Adapted from workshop with Natalia Correa and Jackie Mundrawala
The global pause we are experiencing comes with uncertainty, but with that uncertainty, also comes the opportunity to explore new ways to cultivate habits that bring more joy and improve overall well-being. For many of us, recreating habits that support our mental, emotional and physical health can be challenging. How can you incorporate exercise and movement when all the gyms are closed and the time outdoors is restricted? How can we satisfy ourselves mentally and emotionally so that we don’t binge eat all our snacks in one day?
We invited health coaches Natalia and Jackie, to share their favorite tips on keeping healthy and thriving through this pandemic.
While our Body, Mind and Spirit may seem to be three separate parts in us, they are each intimately connected and reliant upon one another.
Every part of the body tells us what is going on within us on a deeper level. Everything begins with a thought, which comes from the mind or mental body, and is reflected back to us through the physical body and in the way we live our life. When our minds are clear and happy, we automatically choose what is best for us on all levels—mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually.
The physical body breaks down for many different reasons beyond lack of sleep or poor nutrition. It can break down as a result of negative thoughts, false beliefs, and too little or too much emotion. It can run out of energy, and it can stop working if it doesn’t get enough oxygen. Take the current pandemic situation for example. The thought of living in quarantine and not having enough resources may create an emotion, fear, which then creates a sentiment in the body, like a hole in the stomach or a pressure in the chest, or not being able to sleep at night. This shows how much impact the mind has on the body, and the body on the spirit.
The opposite is also true. There is a huge impact from everything that we consume. Everything that we eat has an impact not just on our body, but also on our minds and our emotions too. So it’s really important to treat the body as a whole instead of as separate parts. Taking care of our bodies is our responsibility. The choices we make in our everyday life will result in well-being or dis-ease.
Many health experts believe that the first step of healthy living is to take care of our physical well-being. While a lot of people are finding it hard to keep to a diet and an exercise routine, there are ways to keep your physical body healthy without a rigid system in place. In fact, you may even find that it’s easier to take care of your body if you learn to work with what your body needs.
Many people are confronting and experiencing emotional eating, especially during a time when there is a lot of uncertainty and fear. To overcome that, we invite you to start by ditching the diet mentality. We start eating emotionally when we create restrictions on the food that we eat. If we limit the amount of things we eat and we start feeling trapped, our mind will tend to crave the things that we said we wouldn’t eat. Having a balanced diet is more about focusing on giving ourselves permission to enjoy a variety of food, then make a priority on the foods that are dense in nutrients and will help our bodies.
A balanced plate should consist of a portion of fruits and vegetables, a portion of whole grains, and a portion of protein. If we eat too many of one type of food, our body gets out of balance, and we start to crave more of these foods. Try to keep the balance between different groups of foods, without creating a restriction where we may start eating emotionally.
More than that, maintaining a balanced meal calls for us to cultivate other areas in our life that can have a major impact on our food choices. This means not only taking care of what’s on our plate, but also taking care of our relationships, physical activities, spirituality and career.
Tip: Experiment with new recipes that can help create foods that we crave but with nutrient dense ingredients. Try out some #MeatlessMay recipes!
We all know the benefits of exercise, but the problem that people have with sticking to an exercise routine is that a lot of us try to do activities that we do not really enjoy. So instead of making us happy, physical activity just becomes more of a chore.
But there are so many ways of moving our bodies. We can stick to a rigid routine, or use one of many other ways of moving our bodies: yoga, pilates, stretching, even going for a walk. At the end of the day, the whole point is to move our bodies not only to help our physical bodies but to regulate our emotional selves and give us mental clarity.
Join us for Yoga Mondays with Heather Bell, every Monday at 7.30pm
Live workouts from Remi Ishizuka every day at 11am
When we are in quarantine, we may lose our usual routines. As we’re sitting in front of our computers at home all day, we may find ourselves forgetting to drink water. Regardless of the situation outside, it is important for us to stay hydrated. In fact, a lot of times when we think we’re craving food, we may actually just be dehydrated.
In general, the recommended amount of water that we should aim to consume is 2-3 liters, or about half a gallon of water per day, but it depends on your age, the weather, and your level of physical activity. Set up alarms to remind yourself to drink water throughout the day.
Tip: Download these fun apps on your phone to help remind yourself to stay hydrated!
We’re all struggling with sleep due to the lack of routine in our lives. Many of us are going through a phase where we’re going to sleep super late and wake up super late, and we feel like we’re not being productive. It creates a vicious cycle, and this can adversely affect our physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing. While it’s important to get enough restoration that your body needs, it’s also helpful to understand the sleep schedule that works best for us. Not everyone is a morning person, and that’s ok.
According to Dr. Michael Breus, not everyone’s biological clock keeps the same time or even at the same pace. Just as some people are more productive in the morning, there are others that may naturally be more productive at night. Everyone’s body is programmed to function better at certain times than others, and based on our biological clock preferences, we fall into different classifications, called “Chronotypes”. We can use our chronotype classifications to understand ourselves better, making it easier for us to work with, and not against our bodies’ natural preferences.
Find out your chronotype.
Many times, when people talk about healthy living, they focus only on the physical aspects: endless smoothies, juice cleanses, rigid exercise regimes. Yet, they still find themselves unhappy, despite keeping their physical bodies in tip-top shape. As we stay under quarantine, it is especially important to keep our minds in the right place.
Learning a new skill or picking up a new hobby can help keep our mind active, which is arguably even more needed during a quarantine. Even as we age, as long as we’re learning something new, we can stimulate and change our brain’s activity in significant ways. Novel experiences induce dopamine release in the hippocampus, which makes learning both exciting and alluring. Scientists also believe that learning new things may help prevent Alzheimer’s and dementia. On the other hand, boredom and lack of mental stimulation can be dangerous to health, triggering substance addiction, and even higher likelihood of death.
Tip: Access free online courses through Coursera and Harvard
As the famous saying goes, reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body. And recent research suggests that reading books and writing at any age may help to preserve memory. According to Dr. Robert S. Wilson at the Rush University Medical Center, “exercising your brain by taking part in activities such as [reading and writing] across a person’s lifetime, from childhood through old age, is important for brain health in old age.”
Instead of constantly scrolling through social media or reading another discouraging news article about COVID-19, this is the perfect time to pick up and engage in a good book to take your mind off the current crisis.
Tip: You can borrow e-books from the Chicago Public Library for free. You can apply for an eCard to gain access to digital items.
KEEP A JOURNAL
As we experience new challenges during this global crisis, a lot of thoughts may be constantly going through our minds. Journaling is a good way to get your thoughts organized and gain perspective. If you have an emotional response to an event or a piece of news, write it down. This can help you create mental space and give you clarity into why you’re feeling certain emotions, so that you can process any negativity and turn that around.
Tip: Try out morning pages, a form of longhand, stream of consciousness writing, done first thing in the morning. These can be about anything and everything that crosses your mind, designed to give you some insight into your subconsciousness.
The last part of the body-mind-spirit connection is a more ethereal concept, though some may argue is most important in shaping our emotional well-being. Taking care of our spirit can help us better connect with and take charge of our emotions.
We can think of our body as having two distinct states: the sympathetic nervous system, which triggers a fight or flight response, and the parasympathetic nervous system, which controls our rest and digest response. We saw how our fight or flight response is activated during a crisis like the current pandemic. When we feel frightened, anxious, or tense, our breathing speeds up and becomes shallower. Conversely, when we feel calm and safe, our breathing slows and deepens.
Just as our emotions can trigger these nervous system responses, we can bring our spirits back into balance and reduce anxiety and stress by engaging in deep breathing exercises. Proper breath work can thus help us relax and get into a rested state.
Tip: Watch this video and follow its guided breathwork technique
Meditation is a tool that can offer clarity into your emotions, help calm the mind, and allow you to concentrate, so that you can be better equipped to handle any challenges that come your way. Many studies have proven the various health benefits of meditation and mindfulness, and it has become increasingly popular over the years.
It is important to remember, however, that meditation is a habitual process of training your mind to focus. Proper meditation techniques come with ample practice. Without practice, your mind tends to wander off when you try to keep it quiet. When you first start doing meditation, it may be short, but with practice and intention, meditation can help to relieve stress and give you clarity and understanding of your self.
For those that have never meditated, a good place to start is a guided meditation. For an introduction to meditation through drinking tea, read our blog post here.
Join our biweekly virtual guided meditation and lecture series with Dr. Chee Hong Young, who will explain the principles of meditation and lead us through meditation techniques each session
There are many free meditation courses available currently, such as Oprah and Deepak’s 21 Day Meditation Experience
Explore tapping meditation
About the Speakers
Natalia Correa and Jackie Mundrawala are health coach students at the Institute of Integrative Nutrition, whose perspective is to treat the body as a whole system that works together. Jackie also takes Ayurveda classes at the Shakti School. Natalia and Jackie are committed to helping others reach their health and wellness goals by bringing their body, mind and soul into balance. Follow them on Instagram @nutrientdensenatalia and @essenceofdharma