Have you ever stubbed your toe? If you have, you’ll probably agree in the seconds and minutes following, when the pain was most intense, it was the only thing on your mind. It wouldn’t matter if just moments before, you were consumed with a screaming child or preparing for a major presentation scheduled for later that day; in the moments following the impact, nothing but the pain and your thoughts willing it to subside, will matter. Whenever we are unwell, even when the discomfort is less intense (especially if it's been a chronic or long term issue), our ability to appreciate and fully be present and enjoy life is compromised.
The Mind-Body Connection
It might be easy enough to understand why physical health is a basic requirement of happiness, but what about mind health? The important thing to remember is that mind and body are intimately linked. If you've ever experienced a rise in blood pressure or digestive distress in response to a stressful situation, then you've already experienced the strength of this connection first hand. One thing it's important to note is that while negative emotions and thought patterns can contribute to imbalances within the body and even disease, positive thoughts and calming activities can actually improve health. The solutions, the positive actions we can take to improve our level of wellness, are the focus of this site.
Achieving "Mind- Zen"
For me, Mind-Zen is all about positive personal relationships; I find it through my connections with friends, family, strangers and most importantly, through my relationship with and acceptance of the person that I am. Surprisingly, my most difficult "relationship" has always been the one that seems like it should be the easiest. I don't think I'm alone in struggling with the negative self talk that feels like a constant presence in my head. The good news is that there are tried and true ways to overcome that mindset. The general idea is to find a way to quiet that inner dialog- the little voice inside your head that second guesses your decisions, offers unwanted criticism, plants seeds of doubt, and judges others. This critical, judgmental voice actually serves a purpose when we are faced with life-threatening decisions- it's this inner voice that would have made our ancestors stop and think before jumping into a river of full of venomous water moccasins, before eating a poisonous berry, or setting up camp near a lion's den. Unfortunately, in today's world that voice is often more of a hinderance than a help and it can be difficult to silence. There are many methods that help people achieve a state of mental peace and calm. And while I've tried a lot of different techniques, I always come back to my art; It is the thing that has helped me learn how to unplug and be mindful. The strategy that works best for you might be a different one. Below are a few strategies to consider:
- Activities that push you physically, like running, biking, or yoga
- Activities that help you connect with nature: gardening, hiking, kayaking
- Repetitive activities like knitting, crocheting or book binding
- Stream of consciousness or journal writing
- Simple creative expression: Zentangling, dot mandalas or mark-making
Achieving "Body- Zen"
When it comes to body wellness, I feel like I am just at the start of this journey because it wasn't all that important to me until I started to feel the effects of my age. Or, until I saw the effects of it on my 2 seemingly healthy, fit, teen/young adult children. In the case of physical wellness, ALL of the bulleted categories below are important elements to keep in balance.
Body Zen in 4 Simple Steps:
- Get Enough Sleep- Not only does time spent sleeping gives your brain time to flush and reset, it improves your working memory, focus and emotional stability (for more on this, check out this article by LiveScience)
- Stay Hydrated- Water delivers oxygen throughout the body and makes minerals and nutrients accessible, and helps to keep you beautiful! (for more on that, read this article by Medical News Today)
- Keep Physically Active- Walk, dance, take a fitness class, weight lift, swim, or choose one of the physical activities in the Mind Zen list and get two for the price of one!
- Nourish your body with healthy food (my focus is Living Foods- for more on this, click here) and if you have any foods that are "problematic" for you- eliminate them from your diet.
I am certain this list is nothing new. In fact, you've probably heard these recommendations time and time again, so it may have started to be advice that you really don't give too much thought or significance to. Hopefully this is because you have already adopted a healthier lifestyle and, if so, hurray for you- really! If items 1-3 can be checked off the list, and you still have room to improve, consider incorporating more living foods to your diet.
If, on the other hand, you feel like you've tried to make lifestyle changes and failed, you might want to first read my article top 5 tips to help make body wellness achievable for you.
Soul Zen: The Final Piece
People think of different things when they hear the word soul. When I use the term, I am thinking about the part of me that goes beyond my physical body and my logical thoughts. My soul is the source of my intuition and creativity, and the part of me that experiences love and happiness, as well as sadness and regret. It is the part of me that defines who I am at the core. I believe we can all achieve Soul-Zen, by expressing our special gifts and doing the things that make us feel unique and alive. If you are exceptionally talented at one thing in particular (fast runner, talented singer, acclaimed author) you probably already have a handle on your "thing". However, your thing might possibly be something you're not very good at. Do you feel like you're in your "happy place" while baking, building model planes, or playing the piano? Regardless of whether or not you've mastered the art, if you feel passionate about it and it allows you to express yourself, make time in your life to do it!
As it turns out, my passions revolve around art, food, and the idea that true happiness is available to everyone no matter what challenges life throws our way. This site is dedicated to share my findings; the techniques and ideas that have helped me on my personal journey. I hope you find my articles and videos inspirational.