2012 is here and most of us look ahead with great intentions for a new year of positive change. For many this includes a commitment to having a healthier body. We’ve all made those resolutions to “eat better” and “work out more,” but what if I told that you a healthy, vital body has less to do with what you eat and how many times you visit the gym, but is much more dependant on healthy relationships, spiritual connection, a good sex life, professional satisfaction, and creative expression? The body is really a mirror for how we live our life.
For me personally, this past year was not an easy one– emotional endings, new beginnings, and a healthy dose of fear and anxiety thrown in to keep me on my toes. I experienced intimately what stressful situations can do when they disrupt your flow of energy (called Qi) through your body, causing sleep disturbances, digestive issues and other health symptoms. I also know over time these stressors-- if ignored or numbed by drugs and alcohol-- can wear out the body's reserves, leading to pain, fatigue, depression, a weakened immune system, and a host of serious physical and psychological ailments.
During this highly challenging time in my life, I have actually felt stronger emotionally and physically than I have in years. Why? My simple answer is I have focused on practicing all that I preach to my patients (off course, as much as humanly possible and not without a few peaks and valleys along the way.)
Yes, I do eat well, take herbs and exercise. But what I really attribute my vital health to is receiving regular acupuncture treatments, professional satisfaction, girlfriends, boyfriends, my kids, meditation, and continually reaching out to my family and community for support and guidance. Oh, and dark chocolate and the occasional pint of amber ale also helps :-)
Here are seven tips that help me through stressful times and keep me strong in body, mind and spirit. I like to call them New Year’s Commitments:
1- Find a healthy release valve for your stress
My personal favorite is outdoor recreation. When I’m on my bike or a trail I feel a connection to nature and the divine- not to mention the benefits of breath and blood pumping through my body and clearing out negative energy. Find activity that delights you, is not a chore or a burden, and is not detrimental to your health (like drugs, junk food or alcohol) – and try to do it on a daily basis to help release your worries back into the universe.
2- Change your thought patterns
“When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change." -Wayne Dyer
You can’t expect shifts to occur in your life when you retain your old ways of thinking. Treating the root cause of a problem requires a change in vision—a spiritual change from the inside out. Daily meditation and journaling (even in short intervals) are methods of re-framing your thoughts and calming the mind so you can view problems through a different lens. I usually find each of my challenges are blessings and opportunities in disguise.
3- Listen to intuition
Intuition is your inner pilot light- that voice that tells you what you really want and what you really should be doing- not what others expect or want you to do. When you stop only doing what you think you SHOULD and do more of what you deeply FEEL, you are acting more in accordance with your true nature. Tuning into your gut alleviates internal battles and restores energy to your body and mind.
4- Allow yourself to be vulnerable
This is a tough one. Our culture prides itself on getting things done, being resourceful, independent and having all of the answers at the click of a mouse or smart phone. But at what cost? As we lose our humbleness and vulnerability we often prevent the human interaction with others that provides us with depth of relationships and co-creation. Research has confirmed that connection with others is one of the primary indicators for happiness. Ask for help.
5- Take off the mask
Masks…we all wear them—“the hard worker” “the devoted mother” “the social butterfly” “the superstar father”. These ideals define us and that’s OK as long as it’s who we truly know ourselves to be. When we show our friends, family and neighbors our “real self”- you know, the one with the unmade beds, dust bunnies and laundry on the floor, crazy relatives, incorrigible children, strained marriages, lonlieness and overwhelm—we remind ourselves and others that no one is perfect and chaos is part of the human condition. It helps to laugh more at yourself and don't take your roles too seriously.
6- Practice daily gratitude and forgiveness
You’ve heard it before, but it’s still an important reminder that what we focus on becomes our reality. A daily ritual of counting all of your blessings is not only good for the mind, but it energetically draws in more of these good things into your life. Forgiving others also restores more positive energy into your world and opens the heart to more light, love and abundance.
7- Laugh more
Laughter is still the best medicine and is best administered in daily doses. The older I get and the more stressful and serious life becomes, I surround myself with silly people who know how to look at the absurdity of situations and laugh at themselves. Instead of the depressing news, for years I have watched Seinfeld or The Daily Show before bed for a good chuckle…it works wonders for sleep!