Monday, 6 April 2009

Daily habits: they can make or break you

It just occurred to me that there may be a simple way to explain why daily habits have such a important role in determining both overall health and health from day to day.

I just want to record these thoughts at a basic level while they're fresh. The reason being I think most people get that how they lead their lives determines its quality and length but most don't feel they have much control over it for various reasons. 

To help it's important to start from a basic principle that can be built on. This principle for me is that our bodies are in a process of constant change. The reason ve've been so effective as to dominate the earth and take thrive so well on this planet is, as far as I can see, that we're able to adapt so well to the conditions on all types of land environment. From th hottest and driest, to the coldest and wettest parts of our planets humans have gone there and conquered. Even before this technological age. 

What made it possible?
From what I can see it's because our bodies are continually preparing for the next challenge be it famine or feast or a massive trek to find food our bodies are considering what we're about to face. 

The difference these days is that we don't face the challenges on a day to day basis that we used to. So our bodies don't know get the signals they're designed for. That means they're preparing for different things and thus all these western diseases are kind of the by product.

The essence goes back to understanding what environment(s) our bodies are designed to thrive in and then how to achieve it today. I don't want to live like a caveman even if that's what my body is designed for. For me I want to figure out how to achieve nirvana in the here and now by understanding what makes us tick by referrring to all this history and our place in it. 

Right now I feel it's children that can teach us the most. Time after time I feel that as adults we're overloaded with information about our bodies and how to work with them but much of it is like a joke with no punch line.  I keep feeling we don't know enough yet to put it all together correctly. So all these diets and strict regimes are generally too reductionist because they forget that humans survive in all climates, on different types of food, they live very varied lifestyles yet in all cultures some live past 100. That kind of implies that humans can thrive anywhere and on plenty of difference diets. 

It makes more sense to me that our bodies have a well developed system of dealing with the bad consequences of our lives and that those who thrive the most.  The ones who live the longest with the highest quality of life. Simply follow lifestyles that work in the environment they live. 

Ok, I've not said anything groundbreaking so far. Well I don't think I have but I feel the research reduces everything down to calories and vitamins so we think the answer is there. I'm not sure it's all there. I think plenty of other things must be considered. 

Talking about children they just run around and play and eat kind of what they want. Sure they often eat things they shouldn't but then they soon learn. The point being They don't spend their lives worrying about what they eat. They do lead active lives. They don't live strict lives they work well with their bodies because if they have an urge for food they have it. I generally find that when you're really active regularly it's quite hard to eat so much that you put on much weight at all. In fact you need a bunch of food. Yet you don't actually feel like you do that much because you're body is really used to it. 

Point being when you're a kid without all the burdens of adulthood you just do what your body is designed for. When you become an adult you often stop. Maybe not everything but I bet we can all make a short list of some of the things we did as a kid that were probably good for us that we don't do any more. I wonder how many of these things should be in a recipe for a healthy, happy and productive life. 

  • Laughing regularly
  • jumping around
  • playing for the heck of it
  • just doing nothing and enjoying it
  • not worrying about bigs things that might happen
  • just giving your best, if it's not good enough then figure out why and try again. Not seeing it as failure
  • Enjoying food, eating without guilt

You can probably see. I just feel like life is for living and most kids have got that down. So it's about what they can teach us.

I've kind of drifted from the point of this post. That is that every day our bodies monitor our activity and challenges we face as a clue to what to prepare for. And every day our bodies are remodelling to help us faces these expected challenges. Activity in all its forms is such an important way of telling our bodies what challenges we need it to prepare for. In this way we replicate the challenges our ancestors faced and help our bodies do what they're designed for. 

So what challenges are these and how can they help us. The list I'm going to write is not exhaustive and not some thing I've researched in depth. I'm just putting my thoughts down so I can take a step back and see if this fits the wider puzzle

  • exercise(physical activity): involves making key energy sources limited through icnreased demand for them. Forces the body to be efficient with each. The same goes for water and other nutrients. Exercise, especially intense exercise, is the main time our bodies learn to deal with a huge demand for all the bodies resources at the same time. It also exposes our organs such as muscles to conditions similar to famine compared to the feast they normally have because the resources must be shared among a large muscle mass, organs like the liver, kidney, lungs, heart all have to do a lot with very little. This ensures they reach the top of their game and become strong and able to with stand lifes rigours
  • intermittent fasting. I'm intrigued by this concept because I feel it represents another way of exposing ther body to conditions of scarcity triggering processes inate in us to deal with this. I wonder if it may force us to protect our vitamin and nutrient stores better and be more efficient with what we have. So, much like exercise, could it be a way of maintaing the challenges that our bodies are designed to thrive on, and may even expect in order to thrive.
  • highs and lows (emotional exercise): We're not just machines. I play sports because it gives me joy and frustration. I feel I need both to thrive. In the west we have such easy lives compared to those in the first world.  Yet we often seem to be more stressed. I've noticed how my approach and attitude to events in my life changes dramatically as I experience more profound stress and distress than I had previously. These tought times do actually often make me stronger and give me a different perspective. Much like physical exercise does on my body. It gives it a different persepective on the same challenge. I find that I learn new coping techniques that are better than the old and so I find my life generally feels easier and happier than before. So in some ways this is like an emotional work out. And to be honest I need to keep it up other wise my skills, like any other, will fade into neglect.
  • dreams and reality: (spiritual exercise): I can see where this list is going now :-). Again I love to have dreams but reality keep coming back in and ruining things. I grew up as a dreamer but as I've grown I've learnt how to make dreams become reality. The constant shift between dreams and reality is good as long as you keep working on turning your dreams into a reality. Again it's exercise. It's about developing skills and experience and then maintaining it. 

I may need to add to and adjust the list but I think it's captured the essence. In many areas we change on a daily basis. It's botha  chance to improve and a chance to wither. A chance to get rid of dead wood but also to lose amazing skills. Our minds and bodies have been designed for this and so they know how to keep hold of the good and get rid of the bad. 

Our challenge is to learn how to work with this too so we can get the best out of ourselves. 
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