How would you like to have less stress in your life? Fancy a dose of better health? Want to remove a bit of the brain fog that pops up every now and again? How about some laser like focus (as opposed to the focus of a pen light strapped to the back of a startled gazelle)? I am sure I do not need to go on. You are getting the picture. However the picture you may not have got in the past is why doing something that looks pretty passive (and un-ACTION-like) is absolutely essential to our happiness, health and well being in this modern age. Not just good for us, but I want to show you why it is ESSENTIAL.
Now if you are more of an auditory person and would rather listen to me explain the science and hypothesis behind this article, I recently recorded an MP3 on this topic, so just CLICK HERE.
For those ready, willing, able and game to read on, let me tell you the reason why.
Physical training and time travel
Before you think I have confused my own topic, just humour me and get ready for a blast from the past. We are going back about 50 years. Before the invention of remote controls, escalators, cheap motor vehicles, touch button washing machines, extensive public transport networks, mega shopping centres, frozen meals, and 24/7 cable TV. Back when people had to physically do stuff to get by. Back when people walked, rode bikes, used ‘stairs’, washed by hand, and had to actively do stuff to amuse themselves. This is what we now call ‘incidental’ exercise. Once upon a time it was just how you lived.
Back in those days you only went to a ‘gym’ if you wanted to ‘bulk up’ (to get big ripped muscles so no-one kicked sand in your face when you were at the beach). I am showing my age, when I remember those adverts from old Archie comics.
However in our modern developed society, because our level of ‘incidental’ exercise is extremely low and in some peoples lives non-existent, we absolutely MUST chisel out part of our days and weeks to go to these new things called gyms or fitness centre’s. They are springing up everywhere to fill a real need. A need for purposeful physical activity. Because now we know without regular physical movement our physical health, mental health, and emotional health all suffer. We also are likely to be become over-weight or obese and suffer the consequences with that.
So…we absolutely MUST do physical activity if we want to show up as the best version of ourselves on planet earth; with happiness, vitality, optimum health and mental clarity
Are you ready for some more time travel?
Once upon a time in a magical kingdom there lived a… Just checking to see if you were paying attention.
Take II. Once upon a time we took leisurely walks (aka strolling), we looked casually out the window as we rode a train, we sat outside at night and looked up at the stars, we got at least 8 hours sleep a night, we had conversations with real people who were right in front of us, we played games outside and life, although not perfect all the time, I think we can agree it was different.
These days we have numerous things competing for our attention, moment to moment to moment. We fill ‘space’ with activity. Whether is it checking emails, scrolling through Facebook, twittering, responding to text messages, or planning how you are going to get through another day at this pace. There are countless advertising messages (billboards, television, internet, radio, emails, etc.) pulling your mental attention in numerous directions. Our brains have never been so over-stimulated and our lives more highly stressed.
Our brains in some ways are like our muscles. If they have no down time, time out, or adequate rest, that grey matter of yours will become fatigued. Given that the brain is the location for central control, when it is fatigued it has a tendency to play havoc on the rest of your body.
The other thing is this over-stimulation effect – which leads to stress – is most often the result of our nervous system going into a fight or flight response. Appropriate response for killer tigers, not good for running late to a meeting. This means we need a way to not only turn off the fight or flight response, but activate the part of our nervous system that does the rejuvenation and regeneration thing (aka the parasympathetic nervous system).
So…as a result of our modern lives and lifestyles we MUST chisel out part of our day to turn off stress, to wind down the over-active nervous system and to allow our body to do the self healing stuff it was designed to perform. The best method science has found that ticks all of these boxes is MEDITATION. It will make you more relaxed, more resilient, more aware of your surroundings, more calm, a better problem-solver, more creative and that is just the mental effects. There are also numerous physical health benefits as well.
MEDITATION or a similar specific practice is a MUST DO in order for you to be a peak performer and a happy, healthy and wise individual.
What should I do?
Here are my recommendations (and teachings for all my coaching clients) and some specific resources I have used myself and recommend:
- Make an intellectual and emotional decision RIGHT NOW that for you to be happy, healthy, wealthy and wise in this modern world, you need to actively schedule mental downtime (and processing time).
- Decide what time of the day (every day) you will ‘show up’ for meditation. I recommend after you wake up and shake yourself out with something like our Energization Exercises.
- Be ok with being a newbie. Don’t expect to be an expert in days or weeks.
- Over the next 30-days get in the habit of ‘showing up’ every day.
- Start small (1-2 minutes) and build on that (aim for 12-15 minutes per day).
- Start with breathing exercises. Eyes closed. Breathe in to the count of 4 and out to the count of 6 and then repeat.
- Know and accept you will have thoughts running through your head. It also happens to the meditator who has been at it daily for 5 years. The idea is to observe, rather than pursue your thoughts. You are doing good for yourself by just showing up.
- Check out Blissitations for specific and GREAT resources.
- Check out a local meditation class for pointers, support and guidance.
- Be persistent, consistent and kind to yourself as you develop your practice.
- If you fall off the wagon, get back on it.
- Listen to my Strategic Happiness Podcast (MP3 recording) for extra stimulation.
And finally; feel free to post a comment below, or ask a question if you are unsure about anything. There is no silly question, apart from the one you don’t ask. 😉
In the 30-Day Happiness Challenge and The Guidebook to Happiness, physical activity and meditation are considered two of the GREATEST practices we can do to optimize our happiness and health.