As a practitioner of evidence-based medicine, I am impressed by all the research that looks at the effects of regular exercise, good nutrition, quitting tobacco and adequate sleep on the heart, but am disappointed that very few doctors are looking into how much matters of the mind can affect the heart.
The reason is straightforward: it is easy to measure the number of hours of exercise and sleep, the amount and type of food intake and even the number of times someone smokes or chews tobacco in a day; but it is rather difficult to quantify and qualify peoples’ feelings and emotions. Leave alone a healthcare professional, even you yourself may not be able to accurately say what makes you happy or sad or angry or afraid.
Nevertheless, we know for sure that the mind and the heart work in unison. One cannot be separated from the other. Both are mutually interdependent on each other. In other words, there is a strong connection between the mind and the heart and they have to be equally well cared for to prevent diseases as well as to cure them. So come, let’s embark on a mindful journey to feel the power of the mind-heart connection, which in turn has the power to heal all our diseases.
- Understand that all feelings are natural
You would agree with me if I said there is no night without day and no autumn without spring. These are natural phenomena that keep the earth going. You don’t compare one with the other or pray for one over the other. So, why would you think that happiness and contentment are superior to sadness or fear or disappointment? Each of these feelings is natural and genuine. There is no need to hide or mask any emotion. As long as there is a reason or a situation for your particular emotion, you should just feel the emotion and let it pass.
For example, we often tell our kids “don’t cry like a baby”; and we even tell ourselves “I should feel happy all the time”. The former does not help kids realise what makes them happy or sad and the latter is an impractical and unrealistic goal to achieve. A positive attitude is something we should all aim for but that only means that we should not brood over spilt milk for too long; it doesn’t mean brooding is wrong.
- Look inwards and reflect, the answer is often within
With a fast-paced life and several roles to fulfil in a day, many of us forget to look inwards and reflect. There is such an overload of tastes, smells, sights, textures and sounds in today’s world that a few minutes of calm and quite without any external stimuli is hard to find. And to top it all, we have our smart phones that give us all of these stimuli at one shot even when we are alone.
In my humble opinion, today, a few minutes of self-refection every day is the need of the hour. It is the only way one can understand his/her emotions, likes and dislikes and priorities in life. And if you’re constantly stressed out due to various happenings around you, looking within and modifying your responses to stressors or external triggers is the only way out.
- Work on your coping skills
While it’s true that a crisis doesn’t strike too often, nobody is immune to unexpected turns in life like an estranged marriage, a bad investment or the death of a loved one. What we don’t want to do is feel so downhearted and blue that we end up with depression, suicidal tendencies or a heart attack.
Coping skills are nothing but ways in which we can bounce back to normal after a blow in life. That is why we often say invest time in building your friends, family and faith (religious or non-religious) in the days that you don’t need them so much. The investment will pay off when a crisis strikes; your friends, family and faith will serve as shock absorbers and help you get on track again.
- Identify your passion and fuel it
Not many of us know what our passion is. We do our work, we care for our family, we take a vacation once in a way and we grow old. That’s fine, but if there are some aspects of your daily routine that give you immense pleasure and make you loose track of time, that is the thing that you are passionate about! It might be singing, dancing, reading, writing, cooking, being creative, solving puzzles, gardening, stitching, playing with kids, cleaning the house, helping someone in need, praying, playing a sport, being one with nature, etc. The list goes on and on. Basically, it can be anything in which your mind and body is actively engaged (there are only a few things that do not qualify: television watching, spreading false news and hatred, and destructive thinking and actions). You just need to create time or free up more time from your daily tasks to spend at least half an hour everyday to grow your passion.
There is scientific evidence to prove that when you are passionate about something and have a meaningful life, your longevity goes up significantly.
- Challenge yourself more often
Yes, this is where most of us are lagging behind. We are afraid of challenging ourselves for fear of failing. We don’t want to push our limits as we are currently comfortable and feel no need for any challenges. We often blame our age for this attitude. But that’s exactly when you need to challenge yourself to something new like learning a new language, scaling new heights at the work/home front or developing a completely new skill. Have we not come across men and women who run marathons in their 70s and 80s, people who get PhDs after retirement and individuals who become a sensation overnight for overcoming serious obstacles to health and life?
Research shows that the best ways to avoid dementia, depression and other chronic ailments are a healthy lifestyle combined with a thirst for new knowledge and skills.
In short, caring for our minds, nurturing our souls and taking some time out for ourselves on a daily basis will go a long way in keeping us healthy and happy as long as we live!
If you are interested in attending a workshop on mind-heart connection and would like to learn from experts in the field of psychology and yoga, please see the event details on: https://www.facebook.com/events/253339935338681/