Domains of Wellness Series – Restoration

So, by now you know that JansenFit Coaching is built around Body health, Mind health and Spirit Health, each being essential to Wellness. That’s essential, as in not optional. Much as our physical & mental health can be described along a continuum from say, very unhealthy to very healthy, so too, can our spiritual condition. Most of us understand the consequences of letting our physical or mental health go untended, but are we equally cognizant of the detrimental consequences of leaving spirit untended? Not caring for spirit health does not make it inconsequential, but it does make it weak, and with an ailing spirit, the chances of maintaining body and mind health are seriously diminished.

Spirit doesn’t go away when you ignore it. Spirit cries out for help – through body and mind sabotaging behaviors – poor eating, exercise and sleeping choices, avoidance, addictive behaviors, and depression. Yeah, you know what I mean. A weak spirit is powerless to make healthy choices.  A weak spirit defaults to victim mode, rendering it powerless to make loving choices – towards self and others. The result: depression, overweight/obesity, addiction and illness.

What is Spirit Health?

If body and mind health mean having physical and mental wherewithal, respectively, what is the unique role played by spiritual health? For me, it means holding in deep reverence, the overarching purpose that makes it all worth doing. It is one’s higher purpose and motivation, the knowing of one’s ultimate source – of energy, strength, connection, peace and values. The body (& brain) and its physiological systems are the mechanisms through which we express our purpose, accomplish our tasks, think, reason, create and relate to each other; spirit health is the key to motivating all behaviors, which makes it essential to body and mind health as well.

Photo by Cris Sauer, Unsplash

Rules of Rest

When I was young, it seemed like I could fall asleep anywhere. Not so anymore. Most people need seven to eight hours of sleep per day and should plan their schedules accordingly. Falling asleep is facilitated by an environment that is dark, quiet and cool. Staying asleep through the night is more difficult as we age. It helps if your body is not digesting food, so avoiding food for the two hours before bedtime can make your sleep deeper and longer lasting. Alcohol may help you fall asleep, but believe it or not, alcohol is a stimulant and will wake you after only a couple of hours, so keep your alcohol consumption to a minimum or avoid it entirely for the best sleep.

Keep the electronics out of the bedroom. That goes for TV and phone. Should a notification come in on your phone – a sound or even a light – to wake you, the temptation to tend to the message is difficult to resist and makes falling asleep again that much harder. And really, what is not better left until morning, when you are well-rested and clear-headed? Keep the phone on charge – in the kitchen.

If you exercise regularly, and I hope you do, be sure to give your body the chance to restore itself between bouts. Don’t overdo it. For some of us, it’s difficult accept the lesser capacity for vigorous exercise that comes with age, and we pay the price when we don’t listen to our bodies. When you are fatigued, cool down and rest. Don’t take it to exhaustion. If you feel a cold coming on, let your body focus on fighting that onslaught – don’t add vigorous exercise to the mix. That said, remember that it’s a balance, so don’t mistake lethargy that comes from sedentary behavior for actual fatigue. If you haven’t been moving and you feel tired, get up and move!

Meditation and Prayer

This is the big one. This is the time we spend alone, restoring and strengthening our connection with the source of our energy, our love, our dreams, our motivation and our most deeply held values. We know when Spirit is not well; we feel tired, hopeless, lonely, depressed, directionless and even desperate. What could be more important than tending to Spirit? Spirit time needn’t be elaborate or ritualistic. It need only be sacred. By sacred I mean time reserved and honored every single day for quiet meditation or prayer in whatever form works for you.

Mindfulness is both a form of meditation and a goal of most meditative practices. Mindfulness is to be conscious and accepting of all that is in the present moment. To be mindful is to be conscious of our consciousness; it is to be an observer of our thoughts and emotions, our words and our actions. It is to allow one’s experience to be just as it is, right now, pleasant and unpleasant, without clinging to the former or rejecting the latter. It is mindfulness that gives us the ability to choose kindness over ambivalence, love over fear, joy over suffering. Mindfulness doesn’t make sorrow disappear, but while pain may be inevitable, in mindfulness, suffering is optional (Murakami, 2008).

The number one reason people give me for not meditating is “I just can’t quiet my mind. Some people can do it, but not me.” The fact is, no one can. What students of meditative practice learn over time, is to observe and accept, without judgment, the endless activity of the brain. And it is through this practice of observation and acceptance that we transcend our brain activity, enabling consciousness and choice to replace unconscious, knee-jerk reactions to things, people, situations and thoughts.
Meditation has been shown to contribute directly to improvements in physiological health. It improves concentration, lessens mind-wandering, and improves working memory. It slows the usual shrinkage of our brain as we age. It increases “good” biomarkers (anti-oxidant capacity and β-endorphins) and reduces “bad” (oxidative stress markers). For more information on the direct benefits of meditation, I recommend Altered Traits: Science Reveals how Meditation Changes Your Mind, Brain, and Body by Daniel Goleman and Richard J. Davidson. (Davidson, 2017)

The number one reason people give me for not meditating is “I just can’t quiet my mind. Some people can do it, but not me.” The fact is, no one can. What students of meditative practice learn over time, is to observe and accept, without judgment, the endless activity of the brain. And it is through this practice of observation and acceptance that we transcend our brain activity, enabling consciousness and choice to replace unconscious, knee-jerk reactions to things, people, situations and thoughts.

Meditation takes any number of forms. For some people, it is combined with prayer and part of a religious belief system. For others, it is secular, unrelated to any religion or specific higher power. Its form is whatever brings you the peace, serenity, and quiet restoration that, practiced every morning before turning to the stress of the day, creates an awareness of choice, and mindful consciousness throughout the day. It is the restoration that allows the world to receive you that day, as the gift from God that you truly are.

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