Note: While it may seem unusual for a veterinarian to be talking about human health, an increasing body of research is showing that pets, people and the planet are all interconnected. While I’m not trained as a human doctor and generally limit my content to petcare, the same principles of balance and vitality that apply to animals also apply to those who care for them.
Making well-informed medical decisions is always of utmost importance, and in a time where COVID-19 can make many of us feel more concerned about our health than ever, we’re here to help! Here are six easy (and often fun) things you can do to help you feel that much more confident about finding balance, enhancing health and happiness, and boosting your immunity!
- Go on a “sniff walk” in the fresh air with your pet and breathe deeply through your nose. Aim for at least 30 minutes of this enjoyable, restorative, and fortifying activity. Besides beholding the wonders of nature and breathing fresh air, being outside gives you a chance to more fully absorb and store solar energy. (The thinking is that both humans and pets can later convert this light into energy that the body can use.
Playing fetch in the park or backyard with your dog, basking in the sunlight on your back porch or patio with your cat, or simply standing with your face to the sun are all wonderful ways to receive the sun’s uplifting energy. Stretch out your arms and drink in the light. Appreciate the warm rays on your skin, the twittering of birds, and the miraculous aliveness of nature. Simply by assuming this open, receptive posture, you make it that much easier for your body to do what it was designed to do: find balance and wellbeing.
- Make meals that include darkly colored fresh vegetables and fruit, such as wild blueberries and kale. (And while you’re at it, remember to notice what a blessing it is to be able to access such a wide variety of fruit and vegetables year-round.)
Eat as much fresh food as possible (this is part of optimal pet nutrition as well). Include green leafy vegetables, fruits (wild blueberries, kale, sprouts, and so forth) in your diet (click here for my favorite smoothie). In addition to supplements and vitamins (vitamin C, D, E, zinc and among the most commonly recommended), you may want to boost your immune system with community mushroom extract. (You can use this product for your pet) Also, it has been shown that licorice root is particularly powerful in reducing viral replication. You can get an extract or add it to your tea (be cautious of taking large doses if you have high blood pressure).
- Stop, center, and take at least 50 HA! breaths (just say “HA!” loudly) daily.These forceful expulsions of air help maintain good lung function and aid in early detection of respiratory problems. Laughter, intentional coughing, and Kapalabhati breathing (from yoga) are three other easy ways to do this.Pranayama, or breathing exercises, increases your body’s ability to heal by supplying it with more oxygen and what some ancient systems have viewed as prana (life force energy). It also exercises, strengthens, and helps to protect your lungs (the very organs that are most susceptible to COVID-19).
You can use many different techniques, but just taking deep breaths and allowing your lungs to fully expand is of itself a wonderful way to care for yourself. Take 10 deep breaths a few times a day. If you can do it outside or in nature, you also get the extra benefit of breathing positive ions that increase your ability to heal. You can also help your pets with pranayama. For your dogs, provide them with a snuffle mat. For cats, help them purr. For both, hide their favorite treats around the house that they’ll have to sniff out to find!
- Look for opportunities to nourish yourself with the experience of gratitude, wonder, or awe. One of the easiest ways to do this is to see if you can notice something to appreciate in your environment that strikes you as beautiful, interesting, or somehow meaningful. This could be something as simple as the way the sunlight shines through a tree, a colorful assortment of vegetables at the farmer’s market, the comforting feeling or your favorite sweater, or the sound of a dear friend’s voice.
As Kelly McGonigal says (more on her and her work in the next step!):
I believe that it is possible to experience hope, joy, and meaning, even when things are difficult. And I believe that the best way to do this is to connect—with one another, and with something bigger than ourselves.
Throughout human history, across all cultures, this “something bigger than ourselves” that connects us to ourselves and each other has gone by many names: God, Source, Life, The Universe, Truth, Love, Awareness, Consciousness, Buddha Nature, the Tao, Allah, the Great Spirit, Gaia, and so forth. Whatever you may call it, it can be thought of as the deepest intuition that lies within every human heart and makes life most meaningful.
We each have different ways of connecting to this intuition. For some of us, it is through going to church each Sunday. For some of us, it is practicing yoga. For some of us, it is devoting our life to our pets or those who need our care. For some of us, it is through gardening or creating art, music, or poetry. For some of us, it is working for social justice. For some of us, it is by creating homes where family, friends, and guests can feel safe, welcome, seen, and celebrated for who they truly are.
There are endless ways to connect with and express our intuition of belonging to something bigger than ourselves. Whatever your way may be, remember to return again and again to it. And if you haven’t yet found your own special way of doing this, that’s completely okay. Simply searching for it is its own kind of beauty and reward, especially if you can find people to connect with who are also interested in searching with you.
- If you feel sad, anxious, depressed, or lonely, give yourself permission to feel this way and give yourself the empathy that all painful feelings deserve. The pandemic has brought very real challenges for many of us. You don’t need to feel bad or guilty about feeling bad or being “negative.” (If you find yourself in a “negative” mood, see if you can be a good friend to yourself by doing your best to listen without judgment for what this mood might be trying to tell you, and what kind of care it might be needing.) When you can befriend your “negative” emotions in this way, they turn out not to be so negative after all, but just understandable responses to difficult circumstances that are seeking safe connection and compassionate presence.
You can actually learn a lot about this by noticing the ways you naturally show care to your pet. If your pet shows signs of anxiety and stress, you don’t think things like, “What is wrong with you! Pull yourself together and stop feeling sorry for yourself! You’re totally overreacting! You have no reason for feeling this way! Why can’t you be more positive?” Instead, you naturally ask yourself, “I wonder what is making my pet anxious and stressed? I wonder what he or she needs to feel safe? I wonder what it is in their environment that maybe needs changing to help them feel more comfortable and at ease? I wonder what I can do right now to reassure my pet that everything is going to be okay?” When you find yourself with difficult feelings, do your best to show yourself the same kind of care and compassion as you show your pet.
Speaking of stress, for many years it was believed that stress caused negative emotions and had an inherently damaging impact on health. We are now learning that this is not the case! This is wonderful news, because it means that stress is not our enemy. Researcher Kelly McGonigal is showing us how practically everything we’ve been taught to believe about stress is wrong, and how it can actually play an incredibly important and hopeful role in our lives. To learn more about why stress doesn’t need to pose a danger to your mental or physical health and how to befriend it, watch this inspiring and encouraging 5-minute video excerpt from Kelly’s groundbreaking TED talk.
- Refresh your holistic emergency kit. Many of the remedies included in this kind of kit can be used to improve your body’s balance and to promote healing. Read this post from the HA! forum for more information on how holistic approaches have been successfully used in the past to prevent and control epidemics.
In closing, the HA! team sends our prayers and best wishes to everyone throughout the world that has been affected by this historic pandemic. Our hope is for better balance in the world and greater empowerment for all as soon as possible. If you’ve found this article to be helpful, please share it with your friends. As always, we invite and welcome any feedback you may have for us and can be reached by emailing [email protected].
Stay safe, Vital and healthy,
Drs. Jeff, Christina, and Sara along with Gail, Jen, and Amy
The Holistic Actions! faculty prays for better balance and greater empowerment, as soon as possible, for everyone in our new world. Please share this article with your friends and your experiences with us (email [email protected]).
This article is part of the series of Vitality and Balance related articles. If you enjoyed it, consider reading these posts: “Fatal Viruses And One Health”, “Internal Balance & Covid” , “Do Pets Get Covid?” and “One Way to Re-Connect Nature and Veterinary Medicine”.