How would you define the term balanced living? For some people, it may mean that all the necessary “pieces” of their life are in place. Perhaps they are healthy and live with minimal stress, worry, or sadness. Perhaps they have mastered the art of mindful eating and that has positively impacted other areas of their lives. While there is no concrete definition for balanced living, studies have shown that life satisfaction is directly linked to well-being and can be assessed through health, economic, marital, personal, family, social, and job satisfaction. In turn, life satisfaction may motivate people to pursue and reach their goals.
Why is it important to strive for a balanced life? The costs associated with reduced quality of life and well-being can be high. When quality of life and well-being are absent, stress is likely to manifest and remain present for quite some time. Untreated chronic stress can lead to inflammation and a number of health-related conditions. In addition, stress can exacerbate many common illnesses, such as heart disease, cancer, obesity, diabetes, and autoimmune diseases. It is estimated that as many as 75-90% of all doctor’s office visits are for stress-related ailments and complaints, adding up to an annual bill of more than $300 billion. Our intentions are valid, and we strive each day to improve our physical and mental health. But the reality is…life is hard! Some things we can control, some things we cannot.
There are a variety of techniques that can be implemented to reduce stress and improve quality of life. I have chosen to incorporate these three practices into my life:
These practices have given me a solid foundation with long term benefits, and each practice contributes to health in a unique way. Mindfulness and meditation help us recognize stressful or negative thoughts and redirect attention to awareness of the present moment. Yoga is a physical practice, a moving meditation of various asanas (postures) that give the body strength, flexibility, balance and peace. The connection of breath and movement creates calmness and may stimulate palliative effects, such as enhanced mental equilibrium and reduced blood pressure. Optimal whole foods, plant-based nutrition counteracts the negative effects of chronic stress through the increased intake of antioxidant-rich, nutrient-dense, foods.
Some final thoughts on incorporating mindful dietary practices into your life are best summed up by Vietnamese Zen Master, Thich Nhat Hanh: “Using mindfulness to look deeply at what you eat can make it much easier to make such changes, because you realize the benefits they can bring to the planet and yourself-lower weight, lower risk of colon cancer and heart disease, more energy for doing the things you enjoy”.
This summer find some time to slow down and practice being mindful in everything you do. Take a moment to look at a beautiful sunset, get lost in nature, run through a field of flowers, or look up at a night sky full of stars. Each day remember to be grateful for your health and always be kind to yourself.
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