Sunday, February 24, 2013

Can You Shrug It?

As Atlas held up the sky (aka celestial sphere), no doubt he started noticing how his upper back muscles started aching, his legs felt like buckling at the knees, and his spirit felt trodden on beneath all the weight. Maybe the thought passed through his mind, "Now--is this a healthy way to live? Is it worth the sacrifice? Zeus, get a life!" Zeus, by the way, is the one who punished Atlas with the task of holding the sky up on his shoulders.

People face this world everyday, attempting to keep both health and life beating and vital amid a sea of challenges, rough patches, and the wheel of ups and downs. The hard part is, many of us also feel the additional responsibility to hold the world on our shoulders as we journey. It may ache, our feet may start shoveling into the ground, but we keep going this way regardless of the backlash we see--especially to our health.

A person can only take so much! That's a fact that doesn't need to be tested in a lab, each of us knows this in an innate way. Attempt to hold the sky (or world) up long enough, and your body will tell you blatantly that you're hurting it. "But don't I have to go to work?" Yes. "Don't I have to pay the bills?" Of course. "What about tax season coming up? Yikes!"

No doubt, these types of road signs pop up along the way, always reminding us of something we need to do. Pay a parking ticket. Visit the dentist. Update the planner. Buy juice. Renew car tabs. And of course--taxes. But there are also expectations we place on ourselves, almost willingly, above and beyond these everyday mundane responsibilities.

What are examples?

"I want to show everyone how great I'm doing and feeling, regardless of how I'm actually doing and feeling."

"It is better for me to treat others better than I treat myself. Somehow I deserve this type of punishment...I don't know why."

"When my body's showing me that I'm tired and beat up, it's time to start doing better. Besides, everyone out there can do it all. So, I should too."

"That person says there's something wrong with me. It must obviously be true."

"I can never do enough, or be enough for anyone. Therefore, I'm a failure."

These are all examples of common human tendencies, those of piling more weight on the shoulders than can actually be physically or mental-emotionally handled by one least not while they're trying to live their own life.

Sometimes it's worth asking, "Can I shrug it?" or "What can I shrug at the moment?" Not all of it is important, it just feels like it is because it's made out to be that way. Do you really believe it? Do you believe that you have to be everything for everybody, all while trying to reach your life's goals and stay healthy? Do you think it's possible to do it that way, or desirable to do it that way?

These are all questions we must ask ourselves. We go through schooling, but there comes a time when someone else can't tell you or show you how to do it. That's when you ask yourself what you're made of, and ask yourself what weight is worth shrugging off.

What weight do you want to shrug off today, or this upcoming week, so you can continue to live your own life and stay healthy while doing it?

Monday, February 18, 2013

Believe, or Do? Maybe a Little of Both.

You often hear how it's important to believe in order to achieve whatever goal you're reaching for. And then you also hear that you have to just go for it--aka just do it. In health, as in life, the question will always present during a time of change whether it's time to believe in yourself more, or to do more.

Maybe a little of both.

In order to do, you must believe but it also goes the other way around. In order to believe, you must do as well. Belief is important in life, but it can lend itself to tricky situations when it isn't followed by action. Belief likes to see evidence that steps are being taken to back it up. When it's time to get healthier, both the belief and action will get you there quicker than just one alone.

What is an example? Say you want to get rid of a few extra pounds and really believe you can do it. Week after week you believe that it's possible to achieve this, but in the end not much is happening because the belief is far ahead of any steps being taken to lose the weight.

Maybe the belief is even far and beyond what is realistic in terms of getting started with the weight loss. At this point, it's good that you believe you can lose weight but that has set lofty goals that are difficult to attain from where you're at.

With a little action mixed in, such as changing eating habits or getting more physical activity into your week, you notice that these small steps are now backing the belief you have and giving you solid evidence that the change is really possible for you.

On the flip side, if you were to change all your habits at once in order to lose weight but didn't firmly believe that these steps will actually work, it would also be challenging to lose weight in a healthy way. A few pounds may come off, but the effects may not last because you don't have the conviction to carry through with it.

Weight loss is just one example, but there are many areas of health and life that present with the challenge of both believing in yourself and acting on what you want. So, don't just believe it or just do it. Try both together and see what happens. Each one will give you clues into how to be healthy, your way.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Letting Go of Past Persuasions, but Not Dreams

Does health have to do with just the present, or does it also involve sediments of the past or future? This may sound like a strange question because the future hasn't happened yet, so how can you experience any effects from it today? But many of us think about the past and the future as if both these time periods share equal space with the present on a metaphoric couch of life.

This blog post, however, is not about mindfulness meditation or practicing awareness at all times so that you can stay in the present. For better or for worse, we are human beings and our thoughts linger on the past and also project into the future to different extents. "What should I have done differently? How will those decisions impact my future, and what should I do in the coming days weeks months and years?"

Kitten Looking UpSo this happens, and maybe our companion dogs and cats don't ponder these topics, but we do. That's why you may feel a slight twinge when you see your cat or dog scratching themselves in the sun like life couldn't get any better. One of the topics our human minds focus on the most is that of dreams, past present and future.

A dream, aka what each individual wants to shoot for in life, can be an element that brings the spark of health and activity into our lives, but it can also bring twinges of fear, regret, guardedness, and other tricky feelings. What if you wanted to be a rock star as a teenager and it didn't happen? You still love music, though, and don't want to give it up.

Maybe you loved drawing more than anything growing up, but it was challenging to channel that talent into a career. You don't want to stop growing in your art and who you are as an artist. Perhaps you found the career you always wanted, but there are still talents you feel have been left unexpressed and lingering, waiting for an outlet. That dream is on your back-burner, but maybe you've wondered if it's better left burned instead.

Don't burn it. It's okay to let go of past persuasions of doing this or that, but it's not necessary to kick the actual dream to the curb. What does this mean? A past persuasion is something we felt certain we should do or believe, based on our expectations or those of others. Be a basketball star, be a lawyer, be a rock star, be a college professor, be a doctor or engineer, be a politician.

The Be's may be deeply embedded in the past now, and whether they came true or not, they aren't the full story of our real dreams. A dream often involves expressing your true talent in whatever way you can. We can get hung up on the be's and the regrets we have surrounding them, so much so that we dismiss the dreams and talents that are still alive and kicking. These regrets can often affect our health, how we take care of ourselves, and how much credit and respect we show ourselves.

A dream doesn't have to be constrained by time. Channel it anyway, in the face of all the be's and the past persuasions that may have long gone by now. Maybe you didn't get a chance to follow the exact avenues you envisioned for yourself growing up, but that's okay. Look at yourself today, and ask, "What do I want to do, and what can I do, with the talents and dreams that I have?"
You can't get back the time that has already flowed by, or control the time that is about to flow from tomorrow onward. But today you have potential for both your dreams and your health.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Learning Something New

You often hear how laughter is the best medicine, and for some people chocolate or homeopathy fit the bill instead. Each person is unique and so is his or her preferred form of medicine. What about learning something new as a form of medicine?

Often there are parts of personality, talents, and health that haven't been expressed, at least in a while, and are just waiting to be let out. Everyone has different talents, so the key to unlocking these hidden treasures is unique to you. It could be that drawing or painting offers a form of expression that you enjoy. Writing stories, or a blog. Dancing or singing. Someone who is good at cooking dinner might try out desserts or baking instead. How about learning piano or guitar? A new sport?

Learning something new helps us feel adventure in life, which is very much a part of feeling healthy and active. When daily work and chores build up, trying something new shakes things up and encourages us to be in better tune with ourselves in many different ways--including our health. It could be that you have a talent you have exercised before, and maybe it'd be fun to take it to a new level in some way.

The adventure of learning something new can be frustrating at first, and even this feeling can contribute to your health. People can find that the frustration they experience in a new activity is one they're dealing with on a larger level too in other parts of life. Tackling the challenge through the new learning experience can jump start changes in other areas of life too. Once you take the first step, you never know where it will lead you.

So, what have you been wanting to learn or try out lately that you haven't had a chance to express yet? Maybe you've thought about it and it's felt a little scary to go for it. As the season shifts slowly from winter toward spring, jump into this challenge anyway and see what happens. Enjoy the new adventure, expressing your talents, and the changes it brings to your life and your health!