Could balance be the new way to good health?
OK, I agree. Selling a balanced lifestyle isn’t sexy.
But what is selling – fad diets, extreme exercise programs, social media, - isn’t doing any of us any good health-wise.
We know that to stay healthy we need to be balanced. This is scientifically proven – so we don’t need to question that.
But, we do need to question what we are told, what we read and what we hear. Many preach imbalance as a way to stay healthy. We should either eat no meat (veganism or vegetarianism) or a lot of meat (Paleo Diet) but the middle of the road with some meat doesn’t get as much coverage.
I don’t understand why we now need meatless burgers to look and taste like the meat burgers – when we aren’t supposed to like meat . . . Not to mention everything that goes into these meatless burgers: additives, thickeners, coloring.
Even the famous work-life balance is out the window – it just takes up too much energy to even think about balancing everything.
Let’s hit the “pause” button for a moment.
Where is balance in all of this?
Living in balance with ourselves is our choice and decision to do what is best for our physical make-up, personality, strengths, and preferences. It’s in line with our life's path, our culture, where we live, our income and education levels. Once we have balance in the major areas of our life, we live in peace and serenity.
Balance can't be the same for everyone. We're all different.
And so we need to have a personalized, flexible approach to taking charge of our life. We are free to change our decisions and motivations as our circumstances change. Life is a perpetual change. But, we always need to seek a balance.
Imbalance in one area has a domino effect on other areas. For example, overeating can lead to reduced physical activity. This can produce a negative mind/body effect. And can ultimately lead to obesity – with all of its health problems.
But why do we have imbalances?
There are as many answers to that question as there are people living. Most imbalances stem from some sort of psychological influence, impact or trauma we had in childhood or beyond. We carry baggage that influences how we are today. Once we identify what this is and deal with it, the imbalances tend to disappear or at least to be reduced.
What do we need to balance?
Balance in these basic categories can lead to a healthy and harmonious life.
Nutrition is the most important area to balance because a lot of our problems come from the imbalance of this category. If we have a problem in this area, this could lead to obesity and chronic disease including cardiovascular disease.
Also, we live in times of fad diets and fasting programs. There is no scientific proof that fasting works. And fad diets put too much of a focus on one thing and not the other such as carbs, fats, protein and taking certain dietary supplements over others. We know that taking dietary supplements doesn’t work – except if you have a problem with absorption and lack that nutrient in your body. Otherwise, we should try to get the vitamins we need through food. A balanced diet doesn't have to be plant-based or meat-based. If you need some guidance - diets such as the Mediterranean or DASH Diets include all food groups. Everything in moderation.
Physical activity should be adjusted to your physical capabilities and preferences. But in any case, you should move. Experts tell us that 30 minutes of physical exercise per day has a positive effect on our health and heart. This could be walking, running, yoga, swimming or any other sport.
On the other hand, excessive exercising can be as bad for our health as not doing any physical activity at all. Developing a passion for a sport can mean doing it too much. Problems of inflammation of the joints and sore muscles are common with consequences that could last a lifetime.
People living in the areas of the world called Blue Zones where we can find the highest number of centenarians weren't found to go to the gym or do any specific types of exercise. What researchers did find is that they incorporated physical activity into their everyday chores and work. Some would tend the garden, others walked kilometers to work or lift heavy items. These activities were enough to keep them in shape well into their late years.
So, balance and common sense are best. If you are tired then go for a walk instead of running. Do what you enjoy.
We are social beings. We are happiest when we interact and connect with others. Sharing experiences with friends and family gives a feeling of belonging and commitment. This is important for our psychological well-being. Social media doesn’t fill this requirement.
While we should have a balance of "me time" and social connection - it's clear we need both. Too much time for ourselves can cut us off from others. But too much time socializing may not give us enough time to reflect and enjoy other activities such as reading and listening to music.
"Friends" on social media - so widespread today- seem to only leave us lonely. To experience the positive effects of socializing, people need to meet face-to-face.
When we know that someone is listening, that someone has our back we feel safe. This also lessens the feelings of stress.
Doing good to others gives us a feeling of well-being and happiness. Empathy and compassion make the world go around.
Belonging to a spiritual community where we can share our beliefs about spirituality, values, and ethics gives us a sense of why we are here. What our mission is and what our reason for living is. Studies show that people who don’t have a reason for living are more likely to have poor health or live in depression.
Today, many people have turned away from spirituality for whatever reason. But haven't found anything to replace it. Following this, there has been a rise in people seeing analysts, coaches, and gurus of all sorts. Proof that man is a spiritual being.
But once again, here, there needs to be a balance and definition of what spirituality is for you and the place it has in your life.
Some form of spirituality can be a guide for right behavior and a source to turn to when things go wrong or at times of great emotional stress. It can also give us tools to develop compassion and empathy towards others.
Spirituality can help with forgiveness. When there are strong negative feelings associated with what someone has done - spirituality can help us let go, free us of that weight and allow us to get on with our lives.
Spirituality can be very different from one person to another. For some, it can be a higher being that one can turn to, for others, it can be the beauty found in nature, art, and music.
The takeaway from this is that living in balance and in connection with our true self can bring peace and serenity to us and to this world – where there is so little balance.