By Lucy Johnstone – Guest Writer
I’m emerging from a flu which has taken two days of my life. Two whole days in bed, sweating, writhing, moaning, and not in a good way. It’s also taken my voice, leaving me with nothing but a cartoon mouse-like squeak, inviting amusement from all who attempt to converse with me.
Two days of non productive, miserable, inconvenient wallowing. I’m not a good patient. I like to be the one looking after unwell loved ones. Not on the receiving end of other people’s damp facecloths and throat lozenges. I’ll dispense vomit buckets and bandaids happily but as soon as the tables are turned I transform into a whinging, pale shadow of my former self.
While I was lying down for two days I thought a lot about healing. I’ve always been fascinated with the body’s ability to heal itself. You get a cut, it magically glues itself back together. You walk into the coffee table and bruise your knee, and after it changes from blue to purple to green to yellow, it’s gone.
Minds heal too. Something terrible happens and you’re depressed and traumatised. Shock and grief and all sorts of challenging emotions overwhelm you, but then time happens. Time heals you. Love heals you. You heal you.
So how can we open ourselves to healing? To having bodies and minds which embrace those wonder processes of recovery which our bodies are programmed to do naturally? Here’s some things to help programme your body and brain for optimum health. I call these the Six Non-Negotiables of a Good Life.
Laughter really is the best medicine. If you’re putting happy thoughts and images into your brain, it will reward you with endorphins and other pleasant chemicals which promote healing and happiness. Be aware of this next time you binge watch an entire series of a gruesome, violent scary TV show. Prescribe yourself a couple of episodes of F.R.I.E.N.D.S, IT Crowd or Black Books afterwards, phone a loved one or go for a nice walk outside, to ensure your brain knows it’s not all doom and gloom in the world.
It doesn’t really matter whether you’re into mountain climbing, Zumba-ing or power walking, as long as you’re moving. Our bodies were made to move. When we sit at desks all day we’re doing ourselves a disservice both to our mental and physical health so find a form of movement you enjoy and get to it. Helpful tip – sex can be counted as exercise too.
Showing Stress who’s Boss
Historically, stress was useful for helping us escape from dangerous things like Saber Tooth tigers and so on. But over time, we have morphed into a super stressed out species with anxiety and depression related disorders now rating as the third most common loss of health for adults, coming in just behind cancers and heart disease.
Managing toxic stress can help to save your life. So make sure to take a little time each day to meditate in some way. Even if it’s just to take one minute to stop, be still and quietly focus on your breathing. Think of this as a shower for your mind. You wouldn’t want to walk around each day covered in dirt and grime accumulated on your physical body. Be sure to cleanse your mind of mental dirt too.
I’m not wonderful at the sitting quietly type of meditation. My mental cleanse is pump class at the gym. It’s an hour where I’m so busy concentrating on following the instructor and completing reps that I think of nothing else. My mind is focused and free from intrusive thoughts. Don’t feel you have to be sitting cross legged and burning joss sticks to be meditating. Like everything, you’ll find the way that’s right for you.
Our bodies and brains depend on water to survive. When we stay hydrated our endurance is improved, along with our mood and brain power, our immune system, our ability to flush out toxins and a whole load of other good stuff.
Trust me. Drink the water.
I recently read the term “sleep hygiene” which is what we use to refer to a person’s rituals and behaviour around sleeping. Turns out it’s much better to climb into clean sheets and drift off to the sounds of gently falling rain than it is to collapse into an unmade bed with your clothes on and stare at your phone until you fall asleep.
Create a bedtime ritual which shows a little self love. A peaceful minute of contemplation, a scented candle, soft pyjamas…
If your partner snores, get yourself some ear plugs. If there’s a streetlight outside your window which bugs you, move your bed, get block out curtains or a cute eye mask.
Take your sleep hygiene seriously and your body will thank you.
Food as Love
I’m not sure there’s anything more complicated in this world than the relationship between humans and food. We’ve over analysed and demonized certain food groups and implemented a system of guilt and deprivation and punishment and shame and a whole load of other negative adjectives.
This has to stop.
Food needs to be love.
Every time you choose to eat something you’re making a decision about whether or not you want to love and nourish your body. I would never tell anyone what to eat, but I will suggest that you do your own research, get to know your body and find out which foods make you feel like your best self, both physically and ethically.
For me, it’s vegetarian food, limited added sugars, whole foods and organic where possible. This doesn’t mean I never eat a Mars Bar, just that I know I won’t feel physically great afterwards, so I won’t do so every day.
Life is challenging. Sometimes very challenging. But I’ve survived all my bad days so far and so will you. Our bodies come equipped with the ability to heal themselves in all sorts of ways. Take time to appreciate your body and all the things it’s done for you over the years. Feed it the good food, the happy thoughts, the orgasms, the funny movies. Surround it with kind people, fresh air and soft clothing. Move for the joy that’s in movement. Show it a little love and it’ll love you right back, like your family with the damp facecloths and throat lozenges.
Note – If you are overwhelmed to the point that you cannot see a way out, I urge you to talk to a trusted friend, relative or GP. Sometimes the best bit of self care you can ever do is reaching out for help.