We seek greener pastures elsewhere while the prized possession remains right in front of our eyes. Happiness cannot be sought elsewhere but it is in our hands to decide how we lead our life. Money can buy many things in life-clothes, food, home and even comfort keepers who give company to the lonely and elderly in return for money-but one must always remember that nothing can buy love, happiness and joy in life. Happiness isn’t going on a grandeur vacation or buying expensive jewelry but the way you treat yourself in life, the efforts that you make in every situation and how rapidly you can lighten up a serious or dull situation. Human health includes both mental and physical well-being. A fit body without a fit mind is valueless as it is the mind-body coordination that helps an individual achieve great things in life.
Old Wine in a New Bottle
Exercise is advantageous for the body and there are innumerable studies establishing this fact. What’s new is that physical activity can also boost your happiness, according to a study. It is natural for many people to depend on exercise in the form of a brisk walk, jog or running on the treadmill to overcome stress, anxiety or a bad day at work/home. In short, exercising helps to stave off negative mental health and this concept triggered a group of researchers to analyze whether the same exercise could boost positive mental health too. This group reviewed 23 studies on happiness and physical activity of which 15 studies showed a greater association (directly or indirectly) between exercise and happiness. The remaining 8 studies showed inconclusive and inconsistent results. All these studies involved a variant population including adults, elderly, adolescents and children.
Comparison of studies showed that compared to inactive people the degree of happiness was 20, 29 and 52 percent higher for people who were insufficiently active, sufficiently active or very active respectively. The frequency and amount of physical activity decided the strength of relationship between physical activity and happiness. While slight differences in the amount of physical activity performed caused variations in happiness quotients the studies showed that happiness levels remained the same above the 150 minutes of activity performed each week-it was the same at 150, 300 or above 300 minutes of weekly activity.
Different studies were an eye-opener on different things. One study showed that normal weight people who exercised once a week were 1.4 times happier and overweight people were 1.5 times happier. One other study showed that adolescents who exercised twice a week were happier than those who exercised once or less than once a week. Three studies that looked at the relationship between happiness and activity between older adults came to the conclusion that-exercise paved way for happier adults; total exercise minutes every week was positively associated with happiness and happiness was affected by an individual’s health status and social functioning.
What the researchers failed to analyze was the type of exercise that granted maximum happiness, but general analysis showed that aerobics, stretching and balance movements were helpful than any other exercises comparatively.
Building Blocks to Happiness
Exercise helps the body stay away from depression and anxiety by preparing the body to deal with stress in a subtle way. Our body’s activeness quotient determines our ability to deal with stress. The adrenaline rush you experience after running or exercising might be due to elevated endorphin levels but there are no strong studies on this. Different ways exist to deal with stress and many of them are defined in the website www.firsteatright.com.
Having a bad day at work- head directly to your gym after work; Financial crisis? Go for a group exercise class; Faced a terrible day at school? Play a game of basketball or do Zumba. Minimizing negativities in your brain and maximizing positive feelings are crucial for mental well-being. Do it with exercises and have a happy time.
In a phase of life where we don’t have time to eat or sleep, how do we fit in meditation in between our busy schedules? Even if we squeeze in a dedicated timeslot for practicing meditation which would be the type of meditation that would provide us with the best possible effect on our body?
Surreal Peace & Tranquility
Stress is inevitable and we need to workout on our personalized ways to combat stress. What would work favorably for one person might not be good enough for another person. Choosing the right way for fighting against stress goes a long way towards well-being. Meditation and mindfulness are two practices that helps many of us fight against stress, high blood pressure, improper sleep routines, cardiovascular diseases and overall wellness. Meditation basically involves focusing on some image, sound or word that can release stress and bring peace and rejuvenation to your mind and body. Stress releases hormones called adrenaline that helps the body show reflex actions safeguarding it against dangerous situations. While this is positive, repeated release of the stress hormone takes a toll on our health for which practicing meditation is of utmost importance.
Ready to Meditate?
Different nutrient plans are dispensed for different purposes such as weight loss, diabetes and cancer; different exercises are taught for toning or losing weight in different body parts and different lifestyle routines are recommended depending on the shift schedule or circadian rhythm of individuals. When this is the case, how can we practice one type of meditation to solve all of our problems? We have various types including even yoga and tai chi which are forms of meditation in motion. Analyze each of the types given below and choose the one that would best suit your purpose:
Relaxation: This type of meditation is like a body scanner which helps you scan different parts of the body for tension and relax it. You start by relaxing from one end of the body, for instance, your feet, and proceed towards the other end progressively and slowly working through the body. While most forms of relaxation meditation make people relax muscles by focusing on the body part some of them insist the individuals to imagine a wave that drifts over the body to ease off tension. This is the best form of meditation to attain calmness, ease tension, get sleep or in short, relax totally.
Mindfulness: This is being in the present and staying aware of what happens to you currently. This is a form of meditation that can be practiced anywhere you are-when you are in the queue, seated at the physician’s clinic waiting for your turn or even at office. All you need to do is to simply notice your surroundings, what you see, hear and experience. This kind of meditation helps in improving memory, lessens emotional traumas, makes you feel better satisfied in a relationship and takes off negative emotions. Mindfulness has a lasting impact on the health and eating habits of a person as discussed at www.firsteatright.com.
Transcendental: The ultimate goal here is to reach a notch higher than the person’s current state of being. The individual is taught to concentrate on a single work or a phrase throughout the meditation duration where he/she remains seated and breathes slowly. The mantra is decided by the guru based on several factors. Sometimes, the individual chooses his/her own mantra but this cannot be termed as complete transcendental meditation. One who practiced transcendental using a mantra taught by a guru is bound to experience mindfulness and improved spirituality. While many forms such as mindfulness can be performed even for a couple of minutes, transcendental requires complete 20 minutes to perform.
Zen meditation: This is mostly learnt from an experienced Zen teacher as it involves several sets of steps and postures. People generally choose a comfortable place to sit down, breathe slowly and focus on their present thoughts without judgement. Though similar to mindfulness meditation this requires even more dedication and practice.
The surprise element here is that meditation doesn’t simply involve sitting in a place, closing your eyes and practicing. It can also involve movement as in Tai chi, qigong (this is also called as meditation in motion) and yoga. Meditation is only an extra effort to improve your wellbeing and not a replacement for your medical therapies, eating styles and exercises. It is better to practice one or more forms of meditation, analyze what works best for you and continue practicing the chosen form thereon.
How about making our newborns and small infants obese as well? We have developed into a society that takes pride (sarcastically indeed) in nurturing obese/overweight citizens worldwide and the next step is to pass over this body weight identity to our younger generation as well. Even now, more than 25% of children aged between 2 and 5 years are said to be overweight/obese. This isn’t a shocking news given the fact that we feed what we eat. When its French fries, potato wafers and doughnuts that pass into our body as a snack we are bound to give the same to our kids. Even if we have a good intention of providing them with healthy fruits, vegetables and dairy how do you think they are going to respond to this act of yours? With a BIG ‘no’ indeed!
Overweight/obese children are at an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease, High BP and other serious health problems. A chubby kid is lovable and adorable but that’s not all that we want from a kid. He/she must be active and healthy firstly. A dimple might be cute but a second chin is not! Just because your infant cannot speak for his/her own it doesn’t mean that you go on feeding him/her until the kid is overfull! C’mon parents, we have crossed those stages and we do realize how troubled we were by such acts. Don’t trouble your little one into eating all that you feed and blame your child later for overeating during adolescence. This is bound to happen because you have groomed them without helping them realize fullness and hunger signs during childhood!
Be a responsible parent. Even a study says so! This study was set up with the sole task of understanding whether teaching ‘responsive parenting’ had the strength to prevent rapid weight gain during infancy and help the children grow in a healthier surrounding. Parents who are taught about responsive parenting respond to their kids in ways that suit their age and fulfill their needs. For example, parents are taught to recognize signs of fullness in children while they are feeding and stop feeding immediately. This is only a small example available from the ocean of things that are taught in this process.
What the Study Says
We have had previous studies that showed that responsive parenting was helpful in preventing weight gain in a baby’s first six months of life, reduced a child’s body mass index (BMI) and also improved the infant’s sleeping patterns. The latest study included 272 mother-infant pairs of which 232 could complete the three-year trial. The average age of mothers were around 28 years and they were randomly split into either of the two groups-responsive parenting and the control group. Mothers in the responsive parenting group were taught how to respond to their infant’s sleep, play, feeding routines and emotional tantrums while those mothers in the control group were taught about home safety. Every member in either of the group was met by a nurse in their respective homes on four different occasions during infancy and once during the child’s first, second and third year. Results showed that:
Conceived in India and now, ruling all over the world yoga has become a word synonymous with health. Anyone belonging to any age group can practice yoga and reap its benefits-it is not restricted only to our physical body but also offers a combined advantage over our body, mind and spirit. Yoga has got much more beyond the asanas (postures). It helps in bringing peace unto your body and to cherish well-being of thyself.
Being an ancient spiritual, mental and physical practice, the word yoga is derived from Sanskrit and means to join or unite- a union of the body and consciousness. When you dwell upon the popularity of this tradition you realize that its diversity and practical applications make it indispensable to humanity today. Believe me or not, yoga is for everyone-you might be a couch potato or a reputed athlete, a 70-year-old woman or a 5-year-old child, yoga has got something to offer for everyone.
Yoga nowadays is practiced primarily for weight loss and health but it was not well into fitness during the early days. Yogis and others started practicing yoga to expand their spiritual energy using breathing techniques and mental focus. During the early 1920s and 30s yoga gained popularity in India for its different asanas and postured thereby attracting the attention of the West in a couple of years.
One Tree, Many Branches
Yoga uses the image of a tree with roots, branches, a trunk, blossoms and fruits where each branch of the tree represents a different yoga style-Hatha yoga (body & mind), Raja yoga (meditation & discipline), Karma yoga (negativity- & selfishness-free future), Bhakti yoga (devotion to channelize emotions & cultivate tolerance), Jnana yoga (wisdom & intellect) and Tantra yoga (rituals, ceremony and liberating oneself from relationships). Meditation too has tremendous advantages on the body when it is practiced regularly and to understand the best type of meditation that suits you, please visit www.firsteatright.com.
Practicing yoga for weight loss has been predominantly happening everywhere and specific yoga poses for pregnancy are also being taught in the form of prenatal classes that help the carrying woman tune her body and mind for a healthy delivery. Stress is an inevitable part of each of us and doing yoga even for a couple of minutes daily frees our mind and body of stress. When we overcome stress, we experience peace and yoga is the best way to attain inner peace by calming your disturbed mind. Once you are calm and peaceful you start noticing good things around you and the goodness of the people present around which in turn helps in improving your relationship with your loved ones.
Other advantages of yoga include improved energy, better flexibility and better postures, excellent intuition skills, better immunity and increased awareness of the things happening around us. Physical benefits of yoga include better metabolism, improved respiration, increased flexibility, cardio and circulatory health, weight reduction, protection from injury and better muscle strength and tone.
International Yoga Day
Realizing the widespread prominence and advantages of yoga, the United Nations proclaimed June 21st as the International Day of Yoga since 2015 to raise awareness worldwide of the many benefits of practicing yoga. The theme for this year is ‘Yoga for Climate Action’.
On this day, there are several programs arranged throughout the world to commemorate the benefits of yoga and this has been happening with great enthusiasm every year.
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Dietitian & Nutritionist Dr. Nafeesa Imteyaz.