Achieving Your Zen

Posted by Mei Ying Teh on

 

Holistic Steps to a Tranquil Life

 

Ah, December. In our heart of hearts, we’d all like to have a bit of the “Silent Night” mood in our lives especially that we’re at the end of the year. Much as we’d like to have a good spell of quiet to process our thoughts about the year that had just passed with a Christmas cookie on one hand and piping hot cocoa on another, it seems like everything is equally or even more pressing, even noisier and more annoying, and more stressful. There’s year-end goals to meet, people to meet, incessant Christmas jingles, the pressure to make it feel like Christmas, all the unfinished business that needs to be finished, and did I mention that you need to plan more things for the next year too? And dinner needs to be made, please.

 

It’s a struggle.

 

It’s easy to say that peace in life is within each and every one of us. After all, isn’t it what we see on Instagram and Facebook all of the time? People escaping to mountains or the sea, spending a serene weekend in wide open nature. Or a chic afternoon with a spot of coffee in the park. But what does it take to get that? A slog through the worries and tasks of everyday life.

 

Take a deep breath.

 

And for that matter, take that Christmas cookie and hot cocoa, sit down. You need that, you deserve that, you’ve worked hard for that.

 

Now then, here’s a thought: peace in life is reduced to 5% of a whole life spent trying to achieve it. Is that something you want to change? Then hopefully, here are a few ideas that will help in that matter. It’s not going to be the answer, but maybe it’s a place to start.

 

 

At the Base: Awareness and Acceptance

 

We should remember that if a situation cannot be changed, there is no point in worrying about it.

If it can be changed, then there is no need to worry about it either, we should simply go about changing it.

― Dalai Lama XIV[1]

 

Peace is not a vacation. It’s not a place far away. Although those things are very nice indeed, wishing for things that are far away are ways to cope with a present that we don’t want to deal with. The denial of the current situation only acutely amplifies our negative emotions about it.

 

More than just not caring about what happens anymore, it’s accepting that some things are just that: work will mean “to work;” babies cry very loudly; bills must be paid; there’s always a line at the trains on rush hour; and that you will feel tired at the end of the day doing what you have to do. Fact. But there’s no shame in that.

Coming to terms with the inevitable gives you the opportunity to define what you can live with, or what’s always going to be there: the absolutely beyond your control. It’s also about what you can change—which is the second part of the deal. It’s not all about acceptance; it’s also about knowing that you have the agency to break free if something makes you feel unhappy or unwell.

 

 

A Steady Incline: Rituals

 

There are two kinds of changes. The first are the big ones: changing careers, finally getting a life insurance, deciding with your partner about starting a family. It’s daunting to start on big changes but if they’re necessary to getting you in a better place, then the struggle will be worth it.

 

But the smaller changes are interesting. Smaller changes do not require an overhaul in your life but if done with regularity, its impact on your whole life can count more with your ability to deal with the everyday. Rituals in particular are special moments you can set aside for yourself that can allow for pockets of quiet and reflection to keep you sane. It can be a spot of calming Organic Chamomile Tea in the afternoon or evening, half an hour of meditation first thing in the morning, or even something as unusual as a weekly vow to visit a favourite spot.

 

Remember, not everything that gives you peace must look like an aspirational IG feed. Different people have different needs about what gives them tranquillity, and working out what works for you, what soothes you, and what fits in your life.

 

 

The Unpredictable Climb: On Health

 

A lot of guides on “going Zen” are great with these lifestyle suggestions but one thing that doesn’t get attention is how health affects your peace of mind. The hard part with medical issues, physical or mental, is the additional hurdle that one can have besides having to deal with changes.

 

Some conditions, like hypertension and elevated blood sugar levels, haven’t manifested badly enough for one to take action—or so it seems—and the tendency is to keep on chugging along and ignoring symptoms like crankiness, weakness and fatigue, and difficulty with concentration. But their impact on your quality of life daily chips away at your ability to be at ease and sets you up to be vulnerable to more stress.

 

While one can still make small changes in your life that gives you some quiet, the importance of proper medical attention is underscored here as you mull over what you can improve for your long-term peace of mind. See your doctor if you have health issues you must tend to. As common as hypertension and diabetes are, check with your physician if you can take supplements that will help improve the symptoms that interfere with your life, like Now Foods, Magnesium & Potassium Aspartate for hypertension and Now Foods, Chromium Picolinate for blood glucose management.

 

There’s also something to be said about mental health issues being overlooked as an invisible factor in this struggle. Nearly one out of five adults suffers from these, with considerable ramifications in everyday life.[2] The very Asian mind set of being resilient in the face of hardship is admirable, but in some cases can lead one to ignore psychological problems for the sake of being “strong” and asserting one’s place in a functional society.[3] [4] 

 

Determining what’s best for your mental health is something that you and your healthcare provider should tailor for you. But should the troubles be worrisome but fleeting, consult with your doctor if you can take mood-regulating aids like Now Foods, True Calm.

 

 

 

The Forked Path: Food and Exercise

 

Comfort food is named as such for a reason. These are the things that we reach for when you feel attacked by life and there are days when there’s nothing better than huddling with blankets on a couch with a bowl of noodles and some ice cream after absorbing one setback after another.

 

It’s an understandable reflex, especially if the food and aromas are associated with other comforting, happier moments in life. The satisfaction from comfort food is partly based on memory, partly from its composition of carbohydrates, fat, sugar, and salt—substances that trigger the pleasure-centres of our brain.[5] However, the good feelings it elicits are short-lived and might lead you feeling worse or craving for more afterwards.

 

The alternative: exercise. Yes, yes, after having a bad day, the thought of having to “do” one more thing might be the thing you least want to be involved in. And if you really can’t, you don’t have to. But it won’t take much—a ten-minute walk or a short bike ride can already give you a burst of clarity and energy that you need to let off some steam. The ideal is 30 minutes, five times a week, of moderate rigour,[6] and could be done at any time of the day in a way that fits your schedule.

 

Moving your body releases chemicals endorphins and serotonin that helps improve your state of mind longer than food could. Starting on exercise is often the hardest part, so give yourself a boost of energy first with invigorating vitamins like B-12, which is easy enough with a drink such as Now Foods, Sports, B-12 Energy Boost Tart Berry Sticks.

 

 

Silence at the Peak?

 

Finally, Zen as this goal of having achieved a state of imperturbable inner calm is misleading. After all, it is not about being in this idealised state but has more to do with constantly practising different methods (and not just one) to be “present.”

 

Being in the present is a perspective, a mindfulness that can be strengthened through acceptance, minimising distractions, wanting, and meditation. More than the future, the promise of a far-off holiday, this emphasis on the present asks one to pay attention to what is happening and be aware to what is happening to yourself and to the world outside. Living just for the future or lingering in the past can be living in a fantasy, and being in the present is learning to cope with its joys, hardships, its messy noise, its pockets of serenity. If the present is hard, stressful, or sad, if you have to cry then cry, but know that it is fleeting and pay attention because the next present will bring a new feeling.

 

All the steps detailed above are preparations to help one be in the present and come to terms with what it holds. Surprisingly, it won’t be absolute silence, but you can have the ability to process it, to focus on the things that give you happiness even if it is only momentary. The peak is not an escape from hardship but acknowledging it for what it is, what must be done, and seeing how you fit in the scheme of things.

 

Is that peace? Maybe not what you’re expecting, but it’s the present and that’s where you are and you’re able to hold it. Tranquility is in the moment knowing you’re simply “there” and you’re finally awake for it all.[7]

 

 

Photo credits

Image 1: https://unsplash.com/photos/vnpTRdmtQ30

Image 2: https://unsplash.com/photos/IjA4vTJ3PHY

Image 3: https://unsplash.com/photos/B-xb7VFtlZg

Image 4: https://unsplash.com/photos/dBl-tI7SBtE

Image 5: https://unsplash.com/photos/NydZjXg6S2I

Image 6: https://unsplash.com/photos/vCzh1jOyre8

 

 

[1] https://www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/6438976-the-dalai-lama-s-little-book-of-inner-peace-the-essential-life-and-teac

[2] https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/mental-illness.shtml#:~:text=Mental%20illnesses%20are%20common%20in,(51.5%20million%20in%202019)

[3] https://www.mcleanhospital.org/essential/why-asian-americans-dont-seek-help-mental-illness

[4] https://bmcpsychiatry.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12888-020-02823-6

[5] https://deserthopetreatment.com/addiction-treatment/psychology/comfort-food/#:~:text=Foods%20high%20in%20sugar%2C%20fat,comfort%20food%20to%20self%2Dmedicate.

[6] https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/publications/how-to-using-exercise#:~:text=Physical%20activity%20has%20a%20huge,can%20reduce%20stress%20and%20anxiety.

[7] https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/belief/2012/sep/21/zen-buddhism-lessons

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