When we feel that our life is not satisfactory, we often try to find a reason for it outside of us. We look for some external thing which is causing us this misery, and blame everything on it. We never think to look at ourselves and that perhaps, the problem is mainly with us.
I have come to believe that almost all our problems stem from ourselves in some way or another, and if we could change our selves, the problems would resolve. And to do this, we need to start with the things that we do the most of.
We need to start off by changing our thinking, as this is what people do the most of (perhaps not for some!). This is a massive task and many books have been written about this, and rightly so. Due to how often we think about things, it makes the greatest impact on how our lives feel. If we keep telling ourselves that we are worthless, or keep imagining bad outcomes, this will have a tremendous negative impact. On the other hand if we think that we are doing alright and focus on the good things in life, our lives can feel blessed. Whatever thoughts we keep thinking of and focusing on, we improve our brain’s ability to think more of it. Thoughts become habits and we need to ensure we develop the right thought habits. So changing our thoughts is the first and most important.
Second thing that is likely to be very important but probably underestimated an underappreciated is breathing. Most people are in sedentary jobs these days, and it is very easy to stop breathing as deeply as we should. The lack of proper breathing I believe contributes to whole ranges of problems, with continuously increased sympathetic nervous system activity being one of them (the fight or flight mode). As this mode is meant more for survival, and the body’s regenerative ability decreases while this mode is highly active, it seems wise to assume that people will end up with various health issues when this is maintained for a prolonged period of time.
Closely connected to breathing is poor posture, which is very common these days. The slumped or slouched posture restricts the capacity of our lungs, but if we were to breathe deeply and slowly throughout the day, our posture would naturally improve and our mind would be calmer and happier. The poor posture also causes various musculoskeletal problems like back pain, and neck pain. We will also get fatigued quickly if our posture is out of alignment as we will use unnecessary muscular force to maintain our standing or sitting position. The poor posture also decreases our movement efficiency and therefore we become less athletic and more prone to injuries during exercise. When our posture is good all the time, and not just when sitting down, we will find that we use less effort in all our movements as well.
Now comes food. While very important, I put it down fourth on my list because we only eat 2-3 times a day as opposed to thinking or breathing which is happening every moment of our lives. Nonetheless, we need to be aware of what we are putting into our bodies three times a day, since this can make a huge impact. Eating well can contribute to the length and quality of our life, and help us avoid chronic diseases which our modern medicine has trouble controlling. Science is showing us now that the typical western diet high in animal products is not good for our health. While I’m not saying you need to go vegan, it is becoming increasingly clear that our meat and dairy consumption needs to come down drastically, and our fruit and vegetable intake needs to go up. We also need to avoid processed foods as well. We can’t trust our tastebuds when correcting our diet, because we are addicted to our food. Changing to a healthier diet is likely to taste bland for a while, but as we adjust, our appreciation of these healthier options will increase.
I’ve mentioned four things that are very important determining the quality of our lives, but as you can imagine there are many other things that we do everyday that can have significant impact as well. But I would suggest starting off with these four as they are likely to have the greatest impact. Once we have our thinking, breathing, posture and eating right, we will find that the other aspects of our lives improves as well.