According to a leading expert on Preventative Medicine Dr. Ornish, leading a healthy lifestyle boils down to four things:
Four things. You think that we could all handle that. His prescription for a good life makes it sound so simple, but I think that we can all agree that implementing Dr. Ornish’s guidelines can be easier said than done at times.
Since I have already addressed the importance of eating well, and moving more in previous articles, I am going to focus on stressing less, and loving more.
I believe in the power of concrete tension alleviating behaviors of music, laughter, art, dance, and human touch or massage. There is nothing quite like a warm embrace from a loved one to make you feel whole. Those techniques all have the power to instantly ease stress, and lighten our emotional burden.
On a grander scheme, I believe in abstract concepts such as personal relationships, love for oneself, and the acknowledgement of our interconnectedness as humans.
Yoga is a practice that has helped me on the spectrum of self-love, and being able to maintain balance, strength and peace in times of darkness. I have always been someone who believed in the power of “the golden rule” and execute this by expressing gratitude, complimenting others/telling them how I feel, making handmade cards/meals/gifts/surprises for loved ones, taking 5 seconds to hold a door, smiling at a strangers, and taking the time to imagine what it would be like to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes. This mentality of helping others, and focusing on relationships and has served me well both personally and professionally. Helping others makes me feel whole.
As I am sure many caregivers can relate to, we do an excellent job looking after others, but don’t always excel at taking care of ourselves. Personally, I have found that I am able to meet the “checkbox criteria” of health (I eat well, I exercise, I go to the doctor, I clean with natural products), but I don’t always take the time to take a deep breath and focus on my emotional needs.
I would classify myself as a “Type A” personality by nature. I often find myself overcommitting, and attempting to tackle an ever-elongating checklist of things to accomplish. While I feel very proud of all that I accomplish in any given day, there is validity to the statement that there can be “too much of a good thing”. I would be lying if I didn’t acknowledge the fact that pretending to be “Superwoman” doesn’t result in excess stress at times. Even though I frequently encourage others to “take time for themselves, and relax”, I often struggle with taking my own advice without feeling selfish.
Yoga has helped me take away the “guilt”. I am not saying that if you practice yoga you will (or should) become an earth child hippie that only believes in happiness, but I do think that it teaches us to love: Love ourselves. Love one another.
A “yogi” Anna Forrest had a beautiful monologue in the movie Yoga Is where she discussed the presence of light and dark in respect to human life. She proposed that yoga isn’t about making every situation light, bright, or carefree—but, that it is about “bringing the light of your perception and your courage into the dark places”. It is about acknowledging your strength, and the beauty of your grace in dark times.
With the support of the “peanut butter to my apples”, my amazing husband--I have started to realize that I am much more effective about taking care of others when I set aside some time to address my needs. After his encouragement to practice meditation and yoga, I have noticed a drastic reduction in stress and anxiety. Not to mention that the internal “supportive garden of love” of my friends, family, coworkers and acquaintances thrives when I take better care of myself. It is pretty incredible how a few deep breaths can center your thoughts, calm your body, and bring focus to your entire life.
So maybe Dr. Ornish is onto something after all…“Eat well, stress less, move more, love more. That’s it.”