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AWARE Ink Newsletter

  • jpeterson

10 Unconventional Ways to Explore and Invite Deep Health



You are a whole person in a whole life. The idea of “deep health” calls attention to that fact and encourages you to grow in all areas of your existence. Find ways to feel energized like spring grass, cultivate authentic relationships, manage and control your emotions, surround yourself with people and things that support you, live your Why, and thoughtfully respond to and solve problems for yourself and your clients.


Notice how different this is from conventional advice for achieving well-being. Work out, eat minimally processed foods, sleep 8-9 hours, manage your time effectively, meditate, limit screen time, etc. (These are all great things, by the way!) Just improving one dimension of deep health—relational, physical, existential, emotional, mental, environmental—can improve the others. Here are 10 ways to enlarge the possibilities for finding deep health.


Play Awareness Games


Brian Tom O’Connor’s book has been one of my favorites this year. If the marketing of McMindfulness in popular culture and psychology make you sick, it a surprisingly profound antidote. You practice focusing your mind and finding joy in the present moment with games like “The Bad Mood,” “Clutch Gobbler” and “Thinking in Tongues.” You will also have a lot of fun!


Take a Thirty Second Cold Shower


The health benefits of cold water are well known. It improves immunity and circulation, eases stress, promotes weight loss, among others. Try humming a song to these thirty seconds. You will air out your sinuses and boost your nose’s secret weapon: nitric oxide. Nitric oxide lowers inflammation, decreases blood pressure, improves heart and brain functions and helps with weight loss. If there is ever a time to hum Bon Jovi’s Livin’ on a Prayer, this is it!


Improve Your Motivation


Give advice instead of receiving it. This flips on its head the conventional recommendation. If you want to lose weight, for example, try giving weight loss tips. Don’t be disrespectful, however. Find the right moments to practice this with a co-worker. Nobody wants weight loss advice when they are eating McDonald’s hamburgers and drinking vanilla shakes.


Get Creative with Your Exercise Routine


Exercise with unconventional objects like water balls, milk jugs, maces, kegs, etc. This adds a whole lot of creativity and simplicity and fun to physical activity. Going to a gym can seem like going to your old high school PE class. (Except now we wear black crew socks instead of white ones. We are still wearing short shorts.) Carrying heavy rocks makes you seem like you are training to be a warrior. Start with Onnit’s website for ideas and home workouts.


Read with Dueling Books


Ron Padgett’s suggestion is to read two books, alternately. Start one and read a few chapters. Start another book and do the same thing. Go back to the first book in a few days. I read histories of philosophy with the philosophers themselves. I also read The Hardy Boys with David Foster Wallace’ books. Read whatever you like because pleasure is healthy. If you don’t like or have time for books, use magazines, websites, whatever. The possibilities are endless. Research solidly backs the health benefits of this kind of play.


Practice Random Acts of Kindness at Work


My partner has a wonderful card set that has given me lots of ideas. Place a flower on each co-worker’s desk. Invite a new colleague to lunch. Put away your phone in the company of others. Organize an office garage sale. There are so many to choose from. When you are kind to another person, both of your stress levels will drop.


Select an Object


Put an object in your office that supports your well-being. A Rubik’s Cube on my desk reminds me to be determined and focus, to concentrate and live simply. Most of all, with 43 quintillion ways to scramble the cube, it helps me to be patient. One day I will solve the puzzle in 3 to 4 seconds per move. One day I will actually solve the puzzle and proudly call myself a “speedcuber.” Any puzzle solving game can lower your stress and improve memory.


Notice and Name Your Support System


Notice and name those whom you know you can rely on for support. Sickness and unhappiness are contagious. So are hope and joy. What is called the “social network effect” is mind blowing. We all know how it feels when someone in our life is moody, irritable and pessimistic. Just ask my partner. Watch Nicholas Chrisakis’ TED talk The Hidden Influence of Social Networks to see how deep this influence can go. He suggests, for example, that even your friends can affect the size of your body.


Don’t Be Afraid of the Woo-Woo


Try out light therapy and aromatherapy products to improve your sleep. Joint pain? You can find specialized pillows to reduce sleep problems. Drink noncaffeinated tea, listen to binaural beats with headphones, write in a gratitude journal, meditate. Basically, you need to find your own ways to relax. (If you find anything that helps with snoring, email me or my partner ASAP!) Always talk to your doctor before you try anything crazy.


Examine Your Poop Daily


I saved the best for last. Your poop is a clue to your health. Without going into details about what to look for, your poop can tell you some pretty important things about your well-being like the quality of your nutrition, your stress and activity and hydration levels, whether your hormones are happy or sad. Plenty of images about what to look for exist online. Be careful with your search terms. You can also talk to your primary doctor. Don’t talk to your supervisor about this, though. We are professionals.

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