by Reba Word ND
The number four seems embedded somehow in human life. We are fascinated and guided by it. It has long represented positive concepts like completion, stability and predictability. Or strength, balance, and symmetry.
In earthly and cosmic things there are the four cardinal directions, four seasons, four parts of the day: morning, afternoon, evening, night.
There are four dimensions of spacetime, four fundamental forces in physics. Animals have four limbs. Furniture has four legs, our buildings are four-sided.
Ancient concepts include the four classical elements: earth, air, fire, water. Four personality temperaments: choleric, sanguine, melancholic, phlegmatic. Four Noble Truths of Buddhism.
In the domain of health and well-being, there are four essential things you have direct control over that can guarantee increased vitality and improvement in overall wellness:
1. Conscious input in feeding your body
What do you eat and drink? Is it mostly healthy and balanced whole foods, or is there a lot of sugar, salt, snack food and processed food? Your diet should contain adequate protein, a variety of fruits and vegetables, and quality fats. Do you drink enough water daily? Do you drink too much coffee, too much alcohol, too much soft drinks? Do you eat to pacify certain emotions (boredom, loneliness, anxiety)? Do you smoke a lot? Do a lot of drugs? Are you taking the proper kind of medications or supplements? Do any of them conflict with another?
2. The basic value of good breath
It’s one our basic life function but it’s usually taken for granted — and it often gets ‘negatively modified’ as we become adults. At birth our breathing is naturally deep and full. We need a rich supply of oxygen to feed our blood and organs, our mind and spirit. In this modern rush-rush culture we often develop a shallow breathing pattern which decreases strong oxygen flow. Some people even get into a habit of holding their breath momentarily while breathing, often while working or listening to something.
To improve your health, improve how you breathe. Breathe deep into the abdomen, fill your diaphragm and expand your lungs. Take some time during the day to just sit quietly and breathe. An easy form of meditation focuses on awareness of the breath. Good breathing lets us exert a sense of control or grounding over things that are out out of our control. This is called active reception (vs. passive reception). We react better to life when we breathe better.
3. Make a move to more movement
Before modern transportation and industry, most people were always on the move. Our bodies did not evolve to spend most of our awake time in a sitting position, but between cars, computers and TV . . . you get the idea. If you don’t have a physically dynamic job, try something easy — brisk walking (at least 20-30 minutes a day). Walkers have less incidence of cancer, heart disease, stroke, diabetes and other nasty diseases. They live longer and also get mental health and spiritual benefits.
Basic changes in diet and exercise can lead to a dramatic drop in chronic illness risks in as little as 40 days. Find someone who will regularly go walking with you — that makes it more fun. Or maybe get a dog from the shelter — dogs love truckin’ on down the road (but make sure you are up to the commitment of pet ownership). And make sure to walk in nature whenever possible, especially near waterways. Our modern culture tends to isolate us from our natural roots.
4. Get to bed!
I’m sure you’ve heard: we’re a sleep-deprived society. It’s estimated that 30 percent of adults suffer from chronic insomnia. The amount and quality of sleep affects every aspect of life: concentration, memory, mood, energy, skin (our largest organ), immune functions and disease, general performance, hormones — the list goes on. Regular deep sleep helps to replenish, rejuvenate and reset the body for the next day’s tasks. And while you may not remember your dreams, it’s clear this aspect of sleep is critical to the health of our mind and unconscious, key aspects in overall well-being — body, mind and spirit. Most vivid dreams are associated with ‘REM’ sleep which occurs off and on throughout a normal sleep cycle. Many cultures take dreams very seriously in their daily lives.
While everyone is a bit different when it comes to sleep or problems relating to restful sleep, the following are common ways to help get a good night’s rest: Don’t vary your sleep/wake schedule — try to get to bed and rise at the same time daily. Don’t drink or eat caffeine four to six hours before bed and minimize your daytime use. Don’t smoke, especially near bedtime or if you wake in the night. Avoid alcohol and heavy meals before sleep. Get regular exercise. Minimize noise, light and excessive hot and cold temps where you sleep. Try and wake up without an alarm clock. Attempt to go to bed earlier every night for certain periods.