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7 Sustainable Healthy Habits

“The idea is to die young as late as possible.” Ashley Montagu

Amidst chaos and randomness stands ‘Present’. Present – a possibility to do your best right at this moment. Nothing is under our control, Thank God! at least habits are.

I have not always been conscious about physical and mental health. Over the period, I adopted and left some habits for holistic health. My fitness journey has been very gradual, yet sustainable. This wisdom is helping me and worth sharing. It’s a long post, don’t rush, take your time!

I have observed people adopting some fitness routine or diet, but have not been able to sustain. This post is for office goers, travelers and artists who struggle to sustain healthy habits. It’s not about any diet or workout plan, not about giving up junk food or addiction. No philosophy but actionable insights on keeping mind and body fit.

Single to Mom, this dress is witnessing the journey of consistency

Disclaimer – I am sharing insights in the capacity of a fitness enthusiast. These habits will ensure holistic improvement in energy levels. This is per my own meandering experience. Anyway, let’s get started 🙂

Chew & Sip in Silence

  1. Why Chew & Sip? Every structure in our body has a function. Function of teeth is to chew and provide input to stomach. Visualize if you run your solid food in a blender, what will be the consistency of food? The same consistency is expected by stomach, for it to digest efficiently. Similarly, fluids should be ‘sipped’, not gulped. Digestion process begins from mouth with the help of teeth and saliva.
  2. Test How do you know whether you are chewing properly? If the chewed food starts to float in your mouth (in saliva) and slips to food pipe on it’s own, then it’s a good input for stomach. Even if you eat junk food occasionally, ensure it becomes paste inside your mouth. If you are still not sure, just chew a bite 20 times. . Don’t worry if you are taking more time to finish meals, take less food if time is not enough. It doesn’t matter what others think. At the end of the day you have to deal with your ‘gut’.
  3. What’s silence? Eat food only if you have time to chew in silence. Silence means no talk, no media, no phone, no reading. Observe the process, your food with gratitude, how every morsel is traveling from mouth to food pipe to stomach. Avoid eating food under stressful situation, it does more harm than good.

Fast once a week

A complete rest to organs

We consume energy while eating hence organs don’t get desired rest. Our body is designed to have less physical food. No eating and drinking for full day provide complete rest. The complex carbs and fats stored also tend to break down.

If there’s no sign of unhealthy living then you don’t need to fast. Things to do during your fast day :-

  1. Easy day Pick a day that’s less labor intensive. I avoid when I am traveling, training and working extensively.
  2. Just enough Sip just enough water to quench your thirst time to time. Not a lot of water.
  3. Five sources We are made up of 5 elements, get energy directly from the source (earth, air, water, fire and sky).
    • Walk barefoot in park, beach or wherever you are in direct contact with earth.
    • Practice breathing exercise, with a smile 🙂
    • Let sunlight energize your body
    • Talk less, just bare minimum
  4. Meditation is much efficient while fasting. Meditation is nothing but ‘focused & effortless attention’. Don’t worry if you don’t know how to meditate. Just pay attention to your breaths flowing in & out. Don’t worry about thoughts in your mind, they will come and go, Just stay with your breaths. Even if you are able to focus for 5 seconds it’s worth it and gradually increase the count.
  5. A meal saved is meal earned You can sponsor 52 days meals for underprivileged annually. Imagine the positive impact on our planet , if everyone fasts once a week
  6. Unable to fast If you are not able to fast, then take alkaline food or only fruits. When I am not able to fast, I take one kind of fruit at a time. Mixed fruit salad is not recommended.
  7. Breaking fast Go easy when you break your fast, start with liquid, semi-solid and then solids. Of course don’t stuff yourself up 🙂

Bridge the gap between couch & physical exercise

For the longest time I struggled to find time & energy for daily workout needs. Below helped me:-

  1. Believe First and foremost, believe that you can do it!
  2. First few steps Always remember only first few steps will be difficult, rest will follow through
  3. Poke Pick your favourite active gear, say shoes, shorts or whatever and keep it where you spend most of your time. Let it stare and poke you. At work, keep your gym bag on your desk not inside your car. Click a picture of active gears and make it your wallpaper.
  4. Group workout is recommended.It sets the rhythm if you lack self motivation.
  5. Active Wear Wear your active gears daily, even if it means 10 minutes walk. So what happens when you set up yourself for 10 minutes, actually you end up doing more 🙂 There’s a merit in doing an activity daily. Soon it will become your habit . I have decided for myself, Rainy, Hot or cold day I will wear my Sport shoes daily. When it rains, I climb indoor stairs multiple times.

MVP approach for traveling

The routine suffers when we travel. Suddenly, there’s a shift in priorities, as a result our internal system bears the brunt. Here’s how impact can be reduced by following Minimum Viable Product approach:-

  1. Minimum Viable Product The term is often used in the context of commerce. The product is just enough in initial phase and developed over the period. The basic principles can be applied on our body too. Start with doable physical exercises – gym, climb stairs or dance in your room. Start with baby steps, improvise till your product becomes robust.
  2. One way meal Pack home made meal for one way (grains & protein based) , e.g. sandwiches, oatmeal, noodles, breads or whatever satisfies you. Salad leaves and Fruits are rich in fiber and get digested much faster, hence don’t last long and you may feel hungry soon. The idea is to avoid food at airport and flight.
  3. Signal to brain Ward off hunger pangs with tasty healthy snacks, add the flavour you like ginger, turmeric, cinnamon etc. that you enjoy at home . The idea is to tell brain that you are relishing and at home ( e.g. Roasted gram, nuts, Makhana (Fox nuts)
  4. During the stay If you are not able to find healthy food then have whatever is available, below guidelines should be adhered to:-
    1. Gut is clean everyday
    2. Sugar, the new tobacco is not added in any meal. If you can’t avoid, then sugar based meal should not be later than 7 p.m. Of course you can avoid 🙂
    3. Packaged food – avoid as much as you can, start reading ingredients & nutritional value.
    4. Caffeine, Alcohol, Nicotine, Drug – It promises momentarily pleasure but takes away more. Whenever you crave, pop a cardamom, clove, cinnamon stick, cranberry, prunes, raisins, ginger toffee.Choose wisely!
  5. Pre-book meal for return flight or have at airport. This is to avoid impulse purchase in flight. Don’t starve else you will end up eating more junk food like cup noodles, chips etc.

Trapped? be a skillful Storyteller!

How to save yourself from temptations

Party time! you are all set for team dinner, you enjoy booze and meat but decided to ditch it forever. The moment you break this news to your colleagues, you will experience a brief silence and the very next moment you will get extra attention. There will be more attempts to serve you both, probably you will loose self control and fall in the trap.

We get more attention when we change ourselves for good. Very few will be concerned with your bad habits. Some folks who don’t want to change themselves, will try to sabotage your plan too. Some tips & tricks to stick to your plan:-

  1. Avoid extra attention You don’t have to reveal that you are changing. Let the change be felt with your self control, smart choices and well being. If you are the only guest, then of course you will have to share food preferences before hand.
  2. One day at a time In the above scenario you can escape the trap by narrating a cooked up story. “Buddy! I am so full, I have had my share yesterday…I have to drive back….My system is not supporting alcohol these days…My annual health check up is due next week…” You know what I mean 🙂 stories for a good cause.
  3. Fill your tummy before party If you are unable to cook up stories then fill your tummy with healthy bites. You will not have space for junk.
  4. Cheat-day It releases stress from the system. Allow yourself to indulge once in a while.
  5. Withdrawal symptoms well this is very extreme, save yourself from the trauma of withdrawal symptoms. If you resist, it will persist, just go slow in changing your habits. Change your diet only if it’s sustainable in a long run. Keep a substitute handy, e.g. for caffeine – Herbal tea, Decaf coffee, for Desserts – Dry fruits, cold oatmeal, Jaggery, for Junk snacks – Healthy snacks, for Alcohol – Coconut water, Juice.

Sleep like a baby

“I love sleep. My life has the tendency to fall apart when I’m awake, you know?” Ernest Hemingway

Sleep like a baby

Sleep heals mind and body. There’s an in-depth concept about why we sleep, dream and how it heals. To keep it simple for this post, just believe sleep is the most critical of all. It’s a blessing, here’s how it can shower on you:-

  1. ‘Light’ after the ‘Last light’ Our body is naturally designed to sleep after sunset. Let’s say you plan to hit bed by 10 p.m., then from 8 to 10 p.m. your body shouldn’t be exposed to ‘white/day light/ bluish’ colour light. Our brain gets a signal that it’s still daytime and prevents sleep. The colour temperature should be ‘yellow/ dim orange’ of course not bright. Just like candle light in olden days. Color temperature should be more or less like that. I don’t have yellow light in every room, so I use light in diffused form.
  2. White light of gadgets These little monsters are reality of today’s life and silently hampering our health.
    1. Keep brightness of mobile, laptop low after sunlight.
    2. Set a reminder to reduce the brightness
    3. Turn off all notifications.
    4. Keep phone away from bedroom
    5. Get your wrist watch & alarm clock fixed, stop using phone for time
  3. Flight mode It’s the way of life and very soon people will sparingly use smartphones and digital media. Cut off yourself from digital world for at least 2 hours. Flight mode is effective while driving, meal time, workout, meditation…whatever you pursue to de-stress.
  4. Wash your feet, hands and face before going to bed
  5. Room temperature Our body releases heat while sleeping. Hence, outside temperature should be moderate to cold.
  6. Caffeine check caffeine consumption, it blocks the sleep inducing molecule ‘Adenosine’. If you plan to hit bed by 10 p.m. then your last caffeine pick should be at 3 p.m. Of course, it varies from person to person.
  7. Gratitude Before going to bed, remind yourself at least 5 good things that happened today. Even on messed up days, you will have something to be grateful for. My gratitude list usually entails:-
    1. I got one more day to live
    2. I got food and water
    3. I got one more day with my loved ones
    4. I could paint, workout and meditate
    5. I got one more day to make someone smile
  8. Fears & insecurities Still if you are not able to sleep then something needs to be addressed internally. Check if you have any fear or insecurities. Just write it and surrender to divine. It will be taken care! Don’t ask me how but I know it will be.

A heart that loves, a hand that heals

“No man is an island”

John Donne

It’s 8 p.m., finally you reached home after a tiring day. Your spouse opens the door with a brief smile and gets busy with closing tasks. You had so much to share but couldn’t, probably you will blame the relationship, pity yourself, feel sad, alone…yeah all of that!

Or you come back home and there’s nobody to talk to, the negative feelings will even become more intense. Whatever you feel, just be aware our basic nature is ‘Love’ & ‘Peace’. How do we stay connected to our real self and ward off anxieties? There’s no short answer, it’s a journey and you are in the driving seat.

  1. Hug and hold hands Before going for work, hug and hold that special someone. Your spouse, parent, kid, friend, pet…You just need one person who can comfort and give you peace. If you have nobody, then don’t worry, give a hug to yourself, your body is your real life partner. You will feel more strong and be able to deal with odds. Whenever I am hurt and not able to drop my ego, I hug myself.
  2. Heart to heart conversation daily In this era of social media, followers, views, subscribers, likes etc… why there’s more loneliness? Because a basic requirement is breached, there’s no heart to heart conversation. It’s all about social brand. Find someone who can listen to you and if there’s no one then write it down. Don’t keep emotions in your heart, let it come out.
  3. Kind to yourself That constant judgement, guilt, anxieties will disappear if you forgive yourself. Keep the moral compass aside, just remain focused and watch your actions.
  4. Smile, fake it till you make it Smile releases stress from the system. Brain gets a signal that something good is happening and mind starts to expand. If you are shy to smile in front of crowd, then at least smile when you are by yourself. Smile in washroom, doing dishes, workout, dance, while staring your laptop screen… you know what I mean 🙂 Hey you! Are you smiling now?

Conclusion

Whatever made sense to you, make short notes , stick it where you spend most of your time, track progress. Don’t worry if you are not able to follow, spirit is more important than result. Keep trying and be kind to yourself. If you liked the post, share it with someone who needs to know. God bless!

Featured

Waste water of RO/ Water filter

Nearly 70% of the world is covered by water, (97.5% saline and 2.5% fresh). Less than 1% out of 2.5% is accessible, as rest is trapped in glaciers and snow.

Ratio of Saline and Fresh water has not changed in the past million years. The human  population has increased dramatically but level of fresh water hasn’t.

Some cities are already experiencing water crisis, while it’s a ticking time bomb for others. In many ways we can conserve and reuse fresh water. One of the culprits is disposal of waste water of RO (Water purifier). RO uses water to clean the membrane and yields drinking water , as a result an average RO flushes out 3 ltrs for every 1 liter of drinking water. An average person drinks 2 ltrs (half gallon) water every day i.e. 6 ltrs waste water is generated per person per day. Imagine how much waste water gets drained every day in cities. It can be easily collected and reused for other household purposes for instance to clean dishes, mop floor, watering plants , washing clothes, car and any surface.

As it has high level of TDS, it’s not recommended to wash staples and fruits & vegetables with it. I have an old bucket to collect waste water – whether it’s RO’s or leftover from glasses/ bottles . Save every drop and reuse till it can not be used again.

5 Rewarding Habits for Mental Health

Nobody can save you but yourself, and you’re worth saving. It’s a war not easily won, but if anything is worth winning then this is it.

Charles Bukowski
‘The Door’ My humble illustration to draw attention towards mental health

How I came to write about Mental health?

Jul 2017, A very dear friend committed suicide, I had known her for a decade. She succumbed to postpartum depression. Her loss hit me hard; she was extremely kind, witty, full of life and energy. Just like iconic figures Van Gogh, Kurt Cobain, Anthony Bourdain, Chester Bennington, V G Siddharth, she also fell in this trap

Back then I was aware about mental health issues and was doing my bit to protect myself. Depression is a common mental illness and has taken the lives of best artists, entrepreneurs, athletes, students and the list goes on. It does not discriminate between age, IQ, gender, bank balance, ethnicity etc. Her suicide changed my perception, anybody who is not aware can fall in this trap too. I resolved to become more educated about it and spread awareness.

If you know somebody who needs help. If you know somebody who is scared , be kind to him. Give him advice, give him a hug , teach him a card trick. Whatever you are going to do is going to be a hope for them. And if you do it at the right time . It will enter their heart and it will be with them wherever they go, forever !

Werner Reich ( he was 6 when he survived the holocaust)

Oct 2013, Despite smooth pregnancy, normal delivery and healthy baby, I went through emotional turbulence. Hormonal changes, desperate child care and sleepless nights took a toll on my mental health and married life. I blamed myself for everything, felt guilty for not being a good mom. One visit to the pediatrician helped me to take control of myself. I cried my heart out, she listened to me patiently, I clearly remember her words “everyone goes through emotional turbulence, some even go through worse; you are not alone, so chill and focus your energies on meaningful stuff. Your child needs a happy mom, not a perfect mom”. No judgement and simple reassurance, that’s all I needed. Within a few months I bounced back and consciously started to work on myself. Why there’s unnecessary stigma around mental health?

According to WHO (as of Jan’20), Globally, more than 264 million people of all ages suffer from depression. More women are affected by depression than men. 800,000 people die from suicide globally every year, i.e. one die in every 40 seconds. Nowadays young adults and teenagers are rapidly succumbing to it. Suicide is the second leading cause of death in 15-29-year-olds.

The Door

An intellectual says a simple thing in a hard way. An artist says a hard thing in a simple way.

Charles Bukowski

The door illustrates clinical mental illness. All is easy till the time the door is not crossed. It is solvable with awareness and conscious efforts.

Yes there’s awareness around mental health but the stigma is the real issue not mental health. There’s no acknowledgment and unfortunately, there’s a feeling of unworthiness attached to it. For instance, weight gain is a symptom of poor lifestyle choices (wrong eating habits, sedentary lifestyle etc), people are aware that with conscious efforts weight can be corrected and healthy life can be restored. On the other hand, negativity is a symptom of poor mental health but people have a hard time acknowledging it, because a poor body is acceptable but not a poor mind. Prolonged realm of ignorance is enough to push open the door.

Who is inching towards the door?

It’s not an occasional (less than 10%) mood swing but a condition – Loss of interest, Negative thought process, Seeing lack instead of abundance, Attracting and sharing negative information, Rejoicing others’ pain, Jealous of others’ fortune and life, Self pity, Low self esteem, Low self confidence, Insecurities, Anger, Predominantly personal well being, Selfish motives, Outwardly focus, Obsession, Unexplained anxieties. These are some common indicators of ‘not so good’ mental health.

Whenever I inch towards the door, I become aware and flip it around. Below 5 habits are helping me.

1.Morning ritual – Recover dopamine receptors

Ever wondered why some people are more motivated to tackle difficult things? Let’s understand the brain’s neurotransmitter – DOPAMINE. Dopamine makes us desire things and these desires give us motivation to get up and do stuff. Any activity(may or may not be good) where you anticipate potential reward, releases it. Brain doesn’t care if the effect of high dopamine is damaging or good, it releases per our anticipation. For example, you know that a slice of pizza is not healthy for you, but you still eat it because of the release of high dopamine. Instant gratification to taste bud signals the brain to desire more. On the contrary for some people high dopamine is released when they do hard things.

Save yourself from developing dopamine tolerance. In other words, the brain gets used to high dopamine because of instant gratification like checking phone, notifications, junk food, bed tea, news update, internet browsing, social networking, high-octane lifestyle. So what happens, other activities with low dopamine sound boring and uninteresting e.g. making your own bed, cleaning cupboards, exercising , meditating. In these activities the reward is not instant and efforts are more. That’s the reason why kids and young adults are falling in the trap of high dopamine, they are used to gadgets and instant gratification. It becomes the new normal and they find other activities boring. It’s like if you eat a fancy meal everyday then a regular bowl of vegetables will sound uninteresting.

How do I make hard activities easy? How do I limit instant gratifications? Unnaturally high dopamine is the root cause of discontentment and boredom. What you do in the first 3 wakeful hours set the tone of the day.

  1. Technology and gadgets Don’t check the phone for the first 3 hours. I only use it for meditation and workout details
  2. Washroom rule No phone or any distraction in washroom at any time of the day.
  3. Newspaper/ News I quit reading newspapers 6 years ago. I don’t watch news or debates. I am still very effective in my pursuits, probably I am updated with what I need to know. I don’t care about sensations and opinions. I am not suggesting anyone quit newspaper, you may read but say after 4-5 hours. Bombardment of information early in the morning derails.
  4. Stimulant Only water no stimulant or caffeine, I eat only handful of nuts or one kind of fruit in the morning
  5. Reward myself when I do hard things. For example, writing this blog is a difficult task for me, also there’s no instant gratification. From a dopamine perspective it’s a low dopamine job, however there’s another hormone ‘oxytocin’ that’s getting released because I consider this as service to mankind. There’s no hoarding in the universe, I have to give back what I have received. Hence, to motivate myself I allow myself a treat, 1 hour of mindless internet browsing and some sweets. That gratification is not instant but it keeps me motivated throughout the day.
A reminder on restroom door

2. Five minutes creative game and role play

“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up. “

Pablo Picasso

You will experience boredom without technology, stimulants and phone. Morning is the best time to explore the creative side. Sharing two common games I play daily:-

5 minutes creative game. I pick any random objects and use them as characters in my story or poem. Some rules to be followed

  • Rule 1 – Odd number objects, 3 or more. All objects should be used. Idea is to break the conventional learning pattern of the brain.
  • Rule 2 – Don’t choose objects, just pick randomly and blindly. For instance, objects in the kitchen are different from the living room. So one day I play in the kitchen, the other day in the living room.
  • Rule 3 – Don’t worry about logical reasoning. Just create anything out of it and write it in your journal
  • Rule 4 – Don’t judge yourself

Role play If you had 5 other imaginary lives to lead, what would you do in each of them? Whatever occurs to you just jot it down. Do not overthink. You might be a Monk, Health coach, writer, painter, farmer, Guitarist, Healer, Singer…The point of these lives is to have fun in them. Every week pick one personality and act as if you are leading that life. For instance If you want to be a Painter, get a sketch book and crayons, draw straight lines, crooked lines, curves, make basic shapes etc.

Personally It is working for me, a few years ago I wanted to be a Painter.

3. Morning pages

I picked this idea from Julia Cameron’s book The Artist’s way . There’s no way I can reproduce a book of 200 pages. Sharing a basic framework to get started and then your instincts will guide you. Write a flow of thoughts as they come to my mind, a stream of consciousness writing.

  1. Third person Write (not type) 3 complete pages as a third person. As if there’s somebody inside your mind, observing and writing your thoughts spontaneously. The idea is to detach yourself from you and connect with higher self. This activity takes upto 20 minutes. For instance , “Vartika has no thoughts in her mind…she is thinking about boring household chores….she hates to chop vegetables…she is thinking she is not good enough… she wants to spend more quality time with her husband and son…she wants to be an artist who can write and paint…
  2. Don’t judge your thoughts, be kind to yourself. There are barriers, enemies, negative beliefs, self limiting thoughts and impressions within ourselves. We need to gently get over and move on
  3. Creative flashes You will notice all sorts of emotions and fantasies. Just hold on to all creativity and intuitive flashes. Probably things you wanted to pursue but couldn’t. Log them separately
  4. Positive affirmations Write 5 positive affirmations every day. Thank people often, it’s for our upliftment.
  5. Recover Make a note of compliments you have received. Give compliments to yourself. For instance, “Vartika great job, your ability to comprehend artist’s perspective is fantastic.”The idea is to recover a sense of safety, identity, power, integrity, possibility, abundance, strength, compassion and faith

4. Connect with Infinite source

Ever wondered how few people survived the holocaust, warfare, natural calamity, fatal accidents, dreadful diseases? No it’s not just a mere coincidence or good luck.

The 7 different bodies that comprise the complete human body are – Physical body, Endocrine, Chakra, Astral, Energy, Aural and Etheral. All the laws that apply to the Universe, also apply to us. To keep it simple, we work in a sophisticated framework of the Universe. We are supposed to be aligned and in harmony with the laws. The off balances invite illnesses, mental stress and miseries. On the other hand, if we are in harmony then WE LIVE IN ABUNDANCE. So how do we understand the laws and live in abundance? It’s a journey of experiences and awareness , can not be understood theoretically.

  1. Self connect – Sit for 20 minutes, close your eyes, spine straight and pay attention to breaths and thoughts. No judgement only compassion and kindness.
  2. Centering thought/ Mantra/ Shloka – We all live in abundance, the idea is to unlock it with intentions. Whenever any uncomfortable thought, jealousy, insecurities strike instead of judging just remind any centering thought that makes sense to you. I remind myself “I create my personal abundance from an infinite source”. “Today and everyday I give that which I want to receive”
  3. Connect with Nature – Do at least one activity that involves connection with life. For instance growing plants, composting, bio enzymes, growing food & beverages culture.

5. Safeguard your mind

Whosoever in the midst of intense activity finds intense peace, whosoever in the midst of the greatest peace finds the greatest activity, he is a yogi, he is a great soul, he has arrived at perfection

Swami Vivekanand’s discourse on Bhagvad Geeta
  1. Choose your company wisely Safeguard from the negative thought process of people around. Your opinion anyway doesn’t matter so you might as well protect yourself.
  2. Craving attention makes us less creative Do technology detox, Dopamine detox at least once a week. Take out time to reflect.
  3. Make bad stuff It takes pressure out. It releases one from expectations of a perfectionist. What would I paint if nobody is interested in my art. I like to make one bad sketch everyday.
  4. Unfollow, Mute, Exit Cut down the noise, complaints and rants in social media.
  5. Physical exercise, Active day, Sleep 40 minutes intense or 90 minutes moderate exercise. 7-8 hours active day, 6-8 hours sound sleep
  6. Flight mode after dinner and gratitude prayer at bed time
  7. Heal your food and water with Sun and your energy
  8. Keep off electromagnetic waves Switch off wi-fi router in the night, no electronic gadgets on and around body. You don’t need fancy watches to track your sleep, movement and calories. Aural energies can be seen with a special camera, aural energies get disturbed with such waves (it’s science, no fiction)
  9. Keep dreaming, Keep giving, Keep going That’s the essence of living 🙂

Conclusion

अहं ब्रह्मास्मि (ahaṃ brahmāsmi)

The core of my being is the ultimate reality

Adi Shankaracharya ( Indian Philosopher in 800 A.D.)

Why did I add the word ‘rewarding’ in the title? I could have kept ‘sustainable’, ‘Healthy’. Universe is waiting to reward us, we just need to become aware and connect with it. Whatever made sense to you, make short notes, research about my claims , adopt slowly and be kind to yourself. I am a very slow person, I pick one change at a time. This is my humble attempt to save myself and others. We have each other to take care of each other 🙂 Please feel free to share with others, share your views and comments. You may also write to me your concerns/ queries with your name or anonymously.

Lessons from 9 years of chronic illness – Part 1

Then 26, Now 35, When ‘Before and After’ pic is not about weight loss & ageing but holistic health

A smart person learns from his mistakes, but a truly wise person learns from the mistakes of others.

Ken Schramm

This post is about my experience on chronic illness, research on holistic health and corrective actions.

What to expect? Are you the intended audience?

Research books
A glimpse of my research, wisdom is already there. Time to act!

Rome wasn’t built in one day but they were laying bricks every hour

James Clear
  1. Research books- I highly recommend books as per the image. There’s no way I can reproduce my learnings. This is an attempt to share modus operandi in a capsule form, a micro version of my findings. If you want to benefit from my lessons, don’t rush. I have attached pdf of ‘Become healthy or extinct’ by Darryl Dsouza towards the end.
  2. My Capacity – A researcher and experiential learner. I have developed an interest in holistic healing and I feel that’s the way forward. I worked as finance professional for 11 years, now an artist. I don’t have any professional degree or certification in health, purely my research & meandering experience.
  3. Illness/ Prevention – If you are already suffering from chronic illness (explained later) or want to prevent any occurrence.
  4. Faulty genes Even if you have inherited mutated genes, you can still prevent the expression
  5. Toxic living – Vast majority is at the risk of chronic illness. There are no shortcuts in leading healthy life. Expect an extensive yet sustainable way of maintaining good health.
  6. Weight loss/ Diet plan – Often seriousness comes with increase in body weight and anomalies in blood reports. However, this post is about insights on overall well being, no menu or diet plan. It is to convince your faculties not tongue. The effects are reduction in weight, reverse ageing , reversing illnesses and improvement in energy levels.
  7. My earlier blog – It will be good if you read my earlier blog, it captures simple yet sustainable ways of healthy living. I have explained few concepts, which are briefly referred in this post http://vartikasinha.com/7-sustainable-healthy-habits/
  8. Inner calling – In the past I have read plethora of articles on health and fitness. I got inspired also but didn’t put enough efforts to sustain. One day I felt so strong to work on myself and since then there’s no looking back. I fail but I make constant efforts to improve. For most of us, it will be like any other health blog, if there’s no strong desire to put efforts. We have a choice either we succumb to chronic illness or work on ourselves skillfully. Start with whatever is doable, the key is start from wherever you are.

Do we understand health?

Health is one of the most confusing and debatable topic in today’s time. We all are loaded with umpteen theories, researches, dietary fads and nutritional information. Is this all to help us or to confuse further? If health is the most valuable asset then why are we in a sorry state? What financial & personal goals are we chasing if we can’t secure our body and mind? Who is deciding our food choices? Research and advancement in medicine and science is at its pinnacle, then why chronic illnesses are the leading cause of death? Nearly half of all Americans suffer from at least 1 chronic disease. What are the causes of chronic illness? How to prevent, how to reverse?

To find out these answers, I started researching on nutrition and holistic healing. My personal experience is helping me to decode ‘Health’. Hope It helps you in your journey.

Chronic Illness

Prolonged illness that lasts for more than 3 months, may cause death. Few examples of common chronic illnesses – High Blood pressure, Heart Disease, Diabetes, Obesity, Hormonal imbalance, Thyroid, Cancer, High cholesterol, Auto immune, Constipation, Acidity, Sinus, Migraine, Asthma, Depression, Arthritis, Insomnia, Joint pain, Glaucoma. The list goes on but the idea is not to delve into the diseases.

My Story

The only source of knowledge is experience

Albert Einstein

August 2007, I was traveling to Dehradun, India for work. That one day trip changed the way I think about health and wellness today. I slept early that night as I had to start early next day. Next morning I woke up with red rashes all over my body. I panicked and called up my dad. He thought it was some food allergy and asked me to take anti-allergy. It got suppressed for few hours, but post that it surfaced everyday for years. At 22, I was diagnosed with Acute Urticaria (Autoimmune -Skin allergy). I was in best of my health (perceived health, I will talk about it later), a fresh Chartered Accountant barely 2 months into my first job. Before this I had never fallen sick, no skin allergy except occasional flu. From my stamina, fitness regime, physique and appearance no one could have guessed my health condition.

I consulted acclaimed doctors, various allergy and blood tests were conducted but nobody could diagnose the root cause of allergy. I fasted for few consecutive days to rule out food allergy, but nothing worked. I was willing to quit my job and stay in hospital for treatment. I was told there’s no cure of urticaria in modern science except suppression. I could have choked to death if I didn’t suppress inflammation. In short, it’s like self destruction by the immune system. Dec 2007, my condition worsened and it became Chronic Urticaria, therefore medication for lifetime.

Autoimmune disease is an internal mutiny of the worst kind, one in which our body becomes its own worst enemy. This self-destructive process is common to all autoimmune diseases. It is as if the body were to commit suicide

T. Colin Campbell, Thomas M Campbell II ( The China Study)
Sudden outbreak to Chronic Illness for 9 years

For almost a decade I kept my nails trimmed , sparingly used cosmetics and fragrances. Everyday for years I popped anti-allergy to prevent any occurrence, it kept me going. Just like people pop high blood pressure, thyroid, diabetes and other life support pills. The suppression treatment made me drowsy and started to impact me physically and mentally. Back then I was an Internal Auditor , extensively traveling in different geographies. I had no routine and every day some element triggered allergy. Ironically, I used to check health of company’s processes but didn’t have time to investigate my own health. I was too naive to understand the repercussions in the long run. I had a very limited knowledge about nutrition, it was only about fat, carbohydrates, proteins and vitamins. I used to workout daily, eat, sleep well etc. probably because age was by my side. The potency of medication reduced significantly over the period but still I was on mild medication.

In 2012, I stopped medication and explored alternative therapies. I met Dr. Ashwani Sharma (Ayurveda practitioner in Delhi), a humanitarian, for the first time somebody could elaborate my health condition, he mentioned about toxicity and heat in blood, how it’s impacting my organs, prescribed herbal medicine to neutralize acids and build immunity. I was in a state of denial, if modern medicine has failed on me , how some random herbs could cure without any internal diagnosis ? I had no other option but to try. I adopted Ayurveda (Traditional medicine) and Self healing technique. Around Feb 2016 I got completely cured. I never popped any pill or herbal medicine post that.

Still few questions remained unanswered, If I took utmost care of my health then why were toxins building up? What are these toxins? Do I still have in my body? Are they manifesting in different forms? Can I prevent any chronic illness? Am I prepared to handle in future?

As I reflect my own journey, I figured some answers and some are yet to be unfurled. I have started my journey of healthy living, the changes in my lifestyle are gradual yet sustainable. Whatever I have learnt till now is worth sharing.

1. The ‘Why me?’ question

गहना कर्मणो गतिः (verbatim – Gahana karmano gatih)

Unfathomable are the ways of karma (Translation; ‘Karma’ means action)

Bhagavad Gita
Wondering
Evolution begins with pain

This question is important to be addressed as it hampers personal growth, no matter how philosophical it may sound. It’s not about physical but mental sufferings when we lose a loved one, fall ill or fail in a relationship. It’s about understanding the tools of healing.

My lessons begin with accepting ‘why me’. The word ‘deserve’ creates a myth about entitlement. When something good happens to us, most of us thank almighty, feel blessed and probably entitled. Whenever anything untoward happens there’s a state of denial, self pity and feeling of ‘undeserving’. The cosmic forces are beyond the limitations of human mind. Hence there’s no need to decode ‘why me’? I always believed that I was more conscious about health & fitness than my fraternity, then why was I suffering? Profound learning comes with experiences, it only makes sense in retrospection. I wouldn’t have researched on health, had I not experienced chronic illness myself. Here’s what I learnt and hope to remind myself:-

  1. Instead of ‘Why me’ say ‘ Thank You! It’s me! Divine (lord or cosmic energy or whatever energy you believe in) has some plans through us, just keep going.
  2. Good cells Talk about good health than illness. It takes positive affirmations to heal body. Our body is composed of trillions of cells, largely good. Divert attention from illness to health. We heal faster when we send positive vibes/ energy to our cells(Metaphysics of body)
  3. Peaceful mind Serotonin, oxytocin, endorphins, and dopamine are happy hormones, they get released when we do good for us and others. They help in healing better and faster, that’s why people cope up differently in same circumstances. In short, it takes peaceful mind to heal. There are many ways of achieving it, breathing technique and voluntary service work best for me. Why voluntary service? What it has to do with healing? Because when we help others selflessly we actually help ourselves. I don’t intend to preach any spiritual wisdom, it has been proven scientifically by observing brain waves and release of happy hormones. Find a way to incorporate selfless service in your routine. Start with your community once a week, then gradually imbibe in your routine.
  4. Create and being relevant We haven’t got this life to chase health, things and people. It is to create, what has not been created and being relevant.
  5. Duty to serve Keeping the emotions & intellect aside, purpose needs no definition but action. What’s my reason for getting up in the morning? Is it helping me to evolve? My time in physical existence is limited but my duty is limitless. What is your duty? The purity in you will guide you. Trust your instincts. I am not aware of any scientific evidence to support this claim but evolution of mankind, sharing of wisdom, community welfare are examples of spiritual growth and limitless action.

2. Perceived vs. Real Health

Reality check – How do I stay healthy if I don’t understand health?

I cannot teach anybody anything. I can only make them think

Socrates

It’s 10 p.m. you are experiencing an uncomfortable feeling (heaviness/ gastric/ acidic/ bloating/ heartburn/ ache/ constipation/ indigestion). You are a fitness freak but unable to pinpoint the root cause, so you quickly rewind the day in your head to find clue. Umm… morning started with few glasses of water, bed tea, bowel movement while checking phone, one fruit , some nuts, 1 hour rigorous workout, dietary supplements, fortified protein shake, low carb/ fat meals, a short walk after lunch, 2-3 coffee breaks, 8 hours with laptop, prolonged conference calls and a piece of cake (come on! you couldn’t be rude to your Boss, it was his wife’s bday). The detective in you nailed it, Cake! that’s causing trouble. Wait! wait! her b’day happens yearly. Does it mean you experience this feeling rarely (less than 5%). If yes then your digestive tract is safe!

So what am I saying here? you did not land in this mess only because of a piece of cake. I will explain bio chemistry of food in the next part. Let’s first decode health!

2a. Diagnose

I always thought maintaining BMI, agility, stamina, endurance and joyful mood define good health. Yes these are indicators but let’s not confuse it with good health. It’s time to treat the deficiencies not symptoms. Below are common indicators of poor health:-

  1. Life support Any pill (modern or traditional) that lets you function or sleep
  2. Supplements Any (modern or traditional ) dietary supplement except Vit. D & B12 will elaborate later
  3. Chronic symptoms – Acne, acidity, allergies, bloating, bad breath, gastric, constipation, joint pain, stomach ache, heaviness, indigestion, hair fall, heartburn, numbness, palpitation, painful periods, irregular periods, premature ejaculation, sexual dysfunction, extreme mood swings, sudden weight loss, weight gain, disturbed sleep etc.
  4. Drug as stimulant Ill effects of alcohol, nicotine and other substance abuse are known. How about caffeine? Caffeine is a widely used drug, absolutely unchecked and unregulated. Long term damages have been proven scientifically however there’s a strong lobby (corporate/ govt.) protecting caffeine, coffee gets a shield of anti-oxidants. Some biased researches claim that it prevents cancer. Of course there are many other sources of anti oxidants that help in preventing cancer. For sure caffeine retards body’s natural healing mechanism( Read – Why we sleep by Matthew Walker). Probably, there’s no problem in having caffeine responsibly (as a treat) provided it doesn’t become a stimulant.
  5. Herbal concoction regular consumption of herbal drinks or food. For instance concoction of traditional herbs for smooth bowel movement. It’s medicine in natural form. Not to be confused with herb infused tea (caffeine free)
  6. Craving for sweets Our body needs natural sugar (fruits), when it doesn’t get fulfilled we crave for sweets. It’s our choice whether we satiate it with fruits or junk
  7. Self diagnose Sometimes symptoms are not apparent, there’s a way to detect health of each organ by pressing few points. It’s called Acupressure, ancient practice yet 100% scientific and harmless. Refer to pg 139 to 151for diagnosis and next steps, pdf of ‘Become healthy or extinct’ by Darryl Dsouza attached below.

2b. Illness or prolonged abuse?

It’s not illness but prolonged abuse

A basic table to depict common causes of prolonged illness. Our body is forgiving that’s why it takes long time to manifest illness, like a rubber band, it withstands our stupidity but only to an extent. It’s frightening, when it snaps. When my body was in self destruction mode, I realised how helpless I was. I didn’t have to suffer and nobody else should. Now we know why cancer, diabetes, heart diseases are becoming very common.

Spend a relaxed day in observing yourself. Make a note of all symptoms or uncomfortable feelings. Don’t look for issues just observe. I bet you wouldn’t have observed yourself like this before. My destination is to activate inherent body healing. It begins with awareness and the good news is IT IS SOLVABLE! Stay tuned for part2.

Please feel free to share, comment, criticize or anything else you want to know.