You can eat healthy, workout and take your supplements AND you may still not feel well. Why? Because you are not taking the time to slow down, practice pleasure and shift into an active state of rest. I see this in my private practice all the time. Patients who quickly adapt to a healthy eating and exercise routine and yet they still are not achieving their entire goal. Practicing mindfulness and having pleasurable moments is probably one of THE most important things that they can do for themselves and yet it is still one of the hardest things for them to follow through with – why?
I suspect that part of the problem is that we seem to be stuck in this ‘must be doing something’ mode. I also suspect that many people are confusing activities where they dissociate as the same as engaging in a stress reducing activity. They are either ‘doing something’ or they are doing something that is a distraction.
Americans are DEVOTED to distraction! Surfing the web, occupying their time on a cell phone, watching a TV show… really watching anything, is a distraction. When you do this you are dissociating from your body, environment and emotions.
Going to the gym almost always has this same effect. You are working out, you are sweating, you are likely people watching and TV watching. These all distractions and they do not reduce stress. You may feel very good about your efforts (and you should!) and you will feel a temporary boost of endorphins, but this will subside as you move further away from the activity.
Here is a fun fact: a daily five minute meditation will do more to reduce your daily perceived stress state than will a 45 minute aerobic activity at the gym.
It is all about balance! Yes, it is a great idea to sweat it out and get some cardio in. To truly support your health, right here, right now, your first goal should always be to have a mindful (movement) practice. Always mindful and it can incorporate movement. When you practice a mindful moment, you are slowing down, connecting with your body and shifting your neurological state from a stress state, sympathetic mode, into a rest and digest state, parasympathetic mode.
You have heard of fight or flight – this is the sympathetic nervous system. Even though you are not engaged in a daily fight for your life (there are no lions chasing us), most people in the modern world are in a chronic low level fight or flight response. Driving, in meetings, running errands, doing chores… and overthinking your life, you are constantly navigating your environment. When this happens chronically, you are in a chronic state of vascular constriction, digestion is hampered, your hands and feet are chronically cold and this lends to inflammation and every health condition and symptom.
The parasympathetic system is the other end of the spectrum – it is the rest and digest state. This is about calming the body, reducing stress and all the symptoms that are associated with stress.
YOU ARE EITHER IN PARASYMPATHETIC OR SYMPATHTIC MODE, YOU CAN’T BE IN BOTH. WHICH DO YOU WANT TO BE IN?
Here is another fun fact: 80-90% of serotonin is produced in the gut and this mediates gut bowel movements and gut pain… your gut is really a second brain that works, for the most part, autonomously (very similar to your lungs – you don’t have to think about breathing – these are running on automatic). Practicing any mindful (pleasurable) moment will help you literally practice living stress free (again, if only for a moment!).
Play music, human contact, enjoy your pet, laugh, meditate, yoga (not power or hot), walk for pleasure and spending time outdoors, are all mindful moment activities that need to have their place in your daily life, right along with eating healthy, sweating it out at the gym…. Etc. These activities have healing powers. By engaging in these, you will reduce stress and you can improve every health condition/ diagnosis that is out there.
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