I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty tired of reading about diet and exercise and their impact on quality health (and I write about it!) I’m convinced that unless you live in the Krubera Cave in the western Caucasus Mountains of Abkhazia (site of the deepest cave in the world) you already know that diet and exercise play an important role in quality health. What you may not know is the importance that emotions play in achieving and sustaining quality health. The following points are not based on scientific literature with references. They are not based on double blind studies that qualify and quantify human emotions to determine where our focus needs to be to improve performance. Instead, they are based on experiences and observations which reveal a deeper understanding of self; an understanding which adds meaning and quality to life. As simple as these experiences are, few people take the time to intentionally incorporate them into their lives. The following five words can impact the quality of health just as much as the physical acts of diet and exercise. They don’t require money, time or great effort. They require a heart, a brain and a willingness to open oneself up to the world we live in.
It takes more energy and effort to lack kindness than to be kind. Yet, how often do each of us think about this word and engage in the act itself? Kindness comes from a sense of giving. It can be tangible or intangible. In either case the act is provided without any conscious motive for personal gain. Naturally, there are behaviors of kindness which fall under the category of courtesy and respect. A typical example would be a gentlemen holding the door open for a lady. This, however, is a learned behavior. The kindness that I refer to is instinctive; one that occurs before the conscious brain is aware the act has even begun. This act of kindness comes directly from the heart.
Gratitude is defined as “the quality of being thankful.” How often do we show and feel thanks in appreciation for the limitless opportunities that surround each of us? We must realize just because these opportunities exist doesn’t mean they are easily identified or easily used for personal gain. This, however, does not take away the fact they exist. Instead, people have a tendency to grumble; to find “bad” and “evil” in this world and focus on the harm it brings to their lives. It is all about PERCEPTION.
Rather than feeling anger and frustration regarding long security lines at the airport, bumper to bumper traffic on the interstates, another week of rainy cold weather, a weekend that went by too quickly placing us back in a working environment we don’t enjoy, maybe it’s time to perceive these “problems” from a different reality. What if, instead, we were thankful for safer airline travel as a result of security, thankful for having automobiles for travel and making commuting less physically demanding, thankful for a source of water needed to sustain life, thankful for cold weather that helps reduce viruses and bacteria in the air that our bodies must combat, thankful for a source of employment to provide for ourselves and our families.
Can you see the simplicity in altering perception and the qualitative health benefits that accompany this new realtity?
The exact number of muscles required for smiling remains controversial, however, consensus among researchers has found it requires significantly more muscles to frown than smile. When we look around and take notice of people, what is the first impression? Do we seem to live in a world that welcomes communication and interaction or one that focuses on self preservation and survival? Do we greet “strangers” with a smile, or do we look away pretending they don’t exist? Are we a healthier people if we live our lives as isolated individuals or associating and interacting within organized groups? (examples: social and/or religious organizations)
The act of smiling reduces FEAR. It offers KINDNESS in a simple gesture. It welcomes positive interaction without speaking a word. Why then, are we so hesitant to offer this simple act on a REGULAR BASIS to each other? Again, a simple act, that improves the quality of health.
How much “stuff” do we keep on the “back burner” in our brains that does nothing more than fuel anger and resentment. Fighting with family members and friends, divorces from spouses, working environment tensions, etc… Without having mechanisms to positively channel all these emotions, these “toxic feelings” accumulate within our bodies causing irreparable harm. These emotions cause physical and mental damage and often lead to an early death.
The act of forgiving is truly a simple act. Instead, we have a tendency to harbor those negative feelings of anger and resentment and are reluctant to remove and dispose this unnecessary weight from our “shoulders.” WHY? Where is the benefit to oneself remaining angry and resenting people and life in general? Is it possible that forgiving might “lighten the load” to such a point, it becomes possible to discover one’s desires, passions and purpose in life with greater clarity and awareness? Is there a downside to forgiving?
Finally, we get to a word that benefits EVERYONE. As children we’re taught to share with other children. This value teaches us how to provide physical and emotional support. We share toys, food, games and even friends (by introducing children to other children and expanding their social world.) The act of sharing is a value that many parents reinforce over and over again with their children.
Where does this value go as we become adults? Somehow, this value is replaced by another important value that (in my opinion) has become “diseased” over time. The value of SUCCESS. To achieve success in life, we have to “beat” others; we have to strive to accomplish tasks whether or not these accomplishments occur at other people’s expense. Our ravenous focus on achieving the “GOAL” can become so out of control we become willing to sacrifice our sense of right and wrong. We hold our heads high with great pride believing the hard work and effort required to achieve this status was worth it. In reality, this craze to achieve “success” has often resulted in a void that has left many a person empty inside.
This isn’t what we were taught as children. We were taught success was based on sharing. It was better for two people to be happy than one. It was better to play together developing creative and social skills than to possess “all the toys” and not allow the other children to participate in the fun. Where and when did we decide this important value no longer applied to life? When did we decide success was based on accumulating possessions and hoarding these possessions for personal gain? Where did the concept of “sharing” lose its value?
Sharing our time (ex. organizations like Big Brother, Meals on Wheels, etc…) our money (ex. charitable contributions,) our hearts (ex. visiting a senior citizen center and spending some quality time with a person who needs simple companionship) is a value we need to restore. Sharing is a value we need to make certain is NEVER lost over time. By adding this value back into our lives, our quality of health improves as we develop greater purpose and fulfillment.
These five words are as effective at improving the quality of our health as diet and exercise. They DO NOT replace it, but rather complement and build upon our needs to living healthier lives. Why not take a moment to write down these simple words and think about your efforts at achieving their goals. If you come to realize these words and concepts have been displaced by your current “reality,” why not begin restoring their meaning to improve your life and your quality of health! Quality health is about enriching life. Participate and become part of the solution. You, and the rest of the world will benefit from the experience.