When I was younger and stuck in the throes of a destructive lifestyle, I used to justify it with the saying “you only live once”. This was my excuse to behave recklessly, and disregard my mental and physical health. I didn’t see a point in sleep, because it meant missing time I could spend doing more exciting things. Healthy food was of no interest of me, I’d rather eat decadent and unhealthy food daily, because I only had one lifetime to eat all the chocolate, right? I scoffed at the thought of exercise, because there was really no point spending my time doing something I didn’t enjoy.
Well, all this may seem like valid thoughts.
Today, I live a healthy lifestyle. But I’m not forcing myself to do or eat things that I dislike, or am dogmatic about my wellness regime to the point where I miss out on my social activities. I have actually grown to enjoy all of these.
This blogpost is intended to serve you as inspiration for your own version of health. I am merely sharing my personal experiences in the hopes that they will aid you along the way. By no means am I encouraging you to follow in my footsteps. Your past is vastly different from mine, as is your future.
The root of my health – it’s quite simple.
I set about on this journey asking myself which parts of my life actively serve me, and which don’t. I then proceeded to slowly cut out and, more importantly, add in activities and actions, and even relations.
This journey is continuous: what you need may change and evolve. Check back in with yourself time and time again. When you notice something is amiss, pause and ask yourself again: “Is this specific circumstance serving me? Is it evolutionary?” What I mean by that is, will this action, friend, activity; bring you forward on your journey?
If you are truly honest with yourself, you will guide your own way.
Before I delve deeper into my personal exploration of health thus far, I want to dissect what health is. For me, health can be dissected into two main areas: your mental and spiritual health and your physical health. I see health as the means to care for myself, to pay attention to what I need and desire, and to act accordingly. Health is so much more than the absence of disease: it is the means to cope with disease.
Spiritual and mental health
My journey to mental health began once I admitted myself to a psychiatric hospital for six weeks. It marked the first step to actually doing something about the debilitating mental illness I had suffered from for almost a decade.
The real work began when I left the hospital. This is where I first looked at my life and questioned the purpose of every single thing I was doing, and its role in my mental health.
Cutting out the bad…
The first thing I did was stop consuming. Drugs, alcohol, cigarettes – all these were harming me, and suppressing my emotions.
Disclaimer: There’s nothing wrong with any of these, when used responsibly. I did not do that. I self-medicated and abused all of these. If a glass of wine a night gives you a deep sense of joy, by all means: enjoy it fully.
I then learned to say no: to outings where these drugs would inevitably play a huge role, such as clubbing. This process facilitated a purging of my community. Most of these happened without any involvement on my part – it’s funny how you only find out when you quit that some friendships were really little more than a mutual admiration of drink and drugs. This step was one of the hardest to take at first – it can feel quite lonely. But it also kickstarted a search for a new community of people that shared my beliefs and inspired me to grow and thrive. Soon after, I no longer felt hurt about the friendships that had ended. I was able to look back at them with appreciation for the amusement they provided, even if that amusement had a bittersweet taste to it.
I also attempted to cut out destructive thoughts – a task that I commit to daily. Negative self-talk fuels so much ill. Whenever I catch myself judging myself – or others – I stop, and consciously replace it with loving self-talk or a compliment to the person I just judged.
…and adding in the good.
After an intensive purging session, there followed the fun stuff: adding things into my routine.
The relationships I have in my life, now, are filled with mutual love and honesty. Every single person in my life understands that my health is my priority. We learn and inspire each other in our respective journeys. With time, both I and my friends have grown to accept that gatherings with me now entail coffee, or dinner, or stretching in the park. Vastly different from the nights I used to spend drinking and using, I can now speak heart-to-heart without the aid of substances. It naturally progressed in this direction without any force or strain, and generally, my friends now know which kind of outings I am likely to attend.
I also spend my alone time differently: I started a daily meditation practice to become still, I journal to clear my mind, I read spiritual books to learn from the masters. My morning routine helps me start my day right, and I end my day mindfully.
I got to know my mat, and started a daily yoga practice. Yoga has not only healed my mind, but also my body, which leads me to the second section I will discuss in this post.
Since our body directly impacts our mind, I also began at this time to undo years of harming my body.
By stretching and strengthening the nooks and crevices of my body, I do the same to my mind. I explore and release tightness, and embrace newfound power, both on and off the mat.
Exercise became a regular part of my day, and I also tackled my unhealthy diet, cutting out the ugly and introducing food that makes me feel my best.
My physical health is still not perfect: I have asthma, and arthritis caused issues that I will probably have for the rest of my life. But I am learning to respect my body’s wishes by resting when it needs to, but I also suppress my body’s laziness when I know that rest is not the best option. I am thankful for my body and it’s capacity, and I don’t get hung up on imperfections anymore.
Is health worth it?
My healthy lifestyle does not feel like a chore. It fuels my grows and centres me. I enjoy every single aspect of it, and it helps me thrive.
Once you tap into self-care, you too will realise the sheer endless realm of opportunity that it brings about.
Start small. Set your mind on one task first. For instance, decide to meditate, 10 minutes, daily, or choose to replace your breakfast egg muffin with a nutritious green smoothie. Then commit to it, for a year. Don’t be rigid about it, but also give it time to unfold. See where it takes you, ask whether it serves you. Is it evolutionary?
I wish you so much lightness on your journey of exploration.