This is the 13th post in my 30 for 30/30 series where I am publishing a new post each day for the next 30 days within a 30-minute window without much of a plan. You can read about why I’m doing this by clicking this link.
This post also concludes a series on The Five Daily Practices for a Contented and Happy Life. You can find the other posts by visiting the links below:
- The Daily Practice of Spending Time in Solitude
- The Daily Practice of Embracing Simplicity
- The Daily Practice of Engaging in Kindness
- The Daily Practice of Cultivating Self-Expression
And today’s final post in the series is…
Daily Practice #5 – Respecting the Body
About this Practice
The practice of respecting the body is a moment-by-moment choice we make each day to honor the living, breathing shell that houses our being.
We only have one body and despite the pervasive belief of the young that their bodies will last forever, they are prone to break down; simultaneously, they are also resilient and capable of recovering from decades of abuse due to alcohol, tobacco, prescription drugs, and even heroin.
We are presented with numerous opportunities each day to respect the body. From the moment we wake and choose our first bite of food to the moment we return to bed for sleep, we maintain the ability to choose what we put in our body, how we move it, and our resting posture.
The three main categories for respecting the body include nutrition, exercise, and position.
Why You’d Want to Engage this Practice
The most obvious reasons for engaging this practice:
- your health will improve – you will feel better and live longer when making the best choices possible for your body
- your clothes will fit more comfortably – when we put on weight, it’s never an even and proportional addition, and our clothes become uncomfortable in places. Usually our response to just buy a larger size
- your self-respect and self-esteem will increase – when you respect your body, you feel better about yourself overall creating a positive feedback loop
- your mood will improve and you’ll experience less depression – a win-win situation
How to Engage the Practice of Respecting the Body
Thus far I haven’t told you anything you probably don’t already know. You already know that natural foods are better than processed foods and fats and protein are better for you than carbohydrates (sugars).
The secret everyone wants to know is how they turn their decades-old habits into a practice they can be proud of and stick with over the long term.
The answer is to start with an easy win and build from there.
Here are some principles to keep in mind:
- Small changes are easier to start and maintain – If you try to change a lot of things at once, you will not experience much, if any, success. Instead, choose a very small change that you can repeat each day. Choosing one at a time will meet with greater success over the long term.
- Recognize that habits are linked to triggers – if you have a habit of snacking after dinner (like I do), there is most likely something triggering that response. In my case, it’s usually boredom and that leads to snacking. Whatever your trigger is, investigate it and see if there is another way to respond. For example, when I’m bored after dinner, I can just as easily drink a full glass of cold water instead of snacking. The flip side of this link is that a positive trigger can lead to positive habit formation.
- Negative self-talk sets you up for failure – it’s OK to fail, but you can decrease your chances of failing by avoiding negative self-talk like, “I could never do that,” “It’s too hard not to eat bread,” or “It’s OK, it’s just one piece of German Chocolate Cake.” I know, no one reading this has ever experienced this problem. 😉 Our thoughts have a profound influence on our behavior and it’s just as easy to choose positive thoughts instead.
- Get better at observing how you respond to triggers – our triggers can rule our behavior. One of the reasons I began this series with the daily habit of spending time in solitude is that it helps us become more skilled at observing our thoughts while not engaging with them directly. Likewise, when we are more skilled at observing our responses to triggers, we are less likely to take the bait and respond in a way that disrespects our body.
Specific suggestions for respecting the body
Observing the triad we mentioned earlier of nutrition, exercise, and position, experiment with these suggestions and see if they work for you… and remember, start small.
- Increase your daily consumption of low carb veggies – broccoli, asparagus, bell peppers, green beans, and kale (if you’re superhuman)
- Watch out for hidden sugars – fruits, bread, grains, and legumes are high in carbohydrates.
- Increase your water intake – try to drink your weight in ounces of cold water. Yes, you’ll pee a lot but who cares. My rule is for every cup of coffee or tea I drink, I follow each with at least eight ounces of water
- Increase your consumption of good fats – avocados, nuts, cheese, fatty fish and meats, and full-fat dairies like whipping cream and half-and-half
- Cut one fast-food run per week – if you hit McDonald’s at least twice a week, cut it to one. Over time you will lose your taste for it altogether…I have and if I can, you can
- Reconsider the roles tobacco and alcohol play in your life – at one time I drank two bottles of Newcastle Brown Ale with dinner seven days per week. As much I loved it, it was a habit that didn’t exactly respect my body (unless you call adding ten pounds respect). I reconsidered the role alcohol was playing in my life and gradually decreased to nearly none at all (update – in late 2019 I stopped consuming alcohol completely due to anxiety it suddenly started producing)
- Find a nutritional plan that works for you and don’t deviate from it – whether you’re following Atkins, Primal, Keto, WW, or the South Beach nutritional plans, stick with it, educate yourself, and join groups populated with others on the same plan. They can be a great source of support
- Decide on what type of movement brings you enjoyment – I absolutely hate to run, so I don’t. I don’t mind walking and actually, I love hiking and going to Pilates. If you engage in a type of exercise that brings you satisfaction, you’ll do it more often and for a longer period. I also like lifting weights, though I’ve not been regular about it for about two years
- Start with a minimal commitment that you can keep – too many people commit to going to the gym five days per week and, of course, they don’t so they live with a feeling guilty. That leads to depression and abandonment of their program. Start small, celebrate the win, and move forward from there
- Find a partner – exercising is always more enjoyable if you have a partner; having an exercise partner is also a great way to provide accountability as well as gain a source of mutual support in the tough times (now with COVID-19, be sure to socially distance if exercising with a partner)
- Pay attention to your sitting posture – We’re a population of slouchers. When you sit, try sitting on the front half of your chair seat. This encourages your spine to rest in a neutral, more erect position. When you sit in silence, use this position as well
- Bathe daily if possible – I know, this seems very basic, but you’d be surprised at how many people overlook this vital habit. Unless you don’t have access to a bath/shower, bathe daily. Your skin’s microflora maintains a delicate balance and daily hygiene helps keep one strain from overgrowing and causing infection when micro-abrasions and cracks occur
- Dental hygiene is a must – brush your teeth at least twice a day. A dental hygienist once told me that missing the evening brushing was worse than missing the morning because the oral flora acts unabated during sleeping hours. During the day we drink water and consume food and use mouthwash or an oral rinse and these mechanical routines can aid in a cleaner oral cavity. Still, brush twice a day at a minimum
- Think good thoughts – by thinking good, positive thoughts we bring about good, positive outcomes. This can aid in your remaining faithful to your exercise program and positively affect your mood. You are what you think, or, as the Buddha put it, “You become your thoughts.”
- Get enough sleep – the old adage, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” might be humorous and meme-worthy but it won’t help your body feel rested and capable of achieving its optimal state. Sleep researchers continually tell us that we need at least eight hours of sleep as adults. Do what you can to get as much quality sleep as possible and your body will thank you
This post concludes “The Five Daily Practices for a Contented and Happy Life.” I hope you’ve gotten some helpful suggestions from these posts. If so, I’d really appreciate hearing from you in a comment below.
See you tomorrow!