Healthy Lifestyle

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A healthy lifestyle goes beyond the physical measures of regular exercise and nutrition. Just as important, a healthy lifestyle has to do with a feeling of mental and emotional wellbeing.

In this section, explore the role of spirituality in stress relief and overall mental health. Being connected to your inner spirit and the lives of those around you can enhance your quality of life and help you cope with stressors. To read more on this, go to Spirituality and Stress Relief.

In the section Healthy Environment, find out why an environment that makes positive choices easy, natural, and enjoyable is part of the secret to lifelong good health. There are also a number of tips to get you started on cultivating a positive and healthy world around you.

Many of us know by now that the mind plays an essential part in creating a healthy lifestyle. Being self-aware and having healthy thoughts can improve your psychological and emotional state. For tips on leading a self-aware life, see Healthy Thoughts.

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For many, spirituality takes the form of religious observance, prayer, meditation or a belief in a higher power. For others, it can be found in art, nature or music. Spirituality is different for everyone.

The effect of spirituality on health is an area of active research right now. Being connected to your inner spirit and the lives of those around you can enhance your quality of life and help you cope with stressors. Spirituality has many benefits for stress relief and overall mental health. It can help you:

  • Have a sense of purpose: Cultivating your spirituality may help give your life context and meaning. By clarifying what's most important, you can focus on eliminated stresses connected with the unimportant things.
  • Connect to the world around you: The more you feel you have a purpose in the world, the less alone you may feel. This can be a source of comfort during difficult times.
  • Release control. When you feel part of a greater whole, you realise that you aren't responsible for everything that happens in life and you are able to release control. According to the National Institutes of Health , spiritual patients tend to utilise their beliefs to better cope with illness, pain, and life stresses. Some studies have shown that patients with advanced cancer who found comfort from their religious and spiritual beliefs were more satisfied with their lives, were happier, and had less pain.
  • Take some time to unplug: Spirituality offers sacred time – a regular time to unplug and elicit moments of reflection and calm. Whether it’s a daily period of meditation, attending worship services, or a weekly practice of lighting Sabbath candles, it sets time apart from the rush of our daily lives.
  • Expand your support network. Whether you find spirituality in a church, mosque, yoga class, or in nature walks with a friend, this sharing of spiritual expression can help build and strengthen relationships.
  • Lead a healthier life. People who consider themselves spiritual appear to be better able to cope with stress and heal from illness or addiction faster. Specific spiritual practices have also been shown to improve health outcomes. Research has found that even 10 to 20 minutes of meditation twice a day leads to decreased metabolism, decreased heart rate, decreased respiratory rate, and slower brain waves. Further, the practice can be beneficial for the treatment of chronic pain, insomnia, anxiety, hostility, depression, premenstrual syndrome, and infertility and is a useful adjunct to treatment for patients with cancer or HIV. 
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To achieve a healthy lifestyle, modern medicine tends to put the emphasis solely on physical measures. While factors like regular exercise, proper nutrition and not smoking play an important role in health, Deepak Chopra, an expert in the field of mind-body healing, takes the notion of health beyond the realm of just the physical. He states that an individual’s outer environment (what and who you surround yourself with) is also a key component in achieving optimal health.

If it’s a struggle for you to make healthy choices because you are constantly worried about what you’re eating or the gym sessions you’ve missed, you are actually sending negative signals to your body’s cells. On the other hand, if you live in an environment where the mind feels free to choose the right thing instead of being compelled by habit and inertia to choose the wrong thing – this is the correct set up for a healthy lifestyle.

Deepak Chopra maintains that an environment that makes positive choices easy, natural, and enjoyable is part of the secret to lifelong good health. He calls this creating a matrix for a positive lifestyle. The goal is to practice what is good for you while making everything as effortless as possible, until all the right choices become second nature.

Some tips to cultivate a healthy environment are:

  • Surround yourself with good friends and uplifting people. Social connections play a big part in wellbeing so it’s important not to isolate yourself.
  • Be close with people who have a healthy lifestyle and who practice good habits – these are contagious.
  • Schedule some time for play and relaxation.
  • Do activities that are meaningful and engaging to you.
  • Pursue meaning and engagement in your life. According to research by Martin Seligman, the father of Positive Psychology, people reported having lasting fulfillment not when they pursue pleasure, but when they feel they are pursuing a life of meaning and engagement.
  • Deal with the reactive mind's harmful effects. Try to break the cycle of negative reactions by stopping, taking a few deep breaths and observing how you feel each time you catch yourself having a negative reaction.
  • Practice stress management. Mayo Clinic suggests trying prayer, meditation and relaxation techniques to focus your thoughts and calm your mind. Expressing your feelings in a journal can also help to ease stress.
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There is an ever-increasing amount of research that talks about the connection between the mind and a person’s overall health, taking into account the influence of the subjective world of our thoughts, feelings and dreams.

Since the control switch for our thought processes is in the brain, creating the best inner environment for your brain becomes an essential part of having a healthy lifestyle. Deepak Chopra, an expert in the field of mind-body healing, believes that the answer lies in cultivating self-awareness.

According to Deepak Chopra, self-awareness is about constantly asking yourself, "what am I doing to myself?" Posing questions that compel you to reflect on your behaviour and to look at the bigger picture are all a part of practicing self-awareness.

Eckhart Tolle, one of the most widely recognised spiritual teachers of our time, also emphasises the importance of awareness in his teachings. He maintains that individuals must bring awareness into whatever arises in the present moment in order to evolve and live a conscious life. According to him, whenever you get drawn back into the mind and into the future, you’ll notice it because usually you don’t feel so good anymore. You become upset, discontented, irritated and depressed. It means you lost the present moment and you lost awareness of yourself as consciousness. 

Here are some tips on a self-aware approach to life:

  • Be passionate about your life and the experiences you fill it with.
  • Remain open to as much input as possible and be willing to redefine yourself every day.
  • Don't censor incoming information with denial.
  • Take responsibility and possession of everything in your life.
  • Cultivate resilience by freeing yourself emotionally. Resilience is the best defense against the inevitable hardship human beings are bound to face. 
  • Work on psychological blocks like shame and guilt – they falsely affect your reality.
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