Why Study This Mantra...You will tune your attention to your health and build habits for its improvement.
It's said that if you don't have your health, you have nothing. But this is about more than just acknowledging the importance of health; it's about developing persistent habits that will lead to a lifetime of ongoing improvement.
This month you will focus on where your health is relative to where you feel it should be. You'll develop a health action plan for closing the gap. You'll learn to embrace healthful habits as a joyful part of your life experience.
Whether you consider yourself a novice or an expert on this topic, you will find that a month of dedicated focus will improve your overall well-being. If you are new to this, make a commitment to yourself at the beginning of the month to give your full attention to the daily practices. If you’re more advanced, don’t be afraid to push yourself beyond the minimums outlined in the program.
Today's affirmation: "Firstly, I value my health."
As I put on this mantra this morning, I will stop and think about how I will achieve my new exercise from my Health and Inventory Action Plan today.
If my action plan calls for me to improve my physical health, I will perform or decide how I will perform those exercises. If I have prioritized mental health first, I will instead pull from those exercises. And so on.
Each night as I remove my mantra, I will open my journal and take less than 1 minute to log my progress.
Make a Health Inventory and Action Plan
Sit down this month and take an inventory of your health. Use your journal to guide you through this. Consider your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health. Give yourself a score from 1-10 on each of both where you WANT to be and where you ARE. Be honest with yourself. This is just for you.
Now look at where your scores are lower than where you'd like them to be, and come up with some ways you would like to improve. For example, if you decide you would like to focus on physical health, then jot down physical exercises you would like to incorporate into your life. If you're struggling to come up with exercises, you can use the below section, Exercise Brainstorm Helper.
Next, prioritize those methods by how much they'll move the needle (moves them up) and how difficult they are (moves them down). Now you have a prioritized list of things you'd like to do to improve your health! You'll use this list for the rest of the month as your daily practice.
Being healthy isn't a sprint; it's a marathon. Plan out these actions on your favorite life planner (your calendar or reminder app on your phone, for example). It should take you months (or maybe years) to incorporate the entire list into your life. Don't be overly ambitious or you'll burn yourself out and give up. Introduce each item slowly, try stepping into each gradually, only when the previous has become muscle memory.
Reflecting on Health
As I remove my mantra tonight, I will take 1-2 minutes to incorporate the elements from my Life Calibration Assessment and my Health Inventory and Action Plan to reflect on how I feel having spent at least 10-15 minutes exercising.
I feel satisfaction that today I'm a little stronger than I was yesterday, and I am confident that tomorrow I'll perform my daily practice and will be a little stronger than today.
Each night this month, I will choose one of these metrics which I rated low to focus on. I will meditate on it. I will ask myself what's getting in my way of having a higher score on that metric. I will ask myself what I can do to overcome that hurdle.
Are you struggling to come up with exercises for improvement? Hopefully this section helps.
There is endless resources and a million websites that already exist that can help you find physical exercises that are right for you and your body, so we won't try to reinvent the wheel here.
All we'll add is that it's worth discovering which physical exercise is right for you. Don't think that you're not "healthy" unless you're lifting 250 lb weights or running 3 miles a day or eating kale for lunch every day.
When it comes to exercise, Department of Health and Human Services recommends 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity a week, or a combination of moderate and vigorous activity, and strength training exercises for all major muscle groups at least two times a week. What's more, this can be done in a few longer sessions or several shorter ones. What's most important is making regular physical activity part of your lifestyle.
If you're far from those targets, our advice is to step into it. Don't try to go all the way to the goal in week one. Try carving out time to do just 5 minutes, or a few short exercises – whatever works! Then once that becomes habit, continue to work your way up!
If you need some support, you could try an app like meetup.com. There, you can find others who also wish to exercise the same way as you!
There are a ton of great ways you could exercise your brain. We'll mention a few here, but this list is by no means exhaustive.
- Have fun with a jigsaw puzzle
- Try taking regular naps
- Play card games... or other games like suduko, crosswords, or other games that rely on logic, word skills, or math.
- Dancing (Yep, you read that right. Learning new dance moves can increase your brain’s processing speed and memory.)
- Learn a new skill... or teach one to someone else
- Listen to or play music
- Learn a new language
- Take up tai chi
- Shake it up! Shaking it up is a great way to challenge your brain. For example, try writing with your non-dominant hand.
- Tell good stories
If you like the idea of playing brain games on your mobile device, check out verywellmind's article on the topic for some ideas.
First, we want to share a nice article that Inc. Magazine put out in 2018.
In this article, they'll suggest replacing BLUE thoughts with true thoughts, "changing the channel," arguing the opposite, expressing gratitude, practicing mindfulness, asking yourself what you'd say to a trusted friend, and embracing a little self-doubt.
Further, you can work to sharpen your emotional skills and gain better control over your emotions by:
- Take an emotional intelligence test
- Reflect on, acknowledge, and label your emotions: Labeling how you feel can take a lot of the sting out of the emotion. It can also help you take careful note of how those feelings are likely to affect your decisions.Keep in mind that anger sometimes masks emotions that feel vulnerable – like shame or embarrassment. So pay close attention to what's really going on inside of you.
- Reframe your thoughts: Consider the emotional filter you're looking at the world through. Then, reframe your thoughts to develop a more realistic view. If you catch yourself thinking, "This networking event is going to be a complete waste of time. No one is going to talk to me and I'm going to look like an idiot," remind yourself, "It's up to me to get something out of the event. I'll introduce myself to new people and show interest in learning about them." Sometimes, the easiest way to gain a different perspective is to take a step back and ask yourself, "What would I say to a friend who had this problem?" That said, you shouldn't feel your emotions are "wrong." They're feedback to your perception of your current reality. By acknowledging you are not your thoughts, feelings and emotions, you become open to receiving the feedback and learning from them instead of reacting to them. Give yourself permission to your emotions fully.
- Engage in a mood booster: Sometimes, you have to take positive action if you want to feel better. Think of the things you do when you feel happy. Do those things when you're in a bad mood and you'll start to feel better. Examples include:
- Call a friend to talk about something pleasant (not to continue complaining)
- Go for a walk
- Meditate for a few minutes
- Listen to uplifting music
- Try some of these methods for those hard conversations with others
- Ask others for perspective
- When criticized, don’t take offense. Instead, ask: What can I learn?
- Act like a fog! Imagine you are a fog. When someone throws a stone at you, you absorb that stone without throwing the stone back. This is a very easy and effective technique to use against people who keep criticizing you repeatedly.
- Schedule check-ins with yourself multiple times a day: If you step on a LEGO, you get angry at the same time the pain shoots up your foot. When you watch the craziness on the news, you get anxious. Those thoughts and emotions are going to come to you before your rational brain has a chance to keep up. At least two or three times per day, take a minute to check-in with yourself and figure out what you are focusing on. Follow that focus and see what the emotions are bringing up.
- If you're looking for exercises around anger management, check out Healthline's article, Anger Management Exercises to Help You Stay Calm, which offers the options learn to breathe, progressive muscle relaxation, visualize yourself calm, get moving/exercising, recognize your triggers, stop and listen, change your thinking, avoid dwelling on the same things, and know your body.
- If you're overcoming sadness, VeryWellFit recommends in their article on the topic the following: 30 minutes of meditation + 30 minutes of walking, 30-minutes of tai chi, a series of Hatha Yoga movements, a 10-minute balance routine, or a 50-minute walk in nature.
- You could also try Deepak Chopra's 7-step exercise to release emotional turbulence, found here.
- Finally, BetterUp recommends the following 5 skills for emotion regulation in their article on the topic:
- Create space: Learn to pause. Take a breath. Slow down the moment between trigger and response.
- Notice what you feel: Learn to tune in to yourself and consider: in what parts of your body are you noticing sensations? Is your stomach upset? Is your heart racing? Do you feel tension in your neck or head?
- Name what you feel: As we discussed earlier, naming it helps you get control of it. Ask yourself: what would you call the emotions you’re feeling? Is it anger, sadness, disappointment, or resentment? What else is it? One strong emotion that often hides beneath others is fear.
- Accept the emotion: Rather than beating yourself up for feeling angry or scared, recognize that your emotional reactions are valid. Try to practice self-compassion and give yourself grace.
- Practicing mindfulness: “Live in the moment” by paying attention to what is inside you. Use your senses to notice what is happening around you in nonjudgmental ways.
- They also recommend the following strategies:
- Identify and reduce triggers
- Tune into physical symptoms
- Consider the story you are telling yourself
- Engage in positive self-talk
- Make a choice about how to respond
- Look for positive emotions
- Seek out a therapist
Of course, there are many religious institutions which dedicate themselves to the spiritual health of their members. We'll not try to cover the spectrum of those institutions and regurgitate their exercises here.
That being said, there are some helpful exercises that bear repeating, such as the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, which is designed as a month-long retreat (at its fullest), broken down into four weeks, each focusing on self-awareness, self-giving, self-sacrifice, and self-understanding.
There are many forms of retreats, however, and you must decide what's right for you. Of course, it's so hard in today's world to step away from all of your worldly responsibilities for a month! But how about a week? Or maybe just a weekend? There are options there. Then there's the question of where and what? A church? Out in nature? An ashram? There are pros and cons of each.
When it comes to more everyday practices,
- Meditation is at the top of the list. Again, there are many phenomenal resources online for various types of meditation, so we won't attempt to recreate them here. Suffice it to say you must find the method that works for you, and start small (even if it's only one minute).
- Spiritual reading is also a good option. Check out books like Holy Shift! by Robert Holden and A Year of Miracles by Marianne Williamson. Many are written with the intent that the reader will enjoy one page a day.
- Practicing gratitude is important not just for your spiritual health, but for your overall well-being, which is why Bodhi Band focuses on it in several other months as well. You can work this into your life in many ways, but some popular ones are to keep a gratitude journal and to create a daily ritual of naming things you are grateful for.
- Even if it's not a 7-day retreat, any time you can spend in nature is spiritually good for you. Figure out what works best for you and your situation.
- As you worked on in the Elements (Air + Water) month, mindful breathing exercises are great for spiritual health.
Ali Geary at Illinois State University recommends the following seven exercises:
- Explore your spiritual core (Ask yourself: Who am I? What is my purpose? What do I value most?)
- Look for deeper meanings (Analyzing occurring patterns will help you see that you have control over your destiny)
- Get it out (Expressing what is on your mind, even just writing down your thoughts, will help you to maintain a focused mind.)
- Try yoga
- Thing positively
- Take time to meditate
If you have physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual exercises that you'd like to share with us, we'll add them to the page! Simply contact us here.
Connecting Your Health and Happiness
Not surprisingly, people who practice healthful living tend to live longer lives. But those same health practices also impact your level of happiness throughout your life.(1) Research into human happiness has kicked up this relationship over and over. As people improve their objective measures of health and fitness, they report higher and higher levels of happiness.(4)
This effect is often discussed in terms of physical health, but you should think of it in terms of mental, emotional, and spiritual health, too. So while you draft an improvement plan around nutrition and physical activity, you should also be thinking of ways to bolster your state of mind and reduce any mental stressors that may be holding you back from achieving your goals.(3)
Additionally, science is teaching us more about the positive benefits of healthier food choices, such as fruits and vegetables vs high-sugar processed foods. This ‘food as well-being’ doesn’t just lead to better physical attributes, it also appears to be directly linked to higher levels of happiness. (8)
Connecting Health and Life Purpose
And there’s more. A healthy lifestyle leads to higher reported life purpose in individuals.(2, 3) Here in the Bodhi Band community, we are motivated by purpose, so we derive great satisfaction from actions that can help move us from lower states to higher states of purpose in our own lives.
What do we know about this connection? Really, it’s pretty straightforward. As people put in the work to improve their physical and mental health, they find that they are able to connect and focus more on the goals that they value. So we recommend that anybody interested in making positive change in their life take the time to build healthier practices into their daily routines.
Developing Practical Daily Exercises for Better Health
Given that the benefits of better physical and mental health are both proven and compelling, it’s worth taking the time to build out a list of daily practices to incorporate into your week. Following is a short list of ideas to get you started thinking about it, but don’t be shy about researching for yourself. There is a considerable body of science-driven recommendations available on the web.
- Set aside at least 10 minutes per day for physical activity.(7)
- Three days per week, do 45-minutes of exercise.(4)
- Incorporate well-being-positive foods like fruits and vegetables into your meals.(8)
- Block out social media except for a few scheduled times per week.(5)
- Keep a daily journal, targeting twenty minutes per day.(6)
- “The Science of Happiness” https://escholarship.org/uc/item/9c00g8js
- “How to Be Happy” https://ro.co/health-guide/how-to-be-happy/
- “The Health Benefits of Journaling” https://communityofmindfulparenting.com/curriculum/week7/S7-Articles-TheHealthBenefitsofJournaling.pdf
- “This is the Healthiest Morning Routine, According to Experts” https://globalnews.ca/news/3758617/healthy-morning-routine/
- “Healthy Food Choices are Healthy Food Choices…” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5719018/
- Impact of Healthy Lifestyle Factors on Life Expectancies in the US Population. Li Y, Pan A, Wang DD, Liu X, Dhana K, Franco OH, Kaptoge S, Di Angelantonio E, Stampfer M, Willett WC, Hu FB. Circulation. 2018 Apr 30. pii: CIRCULATIONAHA.117.032047. doi: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.117.032047
- Hirooka, N., Kusano, T., Kinoshita, S. et al. Association between healthy lifestyle practices and life purpose among a highly health-literate cohort: a cross-sectional study. BMC Public Health 21, 820 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-021-10905-7
- “The Science of Happiness” UC Berkeley Scientific Journal (2009) <https://escholarship.org/uc/item/9c00g8js>.
- “Sedentary Behaviour, Physical Activity and Life Satisfaction, Happiness and Perceived Health Status in University Students from 24 Countries” Supa Pengpid, Karl Peltzer. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2019 Jun; 16(12): 2084. Published online 2019 Jun 13. doi: 10.3390/ijerph16122084
- Wirtz, D., Tucker, A., Briggs, C. et al. How and Why Social Media Affect Subjective Well-Being: Multi-Site Use and Social Comparison as Predictors of Change Across Time. J Happiness Stud 22, 1673–1691 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-020-00291-z
- Purcell, M. (2006). The Health Benefits of Journaling. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 5, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/lib/the-health-benefits-of-journaling/000721
- Zhang, Z., Chen, W. A Systematic Review of the Relationship Between Physical Activity and Happiness. J Happiness Stud 20, 1305–1322 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-018-9976-0
- “Healthy food choices are happy food choices: Evidence from a real life sample using smartphone based assessments” Deborah R. Wahl, Karoline Villinger, Laura M. König, Katrin Ziesemer, Harald T. Schupp, Britta Renner. Sci Rep. 2017; 7: 17069. Published online 2017 Dec 6. doi: 10.1038/s41598-017-17262-9