When you think of wellness, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Usually, it’s exercise, followed by diet.
But did you know that most of the healthiest cultures in the world also practice some sort of faith or spirituality alongside these other healthful practices?
Mindfulness and Spirituality
It turns out that when you study any of the populations who live the longest, you find something interesting. All of them live in close-knit communities. And all of them have a healthy spiritual life. None of them live as atheists. And they very rarely are scientists. Instead, they’re people who believe in higher powers and look for signs of angels.
Wellness, however, seems to overlook these issues. Having some sort of spirituality in your life seems essential if you want it to be long, happy and productive. However, whenever medical professionals talk about health, they always reduce it to medicine, diet and how much physical activity you get.
Interestingly, though, whenever you speak with any of the people who live in long-lived areas, they never talk about diet. It’s just food for them. And they don’t spend their days at the gym doing hard exercise. In fact, in places like Sardinia in Italy and Okinawa in Japan, where people regularly live over one hundred, the concept of training doesn’t exist. While it is true that many locals have high levels of physical activity, it’s not a conscious thing. They’re not striving for health in the same way you and I are. Instead, they’re merely living out their lives in an environment that is conducive to a long life. And they’re barely thinking about it.
Part of the reason for this must come down to their strong spiritual side. All through their lives, they’re focusing on the values that their various faiths give them. For people who live in these areas, that’s the important thing. There isn’t even a concept of wellness in many of these places – at least, not in the same way as we think of it here. We have a view that it is something you do, but in these cultures, it is usually something you don’t do, since living a life of wellbeing is the default state.
Mindful practices, therefore, are critical for today’s wellness and a missing link. You can have a perfect diet and get lots of enjoyable exercise. Still, unless you believe that there’s something more to life than the merely perceptual, you’re always struggling with the deeper questions. If you don’t have clear answers to these (or make peace with not having them), then you’re going to feel more stressed. You’re going to get that annoying existential angst where you worry about why you’re here and what it all means. And that can lead to higher cortisol levels and a lack of perspective which shatters your sense of wellbeing.
Mindful practices that have a spiritual dimension, therefore, are the missing link in today’s wellness trend. It’s long been a part of the human experience, and it should be a critical component of how we live today.
How do you practice mindfulness?