I practice a special kind of meditation on an almost daily basis. Perhaps meditation isn't the right word since it doesn't require me to sit in silence with my eyes closed and legs crossed or anything like that. It's more a form of taking stock of where my life is going at any particular time.
For this, I have five issues to consider: my physical health, my diet, my emotional state, my intellectual rigor and my social/relational life. These I think of as the pillars of my well-being. Each one matters greatly by itself, but each must also be in balance with all the others. If one goes missing, the rest will suffer as well.
Let me give an example. When I injured my shoulder in a tennis game a few years ago, I realized how much was taken away from me, not just because I had to give up playing for a while but also because a dear routine was interrupted with all sorts of consequences.
During my prolonged absence from the court, I lost my tennis buddies whose comradeship I had enjoyed tremendously. One of them, a university professor and a true intellectual, had not only been a great partner in doubles but also a stimulating presence in my life that gave me many insights in a vast variety of subjects. Due to the reduced physical activity, I felt less energetic and not as motivated in my work. And I had to watch my diet more carefully to prevent unwanted weight gain.
Needless to say, I was saddened about losing a part of my life that was more important to me than I had been aware of. In fact, it made me miserable for quite some time.
The German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer once said: "Health is not everything, but without it, nothing is anything." I am a great believer in that. I know now that my physical health is the foundation of what I can do in life, whether it concerns work or leisurely activities. It also affects my state of mind, my interest and participation in the world around me, and my ability to relate to others. And it works both ways: The happier I am, the more fulfilled I feel, the easier it seems to stay healthy and fit.
Obviously, my little meditational routine is nothing original. If you are interested in taking up this kind of exercise, I can recommend using the so-called "Wellness Wheel," which follows a similar pattern. As the name indicates, the different components of wellness relate to each other like spokes in a wheel. Each is necessary to hold the whole thing together, none is expendable.
Good nutrition, regular exercise, weight management as well as avoidance of smoking and alcohol and drug abuse are at the core. But so are stress management and getting enough sleep. Our emotional, intellectual and spiritual needs must be cared for. Having goals, a sense of purpose and satisfaction and fulfillment in what we do are all part of it, just like having good relationships with loved ones, colleagues and community.
Not all areas will always be at peak performance. And that's not even necessary. We can focus on work and put our social life on the backburner for some time. We can take a break from our exercise routine for a day or two and make up for the missed time on the weekend. We can overindulge for a special occasion and then go right back to a healthy diet afterwards. What we can't do is neglecting or sacrificing entire segments of our wellbeing because, sooner or later, it will affect the whole person.
There are as many ways to prepare roasted chickpeas as there are herbs and spices. Try making them with spices that you love from a favourite dish or cuisine, like curry powder for an Indian flavour or cumin and chili powder to for a Mexican variation. <a href="http://www.canadianliving.com/food/curried_roasted_chickpeas.php" target="_blank">The recipe is simple:</a> toss a can of chickpeas with a bit of oil and your chosen spices, and bake your chickpeas at 400C until they're golden and crunchy.
Salads can be both nutritious and versatile, because they’re endlessly customizable, but they can be messy and difficult to transport. Also, mixing in your dressing in advance can make your greens soggy, but carrying it on the side can lead to a work bag full of Catalina. The solution? Salad in a jar! <a href="http://www.thekitchn.com/salad-in-a-jar-make-a-week-of-lunches-173014" target="_blank">This was all over Pinterest</a> a few months ago, and for good reason: by layering the salad ingredients, with dressing at the bottom and greens at the top, they all stay fresh until you dump them in a bowl.
Hummus is made with chickpeas, which are full of protein and fibre and a good source of iron. Good thing it's also delicious. There are many ways to get hummus into your mouth, but we recommend freshly cut carrot sticks or bagged baby carrots—they've got a satisfying crunch and are a great way to get some vitamin A in your diet. If you're feeling adventurous, <a href="http://www.foodnetwork.ca/recipes/michael-smiths-hummus/recipe.html?dishid=10472" target="_blank">try making your own hummus</a> at home.
Fresh fruits are nature's first convenience food — bananas and oranges even come with their own biodegradable packaging. It's hard to mess up this one, but we recommend choosing <a href="http://localfoods.about.com/od/CanadianProduceGuides/Canadian-Produce-Guides.htm" target="_blank">fruits that are in season</a> locally. That way your already healthy snack will also be cost conscious and at its peak of flavour and freshness.
You can really customize a daily smoothie to fit whatever nutritional needs you to need to address. Add hemp seeds or ground flax for a dose of healthy omega fats. Get some potassium and fibre by throwing a banana into the blender. Add protein with a powder supplement or soy milk. Our favourite smoothie booster is a handful of healthy fresh greens, like spinach. It's a great way to get the benefits of these healthy vegetables. Oh She Glows has a selection of recipes for<a href="http://ohsheglows.com/categories/recipes-2/beverages/green-monsters-beverages/" target="_blank"> "green monster" smoothies</a> that are so delicious that you'll never guess they're great for you.
Kale is having its moment in the nutritional sun right now. This hot leafy green has become increasingly popular not just for its great taste but also because of its abundance of fibre and iron, among other key nutrients. Kale's great in salads, but you can also <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/03/kale-chips-recipe-baked_n_2398474.html" target="_blank">make it into chips</a> by baking it in the oven, adding your favourite seasonings to replicate the taste of your favourite fried snacks without all the fat and calories. We suggest tossing the shredded kale with apple cider vinegar and sea salt.
Ants on a log — celery stalks filled with peanut butter and topped off with raisins — might remind you of snack time in kindergarten, but did you know that celery is a source of potassium? The peanut butter gives you a kick of protein while the raisins throw some fibre into the mix. You can make this one a little more grown up by trying a different nut butter, like cashew, or by substituting dried cranberries for raisins. Personally, we think that the classic version is yummy, too.
Think of what you'd love to see on a crudite plate, and get it on the go. Broccoli, peppers, carrots, celery, and cauliflower are all great options for snacking. They take a while to eat so you won't rush past your full point, and munching on them throughout the day can help you reach your recommended servings of fruits and vegetables. <a href="http://www.davidlebovitz.com/2008/07/baba-ganosh/" target="_blank">Baba ganoush,</a> made with eggplants, is a great dip option.
Steamed and salted edamame pods are to the Japanese what peanuts and popcorn are to North Americans — they're a standard bar snack across the Pacific. They're a lot healthier than our favourites, because edamame are fresh green soybeans, which means that they're full of protein. They're delicious with just a sprinkle of sea salt.
It's a shame that a pumpkin’s seeds usually get thrown away when we carve out our jack-o’lanterns at Halloween, because they're very nutritious. Pumpkin seeds are full of antioxidants, and they're a great source of immune-boosting zinc. Like chickpeas, you can toss them with spices and a bit of oil and roast them, but they're also delicious raw. If you can find them, get your seeds unshelled to get your full boost of zinc. The shells are edible.
Follow Timi Gustafson, R.D. on Twitter: www.twitter.com/TimiGustafsonRD