For the first post in our wellbeing series "Five Keys to Wellbeing for Change Makers" we are exploring the physical component of wellbeing and how you can nurture it. When you stop to think about what physicality means, you probably go straight to thoughts about your body, diet, and exercise. However, physicality is much more than just the basic care of the human body. It includes anything and everything that impacts your physical body, environment, and vitality. As you focus on your physical wellbeing use these five tactics to help you become more mindful of - and care for - your physical wellbeing. Each is subtle and builds off the others, but even if you pick just one, you will be making an improvement, and that’s what we are all striving for, right? So pick one, or pick them all. Regardless of how many you adopt, just be sure to make your physicality a priority.
For some people working out and exercising is an enjoyable activity, but there are also many of us who feel like exercise is drudgery and just another “have to.” And when you're a busy person dedicated to making a difference, it’s really easy to let your own physical exercise routine become obsolete or low on your priority list. The key here is to consciously shift the “have to” into a “get to.” The trick is to find several options for enjoyable movement and mix it up.
Start small and commit to moving your body at least 20 minutes a day. Simple stretching, walking, or even dancing will get those dormant cells moving and revitalized. Make it a reward, rather than another thing on your list that needs to be crossed off. If you need some inspiration, there are numerous wonderful workouts you can follow anytime online. You can create and customize your movements to the level you need, the duration, the body part, the desired outcome. Set up an account and save all your favorite workout videos. You choose! Just make sure you are having fun doing it.
Remember when yogis were referred to as “granolas?” Not any more. Athletes, housewives, and even teenagers have discovered the benefits yoga provides, especially when done on a regular basis. Research has now proven there are multiple benefits at any age and physical stature. Not only does yoga contribute to more flexibility and strength, but there is a long list of amazing positive side effects, such as connecting with your breath and quieting your mind. The physical benefits are exponential and impact many key health areas you “get to” start taking care of.
Food. At some point in your life, I’m sure you heard the term, “You are what you eat.” Research shows that it is actually true! In this busy society of ours, obesity is at an all time high due to processed foods which are cheap, easy to consume, and enhanced with artificial flavoring. No wonder we all feel so stressed! Along with the recommended amount of fruits, veggies, grains, dairy, and protein, here are some of my favorite discoveries that have enhanced my physical wellbeing. I highly recommend incorporating them into your daily routine:
Water. Drink an 8oz glass every hour at the very least. Most of us do not drink nearly enough water. When you stay hydrated, you have less of a tendency for cravings and overeating. Optimum water consumption is amazing for your skin, your hair, and your brain! Drink up and think twice about that second cup of dehydrating coffee!
Positive Thoughts. Be sure to pay attention to the thoughts and conversations you're having with yourself in your head. This “input” suggestion in particular has a more profound impact on your wellbeing than you may initially realize. If you're constantly focused on what you don’t like or what you're not happy with, or how you're presenting yourself in the world, your body will respond in kind. It feeds off of the internal “download” and actually accentuates the negative ideas you're focusing on. However, if you're conscious and choose gentle and kind thoughts, and send loving messages of gratitude to yourself and your body, you will begin to see your entire physicality shift, transform, and adapt to that input. You are incredible. Recognize and embrace it because what you focus on is what you project into the world.
Sleep is one of the most effective ways to care for your physical wellbeing. Without it, your body will eventually break down. Your psyche can also break down and your ability to cope with day-to-day requirements will slowly diminish if you're not harnessing quality rest.
One of the best ways to achieve restful sleep is to create a bedtime ritual. Try to implement one and stay committed to it as much as possible. Your body has a rhythm and if you pay attention to it, you will know what it responds to most positively. Some people have optimum hours of productivity in the middle of the night and that is just fine just as long as they're “not so optimum” time allows for quality sleep.
Reading, hot baths, essential oils, meditative music, and breath exercises are all great ways to set the tone for relaxation, allowing you to let go of the day's stress, and create a positive opening for some nurturing sleep. Since it has been proven that 7-9 hours is a healthy goal for adults to achieve nightly, it is essential you understand how important those priceless hours are in contributing to your wellbeing. One of the reasons is because the active “thinking” part of your brain gets to take a break and reboot while you sleep and work out stress and anxieties through your dreams.
My most precious advice to you as you cuddle under your covers and shut your eyes is to be sure you have let go of all negative thoughts, stress, anger, or distractions. Breathe and focus on all you are grateful for. Writing down at least six things you're grateful for from your day will also help you activate gratitude, and taking that energy into your sleep is the best thing you can possibly do in order to reach those deep delta brainwaves. The energy of thankfulness will resonate with you all night, which creates a relaxed body, mind, and spirit, and will help you wake up feeling refreshed and optimistic about your new day.
As an idealist who wants to have a positive impact in this world, it is important to stay connected to the amazing, beautiful planet we live on. In this incredibly disconnected, busy world take the time to stop and find a way to be in nature. Even if you live in a big city, step outside and let the sun shine on your head. Feel your feet on the ground, find a patch of grass to walk barefoot through or lie on.
There is a term called “grounding” that nature helps us achieve. Being grounded is a feeling of being fully present in your body, behind your own eyes and between your ears. It’s a quiet, calm centered place where you can bring your best self to any situation because your mind is clear, you are present in the current moment, and detached from drama. You are an island in an ocean of flowing connectedness. There is something about staying connected to nature that nourishes our restless souls and reminds us that we are not alone. It’s one thing all living beings have in common. Mother Earth. You wouldn’t be here without her.
An enormous part of our physical wellbeing is tied to our environment. It is critical to have a place where you feel energized, safe, and nourished by your surroundings. It is always good to take stock of your primary landing pads. How does it feel when you are in the space, whether it’s your office/workspace, home, bedroom, or car? Do you feel inspired, relaxed, and comfortable or do you feel drained, overwhelmed, and unenthused? Here are some ways to assess and correct if needed.
Energy Leaks. Be courageous and take a look around your chosen “space.” What about it is not working for you? Make a list. I call this the “energy leak list.” After making the list, write the correction next to each item. Don’t let it overwhelm you. Some things will be easier to tackle than others. Just start with baby steps to make corrections and your physical world will begin to transform. For instance, you may have a drawer that won’t close all the way and you've been putting up with it for months just because it’s not that big of a deal. Once you take the time to fix it, you will have less energy flowing to that drawer every time you need to open it. Just chip away at your list a little bit at a time to improve those leaks and pretty soon your world will be full and expansive.
Clear it. You’ve heard it before, declutter your drawers, closets, basements, and cupboards. Make sure these areas are on your “energy leak list.” When our space is clear, our minds and bodies are more likely to be empowered and clear. If you don’t love it, let it go. If you haven’t used it in over a year, donate it to someone who is waiting for it. Surround yourself with things that matter to you. Things that make you happy and feel relaxed. Your physical environment is a direct reflection of your internal state so take care of it like you would if it belonged to someone else.
You deserve to feel good about your physical presence and in your own body. Take care of your physical body and your physical environment so you can show up as your best self for your causes and the people you love - including yourself.