World Health Day: Just in TimePosted: April 7, 2017
Today is World Health Day arriving just in time. Initially this post was going to share tips on how to keep your mind, body and spirit healthy: strategies you could apply right now to influence your well-being. However, considering the latest developments of violence in the world, perhaps it would be more effective to share strategies for how we, as a collective, can improve the health of the world.
Many people are feeling angered and outraged by what is happening in the world. These feeling arise because they alert us to the fact that something we care about is being threatened; humanity, freedom, equal rights, safety, etc.…. Conversely, it’s normal to feel sadness and fear as well. All these feelings are normal and justified, and when felt can lead us to action that brings health, safety, and peace to all. But how?
Learning how to interpret the signals of stress can help us align our actions with our values, and strengthen our health overall. We can do this by noticing the signals triggered by stress, how they show up in our bodies and minds, and remind ourselves that our bodies are preparing us for something: to act and engage, tend and befriend, or challenge and learn.
When we experience something that threatens us—physically, emotionally, or even psychologically (like a belief)– our brain sends out a stress response to our bodies. Normally, we view these responses as negative and harmful to our health. However, if we adopt the mindset that this felt condition of stress is helpful, and if we are mindful of how it is presented in the body, we can then choose more effective responses.
For example, when something triggers the stress response in you, notice what is happening in your body: your heart beat may increase, the blood to your legs and arms increases as does your energy, and you become more focused. Notice the physical sensations you are experiencing as well as the emotion by naming it or them. Instead of thinking, “This is stress and I feel anxious. I need to fight or run,” you could think, “This is stress and I’m feeling motivated because this issue is important to me. My body is preparing me to perform. It will give me the resources I need.” And then consider your choices: engage in actions that are aligned with your values; mobilize your energy for good with non-violent protests, serving others who are affected, or volunteering resources that you are able to contribute. Additionally, you may invest the energy in your body and exercise to build health so that you can contribute when needed.
Another response we can choose is to connect with others through the tend and befriend response. When you are stressed, hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol are circulating around your body. However, so is oxytocin which encourages you to reach out to others, receive support and give it as well. Tending and befriending is an innate response in humans, and cultivating this connection can build your resilience- in your mind, body and spirit. Oxytocin also helps our hearts recover from stress on a cellular level.
Yet another response we may adopt is the challenge and learn response. With this response, when we notice stress is in our bodies, we can be with them and think, “This is stress and I’m curious. What good can come from this? What can be learned? What healthy step can I take next?” Finding meaning or a benefit in a stressful event can help us cope in a healthier way.
Finally, (or perhaps initially) offer compassion, as seen in the traditional Loving Kindness Meditation to the world. Knowing that all beings wish to be free from suffering, offer these words of good will for all:
· May all beings be safe and protected
· May all beings be healthy and strong
· May all beings be peaceful and compassionate
· May all beings live this day knowing that we are all connected through our human experience. We all wish to be free from suffering.
This meditation has an impact on how you respond to others as well as yourself, with more compassion. What would our world be like if we all meditated with loving-kindness? Be part of the change and investigate for yoursef.