Most of us strive to live our best lives, but what does that really mean? What is it you want for your health? Why is it so difficult for us to strike a balance between our mind, body, spirit, and community? Often, when we try to feed one vital aspect of our well-being, the others are neglected. And if we try to address all at once, we become overwhelmed.
It’s understandable that we all struggle to maintain a well-balanced life, but there are things we can do to make it just a little easier. It may simply begin by looking within — to better understand what we want for our health and why our well-being is so deeply important. The next step is to explore the “what,” any obstacle in your way and then explore the potential “how,” some practices that can draw you in.
What is your great “Why?”
Ask yourself: why do I want to be healthy? Is it so you can keep up with your kids on the playground? Is it to begin a new adventure with your spouse? To travel more? To ensure a long, healthy life with your grandchildren? Take time to reflect and ponder about it, and you are very likely to discover it organically. Then place it at the center of everything you do. You will find that the motivation, inspiration, and dedication to improve your health and well-being will emerge more strongly.
What draws you in?
A few months ago, I had the privilege of working as the health advisor on a fascinating documentary film short project funded by The Healthy U.S. Collaborative as part of The TakeCare Campaign. We focused on the idea that once you find your “why,” the next step is to explore and discover the potential of practices that can draw you in and profoundly improve your well-being. For me, spirituality is my foundation. I discovered this through a series of difficulties and reflections that began in childhood, and it remains to this day, the cornerstone of how I live my life. It allows me to connect to a sense of inner meaning and purpose. But I’ve also learned that to make it meaningful for my personal well-being, and to help others, I must find a way to put it into practice. For me, that is through meditation and yoga.
Yoga is an ancient mind-body practice that provides numerous benefits arising from increased self-awareness and mental strength. It improves physical fitness, but it also demonstrably helps bring us inner peace. Numerous studies over the years have proven these benefits, making yoga widely supported by a wide range of medical professions. Many of us tend to think that practices like yoga are only for a certain type of person. This misconception is perpetuated by our society’s skepticism about practices that exercise the mind, body, and spirit. Whether it’s meditation, tai chi, or variations of yoga, these practices can benefit anyone who is genuinely seeking to explore what is possible. I’ve seen this demonstrated time and time again and more recently through the inspirational TakeCare campaign that I am lucky to be a part of.
One of these TakeCare Campaign film shorts, titled “Drawn to the Mat,” features an inspiring African-American woman named Ebony, who, like me, found in yoga a pathway to discovering her power within. In the film, she tells us: “When I thought, ‘Ebony, you are OK. You are good enough.’ That’s what kept drawing me to the mat.” Ebony realized that the yoga mat could be a powerful tool for her health and well-being, so she fully engaged it — and changed her life.
Share your practice with others
What makes Ebony’s journey to yoga so impactful is that she not only discovered an activity that she enjoyed mentally and physically, she was also inspired to share it with her community, which had very little experience with yoga. She said, “If this is doing this for my life, then why is it not accessible to the people who need it the most?” She went on to say, “I knew without a doubt that I could translate wellness into a language that we could understand, and that’s what I wanted to share.” Ebony started teaching yoga for free in a local park and before long, a crowd of people were drawn to her weekly classes — including people who were just as hesitant about whether or not yoga was for them. One man named LeJoseph always felt that yoga was not something a man should engage in — it wasn’t masculine enough. But Ebony showed him that it was not only something he could practice; it was something that could help transform his life.
“Ebony said that yoga had helped her through trauma — that’s such a powerful word and that’s what I’m dealing with, so I knew I needed to be here,” he said. “When I had my daughter, it all got real for me. I want to be a great example for her.”
This is a good example of how sharing what you’ve discovered has helped you, may help others. You never know who else around you may be seeking the same thing; so once you uncover it, and practice it, consider sharing it with your community.
Do you have a community?
When you discover that intangible factor that seems to inspire you, seek it out. Are there places within your own community for you to practice? Whether it’s through community classes, music lessons, tai chi, yoga, or a meditation group — start with the resources within your own community. You may be surprised, as Ebony was, to find that what you are seeking is right in your own backyard.
If you need guidance in finding your “why,” you can take this Health Reflection Tool, which will help you to think about your health and well-being from a new whole-health vantage point.