Choosing health and wellness

“In the same way, when we ponder deeply how God has touched our lives in so many amazing ways—by freeing us from slavery to our sins, giving us hope, healing our minds and bodies, changing our hard hearts, answering our prayers, helping us through adversities—when we truly consider these things, we too know with certainty that the Lord is God in the heavens above and on earth below, and there is no other!” – Pondering the Word, The Anawim Way, July 23-Sept. 2, 2017.

It has to start from a mindset to be and to stay healthy.

A philosopher recently shared that the three pillars of health consist of nutrition, sleep, and exercise. All three combine to lead one towards a path to health and wellness. I will add a fourth: a mindset formed around God’s teachings and that considers others’ well-being, as well as ourselves.

What are the ingredients of a healthy mindset?

It is a mindset that considers one’s cache of strengths, not a mindset of looking at what we lack. For with this mindset focused on “what we lack,” we start aspiring for what others have. We compare our lives with others.

Worst, we compare ourselves with our own family members. We start making an inventory – how are we loved by our parents? What kind of attention did others receive? What did we receive? What are the sources of inequality around our lives? Were we loved?

But switch that instead to whom could I pour my love into at this moment? How can I be a more humane human being? We start not being on the sidelines; instead, we move to the center and move to help another.

We focus not on what others can give us, instead what we can do to serve others. We no longer feel entitled “to take from others” feeling the lack inside us, and to feel more whole, we stop desiring and asking for more. We stop accumulating commodities. We stop the trek to buy. Instead, we focus on the present. We focus on the experiences. What can we give others?

We become engaged in the now. Who do I help?

It is a mindset focused on the present. It is a mindset that looks forward to relating to others in the now. In focusing on the now, we feel lighter and able to connect. The cares of what to do next momentarily disappears.

We are not in the gridlock of the internet nor on our smartphones. We care about the person in front of us. In connecting, we feel less anxious about what we have and we listen intently to the other. We become one with their dreams and aspirations. We might even find a way on how we can assist in getting their dreams moving forward into reality.

We even get to observe what miracle is occurring in our midst —  healthy babies moving around, healthy plumerias in bloom, the luscious fruit trees abundant with avocados, persimmons, pears, oranges, and simply waiting for fall to be fully ripened.

Can you see how God provides for us in the now? That even the tomatoes on the vine, even if unwatered, would bear fruit in time?

I had falsely thought that tomatoes must be watered daily. Until the drought made me see that intermittent watering allows them to have more fruits. An NHK documentary changed my preconceptions when I saw how a tomato grower in Japan grew tomatoes on a mixture of gravel and soil, to facilitate little uptake of water, limited to what the gravel and the soil would allow. In that process, the robust tomato plants bloomed with luscious fruits. I wonder how much water was wasted by the farmers in Central Valley until they changed into drip watering and from daily watering into a schedule of three to four times a week? Could our bodies perhaps be likened to tomato plants requiring only watering three to four times a week?

What are healthy bodies?

We all know that infants need their mother’s milk to thrive. That they eat on demand. Watching twin boys being fed showed me this concretely. One of the twins finished his entire bottle at his feeding time, while the other twin took only two ounces of milk at a time. Twin A’s tummy was full, so he was free to explore what he needed to do – to move his body around. So he did, he turned from his back to his tummy and kept turning. He was getting his exercise instinctively. Until he heard his mom leave the room, he started to whimper a bit, as if to say, “Hey, where are you going?”

On the other hand, Twin B took awhile to finish his bottle. He only took a few ounces, then moved as much as Twin A. Then, a whimper, and he was ready for the rest of the bottle. Imagine if the mother is not as patient and kept forcing the bottle on this twin, both of them would end up frustrated. Instead, the mom happily surrendered to Twin B’s particular feeding style, 2 ounces of milk at a time. While it was not quite convenient for the mom, Twin B was fully respected as Twin A. So at the end of their feeding, one done in no time, while the other done in two installments, the twins were happy to explore their surroundings, moving about, and gravitating towards each other.

Isn’t that what we are supposed to do? Gravitate more towards one another? Bond with one another more? Try more of these bonding experiences, where you are simply in the present, no drama and gossip, just simply observing God moving about in all the people around you. It is a wonderful surround-sound experience, using your eyes.

The importance of sleep

You must have heard this from others. Stop eating at 7 p.m. to give our tummies a chance to digest what we ate. Try this with the infants wherein their last feeding is at 7 p.m., after a bath, and how they become so happy after bath time, then, reading to them. Leave them after that ritual of connection and they are ready to sleep. And sleep they do!

It’s the same with adults. Notice how older folks are particular about eating before 6 p.m. They want to give their tummies a chance to digest their dinner. In giving that time period to our tummies to process what we eat, we sleep better.

It helps too that like infants, we have our own rituals of decompressing, of de-stressing ourselves – some do it with taking a bath with candles, some do it with listening to classical music, and while some do it by reading on their iPads, which prolongs the falling asleep, given the light from the device, and ends up stimulating one’s brain and defeating the falling asleep process. It is in sleeping that our bodies renew ourselves.

Try not sleeping even for just a night and see how you feel. It is not just grogginess but it is a feeling of being unable to think straight. Try doing that for two more nights and you enter the la la land. You become disoriented. You become preoccupied with negativity, with the inappropriate mindset. Notice the homeless veterans talking to someone yet there is no one? We can easily lapse into that state with no sleep or lack of sleep and even become more anxious and obsessed with negativity from not getting our bodies regenerated and renewed.

Notice those diagnosed with sleep apnea, after a sleep study supervised by a medical doctor, are now equipped with a device to keep them breathing through their sleep? They emerge happier and they look younger. I recently met my favorite dentists/couple who practiced their profession as partners – they seem to have become younger in retirement. They shared their sleep disorder patterns that were discovered after a study and with their new devices, they are more rested, ready to take on the world.

Are we ready to take on the world? But first, exercise!

Try daily walking, one talk show host posted on Facebook that she and her husband have committed to a regimen of 280 minutes of exercise per week. That is a daily exercise of 30 minutes, plus an extra hour of movement.

I had already started this regimen when I saw women my age, lolas and grandmas laughing as they walk the trails, posting their photos on Facebook. I wanted that similar state of being and I joined them for a few days at the park. I then joined my family members climbing trails. I then started walking on my own. My husband commits to a daily routine of walking miles. Without this daily regimen of walking, our moods change from sweet and amiable to sour and grumpy.

Just like what this philosopher shared, the three pillars of health and wellness are nutrition, sleep, and exercise should co-exist. Without nutrition, one cannot exercise and without sleep, one cannot get the proper nutrition, as one’s body is not prepared to take on the food, nor digest it to be functional in the world.

And with God’s word guiding us daily, our minds, our hearts, and our bodies get the proper nutrition to a sustained path of health and wellness! Our bodies become the sacred temples created by God to serve others too, not just ourselves!

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Prosy Abarquez-Delacruz, J.D. writes a weekly column for Asian Journal, called “Rhizomes.” She has been writing for AJ Press for 9 years now. She contributes to Balikbayan Magazine. Her training and experiences are in science, food technology, law and community volunteerism for 4 decades. She holds a B.S. degree from the University of the Philippines, a law degree from Whittier College School of Law in California and a certificate on 21st Century Leadership from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. She has been a participant in NVM Writing Workshops taught by Prof. Peter Bacho for 4 years and Prof. Russell Leong. She has travelled to France, Holland, Belgium, Japan, Mexico and 22 national parks in the US, in pursuit of her love for arts.

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