Health in a Time of Corona

For the past six months we have been living in a world of uncertainty. In truth, we always have, but today with the Corona virus lurking in unknown corners, we feel the stress and anxiety of the unknown getting us down emotionally, spiritually and physically. However, I believe that there are decisions we can make and actions we can take to keep positive, lift our spirits and boost our strength.

I am not expert. I am not a doctor. I have no guru credentials either. I have spent the last five months, since the reality of our world situation came into a sharp focus, informing myself through books and media about my options. I’ve learned that over the past couple of generations, our focus of control has shifted from within, to external factors. I get my health from a doctor. My emotions from social media. My spirituality is often ignored. We have opted for ‘likes’ and pills, forgetting that real health, in body, mind and spirit comes from within and that all three are connected. There is no magic elixir that can cure all that ails us.

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I have learned that I can take my health back into my own hands. I have learned that our reliance on mass food production, processed foods, along with slick marketing and labeling practices have fooled us into believing that the chemicals we are eating is food. Sugar consumption continues to climb and with it, obesity rates, insulin resistance and diabetes. Processed foods are packaged enticingly, belying their contents. Nutrition has become a secondary element of our trip to the grocery store. Our lifestyle has become sedentary and we don’t have the ‘energy’ to even go for a walk because we are not getting enough energy in our diet. We are living in a world where a child born today will have a life expectancy that is less than his grandparents. Our emotional and spiritual health suffer as well because we do not know or have forgotten how to nourish them because we isolate ourselves behind closed doors and digital screens.

I have learned that I must inform myself, make decisions for myself and act on those decisions. I believe that the best approach overall health is to address all three facets of our humanity: body, mind and spirit. What I am evolving is a program of physical, mental and spiritual fitness that is working for me. I will add and subtract items as I gain more understanding. A road doesn’t have to be paved and painted to get me to where I want to go. As long as I continue to investigate and learn, improvements will continue.

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So, what is my program? I have membership at a gym because I know I prefer to exercise in the company of others: they inspire me. I average four, 40 minute workouts a week. It’s enough to work each major muscle group once a week. I began a keto diet to reduce weight get myself out of the ‘overweight’ category of fitness. Mentally, I have drastically reduced the time I spent on YouTube and Netflix and I am concentrating on reading more books, both fiction and non-fiction for entertainment and information. I am also listening to informative podcasts, videos and online classes. And spiritually, I have developed a meditation practice that both keeps me grounded here and connects me with Consciousness.

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Before Covid 19 appeared on the horizon I was doing little to contribute to my overall health and well-being. I am now more than 10 kilos lighter. I’ve read more books in the last six months than I had read in the last two years. I can’t imagine my day without a spiritual practice, usually meditation. I have more energy, feel greater self confidence, and am more connected than I have been in many, many years. As an added benefit, I believe that by improving my overall health, I have fortified my immune system as well. It may not prevent me from contracting any virus or disease, but it will give me a far greater chance of battling it successfully.

I share these small bits of information to encourage others to seek their own answers and to discover their own definition of ‘health’. I am grateful for this ‘isolation’ time that I have been given to make these lifestyle changes. I know that these feelings of optimism, strength and happiness will continue as I push forward in my quest for knowledge and understanding as we continue through this uncertain time of Corona.

For further investigation:

The Bulletproof Diet by Dave Asprey

The Code of the Extraordinary Mind by Vishen Lakhiani

Personality Isn’t Permanent, by Benjamin Hardy

Science and Spiritual Practices, by Rupert Sheldrake

www.mindvalley.com

Changing Your Perspective

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While I have never reviewed a book before, this one, Personality Isn’t Permanent, by Benjamin Hardy is a gem that belongs in everyone’s library. Too many times I hear statements like, ‘I’d like that, but this is just how I am,’ and ‘I’m too old to change.’ We tend to think that we are stuck in our path because of our past, who we think we are, and now, we’re unwilling to make changes to create the life we really would like to have. Pressure from friends, family and society herds us into believing that you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear because, well, you are how you are! Right?

When I first came across Ben Hardy about four years ago in an online article that he published, I knew that I had found a fellow traveler with similar beliefs, ideas and approaches to living. At the time he was a PhD student in psychology, was the most read contributor on Medium and had just published a book Slipstream; Time Hacking. I was impressed that he used solid science as well as his own experience to support the idea that a change in perspective can change how we view and use the same 1440 minutes that everyone gets each day. I later read Willpower Doesn’t Work, 2018, in which he writes about the need to pull one’s environment and practices into play to create the life one chooses. Willpower alone is not enough to create sustained change in our lives.

Last month, his newest book, Personality Isn’t Permanent was released to immediate best seller status. This book doesn’t disappoint. This book’s 271 pages is jamb-packed with insights and examples of how we can change the limited views we have of ourselves and open up to creating the life we want to live. Examples of include a man who became a Harvard fellow after being in prison for 14 years, another who quit smoking by changing his environment and even Hardy’s own wife who suffered abuse during her first marriage, yet managed to use past trauma to help her to grow and become the woman she always wished to be. If these people were able to overcome the odds and change how they relate to themselves and the world around them, then it must be possible for others to do so as well. We can overcome the tragedies and traumas in our past. We can seek out the self limiting beliefs that keep us trapped. We can make major changes in our lives by changing our perspectives on how we see our world.

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At the core of the book is the belief that many of us maintain that by the time we are twenty, our personality is fixed and can no longer be altered. It goes along with the belief that at the same age, our bodies can produce no more brain cells than what we have then. Fry your brain cells, and they won’t be replaced. Take a personality test at 21 and you know what you will be like for the rest of your life. None of these beliefs is true. Your brain will continue to produce new neurons and develop new pathways for as long as we live.

It’s my belief that if one person can make radical changes in her life, then others can do the same. I know from my own struggles with alcoholism that it is possible. While at one time I couldn’t see my life without alcohol, I now can’t imagine every wanting it as part of my life ever again. If I could do that in one part of my life, why not in other parts?

Ben’s book is easy to read and, he gives practical suggestions on how to apply the solutions that he puts forward to change you and your personality. Each chapter offers questions and exercises to assist the reader in taking the next step forward Indeed, the book merits at least a second read and could be used as a personal development course text.

You are not stuck. You are not your past. Change your perspective and you will see how your history can become the inspiration for a brighter future. You don’t need to be known as that ‘moody’ person, or the ‘jerk who’s got a chip on his shoulder’. I am not ‘stuck’ with who I am. I can make changes and create the life experience that I have always wanted. My personality is not permanent.

Buy any of Ben’s books through Amazon

Check out his blog on Medium.com

(This is an unsolicited, and unremunerated review.)

The Creative Journal

Writing is part of my daily ritual. I wake up at 6 am. It’s not that early here. In the tropics, the length of day doesn’t change much between the solstices, so there’s plenty of daylight year round at this hour. I set the water to boil, prepare the filter and grounds for coffee and sit out on the deck while I wait. Here I say an opening greeting to the day and enjoy the quiet for a few minutes until the water boils. I make my coffee and I sit down to my writing.

I took up writing first thing in the morning about five years ago. It began while reading a book on developing creativity: “The Artist’s Way”, by Julia Cameron. In this text, which is part course, part workbook and part inspiration, she suggests that everyone write their ‘morning papers’. Here one can jot down thoughts, ideas, plans, a description of last night’s dreams, or vent on an issue and get it all out. She suggests to the reader that writing three pages of handwritten script every day is one of the best practices to increase creativity levels.

I admit I haven’t always been faithful to the practice. Some days, there’s a change in how need to plan my morning. Other days I get immediately involved in something and I forget. Once in a while I don’t think I have time (because I turned off the alarm and suddenly it was 7:30!) And until a few months ago, I had dropped the practice completely for almost a year.

I am grateful that I was inspired to return to the daily writing. It does a number of things for me. First and foremost for me, writing sets a good tone for the day. Rather than pop into social media or the news, I pop into myself. I am present with the now. I write about what I am thinking. I write about my challenges. I write about what I love and what I hate. I write about what I would prefer for the future. Sometimes it is philosophical, sometimes spiritual and sometimes it’s a rant from a seven year old kid complaining that things aren’t going the way that he wants them to go. It’s all over the place. And that’s okay. I write what is and try to be non-judgmental about it all.

Second, journal writing helps me to bring things into perspective. Those unassailable problems of life suddenly deflate to their proper size when I write about them. What has been a tornado of thoughts in my head about what is happening around me suddenly calms down into a few sentences that I can review and realize, ‘This is all it really is?’ Suddenly the problem becomes manageable because I know what it actually is: I’ve given the problem definition and thereby a way to find a solution.

Third, morning papers allow me to explore. I’m able to explore new ideas and thoughts about how things work, about what happened yesterday and why I reacted as I did. Exploration may entice me look later for articles or videos on a subject. They give me permission to go deeper into a subject that, honestly, I know I won’t do if I don’t set aside the time.

Gratuitous doggie photo.

The 45 or 50 minutes that it takes usually flies by, but some mornings it is like pulling teeth to think about something and I end up by describing what the dogs are doing or what I need to buy at the grocery store. And that’s okay too. I have learned that I need to be faithful to the practice and that what I am writing doesn’t have to be perfect. I can be patient with myself as well. It very rare for me to even look back over old entries. I just need to get this stuff out and down on paper. And when I start writing the date at the top of the page, I never have any idea how it’s going to end when I finish that day’s entry.

As for the benefits of this morning writing? It allows me to start the day and choose the direction I want it to go in. If I start with some negative stuff, I can end it with some positive stuff. I always end with a statement about something for which I am grateful to have in my life. I have made some good insights into myself and life while writing. Not all earth shattering, but important to me and in the coming day.

Journal writing, creative or otherwise, may not be for everyone, but I still challenge you to take the time to do a bit more research on this subject before you discard it completely. There are many ways of working a journal and morning writing, everything from just jotting down points to full on grammar and punctuation perfect. Whatever works for you. After a short while, I know you will be glad you started.