I realize you’ve heard it before, but it cannot be stressed enough. Neglecting yourself does not make you a better person, it just makes you tired and cranky. And it’s hard to do anything well when you’re tired and cranky.
It’s time we all do a better job of taking care of ourselves first. The right balance of nutrition, exercise, and mindfulness creates a healthy base for life at every age. What are these three pillars of greatness? And how do we combine them into our personal tripod? Mindfulness, exercise, and nutrition.
Self-preservation #1 Mindfulness
Mindfulness helps us accept the fleeting and subjective nature of our thoughts, to make peace with what we cannot control. Most important it allows us to remain open to new ideas and to deal with our problems squarely. Some people make the mistake of thinking that they are being mindful because they are focusing diligently on problems. But if they are doing so while subconsciously bound up with their worries and expectations, with no awareness that they can’t see clearly or that others may know more, they aren’t open at all. -Ed Catmull, Creativity Inc.
Mindfulness is a big buzzword in society right now. With all the yoga, tai chi, and meditation classes available, you’d think we’d be the most focused, calm society in the world. But that’s not exactly how it works. To be mindful is to be aware of what is happening around you. It is not pushing out the bad to focus on the good.
I once took a yoga class where the instructor gave us two minutes to look around the room and make a mental list of all the things that are green. Then she talked for a while. We did a few poses, and she asked us again to look around the room and find all of the things that are green. Then a few more poses.
She then asked if anyone could name all the things that were blue. And then red.
The point? While looking for the green, don’t forget to pay attention to the rest of the world—the blue and the red.
Mindfulness allows us to remain open to new ideas and to deal with our problems squarely. You cannot solve life’s problems by focusing solely on the problems.
Only when you consider the whole will you truly be able to evaluate what life balance means to you.
Self-preservation #2 Exercise
The obesity rates in America are staggering. Around the globe, over 300 million people have been diagnosed as clinically obese, according to the World Health Organization. But it’s no secret that our sedentary lifestyle is a large part of the problem.
If you are one of the millions of Americans who get little-to-no physical activity in your life, please make an effort to change that today. You don’t need to run. You don’t need to lift free weights. You don’t need to do Zumba, but you do need to do something. There are so many different ways to work out nowadays. Figure out what you enjoy doing, and then do that.
As long as you are active, you are making a positive personal difference. There’s always a balance to be achieved, and doing something is better than doing nothing.
No exercise in your life at all? Start small: Walk around the block a couple of times a week. No blocks to walk? Walk around your office, or your house, or the nearest park. After a month, start walking every day. Then double the distance you walk. Just like anything else in your life, you need to build on the activity until it becomes a habit.
Go kayaking, throw a Frisbee with some friends, walk on an elliptical at the gym while watching Gilmore Girls… just do something.
Self-preservation #3 Nutrition
Nutritionists have linked an unhealthy diet to every ailment known to man: heart disease, cancer, diabetes, adult acne… the list goes on and on and on.
Up until the 1970s, the US government took very little interest in public health and physical activity programs. It wasn’t until the early 1990s that programs started to appear promoting the need for a combination of physical activity and natural-food based nutrition.
I was in grade school at the time, and I remember these programs seeming to appear everywhere all at once. National physical education programs like Jump Rope for Heart and PE standards testing—did you have to count chin-ups and sit-ups, and record how far you could reach on that weird box? Giant food pyramids with all of the vegetables dominating the pictographs were plastered on every wall. And ten years later, the documentaries started, one after another after another on the fast-food epidemic, the pesticides used on crops, and the genetically modified seeds used across in the US.
What does all of this mean for us as a society? It means we need to be more cognizant of what we’re putting into our bodies. Fresh is always better. Local is always better.
- Pay attention to your body and what it is telling you.
- Be more mindful of your stress levels.
- Be proactive with your physical activity levels.
- Be more selective about what you put into your body.
We need to do a better job of putting ourselves higher on our own to-do list. –Former First Lady, Michelle Obama
This blog post was taken from a chapter in my new book,
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