There was nothing particularly wrong, I had the occasional headache, caught about 4 colds and flu a year, had allergies, occasional bouts of stress induced insomnia, some mood swings, a few aches and pains and generally had a feeling of dissatisfaction with my life. However, none of these symptoms were bad enough or significant enough for me to seek any help or want to change my lifestyle in anyway. I just kept on accepting them as part and parcel of what is was to be human.
Then suddenly without warning I was struck down with meningitis. This was serious. It knocked me out for about three weeks and once the virus had gone I was left with a serious feeling of fatigue and depression. My body was not in a good state at all and my spirit was in an even worse state. It’s very hard when you don’t have much energy to enjoy your life.
It was at this point that I decided I would not accept ill health, tiredness or dissatisfaction anymore. So I began to study. I feverishly read every book I could get my hands on. Books on: diet, herbal medicine, ancient healing methods, yoga, meditation, alternative therapy, Chinese and oriental medicine, body work, emotional work, spiritual work. You could say that ‘health’ became my life. I attended weekly classes on yoga, meditation, Qi Gong and Tai Qi. I tried and tested every different diet you could imagine. I de-toxed, I fasted; I gave up alcohol, sugar, wheat and diary. I went to see homeopaths, acupuncturists, herbalists, nutritionists, osteopaths…you name it ….I did it.
I wanted to know more than most teachers or therapists could teach me, so I had to find out for myself. I wanted to know exactly how my body worked and how to heal it and keep it in excellent shape.
So I enrolled in a degree in Chinese medicine and also in holistic, remedial and sports massage therapy. I attended courses in Nutritional Therapy and courses in Qi Gong (a Chinese energy exercise). And boy…I have leant so much…..
Now, I have no allergies, I never have headaches, I rarely feel tired, I have not had a cold or flu for years. I jump out of bed every morning and I am happier then I have ever been….. I love my life!
Now not everyone would want to do what I did. Not everyone has the time or indeed the inclination to become an expert in alternative health. So now I am going to tell you in some simple steps what I have learnt, so that if you want to, you can have vibrant health too.
1. The foundation of good health is a good diet.
You really are what you eat. Whatever you put in your body becomes your body. But everyone is different and everyone needs a different diet. Some people need meat, others don’t. Some people have sensitivities to wheat or diary, others don’t. And each person needs a different diet according to their age, the season, and their life circumstances at the time. So the key is to know your body and be flexible. Rigid diets often don’t work and are not the best for us health wise. We all need flexibility and variety in our diet. You all know that vegetables are good for you so I don’t need to tell you that. Our diets should change with the seasons. We should eat cooling foods like fruit in summer and warming foods like soups and stews in winter. Too many rich foods (such as sugar and meat) can be damaging to the system they can create many health problems such as Candida, headaches, bloating, IBS. Too few rich foods can create deficiency and problems like anaemia, tiredness and depression. There is so much I could say on this subject, but really if you want to be healthy eat whole foods and avoid processed foods and get to know what works and what doesn’t work for you. I cannot stress what a difference a good diet can make to your health. Many problems like headaches, bloating and IBS can be caused by food intolerances, so it is really worth investigating. But most of all enjoy your food. Enjoy every little thing you put into your mouth. Don’t eat mindlessely. How you eat is just as important as what you eat. I promise you it really really is! So eat your food slowly and in a relaxed way and enjoy it.
2. Exercise, strength and stretching
Most people who come to see me for massage with muscular skeletal problems come because either they do too much exercise, they push their bodies too hard, or they do too little. We need to find a healthy balance. Our bodies were made to move, not sit still in an office all day. Our bodies rely on movement to get rid of waste products and toxins. It is well known that exercise can also help to lift your mood and help to beat depression. Finding a kind of exercise that you enjoy is vital. Don’t make yourself run if you hate it. Go dancing instead, or yoga, or squash. There are so many things out there to try. On the other side there are some of us, who push ourselves hard, we train hard and overdo it. This is how RSI injuries, sprains and tears come about. We always want to be better, faster, and stronger and we think that if we can run a long distance or pump some iron at the gym we are fit and healthy. Well I am suggesting that perhaps we need to think differently about what health actually is. It is not about being the strongest or fastest, or most ripped, but it is about having toned and relaxed tissues and muscles. This comes about by knowing our bodies and exercising within our own limits. Balance is key.
What we want to aim for is having good core strength and to be flexible and supple. We all have different cardiovascular needs and body shapes, but if we can develop core strength and flexibility it will do wonders for our health. And if we have a flexible body, we will probably have a flexible mind. Pilates and Yoga are excellent ways of staying fit, looking good and boosting the immune system.
3. Rest, Relaxation and balance
This is so important. We live in a driven world where our senses are constantly bombarded with information. Computers, TV, radio, long work hours, busy schedules. Stress is a significant cause of disease and can negatively impact the immune system. Take time out to really rest. If you find it difficult to relax on your own, book in for a massage or go to a meditation class. Schedule in relaxation time and switch off completely!
4. Breathing and posture
We hardly notice our breathing. It is a habit that we just do without thinking. I am often surprised to find out how many of my clients do not breathe properly. Breathing well can significantly increase our energy levels. Our body cells are fed by the oxygen we inhale, so if we don’t inhale well this means less energy for our body to use. Less energy equals tiredness and fatigue. If we don’t exhale well we are not getting rid of the ‘waste’ products very efficiently. More waste products mean a less efficient immune system and a build up of toxins can lead to all sorts of health problems.
Posture is also very important, emotional issues, poor habits and carrying heavy bags can all negatively affect our posture. If our spine begins to get compacted then the fluid around the discs does not flow so well and this can create a negative cycle. This may have serious effects on our structural health in later life because the spine is so important to our overall health and wellbeing. Having a good posture is more important than you will know.
5. Don’t keep emotions stuck inside
This is a biggie. So many serious diseases can be caused by a negative emotional state. It is OK to be angry, or sad or worried – we are only human after all. But keeping negative emotions locked inside can cause no end of problems. Repressed anger for example often turns into depression, and can also cause headaches. Get in touch with your emotions in whatever way works for you. Express yourself and don’t let things fester. It is asking for trouble…
6. Do what you love – nourish your spirit
Are you doing a job you hate? If you are most likely it is making you ill in one way or another. When we are not true to ourselves, who we are, and what we are meant to be doing in our lives it can be very tiring because we are keeping up a pretence all the time. We are pretending to be someone that we are not. This can be exhausting and spiritually depleting. So do what you love, and try to reduce the activities you hate. Or if that is not possible, change your attitude. Positive thinking really can be life changing. You can do this through NLP, Meditation or CBT therapy.
7. Don’t worry.
If you are reading this and thinking ‘oh dear so many things I need to do or change’. Don’t worry. This is the most important one of all. Don’t take this or anything else in life too seriously. Have fun with it. We are here on this planet for such a short time; you might as well enjoy it.
Well that should be enough for you to be getting on with for now. There is so much more I wanted to say but didn’t have the space…so watch out for a follow up soon.
I hope you have found it helpful. If you have any questions please do give me a call at the Massage Centre I’d be most happy to talk to you.