An apple a day may keep the doctor away, but following these six simple practises will help ensure you live a life that is healthy and fulfilled.
Lives lived in a hurry, without enough time to stop and think, are chaotic and difficult. But there are a few things we can all do, which generally make life better.
Even just doing one of these things will begin to help, doing all of them may be transformative.
If there is one practise which can change your outlook on life, it is gratitude. When we look for the good in things, and take time to be grateful for the things which have gone well, we open ourselves up to a flow of positivity. The word gratitude comes from a Latin root which also leads into the idea of grace. To be grateful, to be full of grace, is to know the divine flow in your life.
Ignatius of Loyola taught his followers to practise gratitude consciously: to do this, be deliberate about your gratitude. Early in the morning, or late at night, take a few minutes to reflect on what you are grateful for in life, or in the day you’ve just had. It’s a transformative practise. (Click to tweet).
Singing: it’s the simplest thing. Do it in the bathroom, in the woods, in the car, perhaps not on the train… Although if you’re sure the carriage is empty, then by all means. By improving your oxygen intake, singing means that you physically send more oxygenated blood to the brain, and this can have positive impacts on your alertness and concentration, and it helps with your memory too. To really get that good stuff, you want to bellow it out, don’t be shy, spread the joy. Unless you’re on the train.
Singing releases endorphins and can spread a feeling of pleasure around the body. It also takes your mind of other things, and relaxes you, which in turn decreases cortisol levels.
Singing is good for you, but so is silence. Especially deliberate silence. There’s a good reason that all the great spiritual traditions have tended to include patterns of silence in their practises. Times of silence and stillness are so important for us, and yet we tend to neglect them. Lengthy periods of silence help our brains develop, while even short periods of silence have been shown to lower blood pressure. Silence also helps to ground us, taking us away from the noise that our ego enjoys. Simply: silence helps us to fully realise our humanity, and gain perspective.
Types of meditation are good ways of spending time in silence, but then so is going for a long walk in the countryside, whatever works, just do it.
There is no substitute for forgiveness. To refuse to forgive is to build up bitterness, and doing that is mentally, physically and emotionally toxic. Forgiving doesn’t need to mean ignoring, or ‘wiping the slate clean’, it’s about how we deal with what others have done. (Click to tweet). Of all these things, it’s the hardest, but it’s the single most important.
Taking time to do a simple mental ‘audit’ will show you who need to forgive, don’t expect too much of yourself, some things are very hard to let go of, but don’t have no go areas either. If you can bring yourself to forgive, then do so. Time with a coach, counsellor, soul friend, or mentor may help you with this.
“Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.” Said food author Michael Pollan. He means eat real food, things you cook from scratch, and in the main, eat vegetables. Humans have traditionally relied on vegetables as the majority of their diet, with meat and rich foods as a luxury, we grew strong on those diets. Contemporary ‘western’ diets, for all their delicious luxury, cause diseases. Just introducing a few more vegetables in to your life will help: the fibre, the macronutrients, it’s all good.
Vegetables are good cooked, they’re even better raw. Raw vegetables that you buy are good, but the ones you grow are the best.
It might seem boring, but routine is a very effective antidote to the poison of chaos. A chaotic life is stressful and leads to the development of all sorts of bad habits, whereas a routine helps simplify and structure your day to day life, making it easier to make good and healthy choices. Morning and evening routines are the best ones to get established, and if you can start the day on your own terms, rather than constantly rushing to catch up with yourself, you will find the rest of the day more manageable too.
Set a get up time, and stick to it, everything stems from there. To establish a bed time, work backwards in 90 minute slots, to allow for natural sleep cycles. If you are someone who can get up early, then good for you, it will allow you time to develop some healthy practises. But if you’re not an early bird, then save yourself some stress by establishing a good night time routine which involves preparing the things you need for the next day before you go to sleep.
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Inspiring and beautiful and helpful. Of the six the one I need to practise most – forgiveness – is the one which is an enormous struggle, which suggests it is worth doing.
Always. And yes, definitely the hardest, and the slowest.