Health & Wellbeing Blog
- Low carb diets: Are we missing the point?
- Why we all need Integrative Medicine
- The best preventive medicine: Do you use it?
- How even a small amount of regular exercise can help you live longer
- 6 Easy-to-Do meditations to unwind after a stressful day
- The key to achieving your health goals
- Lifestyle and risk: Is your cup half full or half empty?
- The personal narrative trap
- The modern workplace: Is stress inevitable?
With the start of lighter evenings and (hopefully!) warmer weather, now is a popular time to set new health goals. Lifestyle medicine is rapidly gaining presence as a vital approach to chronic illness prevention; along with it a growing awareness of the many things we can think about doing now to improve our long term health. Yet for many, thinking is as far as the process gets. Why is this? Goals too ambitious ? Not enough time? Not practical given work or family commitments? Maybe it’s a question of self-confidence?
Most often, the answer lies in habits and behaviours. The number one reason people don’t succeed with their goals is that they simply don’t develop the habits necessary to achieve them.
Most of those who struggle to achieve their goals underestimate the importance of habit. They direct all their energy and focus onto the goal and none onto the habits required to achieve it. They assume that once the plan is in place, the goal is in sight.
Formulating goals and plans are essentially imaginative abilities. While it matters that goals are written and regularly visualised, the physical focus needs to be directed totally towards habits. You need to change an aspect of your daily routine. That’s not to say it needs to be a big change. In fact just 30 minutes, repeated daily, is far more effective in the long term than an impressive but unrealistic one-off attempt. This can be hard, particularly if routines are longstanding. We are wired to avoid discomfort and stick with the familiar. But ultimately it’s our habits that drive our daily behaviours, and our behaviours that influence our achievements.
Consider an athlete in training. The goal is to win. The plan is to train. But it’s the focused discipline and daily habit that gets them there. Getting enough sleep, repeated practise, fine-tuning their approach, eating the right foods each day, strength and endurance training.
Most of us aren't aiming for athletic stardom, but the concept can be applied nonetheless. Maybe you want to be fitter or improve your diet. Perhaps you want to achieve better sleep or find a way to deal with stress. Whatever your goal, remember it’s the small changes made each day that count. Work out what these need to be, and you’re already halfway there.
Research suggests it may take up to 254 days for a new behaviour to become a habit, so don’t expect new routines to become second nature overnight. What matters is that you just keep going until they do. Measure your success by the actions you take each day on the path to your goal, rather than on the goal itself. That way, the journey becomes enjoyable. What’s more, reaching the destination is only a matter of time.
Rebecca Healey 30/03/18
Stress is inevitable. As humans, we encounter different forms of stress on a daily basis, and how we choose to handle them can determine our long-term physical and emotional wellbeing.
Studies show that over 80 percent of Americans report feeling stressed on the job and nearly half say they need help in learning how to manage stress. Meditation has become increasingly popular in the modern world. This ancient wisdom technique that has been practiced by yogis and Buddhists for centuries has a profound effect on reducing stress throughout the body. Here are six easy-to-do meditation techniques, all of which can be done sitting or lying down.
Try them out and see which one is right for you:
When you inhale, silently chant So. When you exhale, silently chant Hum. The sound So means “I’m that” and the sound Hum means “That I’m.” When repeating these words, they can help us find calmness and focus.
Keep your breath deep and relaxed. Notice the beginning, the end and the pauses between your inhales and exhales. Each pair of inhale and exhale is considered one round. Work your way up to ten rounds. If you’ve lost count, start again from the beginning.
An easy meditation technique is to picture a peaceful being, image or setting in your mind. It can be your spiritual teacher, the Om symbol, a quiet place, a person you feel comfortable and at ease with. Focus on the picture and let yourself embellish it as much or as little as you need to.
Japa means recitation. You can either verbally or mentally recite the Om mantra. You will be immersed in the spiritual vibration of this sound or mantra. The sound of Om is considered the highest mantra of all; it represents the sound of the divine.
Sit comfortably and bring all of your attention to the space between the eyebrows. This area is known as the Third Eye or the Seat of the Mind. You may see brilliant lights, colors or mental images. Remain calm and unconcerned. Maintain a steady inner gaze fixed on the space between the eyebrows behind the forehead.
This is a Tibetan Buddhist meditation technique called Tonglen or Giving and Receiving. It helps us develop compassion and the ability to be present for our own suffering as well as others’. Bring to your mind someone with whom you feel a deep connection: a parent, child, pet, your dearest friend – someone who is suffering.
As you inhale, visualize the suffering of your beloved as dark, hot smoke and breathe it in through your whole body. As the breath touches your heart, the black smoke spontaneously vaporizes into your heart space and transforms into an outbreath of mercy and healing.
You can also apply this to your own life. Think of a time when you have been hurt, angry, depressed, frustrated or afraid. Remember the feeling as vividly as you can, breathe it in as heavy, black, polluted hot fumes and let it out as cool, light and spacious healing breath. This meditation helps us embrace the truth that others are suffering just as we are. With this understanding, we can cultivate more compassion for those around us.
Meditation, when done consistently, can yield tremendous health benefits. Even if it is only five minutes per day, after a while, you’ll feel much calmer and experience a heightened mental clarity.
Annie Au 28/04/18
Annie is an avid Yin Yoga and Dharma Yoga teacher. Throughout the year, Annie travels around the world leading workshops, classes, trainings and retreats. She has certified over 190 yoga teachers worldwide. Annie is also a contributor at BookMeditationRetreats.com.