14. How to stay young and dynamic?
A little boy noticed an old man struggling with an axe to bring down a tree.
The boy enquired him ‘”how long have you been doing this?”
The old man replied “for the past six hours.”
The boy said “you seem very tired. Why don‘t you rest for a while? Besides the axe seems very blunt and needs to be sharpened!”
The old man replied “I have no time either to rest or to sharpen the axe. I am busy.” He couldn‘t bring down the tree but collapsed to the ground.
Constant development is the law of life, and a man who always tries to maintain his dogmas in order to appear consistent drives himself into a false position. You can pretty much always improve your skills, habits or re-evaluate your evaluations. You can gain deeper understanding of yourself and the world. –Gandhiji
Gandhiji used to walk around 18 kilometers every day for nearly 40 years. During his political campaigns from 1913 to 1948, he walked around 80,000 kilometers, according to his health records published in the journal. This is equivalent to walking around the earth twice. He struggled with several health issues such as pleurisy, malaria, gastric flu, piles, appendicitis and influenza. But he was back on his feet every time, mainly due to his disciplined lifestyle, which included exercise and diet.
There are below three dimensions in each of us:
- Physical Dimension: The goal of continuous physical improvement is to maintain our body in a way that will enhance our capacity to work and enjoy what we do.
To renew ourselves physically, we must do the below:
- Eat and drink in a healthy manner
- Exercise to build endurance, flexibility, and strength
- Get sufficient rest and relaxation
- Get annual health tests done
- Eat healthy food: A balanced diet should contain all essentials such as proteins, carbohydrates, good fat, vitamins and minerals. Gandhiji used to say ‘food should be taken as a matter of duty – even as a medicine – to sustain the body, never for the satisfaction of the palate’. When compared to animal based proteins, plant based proteins are good for health and spiritual growth. Vegetarian diet constitutes the holistic approach that every creature has a right to live and killing them is against the principle of non-violence.
If strict vegetarian diet is not practical, then eggs, fish and poultry meat can be taken in moderate quantities. Fat can be classified as bad fat (LSD) and good fat (HSD). It is recommended to consume only good fat such as ghee (clarified butter) and olive oil.
Foods can also be classified as high calorie and low calorie foods. An average grown man needs daily consumption of 2,000 calories. Because of changing life styles people are getting used to high calorie food without corresponding increase in physical work to burn those additional calories. They accumulate as fat.
Reduce intake of saturated fat, salt, and sugar. It is okay to enjoy such foods on special occasions such as birthdays and festivals, but don’t overindulge.
Eat food in 4 or 5 smaller portions a day. Portion sizes served in restaurants are much larger than what our bodies actually need and what is healthy. They are also mixed with harmful colours and flavours to entice customers. They contain lot of harmful oil, salt, sugar and so on without any concern for consumer’s heath. Hence home food is always healthier than outside food. Get out of the habit of feeling that you always have to finish your plate.
Eat breakfast every morning and never skip it. A healthy breakfast starts your day off right. It sets you up so that you have energy and fuel for optimal mental and physical performance. Eating breakfast helps to maintain stable blood sugar levels and a healthy weight because you are less likely to overindulge later in the day.
Choose steamed foods or toasted sandwiches and keep distance from all fried foods, aerated drinks, milk shakes, fruit juices, desserts and any kind of sweets.
When we cook foods, it destroys the life and nutrients in it. Eating foods after this process of destruction does not give the same amount of life energy to our body. Eat lots of sprouts (such as groundnuts, green grams), fruits, and vegetables (such as carrots, beetroot, cucumbers). Make sure that at least thirty percent or more live food constitute your daily consumption.
As you get older, relationship with food also changes along with your body. A decreased metabolism, decline in taste and smell buds, and slower digestion may affect your appetite, the foods you can eat, and how your body processes food. In old age, healthy eating is important to maintain energy and health.
As you get older your whole digestive system slows down. Consume fiber-rich foods such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. They will help you feel more energetic and give you fuel to keep going.
Make sure you get all the essential vitamins. For vegetarians, B & D vitamins can be hard to get (as per researches there is no source of vitamin B12 in a vegan diet), as well as zinc and iron. Consider taking a daily multivitamin. Vitamin C & zinc are also important for immune system.
Make meals a social event. It is more enjoyable to eat with others than alone. If you live alone, invite other people over. It‘s a great way to stay in touch with friends and you can share cooking and clean-up duties.
Eating while watching TV and reading books is a big NO because that habit makes people eat more than what is needed.
- Drink Green Tea: It contains lots of antioxidants that help in anti-aging and maintaining good looks. It also increases metabolic rate and thus helps in weight loss.
Drink plenty of water every day. Water helps transport vital nutrients, regulates body temperature, eases digestion, keeps joints supple, cleans out your body, keeps skin healthy and young. Water stored in copper vessel is said to be good for detoxification and health.
Not drinking enough water leads to dehydration, resulting in headaches, fatigue, dizziness, constipation, memory loss and so on. Not drinking enough can also lead to excess water weight, because our bodies will store water outside our cells. Water helps the liver do its job more efficiently, namely in metabolizing fat. If you’re not consuming enough water, your liver has to work overtime with its other primary function: detoxifying the body.
Water helps maximizes the liver’s efficiency of both jobs, so you keep your insides clean, your weight healthy, and get rid of fat. So make a habit of carrying a water bottle with you at all times.
2. Exercise regularly. A well-rounded fitness routine includes both strength training and cardio. Make exercise a top priority in your life – and stay committed to it. An energized body helps give you a positive outlook on life. You will look great, feel great, and reduce risk of diseases.
Exercise should be a regular part of your day, like brushing your teeth, eating, and sleeping.
Start slow, if you are new to exercise. A few minutes a day puts you well on the way towards building a healthy habit. Slowly increase the time and intensity to avoid injury.
Exercise doesn‘t have to mean strenuous activity or time at the gym. Walking is a wonderful way to start exercising. Gandhiji used to walk all his life, sometimes alone, and other times tagged along his teammates to walk with him. For him walking was a way of conditioning the body that alone can accommodate a disciplined mind.
Walking is one of the best and simplest exercise because it doesn‘t require any equipment or training and you can do it anywhere, any time. Cycling, jogging, swimming, Gardening, sports such as badminton etc are also great forms of exercises. Find an activity you like, convenient to do and that motivates you to continue.
Exercise with a friend or family member. You can help to keep each other motivated and you‘ll not only benefit from the physical activity, but also from the social contact as well.
Strength training involves adding muscles to body. It involves carrying weights beyond the capacity thereby creating a rupture. This rupture is repaired by taking proteins and thus adding biceps, triceps, calves, thighs, shoulder mass and so on. Thus the muscular body becomes a calorie burning machine and burns more calories even during sleep or resting period.
3. Sleep good. Go to bed early and usually at a regular time each day. The amount of sleep you need varies between people, but most people need at least get 6-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep every night in order to function at their highest capacity. There are no rules to this, so if you need 10 hours of rest to feel good the next day, then that’s what you need to do. The consequences of not getting enough sleep include feeling tired, making mistakes at work, weakening your immune system, and even depression.
4. Get annual health check-up done: Many diseases, if diagnosed early, can be cured easily and without much burden to the family members.
2. Mental Dimension: The goal of renewing our mental dimension is to continue expanding our mind.
To renew mentally, you can:
- Read good literature, watch thought provoking movies or videos, appreciate art and sculpture in exhibitions, museums etc.
- Keep a diary of your thoughts and experiences. Review it weekly and annually.
- Limit reading newspapers, watching television or social media to only to the content that enrich your life and mind. Most of the content on these mediums happen to be biased coverage, propaganda, causing negativity, anxiety and stress and so on.
- Solve Puzzles: Brain growth in humans is a continuous process. Even in old age the brain can rewire itself and grow new neurons or brain cells. Whatever age-related memory loss occurs is due to the lack of adequate mental stimulation. Stimulating your brain with crossword puzzles or Sudoku helps to improve brain function and prevent any form of cognitive decline.
- Keep yourself busy by learning new things. Age is no bar for learning. You can learn at the age of six or sixty. Don‘t feel shy if you have to learn from young people.
- Follow your hobbies or join academic courses of your choice, or learn a new language. We must learn something new rather than simply replaying already mastered skills to keep our brain fit. Our brain is not an inanimate vessel that we fill, rather it is more like a living creature with an appetite, one that can grow and change with proper nourishment and exercise.
- Share your feelings with others. Don’t keep your emotions locked up inside or you run the risk of doing further emotional damage to yourself. Keeping emotions bottled up inside can cause mental and emotional stress as well as physical symptoms. Unexpressed feelings can lead to depression, sleep problems, eating disorders, and even physical pain. Learn to talk about your feelings, or express them through some sort of art. Even writing thoughts and feelings down is a good way to express things you find hard to say.
- Ask for help: This can be as simple as asking a friend to babysit while you have some time out or speaking to your doctor about where to find a counselor or community mental health service. The perfect, worry-free life does not exist. Everyone’s life journey has bumpy bits and the people around you may help. If you don’t get the help you need, keep asking others until you get.
- Break out of monotony: Do something different from routine. Get a massage, get an aquarium and watch fishes or get pets, relive childhood experience especially happy moments, take a vacation to a new place, or check out some of those activities listed in the newspaper.
Focusing on our mental dimension helps us manage ourselves effectively by maximizing the use of our time and resources.
- Spiritual Dimension: The goal of renewing our spiritual self is to provide leadership to our life, reinforce commitment to our value system and develop meaningful relationships.
To renew ourselves spiritually, we can do the below:
- Practice daily meditation, which is covered in detail in the chapter about Royal path.
- Go on pilgrimages once in a while. Travel enables us the see the world in new perspectives and learn.
- Maintain good relations with people. Cultivate the habit of forgiveness, if someone wrongs you. Instead of getting angry and resorting to revenge, leave it to the judgment of God. Do your best to resolve conflicts that you have with others in your life. Forgiveness does not mean forgetting what happened. It means we learn lessons from that situation and do what corrective action has to be done without carrying bitterness in the heart.
- Do not judge others. A person who is busy judging others becomes ignorant of his own imperfections and cannot learn from them and grow.
- Make contributions (in time and money) to meaningful activities that improve the lives of others.
- Observe fasting: Ekadashi comes once in every 14 days in the lunar calendar as 11th day after half-moon and full-moon. It is believed that on this day the body doesn‘t need much food. At least every 14 days, you could go without food. If your activities are such that you are unable to complete fasting, then you could go on a fruit and milk diet or plenty of water with honey and lemon juice. Food means gratification of the senses and to starve the senses is to elevate them on higher goals. Once the taste buds are controlled, it becomes easier to control other senses. The pangs of hunger that one experiences during fasting make one think and extend one’s sympathy towards the lesser privileged who often go without food. Fasting provides an opportunity for the privileged to share foo with their less privileged fellows and alleviate their distress.
- Perform the five daily duties (pancha maha yajnas).
- Brahma Yajna or Rishi Yajna: Every seeker should study sacred texts such as Ramayana, Mahabharata, Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita. Thus he obtains knowledge given by Rishis. He should share the knowledge with others. By doing so, he pays the debt to Rishis.
- Deva Yajna: Man is made of five elements and he cannot live without them. Deva Yajna involves paying homage to gods of nature.
- Pitri Yajna involves paying homage to the ancestors because they gave the physical body through parents.
- Nara Yajna: A man gets help from his friends, relatives, teachers and fellow-beings in the society. He should repay the debt to the society. Nara Yajna involves paying homage to guests, helping the poor and downtrodden.
- Bhuta Yajna: Our body is nourished by the milk of cows, grains, vegetables and fruits. We are destroying forests for the sake of our homes and agriculture, there by destroying the homes and food of animals and birds. Further, numerous insects are killed by us unconsciously during walking, cleaning, cooking, etc. These sins are removed by the performance of Bhuta Yajna. Bhuta Yajna involves nourishing other living beings by planting and watering a tree, sharing food and water with an animal or bird.
The performance of these five yajnas is conducive to the spiritual growth of a man. He gradually learns that he is not a separate entity or isolated creature, but is a part of the great whole. A serious athlete does not put just anything into his body. Similarly a person striving to achieve his goals must watch his inputs, be they food or sensory perceptions.