What is needed to live a balanced, healthy life? In this fast-paced world in which we live, is such a thing even possible to achieve on a consistent basis? A life where you wake in the morning feeling energised, with a clear mind. You feel motivated and inspired. A life where you feel truly connected with that deepest part of yourself. What is the secret to living a balanced, healthy life?
I do believe it is possible to live a balanced and healthy life. But it needs to be lifestyle choice, a promise to yourself to put your needs and wellness first. It’s self-care, and that’s not always easy. Very often as women we put ourselves and our needs at the bottom of the list.
BUT let me just remind you of something VERY IMPORTANT!
The relationship you have with yourself is the most important relationship you will ever have. It’s the longest relationship you will ever have.
Yet it’s often the relationship we neglect the most.
I believe there are five pillars to wellness. And when these five pillars are working in harmony together you will benefit, physically, mentally, and emotionally. And you will experience all those wonderful things I mentioned above.
What are the 5 pillars of wellness?
We are all different, and this mix of pillars will work in their own unique way for you.
It won’t be too much of a surprise to see diet, exercise, and rest at the top of the list. But there are also your mental and connection needs that are often ignored or not treated as equally in importance.
I hope by continuing reading you will see how taking care of your mental and social needs are just as important as what you choose to eat, how you exercise and the amount of rest you get.
My journey along this path to wellness could be considered quite extreme. I’ve made some rather big changes in my life to prioritise my wellbeing. Changes that included walking away from my career and choosing to live a much simpler life. You can read about my personal journey to wellness here… But they are decisions I have benefited immensely and would never go back on.
When I began the path of practising and teaching Yoga, I fell in love with Ayurveda. (the sister science of Yoga). Especially the Ayurvedic approach to food and diet. It is a system that teachers us the importance of managing and adjusting diet and lifestyle according to the season. So that you remain focused, grounded, and balanced.
The secret to a healthy balanced life
Our bodies have a biological clock that corresponds with sunrise and sunset. Ayurveda says we should adjust our food intake accordingly. The sun is at its highest at midday and therefore, this is the time when the digestive system, the abdominal fire is strongest. This is the time when the main meal of the day should be eaten.
In the evening as the sun is setting, so is your body’s ability to digest food quickly. This means your evening meal should be lighter and easy to digest.
To help ease into a deep, restful sleep eat at least two hours before bed to give the digestive system time to rest.
Eating Fresh and local
Globalisation means we can now access food and ingredients that in the past would not be available to us. We can also access a variety of fruits and vegetables whether they are in season or not. Whilst as a consumer it gives us more choice, but think for a moment about the process, the food chain and footprint of bringing these products to shelves.
We always encourage and promote the benefits of following a plant-based diet for both ethical and environmental reasons. But it’s not for everyone. The important thing is to try to eat food that is locally sourced. Eating fresh food and vegetables that are in season Eating in rhythm with nature really is the best way. But we also recognise that this is not for everyone.
Avoid processed food
One of the biggest enemies to a healthy diet is the growth of convenience and highly processed foods. We are living in a time-poor society. But this shouldn’t mean we compromise on our health. Processed foods are not so good when you see the ingredient list! Any food that has ingredients you can’t pronounce is not going to be good for you.
What is important it is to find a balance. That your plate of food contains predominantly fresh vegetables, balanced with grains, pulses, and good fats. Living in Spain, we are so lucky with the abundance of delicious local produce available to us.
Regular exercise is necessary to living a healthy life. The statistics say that we sit for approximately 6 hours a day. However, this number is much higher for anyone works at a desk, or in front of a computer. Not only does prolong periods of sitting impact on your posture, but it also affects the functionality of your digestive system. And is linked to obesity and high blood pressure.
The NHS guidelines for exercise for adults suggest, that you should get on average 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise each week to support your physical and mental wellbeing. When you spread this over a seven-day period that equates to 20 minutes a day Which really isn’t very much.
Whatever form of exercise you do, it really should be something that you enjoy. A walk with friends, attending a yoga class each week. Find something that enhances your life rather than adds more stress.
As a Yoga and meditation teacher, I would always recommend attending a regular yoga class! It really is the most incredible tool to support you physically but also your mental wellbeing.
Taking care of your mental wellbeing
Mindfulness and Mind management is something we hear a lot about. The best way to explain this is it´s about being more present and aware. Being aware about how you feel, your thoughts, how you engage in your environment. And you learn a whole lot about yourself!
You are not your thoughts
The mind is a very powerful tool. We are all guilty of overthinking! But It’s overthinking and worrying that can contribute to stress, anxiety, and insomnia. Meditation and mindfulness practices are proven to be excellent tools for managing these very problematic symptoms of modern life.
Observation of thoughts is something the Buddhists and Yogi masters have been practising for centuries. Through mindfulness and meditation techniques, we learn to observe or witness our thoughts and emotions.
When you practise these techniques regularly, you start to notice that most of your thoughts are patterns on repeat. Your mind is either caught up in the past or worrying about what may or may not occur in the future.
Meditation and mindfulness practices bring you into the present. Which is exactly where you should be!
I would encourage everyone to incorporate mindfulness techniques and a meditation practice into their daily life so that you can develop the ability to be more present.
There are very simple techniques you can adopt every day.
Taking a shower – instead of thinking about all the tasks you must do that day – when you have your morning shower, be present to the touch of water against your body. Notice how it feels.
How do you normally eat a meal? Are you engaged with your phone; do you eat with the television on? Do you eat quickly, or do you savour every mouthful?
Next time you are out walking. Be present to your environment. To all the different sounds, smells, textures, and colours around you.
Do you regularly wake up in the morning feeling tired? The experts say adults require between six-nine hours solid sleep per night. But with our modern lifestyles we’re not getting the rest our body and mind needs to rejuvenate.
I’m the first to put my hand up and admit I easily get drawn into technology before I sleep.
I’m sure I’m not alone to working late in the evening or watching too much Netflix! Regular sleep is essential for healthy wellbeing and for ensuring your mind is well rested.
When you sleep your immune system releases small inflammation fighting proteins called cytokines, your sympathetic nervous system rests, that means the stress hormone, cortisol is reduced.
When I haven’t slept very well, I turn to my secret weapon! The wonderful relaxing and restorative practice of Yoga Nidra. It’s a tool that will help you feel calm, relaxed, and emotionally balanced. I’m not joking!
If you would like to try this practice, click on the link I have a 20-minute practice for you that I have recorded.
Community, Connection and Spirituality
,For me spirituality is about connection and belief and finding your inner peace. Discovering your true essence and being comfortable and accepting who you are. Being kind and compassionate to yourself and others. It’s about living consciously.
Spirituality is not a single path or belief. My choice is to follow and live a Yogic lifestyle that has enabled me to live a more balanced life alongside nature.
Many people talk about feeling connection with self and nature through outdoor sports like running, swimming, or walking.
Community is what binds us together and can come in any form. It is the social connection with like-minded people that makes us thrive. A joining together of people who inspire and support each other. In Yoga we call this Sangha. Sangha is a Sanskrit word that means ‘association’ or assembly.
It doesn’t have to be a spiritual or religious community. It’s about association or finding your tribe, your soul family. These words explain this beautifully.
“Soul family are those that gather around you in life, not connected by blood or race but by energy and essence. They bring unconditional love and support at the perfect times and understand and share the same mission and purpose. For you, I am grateful we are one.”
How lucky are we to have the Costa Women group? To be supported with other like-minded women.
Without bursting this vision bubble of perfection!
Life does have a habit of getting in the way. You will reach for the wrong foods, have a series of late nights, wake up feeling tired and unmotivated and skip any form of exercise for a while.
But that’s ok.
The important thing is not to judge yourself. Show yourself kindness and compassion. Compassion is not something we only offer to other people. Any form or compassion, kindness and love must start with yourself.
What is the Secret to a healthy balanced life was written by Karen Mallinson the co-founder of Grassroots Yoga and Meditation, based in Catalonia, Spain