Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Posts Tagged ‘optimal health

Depth Perception

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Whether it’s a movie or a particular song, or sometimes a tragedy reported on the news, messages with impact can hit us in the gut. I watched a program last night that touched a personal nerve in its depiction of a powerful memory I have about my experience of depression. It involves the illogical behavior of pushing someone away when what you actually want is just the opposite.

I would shun connection when all I wanted was to be connected. It’s dysfunctional, to say the least.

The healthy alternative to that involves reaching an authenticity that brings behavior and desires into renewed alignment. Say what you mean, mean what you say, then act that way.

It is a function of becoming perceptive to the full depth of what we are truly feeling. Learning to be entirely honest with ourselves and observant enough to direct our thoughts toward a healthy interpretation of reality.

There is also a valuable component of becoming aware to avoid fabricating perceptions that lack any evidence of truth. Don’t make shit up.

I am happy to proclaim the incalculable reward of profound joy and blessed peace of mind available to a person who learns how to treat their depression and do away with dysfunctional thinking. I owe a debt of gratitude to the medical community that contributed to my recovery over two decades ago.

Yesterday, Cyndie discovered the depth of our chickens’ disdain for carrots after tossing them some mixed vegetable leftovers.

A little while later there wasn’t a single scrap of anything other than carrots remaining. I suppose the overnight scrounging critters will be happy to clean up after them.

We’ve noticed that the processed chicken feed we put out gets passed over by pretty much all the wild birds along with our chickens in favor of anything else we make available. The chickens LOVE the cracked corn and mealworm snacks, so there is never any of that left lying around, but leftover or spilled chicken feed even gets passed over by the overnight scavengers like raccoons, stray cats, possums, and a fox that have shown up on the trail cam.

I had no idea they would have such a discerning palate.

I should give them more credit for the depth of their perceptions.

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Deepening Self-Awareness

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At this very moment, take note of what muscle(s) you are unconsciously clenching in whatever position you find yourself. One aspect of deepening self-awareness involves moving our unconscious activity closer to our consciousness. This doesn’t mean we have to be thinking about every single breath or heartbeat, but you can become more “aware” while not being exclusively focused on each one.

Sometimes, awareness occurs within a split second, too. That’s all the time it takes to notice where your posture might be clenched. Then it’s on to the next attention-getter.

Maybe the rapid-fire jump of attention is the thing to notice. Slow a mind down and the body will happily follow.

The most valuable reward I have discovered with my growing self-awareness (a term I actually have an aversion to due to the unappealing aura associated with over-indulgence of said behavior) is an equal increase of awareness for those around me.

Coming from the perspective of the self-centered focus of depression to any increase in balance toward healthier attention for others has been a very positive boost for me in my journey toward optimal health.

In contrast, an unanticipated flare-up in nerve discomfort from the bulging of a degenerating disc in my lower back snaps my attention dramatically back to self over all others. Try as I might to avoid the onset of self-pity, the pull is stronger than gravity and almost as relentless.

Mind and body are engaged in a battle of wits at this point. Should I refrain from moving? Should I clench all the other back muscles to prevent my moving into a position where the mild discomfort becomes a jolt of stabbing pain? Will excruciating pain actually happen, or is that just an archived memory from when it did happen one other time years ago?

I’ve been treated with traction and therapeutic exercise over the years to ameliorate the impact of the worst symptoms. These days the impact is much more subdued. But the memories remain.

The daily planking exercises and yoga stretching I have been doing for the last few years have provided me with better core strength in my body than ever before, but that doesn’t stop degeneration. At this point, I credit the muscle-building effort with softening the blow of the failing discs and allowing me to continue to function, albeit a little stiffly, through occasional periods of decline.

I am slowed, not incapacitated.

There is another fella around these parts who is forging onward despite an uncomfortable affliction. The extent of frostbite our rooster Rocky suffered on his wattle and comb is clearly obvious.

It’s hard to tell if his growing orneriness is due to that or simply a function of his continuing maturation into the valiant protector of his brood of hens. For some reason, he has chosen to single out the Buff Orpington for ex-communication from the group. I’m guessing she was the previous dominant hen and he feels a need to go overboard in making the point he is now the one in charge.

Both Cyndie and I have needed to demonstrate our dominance over him lately to assure he understands the ultimate pecking order around here.

Rocky needs to improve his self-awareness to become a better leader who recognizes how everyone around him is feeling about his actions and behaviors.

Now check to see if those muscles you noticed being clenched a few minutes ago unconsciously tightened up again.

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Written by johnwhays

March 13, 2021 at 10:45 am

Embracing Compassion

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When the day comes that somebody asks you which side you are on between love and hate, how will your choices align?

Seeking to become a more compassionate person is not rocket science. Learning to open our minds to concepts beyond our comprehension takes a little practice, but since we start practicing the expansion of our understanding from the moment we are born, it is something we know how to do.

Unless something stifles our progress or we let ourselves forget that we can do it.

Compassion: | kəmˈpaSHən | noun sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others.

If parents raise their children with compassion, demonstrate compassion for others, and nurture the art of practicing the expansion of understanding, generations of more loving people will multiply.

We all do better when we all do better.  – Paul Wellstone

There was a time in my life when I felt an unwarranted level of confidence about the way I perceived the world around me, and it involved a lot less grey areas than I am inclined to accept today. There was also a time when I could read small print without glasses. My understanding has expanded and continues to expand.

Sometimes, I find myself unable to understand things I see about the way people behave and the messages they convey, but I strive to become open minded enough to choose to love them as best as I can muster. That effort is a work in progress at times, I’ll admit, but the desire to be more compassionate endures.

Last night, Cyndie and I stumbled onto the CBS broadcast of “Play On: Celebrating the Power of Music to Make Change,” a benefit concert of music crossing multiple genres that radiated compassion and love. The pandemic and renewed push for social justice in the face of repeated police violence against people of color are igniting an energy momentum that deserves to burst forth with a new level of compassion throughout the world.

I hope people will choose to join the side of love.

Too many are facing hunger every day. The world needs more love and compassion.

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Written by johnwhays

December 16, 2020 at 7:00 am

Practicing Life

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In the vein of practicing medicine –isn’t it a little scary that we say doctors are “practicing?”– I figure I am practicing life, but without a license from any official authority. Without a license, I’m not supposed to offer formal advice to others on matters of health and wellness, but that seems like a lost opportunity regarding the life lessons I have experienced through my years.

Alas, the act of living healthy is something I share with others by way of simply doing it. I’m practicing living healthy every day and attempting to add a little love in the world while I’m at it.

By far, the most significant step in my life’s journey toward optimal health happened when I sought treatment for depression. The years when I put my focus on diet and exercise prior to diagnosis of my dysfunctional mental health had me spinning my wheels. In the time since I learned to conduct my thoughts in a healthy manner, the benefits of my other efforts increased noticeably.

I dare say the steps I have put in place in my life would suit others equally well if practiced as a way of life. Too bad I’ve no license to prescribe such medicine and be compensated. On the other hand, I do have plenty of opportunities to give my advice for free.

The most significant point I express regarding the quest for best health is that it is an everyday effort for as many years as we may live. However many days (years) we might have traveled an unhealthy path must, at the very least, be equaled in time in order to undo. There aren’t any quick fixes that can be achieved by temporary endeavors.

You’ve got to play the long game.

The good news is that benefits are available along the way and the journey gets easier and more rewarding as you go. You don’t need to wait for some magic day when everything becomes rainbows and unicorns.

Eat well, exercise your body and mind, practice loving self and others with all your heart. Do it every day. Keep it up for the rest of your life.

Call me in the morning.

No charge. The nurse will show you out.

Have a good life!

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Occasional Lapse

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Despite any perception my blogging may lend to the contrary, the path I am on in a quest toward optimal health in mind, body, and soul is not one of unwavering perfection. It is not uncharacteristic of me to fail to live up to my own expectations at random intervals along the lifetime trek of intending to make healthy choices.

The secret to success hides in one very simple and obvious step. Never let an occasional lapse permanently redirect focus away from the primary long-term goal.

In an exercise toward teaching by example, I am sharing today’s post for your reference, but I am really writing this message to myself. I need to take heed of this:

It is okay that I failed miserably on Saturday to control my impulse to eat too much Chex mix. Also, overindulging on the arguably best blueberry scones Cyndie has ever baked, in addition to the generous serving of her banana cake with homemade dark chocolate ganache frosting, and then, come dinner time, agreeing with Cyndie that neither of us felt hungry enough for a meal.

An hour later, giggling like kids left unsupervised, we decided to have a bowl of ice cream as our dinner, instead. Oh, so despicably decadent.

Does this mean I have given up on striving to limit my daily dose of added sugar to World Health Organization suggested levels? No, it does not.

It means I ate more carbs than I should for one day, despite my goal to do otherwise. That’s all.

By the next day, I was back on track measuring my servings to monitor my intake.

Luckily, I have a new taste treat to satisfy cravings on the cereal front, thanks to Cyndie’s willingness to explore the grocery shelves for lower sugar options for me.

Even though it was Gustola Granola I was gushing over a month ago, my desire for variety drives me to seek alternatives to exclusively eating granola for breakfast during the week. Today’s cereal-crush is Heritage Flakes® from Nature’s Path Foods.

It’s got millet! Say no more. I have a thing for millet.

Oh heck, I will say more. Heritage Flakes cereal has only 5 grams of added sugar in a serving size of 1 cup! That’s impressive. I generally need to limit my serving sizes to 1/4 cup of most cereals I like in order to stay close to 5 grams.

That doesn’t mean these flakes don’t have a sweetness to them, though, but it’s a more satisfying sweet coming from the multiple grains. That wonderful flavor is then bolstered by a fantastic crunchiness that really helps to set this cereal apart from most others.

With that, I will say, “Onward toward optimal health,” regardless my occasional temporary lapse!

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Unintentional Meditation

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The truth is, I just don’t know what to think. There is a simple solution for that, though. Sometimes I just don’t.

Think, that is. Maybe that is my version of unintentional meditation.

There are plenty of days that boil down to just putting one foot in front of the other. Some people do a better job of that than others. I believe there is an art to finding a way to carry on with a seemingly endless routine, regardless of having either a preconceived intention or none at all, on any given day.

Being something of a “both/and” person, I have no problem reconciling the odd combination of experiencing two opposing emotions simultaneously. More often than not, it is probably fair to say that I feel both happy and sad all at the same time.

Whatever gets you through the day is okay.

There is an interesting dynamic in the process of striving to become more healthy with time. Like peeling an onion, or zooming in for a closer look, new opportunities for improvement keep coming into view as progress is achieved. It’s as if someone keeps moving the goal line of optimal health farther away as I approach.

Progress begets progress, and so in one aspect, advances –both mental and physical– seem to come a little easier with time. But, there is also a change in the rate of improvement over time which makes it harder to perceive ongoing gains being achieved.

Of course, I have chosen love as my secret –or not so secret– weapon of choice for solving life challenges. I need to remind myself to love myself and send love to others all along the way. It helps to sooth angst over plateauing progress and energize doldrums that might begin to weigh me down.

The biggest success I hope to celebrate someday in my life will be a time when I discover that I am beaming that self-love and love for others without needing to think about it.

Wouldn’t that be a fine ambiance in which to live?

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Mental Health

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Every day. A quest for optimal health is an every day endeavor. Just as I make conscious choices about the food I eat and the exercises I do, I also tend to my mental health every single day.

May is mental health awareness month. Pay attention!

I am eternally grateful for the professional treatment I have received, and the educational information I’ve been given, to successfully resolve a depression that negatively colored my perspective for much of my early life. Today I enjoy the ability to more fully enjoy good moments, and recover much more quickly from bad ones.

Mental illnesses are treatable. They deserve the same healthy attention that our physical illnesses get.

Mental illness deserves to be free of stigma. Learning to be comfortable discussing mental disorders does wonders for both those of us who experience them and those around us who don’t. With a statistic of 1 in 5 Americans affected by a mental health condition, nearly everyone has a connection that deserves attention free of stigma.

Choose health. Optimal health. Mind, body, and soul.

Break the stigma.

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Twenty Years

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Six months into 2019, I will reach another decade milestone of birthdays. It will mark the entrance to my fourth life span, as measured by my twenty-year segments of life. My perspective goes like this: From birth to age twenty, it seems like a mind-boggling amount life experiences.

We know almost nothing when born, basically starting with little in the way of consciousness, then progressing to a fully functioning adult –give or take a few/some/many skills; individual results obviously vary. Using those first twenty years of life as a benchmark, the changes in the next twenty years aren’t so dramatic.

But here’s the key: It is still the same span of time in number of years.

If it felt like a lifetime of experiences to get to twenty-years-old, then use that same reference to view life from twenty to forty. Don’t devalue that second span of twenty years just because of how much you already knew when it started.

Same thing again when reaching sixty. You have lived from zero to twenty, three times by sixty years old.

Young people may naturally perceive small differences between people in their sixties or eighties. But considering it from the twenty-year reference, that difference is another lifetime.

Last fall, my health insurance provider mailed me a notice that it was time for my annual physical. You know, that annual physical that I get around to every four years or so. As the calendar rolled over to the new year, the one where I will turn sixty, I felt motivated to make the appointment.

Now that I’ve survived that nuisance cold I picked up over the holidays, I’m in great condition for a well-health check. Problem is, I don’t want to bring up any symptoms of aging for fear the doctor will want to sell me a battalion of pharmacological solutions.

Among nuisance details like age spots on my skin, and declining testosterone induced nose/ear/eyebrow hair growth, I’m recognizing new and increasing signs that my oft-sprained ankle from years of sporting activity is sending very arthritic aching signals lately.

The ankle pangs provide a compliment to the arthritic thumb pain that my hand doctor discouraged me surgically treating when I sought advice on it after the family trait showed up in my left hand about a decade ago.

Being uninterested in long-term prescription treatments, I would like to delay a standard routine of osteoarthritis pain medicines as long as possible.

I’ll focus my next twenty-year life span toward optimal hydration, controlled sugar intake, healthy meals (portion control!), regular planking and stretching, clean air, positive mental focus, regular dental checkups/eye exams, interacting with our animals, and sending love to everyone, in attempt to manage the ravages of time.

Who knows? Maybe in another twenty years, they will have perfected the art of genetically re-engineering epigenetic changes or senescent cell management, and aging will be a thing of the past.

Twenty years seems like a lifetime of experience, though, doesn’t it?

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Increasing Love

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It’s simple. Last night I scanned the headlines of my news feed and didn’t find anything other than gloom and doom. Shortly after that, I happened upon the PBS Frontline episode, “Documenting Hate: New American Nazis.”

It was unsettling, to say the least.

There is only one response I can muster. Love, and more of it.

A lot more of it.

Please join me in growing more love. New love. Feel love. Conjure it in your mind from your heart and your soul.

Send it out to every corner of your world and beyond.

Love one another. Love your neighbors. Love your enemies. Love those who are so damaged they only feed on hate.

Send love to leaders who provoke and promote hatred in all its forms.

We have the power to generate unlimited amounts of love. Don’t take that for granted, and for the good of the human race, don’t for a minute neglect this most precious of resources.

Grow your love and throw your love out into the world with reckless abandon and laser-like focus.

All we need is love. Love is all we need.

And as an added bonus, a loving hug is icing on the cake.

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Written by johnwhays

November 21, 2018 at 7:00 am

Other Examples

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As long as I’m on the subject of sticktoitiveness, there are two other examples in my life that have slowly rewarded me for staying the course day after day, in one case, for years.

When I finally took action to address an addiction to sugar which manifested in cravings that controlled my decisions, I had no idea what lay ahead for me. I had previously experimented with simply cutting out desserts and cookies or candy treats for a random period of weeks, just to see if I could, but I neglected to account for the amount of sugar I was getting from other sources.

My cravings for breads and cereals would ramp up to impressive levels, and I would allow myself those compromises.

After learning more about where I was getting most of the sugar in my diet, and discovering the actual measurement of sugar recommended by the World Health Organization for percentage of daily calories, I set out to control it by watching the numbers.

That made a big difference. First of all, it showed me how physically addicted my body, and mind, had become. I experienced withdrawal symptoms that included headaches, dizziness, nausea, and tremors, not because I cut out sugar completely, but simply by strictly limiting the amount of sugar in the food I was eating.

It has taken me years at the rate I am working it (because I waver with my level of strictness), but self-control slowly improved to a point where it hardly takes mental energy to employ anymore. Most importantly, I am not just doing this for a period of weeks. This is forever. I always measure how much cereal I eat, and I always check serving size information to figure out how much sugar there is.

A more recent adventure in every day tenacity that I am watching produce slow results is, my daily planking exercises. When I started back in the last week of March, I decided to see what results I might achieve if I did the exercises my physical therapist recommended for the entire month of April. These were focused on strengthening my core to treat the painful symptoms of degenerating discs.

It is really helpful to not be constrained by debilitating pain when doing daily chores to care for our animals.

Thirty consecutive days of planking in April established enough of a pattern that I found it easy enough to keep going through May. Then two months became four, and in a blink, I’ve made it eight months of pretty regular planking. In that time I have slowly gained enough strength that I have modified my methods to match.

The current plank that is my primary exercise is four minutes long, starting with a minute and a half of a basic horizontal planking, then 45 seconds of lifting an opposite arm and leg for a two-point plank, 45 more seconds with the other arm and leg, and then finishing with a final minute of the basic plank again.

There are other leg exercises and some yoga stretches that get mixed in after the planking, depending on how much time I have to spend, but the planking is key.

Between these two daily efforts of healthy controlled-sugar diet and regular exercise, practiced over months and years, my physical health is in better shape than most of my previous adult life.

That is providing plenty of incentive for me to stick to this indefinitely.

Maybe the fact that these steps are not a quick fix, makes the positive results that much more satisfying. It definitely provides a welcome bonus of boosting my mental health, as well.

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