Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Live in the sunshine, drink the wild air. -Emerson
I'm a health nut. Not so I can feel good about myself and smirk silently at all those fast-food addicts, late/insomniac sleepers, yo-yo dieters, morning sinus sufferers (okay, maybe a little bit so I can feel good about myself).
Mostly, it's because my body treats me so much better when I treat it well. When I've had a nutritious lunch, it doesn't give me that midday OMG-what-the-heck-am-I-doing-working/studying-get-me-into-a-bed-NOW slump. When I regularly wake up at a consistent time, my body allows me to fall asleep at a consistent time (or maybe that should be vice versa) and I don't look hungover the next day. When I don't overeat but allow myself regular indulgences to keep from binging, I find myself stressing less every time I step on the scales. If I forget my daily dose of cod liver oil, I'll be stuck talking like Donald Duck and going through packs of tissues to deal with my sinuses the rest of the day.
So it's not about being anal or obsessive - it's simply because my body works a certain way, and is governed by certain rules of science and biology, and when I follow those rules, I spare myself a lot of unnecessary discomfort and inconvenience.
Emotional junk food
I take measures to take care of my physical health because I notice and experience direct cause-effect relationships when I do or don't do so. But I hardly so much as stop to think about the same when it comes to my emotional health.
I mean, isn't it more or less the same thing? Just like fast- food, the thoughts and experiences that are tasty, attractive, easily accessible everywhere, and well-marketed and slickly packaged makes us feel good while we're consuming it... but too much of it after awhile... you're smart enough to figure out the rest.
The more I thought about it, the more I'm convinced so many of the same rules apply to our emotional health. Like rest. If we take regular breaks to just rest and recharge our souls, won't we keep from burning out emotionally? Yo-yo dieting, emotionally, is like getting hyped up over inspirational talks or conferences that fire up our emotions but, unsustained, they come crashing down the moment we hit a dull or rough patch.
And just like cod liver oil, taking small, consistent doses of stuff we know is good for us - be it five deep breaths, 30 minutes of exercise, hugging someone you love, or sitting down to a home cooked meal - keeps us from discomforts like stress, tiredness, and loneliness.
For me, it's always simple when it comes to physical health. Avoid the stuff that's not good for me (occasional indulgences allowed because I'm not a robot - as a wise man put it, "losing balance... is part of living a balanced life") and load up on the stuff that is. Why is it not so simple when it comes to my emotional health?
For years, I've stuffed myself with fast-food experiences, entertained people and thoughts that left me emotionally drained, and gotten hyped up about one new passion after another... all of which, I reasoned, was in the name of 'life experiences', which was part and parcel of being a writer. All the people I let in that I shouldn't have, I made excuses for and told myself they were part of 'field experience'.
I sometimes look at friends who take their youth for granted and are willing to put up with sniffly noses, eye bags, and fluctuating weight because they either don't believe taking care of their bodies will make any difference or they are too lazy or too busy to make the effort to do so. And I think to myself they're missing out on so much - a tissueless, alert, and energized life.
You don't know what you're missing till you try it
Today I thought to myself - what have I been missing out emotionally? All those emotions spent on wishing I was someone else, in some other family, in some other circumstance, all the energy wasted on people who didn't deserve it, all the time frittered away on passions I was sure that "this time" I'd sustain, all the effort poured into "getting ahead", from getting out of the house to getting out of college to getting into uni just so I'd be faster than all my peers, all the daydreams of the future because "surely things can only get better from this lousy place I'm at", all the "flab" of insecurity I allowed to build up because I wasn't pretty enough, tall enough, popular enough, or whatever lame thing enough... what on earth had I been missing out on?
These last few days, I've stayed at home, working on pet projects I enjoy, including designing a magazine, attempting to teach myself French, and studying the PADI Diver Manual for a test this Friday, ate dinners with my family, turned down multiple social invitations that I'd have only accepted out of obligation, and spent lots of time with my brother. It's been an ordinary, boring few days. But just like popping supplements or getting a good night's sleep, taking care of emotional health can seem boring on the surface too. Hardly as exciting as being heartbroken or being embroiled in a bitter argument.
But these few days have felt so good. I've noticed as people grow older, spontaneous and genuine laughter becomes more and more rare, but in the past couple days, I've smiled much and laughed much. I've gone to sleep in peaceful acceptance of the fact that I've entered a new season of life, instead of soaking my pillow in tears like I did a week back that things were so different, the friends that had become my family in the UK were so far away, and I needed to readjust all over again. I've closed my Gmail window earlier in the day and left time to actually think (the last few posts are testament to that :P).
At any given point in time, I'm usually wishing I could turn back time or speed it up but this past week I've been happy to take each moment as it comes.
Just like people who've never bothered taking care of their bodies, they don't know what they're missing out on until they try it. Likewise, I never realized how much I was missing out on by always revolving my life around my work, studies, or some boy or another. For the entire last month, my life hasn't revolved around any of the above - a state I have not been in for years. And damn, how much I've been missing out on.