Most people don't associate having a daily spiritual practice with having excellent physical health, but caring for our bodies is one of the most spiritual things we will ever do. In my book, "Habits That Heal: A Spiritual Journey to Physical Wellness", I describe 5 daily spiritual habits that lead to emotional as well as physical healing. Below is a short synopsis of some of those healing habits.
1. Practice gratitude daily. As soon as you open your eyes in the morning, use that as your cue to list 10 things you are grateful for. Be sure to include at least 2 or 3 things about your body that you are thankful for. Being grateful for your body and everything it does for you will automatically lead to taking better care of it. Studies show that people who practice gratitude daily are more optimistic, feel better about life, exercise more, and go to the doctor less often than people who don't. They also get more sleep, fall asleep faster, and awake feeling more refreshed.
Practicing gratitude changes your perception about your body, and transforms it into being healthy, vibrant, and beautiful. When you love your body instead of hating it or wishing it could be different, healing can begin.
2. Learn what truly "feeds" you. Make a list of the things you love to do -- activities that truly feed your soul and don't come on a plate -- then schedule time each day or each week to participate in those activities. Whether it be going for a walk in nature, dancing, or preparing a delicious homemade meal, making time for your soul feeders eases stress and anxiety levels, lowers blood pressure and heart rate, and promotes general health and wellness.
3. Find time for stillness. Being still, quieting the inner voice that never stops talking, allows us to access our inner wisdom. In stillness, we are more open to our higher power and can receive answers as to how to better care for our bodies. Each evening before turning out the lights, do Dr. Andrew Weil's deep breathing technique: Inhale through the nose for 4 counts, hold breath for 7 counts, and exhale through the mouth for 8 counts. Repeat this cycle 4 times.
Breathing deeply brings your attention back to your body and out of the thinking and stress mode. Making relaxation breathing a nightly ritual will help lower blood pressure and heart rate and greatly reduce the risk of obesity, heart disease, asthma, depression, diabetes, Alzheimer's, and gastrointestinal problems.
4. Do a good deed. Seeing beyond ourselves and noticing the needs of others will contribute to our own health and well-being. Regularly serving and helping others has been linked to increased immunity, tolerance for pain, social trust, tranquility, confidence, and self-esteem. It is also associated with decreased depression and mortality rates.
5. Let go of perfectionism. It can be addicting trying to look perfect on the outside. But since perfection is not humanly possible, it can leave us feeling anxious, frustrated, and inadequate. Perfectionism has been linked to poor overall health, migraines, chronic pain, asthma, high anxiety and stress levels, depression, and increased risk of death.
The Greek origin of the word perfect means to be whole or complete. We should strive to be whole -- not perfect. Being willing to laugh at our mistakes, to love and accept ourselves just as we are while striving to make better choices, and letting others see our authentic selves are all ways we can embrace the beautiful imperfection of life.