By Laura Warf, B.Ed. McGill (Fitness), canfitpro FIS, MBS, CCF Coach, Reiki, RYT-500
(This article was originally published in canfitpro Magazine November/December 2015)
When you consider making a change in any area of your life, do you do so to move away from something you don’t like? Or towards something that you think would serve you better and make you happier?
Contemplate this expression: when you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.
Is there a situation in your life right now that displeases you? What if you were to look at it from a different angle to shift your perspective? Imagine looking at a world map: if you are always fixated on one point on the map like your own home town for example, would you notice other surrounding towns, or provinces, or even neighbouring countries? We all have a certain perspective on every aspect of life due to our exposure to our own ways of thinking. By being more open-minded and curious, we can expose ourselves to a myriad of ways of looking at any situation. The next time you are fixated on a problem or an issue that you would like to change, try looking at it from a different angle–not just from your own home town–to help shift your way of thinking and problem-solving.
Let me illustrate the subject of perspective with a personal story. My view on health and fitness was shaped over the years by many factors: my upbringing and attitudes about living an active lifestyle, my experience at a young age in sports, and then through my continuing education in the field of fitness and wellness.
With time, experience and new influences in my life, my perspective about health and fitness shifted. At an early age, my focus was on attaining a high level of physical fitness. Although this one pointed focus (just like only looking at our own home town on a map) served a purpose, it was not holistic or global in nature, and it created inevitable imbalance. Too much of anything, even a good thing, can tip the balance scales. In my case, the scale tipped too far towards physical movement without adequate recovery time in between classes and workouts, along with deficient nutritional habits. This led to fatigue and chronic back and hip pain. Since we can’t solve a problem with the same type of thinking that created it in the first place, I asked for help from other professionals so I could gain new insight.
Our greatest challenges often lead to our greatest breakthroughs
My physical pain and anxiety led me along a new path to restore my lifestyle and body balance. My Naturopath urged me to stop all high-intensity exercise for a while, to follow an anti-inflammatory diet, and to practise deep breathing, yoga and meditation. Since I had been teaching several spinning classes a week for 15 years, as well as spending my free time doing weight training and outdoor activities, my body was sending clear messages that it was too much. All systems were on alert! My digestion was affected, I was bloated and tired, I was unfocused and I had high anxiety.
Following my first consultation with my Naturopath in 2012, my physical activities shifted towards daily walks and hikes with my dog, along with a gentle to moderate yoga asana practice and 15 to 20 minutes of corrective exercises a few times per week. I invested the time it took for my body to restore its balance by altering the way I moved, and I consistently practiced shifting my mindset. The journey continues to this day.
A more holistic, integrated approach to well-being resonated with me and now governs how I live my life. After testing my approach on some willing clients with great success over the past few years, my School of Happiness was born. In my program, I take a holistic and integrated approach to total well-being. I’m inspired by the positive psychology movement which focuses on what is right in your life as opposed to what is wrong. When we change the way we look at things, the things we look at change. When I shifted my mindset away from just “why” I exercised (to be fit) and moved towards focusing on “how do I want to feel?” (to be energized and healthy). It compelled me to look at the map from a different perspective. My actions seemed more meaningful. Along the way, I met other people who displayed the same pattern: various professionals leading busy lives and pushing themselves to do more in all areas of their life. If patterns of consistently striving creates a constant stress response within the body, without adequate recovery (in workouts or in life), then the body will respond symptomatically. These small whispers can escalate to a loud voice if the messages aren’t listened to and acted upon. When the body moves towards systemic inflammation, as was my case, trying to do more whether it be mentally, physically or emotionally is counter-productive. Results will be limited, leaving most people feeling depleted or injured rather than effective and energized.
What can you do?
Are your lifestyle habits making you feel better or worse? Choose activities that make you happy, and keep a positive mindset. Instead of focusing on what you don’t want (excess weight, pain, low energy), focus on what you do want (a healthy, fit, strong body and an abundance of energy). Regardless of the activity you choose, do it mindfully, and be fully aware of how you are moving and focus on being in the moment.
Eckhart Tolle, the author of The Power of Now states that stress is “being here now but trying to get somewhere else”. My yoga teacher, Mark Whitwell, often stated that “the main cause of human suffering was trying to get somewhere other than being here now”. When we are present, we conserve our energy, when our thoughts are always oscillating between the past and the future, we are consuming energy more rapidly leaving us feeling more depleted. This does not mean we shouldn’t set future goals for ourselves. On the contrary, set goals then move into action positively, mindfully, and joyfully. When we do something out of obligation with emotional resistance or resentment to the task, a stress response within the body is activated. It has been reported that prolonged elevated stress levels due to consistent chaotic thought patterns or too much of any activity without proper rest and relaxation can lead to systemic inflammation over time and a reduction of overall productivity at all levels. Shift your perspective and change the formula.
A global approach to well-being looks at the whole person
Gradually integrate new elements into your lifestyle or those of your clients such as: whole food nutrition, proper rest and relaxation techniques, play time, outdoor time in nature and time with uplifting people you enjoy being with. What are you moving towards in your life? How do you want to feel? What can you do differently that will lead you along a new path to fulfilling your desire? Balance your lifestyle and shift your perspective with every life challenge to leave you feeling healthier, happier and more energized to blaze new trails on the world map!
Laura is the founder of the School of Happiness holistic wellness center whose methods are based on tools from ancient teachings to today’s current research to inspire others to take charge of their complete well-being by following her 8 essential elements to health and happiness. She is a healthy living advocate, passionate wellness educator and mind-body specialist offering services in yoga, meditation, energetic balancing, and fitness conditioning. Visit www.LauraWarf.com