Self-improvement can take on many avatars. Depending on what area you want to focus on, you will find many, many online and offline resources to help you with this. Sadly, however, you won’t find that many websites that talk about holistic improvement. When you think about it, no one type of improvement can ever be long-lasting if it doesn’t take into consideration every other aspect of your being.
To explain this paradox, let’s take the example of weight loss. Gurus of physical health will often tell you that losing weight should ideally be the result of lifestyle changes rather than fads, but does anyone listen to them? No way! Today, everyone wants to experiment with the newest, easiest and most convenient way to shed 5, 10 or 15 pounds. While this might seem a good short-term solution, what you are left with in the end is a constant and seemingly unbeatable weight problem known as the yo-yo effect. Everyone knows this, but they still run after those “miracle” diets or programs designed to take you from John Candy to John Wayne in three weeks!
To truly benefit from any self-improvement program, you need to make sure that it positively impacts every facet of your existence. The physical, mental, emotion and spiritual parts of you must be “worked on” together – not just the abs! In this article, we’ll look at how various changes in lifestyle can holistically improve your condition and put you squarely on the road to wellness.
The grossest kind of body is the physical one. The ‘gross’ in this context does not mean ‘disgusting!’ It means the most tangible form of…you – the part that others can touch and feel. This physical body has certain requirements: primarily, these needs are fulfilled by food, water, exercise and rest. These four elements, if you will, provide the necessary sustenance for the body to perform its natural functions in an unimpeded manner.
Food and water act as the fuel, lubricant, coolant and exhaust for the human machine. Without either, the machine will become weaker and gradually give out. We call this starvation, dehydration, heat exhaustion, toxicity and many other things, but the essence of it is that food and water must be provided in the “right” quantities for the body to be healthy.
The “right” quantity is a relative measure. It is different for each person, so if you’re looking for “recommended daily intake”, only expect averages to be shown. If you’re not average, then you’re in trouble. Your body will know the right amount: when you’re hungry or thirsty, it will tell you; when you’re full – with food or water – it will warn you; when you need to get rid of waste, nature will call. The body is a precision instrument with several in-built alarms but, unfortunately, most of us choose to hit the snooze button more often than listen to the alarm and do what it tells us to.
This leads to several problems from indigestion to obesity to bladder and kidney stones to diabetes to ulcers. The best way to improve physical health, therefore, is to listen to your body and follow the signs.
Mental and Emotional Wellness
This leads us to a more ethereal realm – the one which the mind and heart preside over. Mental and emotional health are two different things – closely related in that different parts of the brain operate the different elements of these functions – but different nonetheless.
For improved mental health, your focus should be on honing your mind’s logical and rational edges. There are several ways in which you can do this. You can engage your mind in hobbies like chess or Sudoku – or you could take up yoga, for example. All of these will help you think more clearly and make lightning-fast decisions.
The important things to consider are mental flexibility, creative thinking and fleetness of mind. Any activity that helps improve these abilities will go a long way in making you mentally fitter.
Emotional wellness, on the other hand, is more a question of maturity when handling sensitive issues. Emotional quotient – or EQ – is the new IQ: it shows you how well-adjusted you are to your environment and, to a certain degree, will also tell you how successful you are likely to become in your chosen profession.
A famous series of studies conducted in the late 60s and early 70s – called The Stanford Marshmallow Experiment – showed that children who preferred delayed gratification over instant gratification were more likely to grow into responsible adults who were successful in their careers because they had a higher degree of self-control and strategic thinking.
Irrespective of what science says, the truth of the matter is that emotional prowess makes people more dominant in society. Thousands of examples can be given to support this argument, but anyone who has seen the composure of a king when his country is threatened will know this to be true.
The spiritual realm is often likened to searching for a black cat in a pitch-dark room. No conclusive evidence can be offered to support a belief in spiritual matters, but the fact that it is so globally pervasive in enough to convince even the most stubborn agnostic that there are things beyond human understanding.
Your road to spiritual improvement should be of your own choosing. There’s no two ways about that. Each person finds his spiritual fulfillment as his “soul” dictates. There’s no right or wrong in this regard, but one thing is for sure: spiritual wellness results in immeasurable joy and a feeling of well-being.
You can bolster your spiritual side in many ways. Most take up religion as a preferred method of spiritual fulfillment; some take up esoteric arts – often to their mental and physical detriment; yet others take to drugs as a way of blocking the mind so the soul can express itself; some may be artistically inclined and lose themselves to the world that way. No matter what your preferred method, remember that once you are done with whatever exercise you have chosen, you should be better off than when you started. Using this criterion, we can assume that drugs and esoteric arts are definitely not the way to go. Yes, you may feel temporary exhilaration, but it will never “stick.”
If you can find the right combination of methods to improve the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual components of yourself, only then can you truly say that you have achieved holistic improvement.