Adapted from "Fit Soul, Fit Body: 9 Keys to a Healthier, Happier You"
Whenever we teach seminars, a common theme among participants is their desire to find more balance in their lives. They work too much, eat too much, and spend too much time obsessing about things that aren't important. On the flip side, they also complain that they sleep too little, lack passion in their relationships, and have too little motivation and energy.
Most complaints of this sort can be traced back to one culprit: a life out of balance.
During the 12 years he lived with the Huichol people and apprenticed with their 110-year-old shaman, Brant observed that these beautiful people laugh all day long, rest and relax while they work, are exceptionally healthy and happy, and live to unbelievably old ages. Despite the demanding physical work of keeping their mountain village humming and thriving, there was always plenty of time to tell or listen to a story, to play a game, or to be still and take in nature.
Unlike us, the Huichol people don't wake up each day bummed out that they have to go to work, or worried that they're overeating, or exhausted because they couldn't sleep. What's their secret? What can the Huichols teach us about balance?
We have adapted some of their beliefs and practices into seven simple strategies you can try right away. They can make an enormous difference in the way you feel every day.
1. ) Bring balance to your life with exercise.
It's unnatural to sit most of the day. New studies show that sitting is bad for your heart and your spine, and it makes you fat. But it's also an unbalanced way to live. (If you were unable to move or be active, you would be keenly aware of how out-of-balance your life felt!) Start with a daily walk -- simple and effective -- and watch how it rounds out your day. Before long, your daily exercise may be the part of your day you look forward to most.
2.) Develop a relationship with nature.
Why do we say "ahhhh" when our bare feet first step onto a sandy beach? Why do we feel awe when we're somewhere where we can see a brilliant, starlit sky? It's because human beings are part of the natural world, and having a connection to nature feeds our spiritual self. Try spending time in nature at least once a day (walking to and from your car doesn't count!). Notice how extreme thoughts and moods calm down when you're outside.
3.) Quiet the mind to relieve stress.
This simple stress-management exercise, adapted from the Huichol shamans, is a valuable tool that helps you quiet your internal chatter. When your mind is racing with negative thoughts, sit comfortably (preferably outside) and visualize yourself going into a sacred stream of light and energy coming from your heart. Next, find the silent, tranquil place between thoughts that pop up and try to stay there. If a new thought develops, gently deflect it and feel yourself surrounded by the stream of energy and light. Practicing this technique will help you balance your mind and moods.
4.) Bring your caveman to the table.
Many of us don't appreciate the key role food plays in relieving stress. We're not talking about eating a pint of ice cream when you're anxious. We're talking about giving our body foods that keep it functioning at its optimum level -- foods that are easy to digest, deliver a steady source of energy as our body uses them, and provide high-quality nutrients that fuel our brain, balance our hormones, build muscles and bones, and support the organs and systems of the body. The caveman, without ever reading a book, ate these foods in the right proportions. Caveman eating could be summed up as a moderate variety of foods, in moderate portion sizes, and nothing processed.
5.) Clear your mind with laughter.
One of the first things Brant noticed about the Huichol people is that they were always laughing, joking around, and smiling (sometimes at his expense). Lightness and laughter are as much a part of their daily life as hauling heavy loads up steep mountain paths. Practice clearing your mind of burdensome or depressing thoughts by joking around. Think of something in your burdensome situation that's funny and exaggerate it. Share your observations with someone who will appreciate them. The better you get at doing this, the lighter and happier you will feel.
6.) Enliven your day by introducing change.
It's not natural to do the same thing every single day. It throws you out of balance. For the Huichol people, every day brings a new challenge and routine, which is why they don't seem dull or listless, the way we sometimes get when the monotony of our job or routines drag us down. One way to stay mentally fit and balanced is by mixing up your daily routine. If you work 9-5, try working 8-4. If you always check your email first thing, do something else for the first hour. Rearrange your bedroom furniture. Ride your bike to work.
7.) Let repetition inspire you.
A lot of ask us, "How can I live a balanced life if I have x number of things to do and I have to keep doing them day after day?" If you struggle with boredom from doing the same activities over and over at work or at home, do what the Huichols do when they have to plant an entire hillside with corn by hand, one kernel at a time. They embrace the repetition. Start to see chipping away at the same tasks day after day as a powerful way to accomplish your financial, professional, and personal goals.