“We cannot hope to create a sustainable culture with any but sustainable souls.”
Sustainability is a word often associated with economics and environmentalism. But the concepts of sustainability should also be applied to our health. Our health and healing largely revolves around our self-care. Although we can get help and advice along the way, it is our day-to-day actions that matter the most in how well we feel. Health is about more than the mere absence of disease; it should have richness and depth congruent with a high quality of life. There should be a conscious aim to cultivate things such as contentment, spiritual growth and self-awareness. It is these things that bring true health.
The root word sustain connotes more than just endurance. It is about supplying, supporting and maintaining prolonged nourishment. Our own personal health and global health is but a microcosm of the larger environmental and economic issues we face. We make the same shortsighted decisions in our health care that we have made for many years with our environment. Opting to choose the Band-Aid solutions, like symptom suppression, instead of challenging the foundations of our health care. Maybe it is time to take the long view in our health and healing. To manage not the time, but the integrity of our body and it’s various systems through respect and reverence. Sustainability conversations revolve around our use of resources. So in that vein, have you ever asked yourself, what are my resources? Which ones are renewable? And most importantly, how do you develop, allocate and manage your resources to not just live long, but live well?
A Great Model
Dan Buettner did some amazing research looking at the places around the world with the highest amount of centenarians, or people living to be over 100 years old with a high quality of life. He called these areas, Blue Zones. It turns out that he found many consistencies among the populations, even though the regions spanned the globe. He found that people were still active and engaged in activities of daily living such as walking and gardening everyday. They also seemed to have a general positive outlook on life. Time out for rest and relaxation is highly valued and common among all groups. Nutrition was also very important, they ate wisely and primarily a plant-based diet. Another important commonality is that they wake up everyday with a sense of purpose and felt a sense of community among friends and family.
What Are Your Resources?
Many people think our main resources are our time and money. Though the allocation of both of those is important, I would also suggest we expand our definition. What if we included your health, your talents, hobbies and sense of purpose, how does this reframe the conversation? The same things that are at the core of our essence are our most valuable resources we. Learning how to develop, and manage them is where true health flourishes. Make these resources renewable by learning to allocate them appropriately. Is the way you spend your resources congruent with your values? These renewable resources, after all, are expressions of your soul.
60-90% of all illnesses are either directly caused or exacerbated by stress. Stress has been defined as when perceived resources do not meet perceived demands. Because our perception plays such a key role in our stress response, how can we move from a space of abundance rather than scarcity? Or improve our self-efficacy so we feel more confident in our ability to deal with the daily challenges of life? When we fail to practice self-care and take time out when we need it, we put our minds and bodies in a lowered functioning state. Maybe we need to reevaluate what is acceptable. We seem to equate being busy and being stressed with success. It is seen as a necessity to make it in this world, but that is the short view. We would see creativity thrive, and production increases if we appreciated ourselves as sustainable beings. If we honor the needs our bodies we set ourselves up for greatness.
We like to think in this individualist society that we don’t have a responsibility to others. We need to take care of one another. Ultimately taking care of each other is taking care of ourselves. We are connected on every level from our basic work relationships to our energetic entanglement. Up until now, I have said nothing about community, but it is one of our biggest resources. If we can understand this, then our perceived amount of resources becomes truly infinite. We have the availability and opportunity in our community to develop our own sense of purpose, to do our soul’s work. So think about what you can do to connect and collaborate with friends, family and community. How can you give back and be of service to others? Not out of duty or obligation, but to enhance your sense of purpose by using your talents to enrich the lives of others. It will change your perspective on what is possible. Mindful interactions with other people can do wonders in ridding yourself of limiting beliefs. Seek out the resources necessary to achieve your goals and help other achieve theirs.
Study after study suggests that people who have a good support network cope better, maintain sense of identity, and have decreased stress levels and a more positive outlook. This is because the creation of the sustainable person goes hand in hand with the creation of the sustainable soul. An important component of sustainability is forgiveness and compassion. Because it is a measurement of quality and quantity, we don’t always have to get it right. Some of my biggest successes came from my biggest failures. We can learn through the process, there is room for growth and development. Cultivation is about tending to and caring for. It requires self-awareness. Appreciate when things get out of balance and gently self-correct.
So remember to use your resources wisely. Allow them the space to renew when necessary. Without stress reduction and relaxation you will deplete them. So put the same value on loving more, laughing often, and moving creatively and with purpose. This is how you cultivate the sustainable self.
Angela Levesque is an exercise physiologist, mind/body educator and energy healer. She hosts a weekly online radio show called On Health & Healing on a2zen.fm and teaches several classes on self care for chronic illness. Visit www.hestiahealth.com for more information. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.