Honoring Your Body
Physical Health. Like Mental Health, this word gets a lot of publicity. You hear about it in the latest fad diets or the newest workout crazes, from Hollywood starlets to family members. Coworkers make challenges around it, and memes make jokes about it. It's on bumperstickers and bloodwork reports. Physical Health suggestions surround us, yet sadly, these suggestions don't always honor our actual Physical Health.
Societally, many of us are taught that Physical Health = diet + exercise. The problem with this view is that it is far too limiting. Physical Health encompasses much more than just diet and exercise. And that is precisely what this blogpost is about: to give a workable definition of Physical Health that fits with the rest of the holistic health perspective. I've talked a lot about the different aspects of holistic health in previous posts (such as Mental Health, Energetic Health, and Self-Expressive Health); now, it's time to focus on the Physical Health piece of our holistic health.
When I think of physical health, I think of a wide array of puzzle pieces that fit together to create a larger picture. And that larger picture is dedicated to the process of honoring your physical body. When discussing Physical Health with a client, some of the pieces I consider include:
With that in mind, how do you go about upholding your physical health?
1. Pay attention to your sleep hygiene. Do you have a steady sleep/wake time? Do you allow yourself adequate sleep time? Do you have a nightly routine that signals to your brain that it is time to sleep? Do you avoid caffeine/nicotine/bright screens/exercise before you go to bed? People often think of sleep as something that you just have to do. While this is true, it doesn't hurt to also think of it as a process that begs respect and honor from our minds and bodies. Treat your sleep routine with just as much thought as your put into your exercise plan or your diet. Give that sleep routine the respect it deserves. Honor your body with your sleep.
2. Get your blood (and endorphins) pumping with some exercise. Exercise is great for your the overall health of your internal organs, and it is also an excellent way to try to help stabilize sleep routines and choppy sleep/wake cycles. The US Department of Health and Human Services recommends an average of 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week; this ends up being 30 minutes of exercise 5 days a week. Exercise affects so much of our holistic health, from mental health to energetic health, as well as your general self-esteem. Challenge yourself to find an activity that your enjoy, whether it is running on a treadmill or doing Zumba videos on Youtube. Join an exercise class. Bike. Swim. Get creative with exercise and make it a fun way to explore what your body is capable of. Honor your body with your movement.
3. Schedule. Routine. Schedule. Routine. We are creatures of habit, and our minds and bodies love routine. While spontaneity can be nice and add some spice to our lives (especially when embracing that Eternal Child archetype!), routine and structure to our daily schedule is a definitive piece of our overall physical health. Routine keeps our bodies knowing what to expect. When a job changes, an injury occurs, or a schedule shifts, people often experience difficulty on emotional, mental, and physical levels. Why? Because the routine fell apart. This can be especially difficult for people who work from home or who are disabled: it falls solely on YOU to establish your schedule. To pick up the pieces of a broken routine, try grabbing a planner or even a notebook page. Write down a loose schedule for each day, outlining what activities you'll complete at certain times. Honor this schedule you've made. Honor your body by upholding routine.
4. Treat yo'self... to some personal hygiene. Take a shower. Get a haircut. Shave. Put on make up. Spray on that body spray. Wash your favorite pair of pants. Whatever it is that makes you feel like you are taking care of yourself, go for it. Take pride in yourself, your appearance, and your wonderfully unique body. This isn't about vanity or pride (or even self-esteem): this is about honoring your body. While personal hygiene can certainly affect the way others view us, more importantly, it directly affects the way we view ourselves. When people cherish and respect something, they typically keep it clean. They protect it. They give it a shine now and then. They show it love and interest. Your body is no different. Your body is the one physical vehicle in which you get to cruise through this journey of life, so honor your body with a shine now and then! Treat yourself with respect. Does it feel superficial? Maybe so. But the effects go much deeper than physical appearance. Honor your body by engaging in personal hygiene.
5. Keep up with the environment that you call home. Just as taking time for personal hygiene affects us on a deeper level, so does taking care of our physical environment. This has received a lot of attention in the recent years with Marie Kondo's method, inspiring millions to clean and go through cluttered closets and minds. Like personal hygeine, it's a superficial activity that runs deep. I can remember in school, I had a teacher who used to say "A cluttered desk is a cluttered mind." What I didn't realize then was that there is truth to this: when we don't put energy into keeping our environment clean, we get more distracted. Our energy gets trapped. We get stagnant. Our sleep might get affected. Our self-pride might take a blow. So take some time to get your environment in order. Take a piece at a time. A corner at a time. And slowly work on it. Honor your body by keeping the environment it inhabits clean.
6. Watch what you put into your body. What we put in our body energetically changes how our bodies function. Are you drinking too much alcohol? Caffeine? Too much sugar? Are you forgetting about your vegetables? Fruits? Notice the way your foods make your body feel. Are you giving yourself too many calories? Too little? Again, notice what your physical body needs, and aim for that. This isn't about calorie counting and diet fads-- this is about paying attention to your body's needs and honoring those needs. A great question to ask is: "Am I honoring my body with what I give it?" Honor your body with the food that you give to it.
At the end of the day, when I talk about Physical Health, I'm talking about honoring our physical bodies.
As with all the pieces of holistic health, there is a bit of an overlap. For instance, exercising can improve your mental health and replenish your emotional health. Developing a healthy sleep routine is certainly beneficial for your mental health, emotional health, and energetic health, as well as your physical health. Honoring your body with what you eat can be healthy from a mental, emotional, and spiritual perspective.
And if you are struggling with any of this, reach out to professional. Maybe you need help with the exercise due to accountability--- talk with a personal trainer or a friend who could do it with you. Maybe a past injury holds you back with the exercise you love the most--- explore your options with an occupational therapist. Are you unsure about what your body needs from a nutritional standpoint? Talk with your doctor or a dietician. Need help establishing sleep patterns? Talk with a mental health therapist or a sleep specialist. Overwhelmed by the state of your environment? Get a friend or family member on board with helping you clean and organize.
While Physical Health directly affects our personal physical body, it doesn't have to be accomplished alone. After all, we're all in this together. We're all cruising down the highway of life in our wonderful, beautiful, unique bodies.