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Holistic wellbeing

Holistic wellbeing: 19 small shifts in life for a big change

Who doesn’t want the best of everything in life? A fit body, a youthful glow, a great job that your friends envy you for, a huge bank balance, a travel itinerary that puts a pilot to shame, a marriage made-in-heaven, a harmonious relationship, a soulmate, a happy family, a perpetually positive state of mind, eternal happiness, and a large Instagram following. Yet, are you among those who are constantly fretting about their weight gain or loss, stagnating at work, perpetually broke, stuck in a listless marriage, mired in negativity, and feel disconnected from yourself? Then, according to Gallup’s 2018 Global Emotions Report, you could be one among every three unhappy people in the world.

Despite the abundance of opportunities, options, money and material, we are still an unhappy lot. Our lives are more complicated than ever before, leading to unprecedented physiological, mental, and emotional issues, and a complete lack of inner peace. So, what do we do to address the above? Typically, we isolate the problem, compartmentalise issues, and address them individually. Little do we realise that isolating an interconnected issue can seldom lead to a lasting solution. For instance, what you do to become physically fit contributes almost instantly to your mental and spiritual wellness as well. Hence, the ideal approach to address an issue is what the modern-day enthusiast calls ‘holistic’—encompassing the mind, body, and spirit. Through this piece, Soulveda presents a perspective shift that is rather imperative—from a healthy lifestyle to holistic wellbeing.

The first step towards holistic wellbeing begins with knowing what it means. Holistic wellbeing is a ubiquitous concept that stands on the pillars of the mind, body, and spirit. The mind is the reflection of your emotional state; the body is about your physical health and longevity; and spiritual wellness is your connection with your inner self, your sense of right and wrong, and your perception of the world around you. It is this connection which can become a source of happiness and inner peace. How do you go about achieving this much-talked-about holistic wellbeing? Subject matter experts say, the answer lies in minor adjustments in your daily life.

Mental and emotional wellness are the first step toward holistic wellbeing

Get up close and personal

It is important to connect with like-minded, positive people. Family, friends, and colleagues provide the support and enrichment needed for emotional wellness. Make time every other week to have a meal, go for coffee, play a game of scrabble with friends, ask for support when you are down and out, network with neighbours and colleagues for noble causes. Face-to-face conversations with a diverse set of people enhance your intellectual, mental, emotional as well as social wellbeing. In an age of screens and virtual interactions, personal connection is an even greater necessity for holistic wellbeing.

Laugh away

Make it a point to laugh. Hone your sense of humour so you can laugh at yourself, your follies and make other people laugh as well. Laugh for no reason at all. Don’t take life too seriously, make laughter a part of your daily life to have a healthy emotional balance. “I have not seen anyone dying of laughter, but I know millions who are dying because they are not laughing,” aptly says Dr Madan Kataria, Founder of Laughter Yoga.

Don’t let stress get the better of you

Wake up early, cook a meal, rush to work, miss the bus, sit through long meetings, navigate through numerous messages, pick up your child from school, get the leaking tap fixed, fulfil social commitments, and the list goes on. The 21st century lifestyle goes hand in hand with stress. While stress begins in the mind, its collateral damage is largely physical. Conditions such as high blood pressure, anxiety, depression, weight gain, and reduced energy levels are some of the initial blows from this invisible enemy. So, how to defeat an enemy you can’t see? Do something for your body that benefits the mind—go for a run, practise yoga, meditate twice a day, get a massage, listen to music.

Self-help is the best help

Someone wise once said, “You are the best person to help yourself.” Self-help has emerged as one of the most powerful tools for personal growth in the last decade. Reading books, talking to your friends, learning a new skill, cultivating a new habit, pursuing your passion are a few ways to do so. After all, no one can help you like you can help ‘you’.

Emotions are not the boss of you

Emotions are the strongest impetus behind every human interaction and achievement. Be it positive, life-affirming emotions or those that corrode your spirit. They lie at the heart of the highs and lows of life. But what happens when these emotions start ruling you? They rob you of reason and rationality. Don’t beat yourself up about it, it’s only human. Address the problem, don’t brush it under the carpet. Be aware of what’s going on within, accept that there is an issue that requires external help. If you can’t handle the maelstrom of emotions, seek help.

Let’s get real

The heart may want what it wants. But it may not always set itself on what’s realistic or plausible. You are the only one aware of your reality, and therefore, only you can set yourself achievable goals that are right for you. Being passionate is a boon, but passion does not mean having unrealistic expectations from yourself. More often than not, your emotional wellbeing suffers on account of unrealistic or unfair expectations you set for yourself and those around you. Whether it is relationships, love, or the professional sphere of life, the key is in being realistic, pragmatic, and balancing your emotions with wisdom.

Indulge in a digital detox

Life, today, revolves around gadgets and technology. Neither adults nor children can imagine a world without gadgets. According to A Decade of Digital Dependency, a 2018 report, an average adult in the UK spends more than 24 hours a week online watching, reading or surfing social media channels. In India, the figure stands at 17 hours per week, according to a McKinsey Digital report. No wonder, “not having enough time” has become a cliché. We spend most of our time staring at screens as we walk, eat, and commute.

The internet is flooded with studies that indicate exposure to gadgets is increasingly impacting mental health and emotional wellbeing. As a study conducted by the University of Texas indicates, staying away from those gadgets improves focus, attention span, and cognitive capacity. If you find yourself complaining about the increasingly short attention span people have, you might want to start with yourself.

For digital detoxification: turn off your Wi-Fi and keep your phone away at bedtime, shut down your laptop once you are home after work, fix timings to check those Facebook and Twitter notifications, put your phone in silent mode, spend time with your family and friends without the smartphone, go on a nature trail where there is no mobile network, pay attention to people, soak in the joy and beauty of being in nature.

If you successfully conduct this detox once, the next time around would be a breeze. You are sure to feel lighter, without the digital bandwidth intruding your personal time, while you will still have the ‘bandwidth’ to do what you love and pursue your goals.

Your attitude matters

It is easy to be caught in the quagmire of low self-esteem, insecurity, fear of loss and inadequacy in the competitive world we live in today. An endless loop of complaining, whining, justifying the negativity ensues. So, what do you do? Self-help wisdom dictates you sieve out the negative and cherish the positive. A healthy, optimistic attitude can make all the difference to your mental and emotional wellbeing. As Maya Angelou rightly said, “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.” Indulge in positive thoughts, be grateful for the incidents and experiences that bring you happiness, and appreciate the difficult circumstances for they forge you into becoming stronger. You are responsible for your own wellbeing, your emotional and mental harmony. Wellness experts say, becoming someone else’s strength makes you stronger and more content. Be the sunshine in someone else’s life, even when you can’t see the sun yourself.

The path to holistic wellbeing goes through a healthy body

Shut down your mind

Good sleep is as important to the body, as the need to wake up every morning feeling fresh. But it will remain a distant dream if you are awake well past 2 am. Essential for holistic wellbeing, sound sleep allows the mind to temporarily shut down, providing the much-needed relaxation, that is otherwise, hard to come by. Set a strict bedtime, stay true to the good old adage—‘early to bed, early to rise’. If possible, take a nap during the day. A power nap can refresh the mind anew. The golden rule to sleep well—avoid stimulants such as coffee, chocolates, and cigarettes at least four hours before you go to sleep.

As you struggle to change your sleep habit and crib about the hard work, remember Hypnos, the Greek god of sleep, is the twin brother of Thanatos, the god of death. It just might be the motivation you need.

Change your palate

Do you love to eat? Are you a poor eater? Or do you eat just to survive? Whatever be your relationship with food, junk food forms a large part of it. Not only is it hard to quit, junk food is addictive, and at times, as addictive as heroin and cocaine. Hearing the mention of the foods we love in the same breath as two of the most dangerous drugs does scare the glutton away. But, sooner or later the cravings are back. So, what do you do to clean up that nasty eating habit? Take the bold step forward—change that palate. Drink a vegetable smoothie if you don’t like eating vegetables, eat a fruit, don’t juice it. Have a fistful of dry fruit instead of a pack of potato chips. Cut sugar out, and do it with a pinch of salt.

Work those motor skills

The path to holistic wellbeing goes through a healthy body. Some people tread this path by running every morning at first light, some love lifting weights in a gym, and others go for a swim in cold water. But what about those who do not have the time, endurance, or sometimes, even physical ability to follow such fitness regimens? Is holistic wellbeing a far-fetched goal for them? Certainly not.

Time, endurance, and physical ability of a person notwithstanding, there are disciplines and practices that bring together the three pillars of holistic wellbeing—the mind, body, and spirit. Yoga, for instance, is one such ancient discipline that harmonises the body and the mind inside out. Despite having some of the most difficult physical poses or asanas, yoga can be practised at any age, allowing the endurance level to evolve. Tai Chi, on the other hand, can be performed even with disabilities. Even in a wheelchair, you can practice this Chinese discipline to achieve the seemingly-elusive holistic wellbeing.

Manage your pH level

What does a healthy body constitute? Well, many things. But all of what it constitutes begins with the most fundamental aspect of the body—the pH level. Put simply, the pH level is nothing but a measure of acidity or alkalinity in the body. The more balanced the pH level, the healthier the body. Eating right is the first step in maintaining a perfect balance. Well, almost.

Numerous studies suggest that foods which are acidic in nature are associated with heart conditions, Type 2 diabetes, and obesity, while alkaline foods such as fruits, raw vegetables are linked with enhanced memory, better cognition, weight regulation, and suppression of cardiovascular ailments.  Aerated drinks, coffee, alcohol, ketchup, mayonnaise, canned food, peanut butter, processed food, are, needless to say, highly acidic.

To balance your pH levels, start your day with a fruit or water—30 minutes before you eat your breakfast. When hungry between meals, drink a glass of water first. Often, we think we are hungry, when we are, in fact, thirsty. Kick off one new habit—drink green tea. Green tea, arguably the most therapeutic beverage of all, is high in the antioxidant Epigallocatechin Gallate (EGCG) that is known to improve immunity and longevity as shown by various studies. So, don’t just go green, drink green.

Soak in the morning sun

Wellbeing has an obvious connection with the sun. Exposure to sunlight, while also known to cause skin ageing and cancer, does you more good than harm. Soaking in the sun enhances the absorption of vitamin D ensuring stronger and healthier bones and muscles. Experts believe, moderate exposure to the sun can prevent cancer and skin conditions such as psoriasis. As opposed to the grey skies, sunshine takes away the blues, elevates your happiness quotient.

Hit a home run

Physical wellbeing is the key to mental and emotional wellbeing. Among the very many ways to achieve physical health, sports top the list. Playing a sport not only keeps you physically fit, but also immune from diseases. Sports teaches some of the greatest life lessons such as teamwork, discipline, endurance, the ability to accept defeat, and fair play. Such are the values that contribute to mental and emotional wellbeing. Playing a sport is like a one-size-fits-all solution that keeps your body healthy, and you happy. So, what are you waiting for? Go, hit it out of the park!

A sense of purpose is the foundation of spiritual fulfilment

What’s your life’s purpose?

Holistic wellbeing and spiritual fulfilment go hand in hand. Spiritual fulfilment is intricately connected with having a sense of purpose. What does life mean to you? How do you envisage your role in this world? As a parent, someone’s child, life partner or caregiver, you have a deeper purpose than what you see on the surface. Your ability to live a holistically healthy life is intricately connected with your spiritual fulfilment. Spiritual fulfilment comes from a sense of purpose. A sense of purpose puts things into perspective amid the chaos of life. It inspires a transformed approach to living life. Some people follow beliefs and practices to find the meaning and purpose in their lives. Some find a worthy cause, a reason to live and contribute to.

Step outside that comfort zone

Humans are creatures of habit. And, habits create a comfort zone. Getting into a comfort zone is easy, stepping out of it takes the wind out of your sails. Change doesn’t come easy, unless necessary. Do the uncomfortable, stretch yourself beyond your imagination. No one ever lost the extra flab by doing five repetitions of an exercise when the body required 20. Training the mind for what it is not used to doing builds not only mental strength but also spiritual growth.

Acceptance is key to spiritual growth

Acceptance is key to spiritual growth. Accepting the inevitable doesn’t come easy. It takes courage and resilience to accept what we don’t like. It is hard to be comfortable with the uncomfortable, but once achieved, this mindset ensures disappointments doesn’t leave you dejected. Philosophers and spiritual leaders often attribute happiness to accepting that you are responsible for your own happiness. Depending on others to be happy or blaming someone else for your unhappiness takes you only farther from happiness and spiritual fulfilment.

Forgiving cleanses the soul

To err is human, to forgive is divine. Who hasn’t grown up hearing this adage? Forgiving is cathartic for one who chooses to forgive. Forgiving needs courage and magnanimity. While it may be far from easy to forgive those who hurt us, forgiving is healthy. It creates ripples of calmness, wellbeing and spiritual fulfilment within. Holding a grudge only deepens the wound, instigating negative emotions. Forgiving someone else is just one part of the story. Forgiving yourself is equally important for spiritual growth. As long as you learn your lessons from your mistakes never to repeat them, there is no need to self-flagellate. Forgiveness is liberating.

Mind over matter

Spiritual wellness is about connecting to your greater self, the higher self. It’s about becoming bigger than your challenges and problems, truly becoming the master of your mind. How does one go about this seemingly far-fetched, tough task? Practising mindfulness is the answer, conclude the wise. Take this wisdom to your daily life­—in the quiet of the morning every day, sit alone and introspect, cut out all the mental noise and the noise from the external world, focus on the here and now; let go of the past—you don’t live there anymore; and don’t dwell in the future—it isn’t here yet.

The clock ticks at the same speed for everyone, there are 24 hours for each of us, and we all live on the same planet. What we do with our time while we are alive, how we spend our daily life, and how we create our own world on this very planet, decides the ultimate achievement of the life we’ve led. While these are big ideals to hold, they need small shifts. They allow you to become the best version of yourself.

Holistic wellbeing and spiritual solace may appear to be extraordinary goals, but they are achievable by ordinary people like you and me, and everyone else. The journey to achieve them begins with small steps, small shifts in the way we see the world and live our life. These small shifts culminate into big changes, so much so that even when you’ve come a long way, you feel as if your journey has only just begun.

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