When we talk about “good health” we are really talking about a state of physical and emotional well-being. You are able to actively participate in your life’s activities, following a path of purpose and finding joy in it. You have inner resources to help cope when things go wrong and resilience when faced with changes beyond your control. These qualities are essential to good health, and comprise the third pillar we will discuss today.
We all need to cultivate attitudes and beliefs that build rest, relaxation, renewal, and relationships into our daily lives. Without these key elements we are vulnerable to a variety of disorders that erode our health. These include hypertension, arterial diseases like heart attacks and strokes, diseases of the gut like gastritis and colitis, anxiety, depression, chronic pain, headaches, sleep disturbance, immune disorders, and even asthma and blood sugar problems.
Fortunately, there are concrete steps you can take to strengthen the third pillar:
Learn to relax your mind and body. There are a variety of relaxation techniques and tools to help. Dr. Dean Ornish’s book The Spectrum includes a DVD with a variety of guided meditations. Try the free cell phone app Insight Timer for both guided and breath meditations. RespeRate is an FDA-approved device that develops the relaxing power of breathing to lower blood pressure (and reduce stress). For a simple sequenced relaxation, lie down and starting with your toes, relax them fully, releasing tension with each breath. Move your attention up your legs, belly, chest and back, arms, neck, and head. Then focus on your nostrils, feeling the breath going in and out without effort until you are ready to slowly return to a sitting position.
Prioritize sleep. Learn the elements of sleep hygiene and practice them regularly.
Practice prayer/meditation regularly. Cultivate an attitude of gratitude. Learn about mindfulness and compassion and integrate them into your daily activities.
Spend time in nature. Our connection with nature is innate and profound; this is called biophilia. Draw from it by spending time outdoors, or even looking at images of the natural world. Just having views of natural features (like trees and shrubs) leads to reductions of stress and mental fatigue in students. Exercise in outdoor natural environments provides all-around health benefits, including stress reduction and improvement in mood and sense of worth.
Find a purpose, something that reminds you that you’re not the center of the universe. Something that brings you joy and that you share with others.
Be of service.
Nurture human relationships, including taking care of yourself.
By J. Dan Morris, M.D.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.