I tend to talk a lot about respecting and loving yourself. It’s a burden on my soul, really, as I have seen too many people (especially girls and women) beat themselves up over a body that just doesn’t seem to conform to the world’s definition of “beauty.” They constantly speak self-deprecating words. They have built themselves a home of glass on a paper thin sheet of ice. Any misunderstood word or degrading gesture shatters their confidence and leaves their spirits in ruin. I have taken many walks with friends and listened to them tell me everything they hate about themselves. My one wish is that they could see themselves as I see them. If they could only comprehend the value I place on their very existence, they would never demean themselves.
However, I recently realized the “love yourself” mentality may have some unintended consequences. Loving yourself doesn’t mean accepting improper lifestyle habits and rejecting a choice and chance to change. This is a touchy subject, and I will tread lightly. You can love your body—and you should—but don’t abuse it.
I’m a firm believer in health. I also believe that holistic health covers far more than mere physical fitness and a nutritious diet. We will be living in our bodies for our whole lives—we have the responsibility to care for them properly.
There are three aspects to holistic health: Intellectual, Spiritual, and Physical. To exist in a state of wellness, each of these areas must be refined and cultivated.
I fear that intellectual health is commonly forgotten today. The mind is the palette of thoughts, feelings, emotions, ideas—the list is endless. Why then do we often care so little for the development of our brains?
Here are a few suggestions to improve intellectual health:
10 Ideas a Day: Try writing down 10 ideas every day, no matter what. Any idea goes. Exercising your capacity to think creatively will boost innovation and brain function. You may feel most of your ideas are rubbish—that’s okay. All you need is a single good one. 10 ideas a day for a year = 3650 ideas. Suppose only 1% happen to be any good. That’s still more than 36 good ideas per year. The world needs more ideas, and you need to stretch your brain.
Read: Books are timeless. There exists a ceaseless supply of wisdom in literature. If you’re extremely busy (like pretty much everybody), try reading a chapter instead of watching a TV show or browsing the web. Personally, I attempt to read every morning and every evening. It reduces stress, increases memory and vocabulary, while strengthening analytical skills. Read science, classics, economics, history, self-help, business, anything. My only suggestion is that you take it easy on the novels. Light, fluffy materials do little to expand the mind.
Classical Music: Classical music has been proven to increase concentration, brain function, improve sleep, boost mood, and so much more. Try playing some while studying, cleaning, getting ready in the morning, or doing chores.
Write End of Day Sentences: Easier said than done, writing on a regular basis does a ton for intellectual health. A very good exercise is writing a couple of sentences each night before you go to bed. Last year, I bought a planner that has a few lines designated for each day. As part of my evening routine, I write down the high-points of my day, my thoughts, or any major event that took place. Simply jotting down a few sentences allows me to easily recall many life-moments, even without describing them in much detail. Not only is writing excellent for mental health, but having a recorded history has proven to be extremely beneficial.
Videos/Podcasts/Audiobooks/YouTube: There is an endless supply of free resources that encourage intellectual development. TED (see ted.com) has a plethora of innovative, creative, and educational talks designed to offer “ideas worth spreading.” The presentations usually range from 5-20 minutes in length. Khan Academy (see khanacademy.org) offers instructional videos on science, history, math, art, business, economics, and so much more. Scroll through the topics and aim to watch one video a day. Listen to informative podcasts. A few of my favorites are 99 Percent Invisible, the TED Radio Hour, Freakonomics, and Stuff You Missed in History Class. I try to listen to a podcast every morning as I get ready for my day and clean my room. Audiobooks are another great way to learn new things and stretch your mind while driving, resting, cooking, cleaning, etc. There also exists countless instructive YouTube channels with educating and entertaining content. Personally, I enjoy Minute Physics, Vsauce, CGP Grey, Crash Course, and any random documentary that looks interesting.
Spiritual rejuvenation is a vital part of overall health, whether you believe in a God or not. Below are a few suggestions to revitalize your spiritual life.
Practice Gratitude: Imagine you woke up tomorrow with only the things you were thankful for today.
Service: Serving others adds meaning and purpose to your life. Service doesn’t necessarily mean starting a non-profit or volunteering at your local soup kitchen (although these are great ideas). Service can be as simple as cleaning up a mess you didn’t make, going out of your way to perform a random act of kindness, or offering encouraging words to a co-worker. Service is simple. Get creative. How can you serve those you interact with?
Stop Complaining: Not only does complaining negatively influence your own spirit, but also discourages everyone who has to listen to you. It is stressful and draining to be around a person who constantly complains.
Silence: Take time to be silent. Turn off music, move away from distractions, and allow your mind rest.
Contemplation: Take a few moments each day to simply consider your life. Be quiet and think.
Meditation: See Inspiration, Imagination, and Creativity
Contemplate a Higher Power: Think about a power that is greater than you. Imagine a being who is utter goodness, mercy, and love. As you ponder an ideal and perfect nature, you will begin to reflect such characteristics. It elevates the mind and soul, lifts the mood, and refines the character.
Cultivating a healthy spiritual life fosters stability, contentment, happiness, and gratitude. You will feel a greater connection with yourself and others. You’ll increase in wisdom, understanding, knowledge, self-control, and self-realization.
Physical health has become increasingly encouraged over the years. There are tons of resources available online regarding physical wellness. I’ll offer a simple, comprehensive overview here.
Water: Drink at least three liters of water per day. Drinking a liter as soon as you rise and before you eat breakfast is great for health. Avoid drinking water 30 minutes before a meal and about 1.5 hours after a meal. It dilutes necessary digestive juices and forces your stomach to work even harder when digesting your food.
Avoid Snacking: I know snacking can be a hard habit to break, but it will definitely be worth it in the long run. Even quit snacking on those healthy treats and fruit. It disrupts your normal digestion routine.
Fresh Air: Go outside and enjoy the fresh air. If you live in the city, try to get away for a few hours every week. Breathe deeply. Enjoy nature.
Sunshine: Besides supplying your body with vitamin D, sunshine has a healing effect on many ailments. Sunshine kills bad bacteria, lowers cholesterol and blood pressure, helps treat depression, boosts the immune system, and much more. Warning: avoid the intense heat of noon day and sunburns.
Walk: A brisk walk is one of the best and most effective forms of exercise.
Avoid refined and processed foods: No explanation necessary. They are not good for you.
Temperance: Avoid overeating. Stop before you feel full. Chew your food and eat slowly. Don’t eat when you’re bored, stressed, or emotional. Eat because it’s time to eat.
Simple Daily Exercise: Many think exercise should be a lengthy and drawn out routine. Unless they have an hour or more to spare, most people won’t even bother working out. But exercise can take as little as a few short moments. If your time is limited in the morning, commit to a few minutes of abs, arms, or legs. Take a walk. Go for a short bike ride around the block.
Things to do when under a time-crunch:
- Run for 10 minutes
- Pushups for 3 minutes
- Sit-ups for 3 minutes
- Squats for 3 minutes
- Wall-sit for 1 minute
- Plank for 1 minute
To Sum it All Up…
We have the responsibility to care for ourselves: mind, body, and soul. As you implement simple lifestyle changes, you will notice an increased level of self-respect. After all, how can you respect something you don’t care for? Or care for something you don’t respect?
This world needs individuals who are intelligent, creative, and innovative. It needs men and women who believe in service, gratitude, and thoughtful contemplation. It needs people who are physically fit and temperate.
So take care of yourself, change the world, and remember: Today will be AMAZING!