Conscious choices made for personal health have a direct effect on the health of our planet. The World Earth Day provides the opportunity to realign our choices and rediscover our roots.
Renowned humanitarian Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, the founder of the Art of Living Foundation, says, “Health is our true wealth. A healthy body, mind and spirit, when aligned, allow us to live life to its fullest capacity.” The question is: how do we fulfil a renewed and revitalised investment in our health?
We can start by trying to align our physical health, mental health and spiritual health. The food we choose to consume, how we take care of our headspace, and the role we play in creating a better environment around us and contributing towards a better earth must complement each other.
The recently concluded World Health Day focused on the physical, mental and spiritual health of people, which are fundamental to individual well-being, society, and even the environment. All these plains are interconnected.
However, through our consumerism-fuelled and instant gratification-based lifestyles, we have unwittingly disconnected from the source of the wealth, our health and the health of this planet. There is an urgent need to rectify this. It is most important to take a reality check, recalibrate and realign.
A chronic disease is one that lasts longer than three months. Statistics show that over 40% of Americans have a chronic disease, the top six being cancer, diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, lung-related conditions and mental illnesses. Over 80% of chronic diseases are driven by lifestyle practices. A typical holistic prescription would be to revise one’s diet, take good rest, plan an exercise regimen, meditate and pray (also suggested by therapists as journaling or practising gratitude).
It is said, “What you don›t pay for at the food table, you pay more for at the doctor.” One of the quickest indicators of one’s health is to the Body Mass Index (BMI). Normal BMI is between 18. 5 and 25; a person with a BMI between 25 and 30 is overweight and a person with a BMI over 30 is considered obese.
There is increasing evidence that a plant-based diet can reverse some of these conditions as they are rich in fibre, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Apart from that, it contributes towards saving the planet. A plant-based diet can combat climate change as it is known to produce less greenhouse gas emissions. Studies have proved that the meat processing and dairy production accounts for a major percentage of global greenhouse gas emissions, and water and land pollution.
Exercise is also an essential component for battling excess weight and maintaining optimal health. Being mindful of what we eat as well as how we function goes hand in hand in the journey of maintaining a healthy body.
Like any exercise routine or sport, meditation takes practice too. Meditation and breathing techniques can play an important role. They are the tools that help you calm your mind, and make you feel happy from within. Many illnesses can be helped through meditation and breathing techniques. Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar says, “Meditation is food for the soul.”
Practice and continual effort are required for what›s good, therefore taking out time to enrol in a de-stressing programme is ideal. Japanese farmer and philosopher Masanobu Fukuoka advises, “Purification of the human spirit and healing of land is the same process.” Shifting dimensions and attempting to reboot our spiritual health brings a balance in the long term. These steps bear fruit with time; regular practice and steady introspections are the way forward. Spiritual growth pertains to reaching out and connecting. The richness of life rests upon sharing its abundances; the fullness of a healthy life comes when we share the fullness of the wealth of who we are, when we reach out to others, think of others and offer them support during their hours of need. Those on the spiritual path know that it is due to such practices that an individual grows in an abundance of self. This is at the core of both the health and the wealth of who we are as individuals and as a community.
As one witnesses and realises that there is only one earth and that we are over-consuming and abusing her, the urge arises within us to take action and make a difference—not only for ourselves, but also for our family and friends, for the entire society. This is transformation.
So how does one make a difference?
• Have a go at doing things differently. For example, stop planting trees—plant a forest instead. A forest consists of seven integrated vertical layers of vegetation, not just a load of single trees
• Stop automatic food selection. Read labels, find out where it is sourced from and what type of soil it is grown in.
• Save up and buy better quality products so you throw away less.
• Grow some of your own food, even if it is just germinating some seeds on blotting paper. Growing broccoli is easy.
• Choose a topic and undertake some research, become informed
• Make decisions and choices that take tomorrows into consideration and not just today.
• Create some space. Ask yourself, how much stuff do I need, how much stuff can I redistribute, how much stuff can I do without? Of course, ask the more important question: how did I get so much stuff? There is an eye-opener in this one.
• The marketing departments of the world have figured out that we are a great lot of people for buying things we don›t need or want. Such goods look good to us but soon find their way into the trophy cupboard.
• Above all, take some time out to be in nature, with Mother Earth and just appreciate the simple things in life.
As Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar says, “Human evolution has two steps—from being somebody to being nobody; and from being nobody to being everybody. This knowledge can bring sharing and caring throughout the world.”
The author is an environmental scientist, safety and permaculture design consultant, and international Art of Living teacher.