The three most important things that we as humans do to stay alive (self-preservation) are breathing, drinking water, and eating. Let’s take a closer look at each of these:
Take a Deep Breath and Relax
Our breath is a major source of energy. Eastern cultures have explored the power inherent in the breath and speak of that energy as “chi” or “prana.”
In Latin, the word for “breath” and “spirit” is the same: spirare. The term “spirit” or “life force” in the Hebrew language can be translated into the word “breath.” About sixteen to seventeen times per minute, we say yes to continuing our life here on Earth by taking another breath. Our breath is quite literally our life force. We breathe about ten thousand quarts of air per day, oxygenating some twenty-seven trillion cells.
Breathing is paramount to survival and self-preservation. Our body can go without food and water for a few days—at best—but it can’t go without oxygen for more than a few minutes. Oxygen is the source of our sustenance. Within the breath, we encounter the rhythm of energy that all life emits.
We breathe in and out some twenty-two thousand times per day—inhalation followed by exhalation. The actual job of breathing is done mainly by the diaphragm, the sheet of muscles between the chest and the abdomen. These muscles contract when we breathe in, expanding the lungs and drawing in air. We breathe out simply by relaxing the diaphragm; the lungs deflate like balloons.
Deep, circular breathing—belly breathing—happens when we inhale through our nose and exhale through our mouth. However, the ideal breath isn’t quite as simple as that. A true, cleansing breath is one that directs the breath energy all the way down into the lower belly, about two inches below the navel. This area is known as the lower tan tien, meaning “stove,” “furnace,” or “cauldron.” Follow this inhalation by expelling waste products up and out through the mouth with a long, slow exhalation.
The key to healthy breathing is to have longer exhalations than inhalations. In fact, they should be twice as long. This not only purges toxins but promotes vital energy, relaxation, and healing. The average adult utilizes only about one quart of their six-to-seven quart lung capacity.
Inhaling slowly, deeply, and evenly through both nostrils and exhaling through the mouth—mindful breathing—helps to synchronize both hemispheres of the brain. It promotes whole-body integration of our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual states of being. When we don’t use our breath effectively, our other systems have to work overtime to compensate. This overwork can set the stage for serious illness.
Healthy breathing increases vitality, lowers blood pressure, enhances mental concentration and the ability to retain information, unleashes creativity, improves circulation, diminishes anxiety, and promotes relaxation.
Mindful breathing can be used anytime, anywhere. If you sit in front of a computer all day or have a long commute, lower your shoulders periodically and breathe mindfully. The difference in your energy and stress level at the end of the day will be noticeable.
With regular practice, mindful breathing becomes our natural way of breathing: relaxed, rhythmic, flowing, and open.
So sit back, relax, and inhale deeply through your nostrils, drawing the breath fully into the pit of your stomach. In doing so, you just sent a powerful dose of oxygen to your brain and every single cell in your body and rid yourself of some excess baggage.
Water: The Elixir of Life
Water is the main component of all living beings and the major constituent of human cells. It’s vital to survival and self-preservation.
How can we know how much water is the right amount of water to drink? It’s easy: simply divide your body weight by two. The resulting number is the number of ounces of water you should drink every twenty-four hours.
Next to the air we breathe, water is the most important thing we’ll ever put into our body. Here are some of the benefits of drinking the right amount of water every day:
- Reduces back pain
- Slashes cancer risk
- Provides a whole-body cleanse
- Diminishes digestive problems
- Boosts energy
- Enhances the effectiveness of exercise
- Diminishes the frequency of headaches
- Enhances heart health
- Improves memory
- Enhances skin health
- Promotes weight loss
Dr. Masaru Emoto, author of The Hidden Messages in Water, found that water from clear springs and water that has been exposed to loving words shows brilliant, complex, and colorful snowflake patterns.
In contrast, polluted water, or water exposed to negative thoughts, forms incomplete, asymmetrical patterns with dull colors. The implications of this research create a new awareness of how we can positively impact the earth and our personal health.
Diet: A Four-Letter Word
You’ve heard the saying “you are what you eat.” That sentiment isn’t far from the truth. A more accurate statement is “you are what you assimilate.” A body that’s not healthy can’t assimilate all the nutrients it needs from the foods and supplements it ingests.
Research shows that people who eat a variety of brightly colored fruit, leafy vegetables, certain fish, and nuts packed with omega-3 fatty acids can improve focus and decrease their risk of getting Alzheimer’s disease.
Eating well is also one of the keys to a positive outlook, emotional balance, and a joyful life. The benefits of healthy eating include increased mental acuteness, resistance to illness and disease, higher energy levels, a more robust immune system, faster recuperation times, and better management of chronic health problems.
Good nutrition keeps muscles, bones, organs, and other body parts strong for the long haul. Eating foods that are rich in vitamins and minerals boosts immunity and fights illness-causing toxins. A healthy diet reduces the risk of heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, bone loss, cancer, and anemia.
The American Institute for Cancer Research recommends, “People concerned with reducing cancer risk and managing their weight cover two-thirds (or more) of their plate with vegetables, fruit, whole grains, and beans, and one-third (or less) with animal protein. One of the best possible choices for that ‘one-third or less’ is fish.”
Top Ten Anticancer Foods:
- Cruciferous vegetables—broccoli, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts
- Berries—blueberries, açaí berries, raspberries, cranberries, and strawberries
- Onions and leeks
- Red beets
- Spinach and watercress
- Whole grains
- Beans—all types of beans, including soybeans and lentils
Other fruits and vegetables that help to protect against cancer include pumpkin, pineapple, rhubarb, apples, carrots, sweet potatoes, squash, red onions, radishes, apricots, grapefruit, red grapes, lemons, mangoes, papayas, peaches, and persimmons.
In the United States, we tend to live in the fast lane—hurry, hurry, hurry!—and often eat on the run. How and what we eat affects the pleasure we take, or miss, in the eating experience. Many of our global neighbors have already discovered this and have offloaded “food baggage” by treating food with healthy respect and joy. They share meals with others, lingering over each course and savoring the taste, thus fostering a deep appreciation for the pleasure of eating wholesome and delicious foods.
Our food choices, our attitude, and the environment we’re eating in all affect healthy digestion and our assimilation of nutrition. Bringing more attention and thought to our meals helps us to make healthier food choices and enhances our eating pleasure.