Secrets of Good Health
Most of us realise, sooner or later, the value of good health. Poor health is a daunting challenge and so heavy a burden, financially as well as emotionally, that when it strikes, we scramble for cover and desperately seek out ways to restore good health.
There is no shortage of advice in this area and friends, newspapers, magazines and books are all there to lend a helping hand. The problem though, is that they often come up with strong research findings that extol the virtues of say, drinking coffee, and then a few months later come with articles with equally compelling arguments supported by research to point out the ill–effects or suggest a better alternative. I just mentioned coffee by way of example. It could be red wine, tea, cinnamon, garlic or any of the numerous other “beneficial” foods, herbs or spices. Besides, there are suggestions on sleep habits, walking, aerobics, alternate therapy, naturopathy, yoga, dieting, and a whole lot of similar good health measures and systems, all with riders and counterviews to leave the poor seeker of good health completely muddle-headed.
As I said earlier (my hub : Learning from life – communication) I have found that some great learnings have come my way from very routine interactions with ordinary people going about their job, with no special claim to erudition or intellectual accomplishments. So let me recount what I have come across about good health.
My grandmother remained slim and active and looked after herself perfectly well even in her nineties. She had all her teeth intact and didn’t need spectacles. She washed her own clothes and cooked her food. Not being dependent on gadgets like washing machines and mixer grinders, there was a lot of physical work that she undertook as part of her daily chores, which she went through with admirable ease. One evening while remonstrating with me for the lethargy and poor health of the others around her, she advised me to follow her example to enjoy the benefits of good health.
‘Its very simple,’ she said, ‘ do some work and don’t become lazy and dependent on all these labour saving gadgets. I have always done some work throughout my life. That’s why I can still sit and stand erect and walk without support in my nineties.’
She was too imperial and confident a woman and most importantly she was my grandmother, who was fond of me, so I had no choice but to nod my head in agreement.
‘I’ll definitely follow your advice,’ I assured her.
‘Also, one more thing – there’s a word called moderation. You fellows eat until your stomach is about to burst. I’ve never done like that. When I eat, I stop at the point when I can still eat another fistful of food. I don’t yield to greed and if somebody offers or compels me to eat more, I politely refuse. Let the others eat till they suffocate but I won’t, no matter how tasty the food. I’ve done this all my life and I think it has helped me to stay trim and active.’
Finding a patient listener in me, she continued.
‘You fellows go on stuffing throughout the day whenever you feel like it, or whenever something is put before you. All my life, I’ve had three meals regularly at about the same time every day and I never ate anything in between. Dinner was always early so that I could sleep well.’
I think moderation and discipline was what she was talking about. And about being active. If you think of it, makes a lot of sense.
The happy man
I also happened to know a man who smoked at least five cigarettes a day all his life, enjoyed his drink occasionally, and lived into his nineties without any medical record.
I asked his family the secret of his long healthy life in spite of the minor transgressions.
‘We don’t know,’ they said. ‘The only thing different about him was that he was a simple man who knew how to be contented and cheerful despite the usual vicissitudes of life. He was not one to lose his temper or get worked up unnecessarily. Not that he didn’t have any problems – he had plenty. But he had a very lighthearted approach to life, which made problems look smaller. He made friends with all and had an easy way to fit into any situation that life presented. And he never sat and worried. It’s probably because of the kind of person he was that he didn’t need medicines or hospitals.’
The way to good health
These and similar other experiences have led me to believe that it’s very important to leave aside our search for quick fixes and realize that our body mindis an integrated system. There is no way that we can improve our heart while the mind triggers stress and the body desperately struggles to cope with it. There is no point in staying awake into the morning and then pursuing aerobics, yoga or some other exercise regimen, because the damage done by staying awake can scarcely be neutralized. So what’s the way?
• It’s as important to have a healthy mind, as it is to provide a modicum of exercise every day to keep the muscles active and healthy. A sedentary lifestyle will need corrections.
• We must be acutely aware of the fact that we have a fantastic body that all our robotics cannot match and a mind that leaves the best of computers or AI far behind. It just doesn’t make sense to abuse this mind / body just because it’s one of the most efficient and long lasting contraptions with self servicing and repair facilities built-in.
• Live in harmony with your mind and body. Just as you would read all the operating instructions, servicing and maintenance guidelines, problem solving and trouble shooting tips for the new gadget that you have bought, so also for your own mind/body, find out the operating instructions, care and maintenance guidelines, trouble shooting tips etc.
• Old world prescriptions like sleeping early have great value. We now know that melatonin produced by the pineal gland in darkness has an antioxidant activity and its scavenging function will keep us in good health. Staying awake for nights and then popping vitamin pills or doing Yoga will never take you far on the road to good health.
• Just as you take care of your car or television, we need to take care of our body too and ensure that it is not overloaded. Following a disciplined regimen of sleep, rest and exercise will ensure that the regular maintenance activities are carried out. Irregular eating and sleeping may not show its effects in your youth but its effects will soon manifest. Prevention is better than cure.
• We cannot be happy if we are not healthy. Therefore it doesn’t make sense at all to buy future misery for some transient thrill. So buy future peace and good health by forgoing some of the present pleasures and introducing a disciplined lifestyle.
Some of this may be idealistic in the sense that life may sometimes pop up stressful situations that cannot be wished away. One would have to cope with it as best as one can. Practical compulsions, like for instance during travel, could throw routines out of gear. But if we keep in mind the basics listed above, we could ensure minimum damage by reverting back to our normal routine at the earliest. It’s also important to remember when we have a fortunate run, not to live a wayward life and create future health problems that torment us. Finally, we must stop looking for quick fixes and one-shot remedies, because health is actually a pretty complex matter. Instead, a balanced life of moderation where all aspects of life – work life, home life, mental activity, physical activity / exercise, rest, eating, sleeping – are balanced out and moderated will go a long way in ensuring better health.
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