By Dr. Thomas O. Goode
Optimal health involves nurturing all facets of your life. This includes your physical, mental, and spiritual health. These components are woven into the fiber of your being and your well being. Neglecting one causes problems in another. Conditions such as heart disease can trigger depression. Mental malaise can lead to migraines and ulcers and a lack of spirituality may create despondency and apathy that affects you on all levels.
The good news is that enriching one facet of your life improves another. There are certain fundamental actions that, when practiced with intent, lead to a better quality of life: physically, mentally, and spiritually. I call them the four pillars of health.
Breathing. Breathing defines life. It is your first and final living action. It is also your lifeline to good health. Oxygen plays a key role in optimum body performance. It aids in digestion, fights disease, and ensures proper cell and organ function. It also keeps you mentally centered and contributes to maintaining consistent levels of serotonin and endorphins.
Unfortunately, many people lose the ability to breathe properly. Upon entering this world, your first breaths were deep and full. Your body was hungry for oxygen and innately knew how to get it. Over time, however, most people lose this response. They adopt a shallow breathing pattern that does not give the body its due. Without a strong oxygen flow, your body does not function at capacity.
Therefore, to improve your health, you must improve your breathing. It involves breathing deep into the abdomen, filling the diaphragm and expanding your lungs. It allows all parts of your body to receive the oxygen required for overall health and well being.
Exercise. The human body is built to move. Over the years, however, industrialization has bred inactivity. Naturally occurring exercise, such as physical labor and walking instead of driving, is all but obsolete. Therefore, it is necessary you commit to exercising your body. Exercise strengthens muscle and bone. It also lowers blood pressure and cholesterol levels. In addition, regular exercise gives you more physical and mental energy.
Choose a form of exercise you enjoy and will not consider a chore. Many people choose walking for a variety of reasons. It is inexpensive, convenient, and easy on the joints and bones. Walking at a brisk pace for thirty minutes a day gives your body and mind the workout they need to remain strong and vital.
Nutrition. If you feed your body well, it serves you well. When your body is properly nourished, you have more energy and are able to achieve more. This heightens not only your productivity, but your self-esteem as well. Nourish your body with intention, as opposed to indulging your appetite or feeding your emotions. Your diet should contain adequate protein, a variety of fruits and vegetables, and quality fat.
Unfortunately, most people do not receive the nutrition they need. This is due to either poor choices or eating foods that have been stripped of nutrients. Denatured produce is picked green. It is treated with preservatives so it can be shipped long distances. This process causes food to lose much of its nutritional value. Cows, chickens, and other sources of animal protein are often raised on a steady diet of growth hormones.
These hormones jeopardize you. Processed foods are laden with chemicals that work against your body. In all these instances, manipulation produces foods that deliver substandard nutrition. This leads to overeating because the body is not getting what it needs. It also creates an oxygen deficit due to the fact that it takes more oxygen to digest these types of foods. For optimum health, you need to feed yourself in the best possible way.
Meditate. Both your body and mind require down time. Meditation is just that. It is the creation of a relaxed state and a quiet mind. During meditation the brain shifts from overdrive to calm. This reduces level of cortisol in the body, thus minimizing stress. There are many ways to meditate. Not all involve the trance- like state often associated with the practice.
Meditation is personal. It is how you personally center yourself and quiet your mind. This can be achieved with prayer, repeating a positive phrase, watching the trees sway, observing your breathing, or deliberately walking with peace in mind. Using your breath to center is called mindfulness meditation. During this practice, you sit quietly and focus on your breathing. As you do this, thoughts will drift in and out of your mind. If they distract you, just return to the focus of your breathing. Your mind will slow as you focus on this one function. With practice and patience, your body and mind will respond to the process. It will offer you a still and quiet state from which you can renew yourself to live with intention and express optimal health.
Dr. Thomas O. Goode is the co-founder of the International Breath Institute, which was created in 1991 to teach people how to enhance their health and prevent premature aging. He is also an inspirational speaker, workshop facilitator, and author of seven books, the latest of which is Fully Alive—Feel Better, Look Younger and Improve Your Sex Life. To contact Dr. Good, receive the free ezine, or for more information on Full Wave Breathing, visit www.fullwavebreathing.com