Be Happy, Healthy and Wise

February is the second and shortest month in the Gregorian calendar  with only 28 days in common years, and 29 days in leap years. The birthstone for February is the beautiful amethyst, which symbolizes piety, humility, spiritual wisdom and sincerity.

So this February let’s improve our lives in order to be healthy, happy and wise.  Make a start by being kind to your own self, by setting realistic goals and learning to prioritise and focus on what is important in your life.   Guard your time jealously, don’t say yes to everything you are asked to do, find time to relax and avoid getting stressed out.  I find the best way for me is to create a routine, to make a list of things or people that cause me unhappiness, and to consciously tackle the source of the problem wherever possible.  With a positive action plan its easier to take control of my life and whenever possible (because I’m only human) I don’t allow myself to be put upon by other people.  Over the years I’ve learnt the importance of avoiding situations or insincere people I am not comfortable with, or those I know will cause me stress.

Stress is an instinctive reaction for self-survival which automatically switches your body to a state of red alert.  When you become fearful you breathe more deeply, your heart rate soars and your muscles tense ready for action.   Some stress is important for our self-preservation and will help keep us out of danger, for example we need to be alert and aware when we cross a busy road!  But we can find ourselves in situations where we  feel unable to express our feelings and this resulting pent-up emotion pushes up blood pressure and put a strain on the whole of our body, including the heart.  We need to distinguish between good and bad stress – because this later one causes DISTRESS and is detrimental to our health.

We are all different, and for many people an absorbing hobby, like art, crafts or music can take our minds off things that cause distress, for others yoga, body conditioning classes and relaxation techniques are beneficial.  Many find physical activities such as gentle rhythmic cycling, jogging or swimming can help reduce tension, release pent up emotions and also encourage deep refreshing sleep.   Being physically active will certainly help reduce tension, but obviously a casual stroll round the corner is not going to be enough if you also want to improve your overall fitness at the same time! So whatever activity you choose to do, do it briskly and correctly and aim to keep those feet moving fast in February to feel the benefit. You could even set yourself the challenge of participating in a charity walk or run!

My running friends assure me that an hour out in the fresh air gets rid of their frustrations and puts their life into perspective.  If running is your thing always ensure you have good fitting and well-cushioned trainers, and aim to run on softer surfaces, such as grass, sand or cross-country as this will reduce the impact on your joints.  Unless you are super competitive run at a pace that feels natural, so you aren’t running too fast or too slow – and enjoy it!  To stay motivated why not find a friend, or perhaps a workmate to join you in your lunch hour for a 30-minute run or brisk walk.  Or maybe back home a close neighbour or friend could join you after work or at weekends enabling you to motivate and support one another?

Incorporate activity into your everyday life by taking the opportunity to get on out there in any place, at any time.  Fit activity into your everyday by walking to work, or at least getting off the train or bus a few stops earlier than usual.  Or set you could set yourself that challenge of a few laps round the park at lunchtime!  All activity gives you a chance to naturally shake off pent up anger and if you are a person who prefers your activity to have a purpose then a dog or an accompanying friend who walks regularly will motivate you.  Still not motivated?  Then think about employing a personal trainer who will provide both motivation and discipline!

Finally, stretching is a fantastic way to improve your physical and mental wellbeing and keep your stress levels in check.  Stretching helps me to relax and improve my posture which has the bonus of making me appear slimmer and younger and it keeps my joints flexible and eases aches and pains! I begin each morning by standing tall and stretching out my entire body like my cat does after a good nap!  On busy days I do my stretching in the evening after a hot bath or another beneficial time to stretch is after physical exercise when the body is warm.  Breathe normally and relax your body completely as you lengthen out your arms, legs, chest, and neck and back.  Never strain, but always hold the stretch for 8 seconds and relax into it.   Yes, you may feel a little stiff and sore at first, which proves that your muscles are elongating in order to reach their full potential, enabling your body to loosen and release stress.

To complete my stretch routine I finally close my eyes for a few minutes and lie quietly visualising myself in my favourite place.  For me this is a warm Caribbean beach with water lapping my feet and gentle winds blowing through my hair and the palm trees above?  Over the years I’ve found that this peaceful moment of tranquillity and humility clears my head, puts my life back into perspective and in this relaxed state I count my blessings.  Wisdom comes with older age!