To create vibrant health, we need to be willing to move beyond old patterns and ways of behaving.
This doesn’t require high doses of willpower or effort — in fact, trying too hard to change tends to create a lot of resistance that dampens our enthusiasm and depletes our energy. It’s usually much more effective to focus on practices that enhance our mind-body dialogue.
The body and mind are inextricably connected, so every time we have a thought, we set off a cascade of cellular reactions in our nervous system that influence all the molecules in our body.
Establishing a healthy dialogue between our thoughts and our molecules helps us shift from imbalance to balance. And when we’re in balance, we naturally tend to listen to our body with love and make choices that support happiness and wellbeing.
Here are five practices for awakening a healthy conversation between your mind and your body, which will in turn help you experience greater health.
Meditation gives you access to the inner silence and calm that lies beneath the mind’s noisy internal dialogue. Meditation allows you to experience profound relaxation that dissolves fatigue and long-standing stresses. Studies have found that a daily meditation practice can lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, decrease anxiety and depression, and reverse the biological markers of aging.
The most powerful benefits of meditation come from having a regular, daily practice. To help people develop a practice, Oprah Winfrey and I created a free online meditation experience where we offer daily instruction and guidance in the practice of meditation.
The next one, Oprah & Deepak’s 21-Day Meditation Experience: Manifesting True Success launches this March 16, and I invite you to learn more and register here.
2. Get moving!
Regular exercise offers incredible benefits for your body and mind. Drs. William Evans and Irwin Rosenberg from Tufts University have documented the powerful effect of exercise on many of the biomarkers of aging, including muscle mass, strength, aerobic capacity, bone density, and cholesterol. Research shows that physical activity also helps decrease stress and depression.
The key is to start off slowly, find physical activities you like, and do them regularly. You will be surprised how quickly you increase your endurance and enthusiasm for moving and breathing.
3. Take time for restful sleep.
Restful sleep is an essential key to staying healthy and vital, yet sleep is so often neglected.
There is even a tendency for people to boast about how little sleep they can get by on. In reality, a lack of restful sleep weakens our immune system, speeds up the aging process, and contributes to weight gain.
Human beings generally need about eight hours of restful sleep each night. You can get the highest quality sleep by keeping your sleep cycles in tune with the rhythms of the universe, known as circadian rhythms. Ayurveda teaches that the optimal sleep routine is to rise with the sun and go to sleep when it’s dark out, or at least by 10 p.m. To create a healthy sleep routine, do your best to minimize exciting, aggravating, or mentally intensive activities after 8:30 p.m., and don’t watch television or do any work in bed. Eat a relatively light dinner, take a leisurely stroll afterwards, and then indulge in a warm bath with relaxing essential oils about an hour before bedtime.
4. Nurture yourself with healthy, fresh food.
To create a healthy body and mind, our food must be nourishing. Focus on eating a variety of fresh and freshly prepared foods, while eliminating or at least limiting items that are canned, frozen, microwaved, or processed. These are “dead” foods that weaken health and accelerate aging.
Eating organic whenever possible is another way to ensure you are getting the most nourishing, vibrant food possible. To help you save on time and cost, Thrive Market offers healthy, organic foods delivered directly to your door, for 20 to 50 percent off the normal price.
Ayurveda also teaches that a simple way to make sure that you are getting a balanced diet is to include the six tastes (sweet, salty, sour, pungent, bitter, and astringent) in each meal, which helps you feel satisfied and ensures that all major food groups and nutrients are represented.
5. Enjoy time with friends and loved ones.
Research shows that a good social support network has numerous physical and mental health benefits. It can keep you from feeling lonely, isolated or inadequate and if you feel good about yourself, you can deal with stress better. Friends and loved ones can be a good source of advice and suggest new ways of handling problems. If your network of friends is small, think about volunteering, joining an outdoor activities group, or taking a class to make new friends.
Finally, Set Your Intention
As you consider the guidance above, think of just one intention that you would like to set to create greater health. Maybe you want to commit to eating better, spending more time with friends, or cultivating self-compassion. It’s important to be as specific so that it is clear what you are committing to. For example: I intend to go for a 20-minute walk after lunch three times a week or I intend to meditate for ten minutes in the morning or I intend to be in bed by 10 p.m.
Now write your intention and post is somewhere you will see it often. As you plant your seeds of intention in the fertile field of all possibilities and nourish it with your attention, it will be free to flourish.
Photo credit: Deepak Chopra