Friday, February 5, 2016

Despite best intentions, I started this poor blog just to forget about it amid all the business that is our practice. This, like anything else boils down to habit.

Many of our health decision are the same way. They're not so much decisions as habits that may have been with us for a long time. In light of our recent trip to Jamaica where "there are no problems, only situations, mon," it seems to me that while many of us focus on habits of diet, exercise, and hopefully the healthy habit of getting your spine checked regularly, we often forget about the habit of our mindset.

I'm not perfect, but some things I do to try to tone down my own extreme type A tendencies are as follows:

1: Meditate. I don't beat myself up for not being able to shut down my brain completely, I just sit quietly, close my eyes, and listen to nature sounds on Pandora or meditation music on YouTube. I try to give it at least five minutes to try to quiet down all the internal noise; all the "should's," "to-do's" and distracting brain litter. If you try it without any expectation, you might be surprised at how much more refreshed you feel.

2: Your Own Personal Island Time: This is a very new one for me. I remind myself of what it was like to be on "island time." In Jamaica, this is a very real thing. I suspect it's a very healthy thing, too. The vast majority of Jamaicans I met were vibrantly healthy, energetic and completely NOT in a hurry. The absolute epitome of laid back. I only wish I hadn't waited nearly 40 years to experience an attitude like this, but now that I have, I look at the Bob Marley carving I won in a King of Pop contest and remember to channel that light hearted and relaxed feeling.

Have you been somewhere that the people inspired you or surprised you with their culture? What can you borrow from there and take a little bit home to make your mind a little less hectic? Borrowing a lasting relaxation strategy from a journey or experience instead of letting the experience end when you go home might be just what the doctor ordered. We haven't starting playing reggae in the office yet, but don't be surprised if you hear it.

3: Focus on What's Really Important: I wish I could remember the source book for this, but I suspect it's out there in many forms: there are four quadrants that you can put priorities in: Unimportant and not urgent, Unimportant and urgent, Important and Urgent, Important and not urgent. Taking time to stop and just really be with someone or smell the roses in any other way tends to fall under the last category. It's easy to get swept up in urgency which is often much like letting someone else pull your strings....or more like madly jerk them around! It's also funny how, when you think about it how many Unimportant Urgent things masquerade as important when, at the end of the day if you (goodness forbid) don't get it done, everything is still OK. So much less is really important then most of us, including me, realize. Taking time to focus in the Important Not Urgent category (which in a business context are those business building activities that could always be done later, but in life are those things that add richness and depth) really helps me to not be so revved up over nothing.

One way I focus on the truly important things is by simply stopping to talk to someone. I am hugely guilty of having so much to do that I see someone I know, and just say a quick "hi" as a walk past on my way to get something done. I am very imperfect at this, but always do it when I remember. Tasks be darned...there will always be more tasks. People are so much more interesting and fulfilling than completing a to-do list. Kids are great for this, too....I try to sit down with them and just ask questions and listen instead of being task-oriented or bundling them into the car and rushing to next thing. Walks, especially in nature are great for me to really stop and admire the world around me and get out of the go-go-go of our general culture.

These are some positive metal health habits I'm personally working on to counteract or replace some of the less healthy ones I picked up from who-knows-where. I'm still working at it, and I'm not perfect. You won't be, either. That's not the point. Repeated trying and mindfulness are what's important.

This blog may have a place to post comments...I'm still learning. I hope that providing some of my own experience makes this content seem less like a finger-wagging authority telling you what you should do, and more like an equal who happens to have an extensive health education telling you what's working for him. If anyone has anything else to share, I'd be glad to add some more perspectives to this post. Now, it's time for a walk.

Dr. Seth