HOW TO LIVE HOLISTICALLY AND MINDFULLY
Chances are, if you are reading this blog, you heard the buzz words “Mindfulness” and “Holistic living” somewhere. You might have read other articles and even implemented a few techniques into your life and for that, you can be enormously proud. I do not know about you, but I have noticed, especially during the pandemic lockdown, that maintaining a healthy body and mind became extremely important. It was not always easy, but keeping my goal in mind, allowed me to venture forth on my journey and path towards a better and healthier lifestyle and life. But what if you are just starting out on this journey? Or what if you decided that you want to further enrich your life with more techniques and understanding? Are you pursuing wellbeing and are you willing to go through the process of achieving just that? Well, then you came to the right place. But before I get to all the good stuff, I thought of giving you a bit of background of what holistic living and mindfulness mean.
I am going to try to be strict with myself and not overload you with too much information. Both holistic living and mindfulness are very vast subjects. I will, however, try my absolute best to give you as much information and tips as I can.
Holistic Living comprises of physical, mental and spiritual (soul) wellbeing. It is basically the wholeness of you, which covers, amongst other things, emotions, sleep, will, relationships, work fulfilment and physical health, that contribute towards your health and happiness. Holism is usually referred to as a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts, which means that all the parts of you are interconnected. Living holistically can help you think, feel, live and act better.
Think of it this way. You have your body; it is the vessel that you use to function. It has blood cells, muscles, skeletal bones and organs. Then you have your mind, which is the mental aspect. This is where your emotions (where you experience life and how you feel), will (where you have the ability to choose) and mind (where you think and reason) comes into play. Lastly you have your soul. This part gives you meaning and purpose in life. These are your values and the core of who you are, your beliefs also play a role here. Can you think of a time where you experienced stress or anxiety? What effect did it have on your body? Did you experience headaches, a tummy ache or a decline in your energy level? Have you noticed that it also affects your general attitude towards life or maybe even effected the way that you think and make decisions?
Mindfulness on the other hand refers to attention in the here and now. Here we pay purposeful attention to the situation in a non-judgemental and non-evaluating manner. We can cultivate this by working on a more balanced relationship between ourselves and the realities of life. It is in all of us to achieve this as it is part of us and part of our natural human capacity. All we need to do is cultivate this natural ability which can increase levels of greater life satisfaction, well-being, a sense of competence, vitality, authenticity and less negativity. Basically, it is a way of living and being instead of strategically and tactically living your life. Here you give purposeful attention to your thoughts, emotions, body sensations and feelings, which are all directed inward. You also then give purposeful attention to the outward situation, for example sounds, smells and touch. What is happening in this very moment? What sensations are you becoming aware of? Are you becoming aware that your thoughts are awakening certain emotions within you? Are you conscious of the process where your thoughts can take you on a journey and could ultimately spiral and cause anxiety or sadness? Are your thoughts taking you away from the here and now and are you getting lost in the endless cycle of reminiscing or worrying?
Mindfulness helps us to deal with these troubling and invasive thoughts so that we can create a different relationship between our thoughts, emotions and feelings. It allows us to accept and allow our thoughts and feelings instead of fighting them. It is when conflict occurs between the current and expected feelings that conflict and negative feelings emerge. This takes energy that can cause you to feel worse. Can you imagine becoming an observer to your own inner state and feel more in control of your thoughts and emotions by learning that not everything that you think is true?
Does it not ring true when I say that if we see more clearly then we can choose more clearly? Think of how you can reframe your thoughts and think of a situation from another perspective, especially if you can adjust your behaviour accordingly. How does your values come into play so that you can make a wise choice with integrity? With mindfulness we are less likely to chase that temporary high and rather dig deeper to see with greater clarity and ultimately live a fuller human existence. It is important to remember that we are not our thoughts. We can discipline and practise control over our thoughts because at the end of the day, we must respect our responsibility in choosing how we respond to our thoughts.
As with all my blogs and the tips and techniques that I share with you, this is not a quick fix. When we want to improve our lives, thought processes, emotions, behaviour and feelings, we have to work on ourselves on a daily basis. Sometimes we must take that legendary “Sherlock Holmes magnifying glass” and inspect ourselves openly and honestly. We need to learn which aspects of ourselves need work and we need to be willing and dedicated to enriching our lives for ourselves by ourselves (sometimes with help from a therapist off course).
Quickly jumping to something that is far underrated, but melts in perfectly with holistic living - how many of you have tried natural remedies or supplements? Did you know (I sound like a Chappie-wrapper) that Lemon Balm is a calming and soothing herb that helps with anxiety and stress and that St John’s Wort does not only help with grief, depression and mood support, but is also excellent for nerve pain and numbness (but should not be taken simultaneously with antidepressant drugs)? When the body is under stress it becomes vulnerable and susceptible to ailments and illnesses. Antibiotics can help, but often we feel the need to supplement our body’s immune system with vitamins and natural herbs and oils to give it a fair fighting chance. Things like Passionflower that promotes relaxation and aid in preventing panic attacks and Siberian Ginseng that helps the adrenal glands and help the body cope with stress are just a drop in the bucket of what herbs can help with. It is important to state that, as with antibiotics, herbal remedies also have their cautious measures that needs to be followed. No matter if the herbal remedies comes in capsules, extracts, granules, syrups, lazogens, massage oils or fragrant inhalations, they can be very potent and may interact with drugs such as antibiotics and chronic medications. Please consult your medical practitioner or herbalist before commencing herbal treatment or alternative remedies.
Now that I explained how herbs can help you physically as well as mentally, how can you live a more holistic and mindful life?
- Respect your Body and its Powers: Think of your body as a temple, it is precious and it is powerful and we should always care for our bodies. You can practise the body scan technique a few times a day by giving attention to your posture, any physical sensations like pain or tension or other discomfort that you might experience due to repetitive movements. Should you notice any of these physical sensations, take a few moments to break the repetitive routine and make the necessary adjustments to your posture and movements. The earlier that you can detect these painful or uncomfortable sensations in your body, the better. You have the power to make the necessary adjustments in an effort to prevent these physical complaints. While you are at it, combine the body scan with mindful breathing.
- Eat Well: If at all possible, try to eat organic food and avoid processed food. The bonus with organic food is that you do not consume pesticides and hormones. Aim to eat well balanced meals that contains the vitamins and minerals that your body needs to function. I know it can be a bit challenging at times, but instead of grabbing a take-away meal, challenge yourself to make a meal at home. Who knows what wonderful recipes and techniques can be experimented with while preparing a healthy meal?
- Meditate: Personally, I think that meditation is far underrated. It is powerful. It can improve your life more than you would think possible. If you do not get meditation right the first time, do not get discouraged. It is quite normal to get distracted. Your mind could wonder and if you notice that this is happening, then you have already achieved a measure of success. Do not delve deeper into those thoughts, do not evaluate them further, rather focus on the “right here, right now”. You might even fall asleep. All these are part of the challenge. Bring your thoughts back to your breathing. Notice the sensations in your body when the air flows through your mouth and nose. Feel how the air fills your lungs and when you exhale, how your body reacts when you exhale the air back into the world. Feel the tranquillity and will yourself to relax. This is an extremely helpful tool to help you focus on the present moment. To help you further, ask yourself questions like, “where am I?” or “how am I?”. This will take you out of the “doing-mode” and bring your awareness back to your breathing and what you are currently experiencing.
- Exercise or be Active: It is important to incorporate some type of exercise into your daily life. Instead of sitting in front of the television or behind a desk working, get up and take a bit of a walk. Stretch those sore muscles or take your dogs for a walk. Doing exercises does not only strengthen your body, but also relieves stress and it helps with keeping a positive outlook by releasing endorphins which are the happy hormones. Another great tip is to spend more time outdoors. This is an ideal way to connect with your thoughts and to appreciate the beauty of your life and the beauty of nature.
- Focus on Positive Relationships: It is hard when we get into an altercation with friends and family. Sometimes it becomes worse when neither one wants to apologise and work on a solution. This stress, anger and frustration works on your physical and mental health. It is up to you to make the decision and make a difference. If the other person does not play a positive role in your life anymore, move on. If you value the other person and the relationship that you have, work on a solution and take positive action. At the end of the day, you must decide whether you want to allow negative energy into your life. Continue to work on the positive relationships in your life, allow it to grow at a natural pace and appreciate every moment of these precious relationships.
- Let yourself Change and Grow: If you genuinely want to life holistically and mindfully, you must go through the process of change. We experience, learn and grow through experience. We must all start somewhere and if that first step is right at the bottom, then that is fine. If you keep moving one step at a time and allow yourself that time to grow, then you will be the first spectator to your change. You will start to appreciate the journey and what you have learnt along the way.
- Be Respectful and Love Life: In a previous blog I wrote about being kind to yourself and others and by showing kindness and respect to others can not only make a big difference in their lives, but can also be life changing to you. Sometimes, by just being there for somebody else can help you without you even realizing it. It is a fact that we do not always know what other people are going through and what side of the emotional rollercoaster they are on at that moment, so be respectful and show kindness. You never know what impact your actions can have on somebody else.
I passionately believe that we were all placed on this earth to live our best and most authentic lives. Yes, sometimes we get dealt a bad hand and the struggle is real, but other times things go really well. All these experiences are just life’s way to tell you to keep on going, not to give up and still have appreciation for what you have in your life, what lessons you can learn and what impact you can have on this world. Love life and all that it offers, no matter what happens.
- Be Aware and Practice Mindfulness: Observe life with objectivity and take the opportunity to search and learn. Become aware of your surroundings. Become aware of your routine activities and give a little conscious attention to those automated activities. Are you giving attention to your body’s movements and the sensations, especially if it entails repetitive movements that can cause tension within your body? Are you using your senses to really smell, taste and feel that sandwich that you are eating? Are you focusing your attention? Have you noticed that you are experiencing patterns of thinking and that there are habitual or unconscious reactions to certain events? When you become aware of these automatic patterns, it may help you with detecting similar patterns in the future and adjust your behaviour accordingly. You will feel that you have more control and are able to focus your attention to a single point. With some practise, you can pause before reacting, monitor your own thoughts and consider how your actions will impact the situation that you find yourself in. It is important to open yourself up and observe events with a non-judgemental attitude. Allow yourself to become open to other perspectives, listen attentively and monitor your own thoughts. What you are basically practicing here is “functional fluidity”. You are challenging your rigid way of thinking and reaction. You are allowing consideration of alternative solutions that you have not thought of yet and are becoming willing and able to compromise.
- Have an Attitude of Gratitude: It is easy to feel bogged down with the negatives in life and we often forget to practise gratitude for what we have. You might not have a mountain of money, but you have food in your tummy, a leaky roof over your head and clothes covering your body. You might not have a huge crowd of friends, but you have a few friends that loves and cares about you. Have a look around you. What brings you joy? What motivates you? Take a moment each day to notice the things (and people) in your life that you can be thankful and grateful for.
There are also a few other attitude adjustments that are highly beneficial. I am not going to go into detail on these, but here they are “A non-judgemental attitude”, “An attitude of patience”, “An attitude of trust”, “An attitude of unconditional acceptance” and “An attitude of having faith and letting go”.
- Do not make Assumptions: Sometimes we really get set in our own ways of thinking and doing that we assume that everybody thinks and do things the same way as we do. Bubble-bursting time – everybody is different. Often people do not have the same information as you, their past experiences differ, and their way of interpreting situations are completely different. When you face a situation, examine everything that you think is true and then consider that it is not. This could give you an entirely new perspective.
- Set up Rituals and make Time for Yourself: Go ahead, take that bubble-bath after the kids have gone to bed. Relax, pamper yourself, and make special time for yourself to do absolutely nothing. To live holistically takes work and you are allowed to give yourself time to unwind. Make time for the things that add value to your life. Between the rushing around, take time to notice the beautiful sunshine. Do something that you always wanted to do and stop wishing your life and time away.
- Intention to focus your Attention: I have mentioned this a few times already, but it is important to be deliberate in choosing where we focus our attention. Schedules are hectic and we often forget to focus on our motivations. Take time to reflect and set clear and positive intentions of what you are doing. Are you automatically jumping to conclusions? Have you accepted that neither you nor other people are perfect? Often people make the best decision with the information that they have at that time, with their own intentions in mind. As soon as we understand this, we allow ourselves the opportunity to become non-judgemental and come to a better understanding of the actions other people take.
- Therapy: To live holistically and mindfully takes practise, time and self-evaluation. The path that you choose can be challenging and sometimes raw. Please do not feel that you must take this journey alone. Therapists are there to help and support you through your struggles and journey. We are trained to help you with your thought processes, help give you another perspective and give you alternatives in dealing with your environment. Help is out there; all you need to do is reach out.
Material goods are rewarding, but to tap into true fulfilment in life is so much better and it is lasting. No outside source will truly fulfil us. Give yourself a chance. Make a conscious decision today to appreciate life. Do you feel that gratitude and appreciation? Are you considering your purpose and role in society and the universe? Are you reflecting on your values and priorities? Are you giving yourself time to reflect on being a “human being” instead of a “human doing”? Remember that living holistically and mindfully takes practice, awareness and focus. Please do not be hard on yourself if you do not get it right the first time, or even the first few times. Be patient and kind to yourself.
As always, I like to end my blog with a quote or two and the following might give you a bit more insight. The first one is from Gandhi who said, “Our greatest ability as humans is not to change the world; but to change ourselves.”, and this one from Joh Kabat-Zinn who said, “Mindfulness is a way of befriending ourselves and our experience.”. As a little bonus, here is a last quote from Peter Shepherd who said, “Just because you’re not sick doesn’t mean you’re healthy. Good health is not just the absence of pain or disease but positively feeling good in the whole of our being, and therefore includes lifestyle, mental attitude, and ways of relating to all living beings and nature.”.
As a reminder, GEM Mental Health Therapy and Coaching has decided to offer Skype Video Calls, Zoom Video Meetings, WhatsApp Calls and WhatsApp Video Chats in order to reach as many people as possible. I have also decided to incorporate Counselling via Email, which seems a bit unorthodox, but some clients do not have the freedom and privacy to discuss heart matters in the enclosed environment that they find themselves in at this time. Please do not hesitate to reach out so that we can work together on your mental health as we face these challenging times.
Thank you very much for reading my blog. I truly hope that it helped somebody, somewhere. Please send any feedback or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org and remember to have a look out for a new blog every week.