Equilibrium. Before my science nerds start geeking out, I’m going to be talking about a different kind of equilibrium here. A balance between Mind, Body & Soul. Maybe more of a triangle, considering how stable of a shape that is.
I’ve discussed the mind a LOT in this series, and the most relevant topic to this sub-section will be from The Journey IV, where I spoke about the growth mindset. The reason for this is because I want to emphasize how important your mindset is, on perceiving the events that occur to you, and what you can do to develop that.
Taking care of your mind comes in many forms, but a large portion of it comes from seeking discomfort and confronting new challenges. This includes doing things like brain exercises; solving puzzles,playing chess, reading, learning new languages or any form of active engagement which requires thinking. Why? Because of something called neuroplasticity. This is the brain’s ability to physically change throughout your life. Whereby new neural networks and connections are formed in response to new information, sensory information, and learned behaviour.
Let’s simplify this a little, think of riding a bicycle for example. The first time you ever did it, may have seemed quite tough. You struggled a little, couldn’t really balance and maybe even fell off. But the more you practiced, the better you got. This is because the neurons in your brain (neurotransmitters), kept firing in response to the active learning, strengthening the muscle memory. That’s how you get better at things. When you push yourself and try to leave your comfort zone, through consistent practice and dedication, you physically strengthen the neural connections in your body. This allows the process to get easier and easier.
How does this now relate to the growth mindset? Well, if you believe that the more consistent and deliberate you are in your practice, the better you get, the more dedicated you can allow yourself to be. So your beliefs inherently allow you to physically change the synaptic connections, and thus allowing you to further grow. It’s the mindset, which leads to behaviour, which in turn produces better results.
Another point to add to this, as part of the triangle, is that you need to take care of your mind by facing your fears. This is again to create newer and stronger synaptic connections. The more you train yourself to deal with what makes you scared, the stronger your mind becomes at overcoming it. I’ll give you a great place to start: have a cold shower every day! It doesn’t have to be the entirety of your shower, but just the first 20 seconds or so. Where you know your mind is anticipating something dreadful, but you dive into it anyway and realize that you’ll survive. Doing these kind of activities on a regular basis allows you to physically develop a healthier brain. I could go on about the benefits of a cold shower, but I’ll leave that research for you. Let’s move on to the second aspect of the equilibrium; taking care of your body.
Ahh, this is where all the fun starts for me; being active! Through rigorous physical exercise, your body releases a chemical called endorphins.
Endorphins are your body’s natural antidepressant, as they reduce your perception of pain by interacting with receptors in the brain. This occurs through neurotransmitters as previously mentioned, and the neuron receptors which endorphin binds to, are similar to that of pain medication.
Exercise also gets the blood pumping in your body, which increases the oxygen levels, helps promote nutrient absorption and even eliminates toxins from the body. This in turn, strengthens your heart, increases your energy, lowers blood pressure and also helps reduce body fat. If that wasn’t good enough, it also has other psychological benefits; boosting your self-esteem, reducing your anxiety, and helps you sleep better.
“A healthy mind lies in a healthy body.”
The picture above depicts one of my favourite Arabic quotes. And that couldn’t be any more true; the better care you take of your body, the better state you allow your mind to be in. We can now slowly start to see how important the balancing aspect is. But, taking care of your body doesn’t just end with exercise, you need to properly fuel yourself too. I’ll start with something I myself, dreaded to hear as a kid:
- Eat your fruits and vegetables!
- Drink lots and lots of water, your brain needs it. (2L per day)
- Avoid processed (junk) food as much as you can.
- Reduce sugar consumption.
Essentially, focus on foods that will support your equilibrium. Do some research on brain foods, which include things like: Almonds, avocados, blueberries, broccoli, salmon, walnuts & plenty other ingredients. Once you start adding fresher and more natural produce into your diet, you’ll immediately feel the difference. Not only in your physical health, but your mental health too. I’ll now move onto the final aspect of the triangle, your soul (or spirituality).
Spiritual practices give our lives meaning, by bringing serenity and peace to the heart. It’s very personal and unique to every individual, and comes to each of us in different ways. Islam is what truly keeps me grounded, through constant praying and strengthening my relationship with God (Allah). That’s where true contentment really comes from, when you can understand and appreciate your blessings more, by thanking & worshipping God.
(This is my own opinion and beliefs, so I understand that it’ll differ from person to person) But like I mentioned in previous posts, we’re here for a greater purpose. It’s not a coincidence or an arbitrary existence.
Spirituality in turn, creates discipline. It allows us to understand that we shouldn’t act on every impulse or desire, and that our actions have consequences. This keeps us in check and brings about a different kind of balance.
Something especially lacking nowadays from my observations, are people consistently following a spiritual practice. This leaves a certain gap or hollowness, which ultimately disrupts the balance and can mess with the mind and body. This directly relates to the post about death, because when we’re spiritually lost (or without direction), it creates fear around what comes next. This fear is very subliminal and manifests itself in different aspects, but will definitely affect the way we live our lives. So what I’m suggesting is that if you don’t already have a belief system or foundation, take some time out for yourself to figure it out. We’re here for more than our university degrees, job statuses, bank accounts and social media followers. (I’m not saying don’t strive to achieve your goals, but don’t make that the only objective in your life.) The only thing we truly take with us when we pass on, is the state of our soul.
Any form of meditation in essence, allows you to ultimately find a balance between all 3. When you’re able to better control your mind, through your body, using your spirit; you develop equilibrium. Naturally, happiness is the result of achieving this.
To bring this triad of information into a pyramid, we need to understand that as multi-dimensional beings, the mind, body and soul are deeply connected. Each plays a vital role in supporting the other, as this forms your whole self. By understanding how your mind works, through its physiology and neuroplasticity, we can develop a growth mindset and work on being better each and every day. By taking care of your body through exercise and a healthy diet, we holistically strengthen our health. Finally, by forming a deeper connection with ourselves and the world, through spirituality, we can find contentment in our lives.