent source of dietary fibre, which helps maintain a healthy gut and prevent constipation and other digestion problems. A diet high in fibre can also reduce your risk of bowel cancer.
- Read this for tips on which fruits and vegetables count towards your 5 daily
- For more information in general you can consult the UK’s NHS website here
- Make time to cook your own food. Not only will you choose healthier ingredients but the time spent cooking can also be very mindful or social if you cook with friends.
- Bring colour to your plate
- Have your meals on regular times and eat your food slowly. Take time to relish your food.
- Keep your portions moderate without denying yourself the pleasure of eating
- Like to eat snacks? Why not try healthier snacks such as nuts or dried fruits?
- Take a minute before eating to be grateful for the food and the body it feeds.
Why not try a monthly 1-day detox?
- People often report improved energy, clearer skin, regular bowel movements, improved digestion, and increased concentration and clarity after a detox diet.
- Drink only water (hot or cold) with a slice of lemon
- Eat only fruit, vegetable and pulses
- Cut out alcohol, caffeine, all dairy products, sugar, wheat and meat
“The mind has great influence over the body, and maladies often have their origin there.”
From a very young age we are already told that it’s bad to have or show our emotions. Phrases like “Big boys don’t cry” or “good girls are not angry” and the like teach us nothing more than to ignore our feelings. Therefore we learn to suppress our feelings and will continue doing this even in adulthood.
However, what’s wrong is not our emotions. It’s not our emotions that need healing. It’s perfectly healthy to be sad when we lose a job. It’s absolutely normal to be very angry and upset when our wife leaves us. What’s wrong are the erroneous beliefs and attitudes we carry around with us. It’s not our emotions that cause us pain. It’s blocking or controlling our emotions that cause us pain. During my work I often come across men who tell me that they think it’s very weak to cry and show their feelings. But who said that men are not allowed to cry? Men have emotions too which need to come out. The saying “real men don’t cry” is just so wrong. Real men do cry as they are in tune with their emotions.
It is also incredibly important to watch our thoughts and thinking patterns. By attaching positive or negative thoughts to outcomes we can affect the interpretation of what has already happened. Thus, a negative interpretation of a past event can become a pessimistic view of future events. How we perceive and interpret situations will have an influence on our feelings. How we feel influences our thoughts and determines our actions. Therefore, if we interpret events pessimistically we function less well than those who had an optimistic mindset, for our feelings are dependant on what we believe. It’s not surprising then, that our ability to function well will depend on what we choose to believe.
What can we do to be emotionally and mentally healthy?
Be aware. Acknowledge your feelings and thoughts as opposed to ignoring them. Be aware of negative thoughts and what kind of emotions triggered that thought. Were you angry, sad, jealous, fearful?) Allow yourself to feel these emotions. If you are sad, get that sadness out by allowing yourself to cry.
Accept. Accept that you have your own responsibility towards your feelings and thoughts. If you continuously feel used or unloved, ask yourself why that is. It’s you who attracted these people into your life and it’s you who allow them to use you or to treat you without respect. Of course being aware of your thoughts and emotions is important, but analyse each situation objectively and ask yourself what YOUR role in that situation was, what you could have handled better, or what you can do to feel more positive emotions and eliminate bad emotions by accepting that no one can cause you any harm unless you allow them to.
Heal. Now it’s time to heal these old emotions or negative thoughts. In my experience there are always two extremes in handling negative emotions: some of us tend to keep too many problems to ourselves instead of speaking up when we feel hurt, judged or treated unfairly. We might just ignore it and won’t speak about it. The other extreme is to immediately become offensive, start shouting and overreacting in many situations.
One way of ensuring more mental and emotional clarity is to improve our communication skills. People won’t know how you feel and think unless you tell them. Of course it’s important to do that in an objective and constructive way. Sentences like “You never listen” or “you always treat me badly” won’t improve the situation. Try instead to phrase it in a more constructive and fair way like: “When you don’t let me finish saying what I wanted to tell you, I will forget what I had to say and it makes me feel confused and a bit sad. Do you think we can work on that?”
If you are stuck in an unhealthy situation or relationship, try and open up to your friends and family. Look for a support network of people who can help you. Speak up about your feelings, what you are going through at the moment. Ask for help. Ask for support. Don’t stay in that situation out of fear that things might become worse. Now is the time for you to find your happiness and to grow.
Or do you feel you made so many mistakes in your life and can’t let go of judging yourself? Are there people in your life who you haven’t forgiven yet for whatever wrong they have caused you in your life? Forgive. In order to fully heal our emotions we need to forgive ourselves and others and let go of all old emotional baggage. Why not call up an old friend and apologise in case you did something wrong.
Another very effective way to clear these emotions is to write it all down. Write a letter to the people who wronged you. Tell them how you felt and also that you will now let everything go and forgive them. You don’t even necessarily need to send that letter. You can burn it and visualise all these old emotions or negative thoughts disappearing.
If you find it hard to let go why not try an EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) or Reiki treatment? Both these methods will help you release old congested energies in your body, as well as giving you relaxation and stress relieve.
Strengthen. Now that you are aware of your emotions and thoughts, have analysed them and started with the healing process, the last step is to learn from it and become stronger. I’m talking about learning how to be resilient. Resilience is not the same as surviving. People can “survive” a bad divorce for instance, but that doesn’t mean they have learned from it. Resilience will trigger growth. It’s when we suffer the most, that the potential to learn from it and to grow as human beings is the biggest.
“Diseases of the soul are more dangerous and more numerous than those of the body.”
Spiritual health is probably an area that most of us are somewhat ignorant about or wouldn’t consider it to be part of an optimal healthy life. Be it because we think spirituality is the same as traditional religions, or be it because we haven’t thought about the fact yet that there is a body, mind & spirit connection that affects our health.
Spirituality refers to the inner most part of us and is unique to each individual. It’s the part of us that lets us find meaning in our life. It determines who we really are and gives us some sense where we came from and where we are going. To sum it up, spirituality is about finding our life purpose or a meaning in our lives and to answer the question of why we are here.
Spirituality gives us hope, peace and comfort in our lives and we all find it in a very different way. Be it through music, nature or by connecting on a deeper level with other human beings to mention just a few examples. For a more detailed explanation of what spirituality means and how to develop it visit this link.
How do we know if we are spiritually healthy? Ask yourself the following questions:
- Do you have a positive outlook on life?
- Do you feel a sense of serenity, peace or worth?
- Do you have a sense of purpose or meaning in your life?
- Or do you have feelings of emptiness, anxiety, hopelessness or apathy?
- Do you face many conflicts in your life and keep ending up with the same negative thinking patterns or attracting the same kind of negative people into your life?
- Identify a few things in your life that give you an inner peace, comfort, strength, love or connection.
- Things that can help you spiritually could be community service, volunteering, meditating, spending time in nature, yoga, tai chi, Reiki, singing, reading etc.
- Start searching for the bigger picture
- Start thinking outside of the box
- Live joyfully, smile and laugh a lot
- Be thankful and forgiving
- Be open to new experiences, new people, new opportunities
- And most importantly: be open for change