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Neighbors of Kane County

Balancing mind, body and spirit

By Sue Nicholson

We all want to feel happy, healthy, and balanced. But, ironically, life can feel like a never-ending balancing act. Do you ever feel like you are running in a hamster wheel, frustrated, not getting where you really want to go?

Invite new perspectives

Being open to new ideas and perspectives can change the way we think and feel, and feeling great about something inspires action. A happy change, meaning you will grow from it, will lay the groundwork for other positive changes or habits.

What if I told you that a hamster reaches mid-life at 12 months of age? That may not seem startling at first, but if you picture yourself running in that wheel, unable to reach a destination you envision for yourself, would you think differently about how you spend your time? This new perspective might compel change.

Embrace Movement

We all know the benefits of regular exercise – more energy and strength, weight control, improved sleep, and stress relief. We also know that most Americans have good intentions to work out, but fall short on the follow-through. Research is now revealing that people who perform regular 60-minute workouts seven days a week, but are otherwise sedentary, score only slightly better on measures of overall health than those who are always sedentary.

Perhaps we need to address the fact that we simply do not move enough. “Movers“ are people who enjoy walking, standing, floor sitting and regular stretching. A run up a flight of stairs is invigorating and yardwork encourages dozens of squats that are not perceived as exercise. Movers generally have greater flexibility, stability and less pain. One just needs to watch a child for a few moments to realize how our bodies are intended to move.

Posture is key to improving flow of movement and function, while relieving pressure on the head and spine. Correct posture will instantly change the way you feel. The way you hold your body tells your brain what emotional state you are in and it will act accordingly.

As for regular exercise, an emotional connection to an activity ensures repetition and success.  Exercising with your friends, say in a game of tennis, because you enjoy their company and you feel great after the workout, is great motivation. You will probably make tennis a go-to, relaxing part of your lifestyle.

Eat for Energy

As with exercise, a one-size-fits-all approach disregards an individual’s unique makeup and energy demands. We should focus less on counting fat grams, and instead create a lifestyle around dietary preferences and activities that foster positive food connections.

Eating right takes a bit of planning, but if healthy foods are gradually introduced into your diet, while removing some of the bad, your body will adapt. Focus on good nutrition over fad diets and processed foods. As your body starts to detox, it sends positive messages to your brain to continue the new eating behaviors. A commitment to clean eating (choosing food sources found in nature) along with a healthy regard for food as fuel will help break the cycle of impulsive cravings. The rewards mirror those of movement and exercise, so imagine how great it would feel to take small steps into both areas. Now, we are talking BALANCE!

Just Be

We all need time to decompress from our busy lives. A few easy relaxation techniques can have an immediate and positive impact on mood, and provide instant energy for tackling the day’s challenges.

So, how can you “just be”? Sit alone in a quiet place at a time when you can free yourself of all distractions and unplug from technology. If it suits you, take a meditative position on the floor and deep breathe, or find an outdoor spot to sit and soak in the sights and sounds of nature. Try to relax different muscles in your body, starting with your forehead. Close your eyes and visualize a favorite peaceful place.

Take a moment to really listen to what you want. Think it through. Why do you want it? What reward will it bring? Will it bring you joy? How would it feel to just have some, not all? Apply this to even the smallest decisions, and it will bring clarity.

Taming the impulsive side of the brain to improve focus requires exercise. To avoid feeling overwhelmed or out of control, practice choosing words and thoughts carefully (positive over negative), express gratitude often, and practice positive self-affirmations daily.

Boost your momentum by taking a few minutes every morning to plan your day. Time management allows us to meet our basic needs –nutritious eating, movement, rest, and fun. Your family will notice your peaceful energy, and begin to model the same behaviors. You can get there with a gradual approach and a bit of patience. Soon you will write your own life “prescription” to achieve the balance you desire.