Our body and spirit are partners – they connect to each other. So, undoubtedly, a healthier body will lead to a healthier spirit.
The Baha’i writings confirm this close connection between our physical and spiritual nature:
Between material things and spiritual things there is a connection. The more healthful his body the greater will be the power of the spirit of man; the power of the intellect, the power of the memory, the power of reflection will be greater. – Abdu’l-Baha, Star of the West, Volume 5, p. 230.
From my own perspective as a Baha’i, I’d like to share nine tips to aid in the overall health and wellness of our bodies, minds, and spirits:
1. Laughter is the Best Medicine
You may have heard the saying that “laughter is the best medicine.” The Baha’i teachings describe laughter as an ideal spiritual state caused by the relaxation of the nerves:
Laughter is caused by the slackening or relaxation of the nerves. It is an ideal condition and not physical. Laughter is the visible effect of an invisible cause. For example, happiness and misery are super-sensuous phenomena. One cannot hear them with the ears or touch them with his hands. Happiness is a spiritual state. – Abdu’l-Baha, Star of the West, Volume 7, p. 102.
Not only does laughter cause us spiritual relaxation; it also relaxes us physically! A hearty laugh decreases stress hormones and can leave our muscles relaxed for up to forty-five minutes. Laughing increases immune cells, releases endorphins, increases blood circulation, and even burns calories.
2. Sleep Enough Hours for Good Health
I know that I need at least eight or nine hours of sleep every night to function the next day, and research shows that most people do, too.
In fact, researchers have found that only 3% of the population can function well with only six hours of sleep a night. According to the National Sleep Foundation, adults need at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night (and the younger you are, the more hours of sleep you need). Our working capacity and physical health depend on sleep. Losing just one hour of sleep can compromise our ability to think properly, respond quickly, and fight infections.
3. Get the Benefits of Sunlight
The Baha’i writings say that “bright and beautiful weather” revives and strengthens us, both physically and emotionally:
Bright and beautiful weather gives new life and strength to man, and if he has been sick, he feels once more in his heart the joyous hope of health renewed. – Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 62.
No wonder many people suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder from a lack of sunlight exposure during the darker months. Sunlight does a number of things for the body, such as triggering the production of Vitamin D, boosting our mood and energy, and lengthening our lifespan, to name a few.
4. Exercise on an Empty Stomach
You may have heard that exercising on a full stomach might harm rather than help. Baha’u’llah, the founder of the Baha’i Faith, did not recommend it either. He said, in a letter to a Baha’i physician:
Exercise is good when the stomach is empty; it strengthens the muscles. When the stomach is full it is very harmful. – Baha’u’llah, The Tablet to a Physician, provisional translation.
Working out on an empty stomach, known as “fasted cardio,” leads to higher levels of fat loss because your body breaks down stored fat for energy instead of food you have recently eaten. Exercising on a full stomach can cause nausea, heartburn, and stomach cramps.
5. Eat Only When You’re Hungry
Sometimes people fall into a habit of snacking because the food is readily available, and not because they’re hungry. The Baha’i writings advise us:
O people, do not eat except when you are hungry. Do not drink after you have retired to sleep. – Ibid.
Of course, eating when you’re not hungry can lead to weight gain and poor digestion.
6. Fully Chew Your Food
The Baha’i teachings advise us not to swallow until we have thoroughly chewed our food, and not to eat what is difficult to chew:
Do not take nourishment except when (the process of) digestion is completed. Do not swallow until you have thoroughly masticated your food.
That which is difficult to masticate is forbidden by the wise. Thus the Supreme Pen commands you. The taking of food before that which you have already eaten is digested is dangerous. – Ibid.
According to Healthline, doctors recommend chewing our food an average of 32 times before swallowing for healthy digestion.
7. Drink Water Before Meals
Drinking water during meals is also not good for digestion, which is likely one of the reasons why Baha’u’llah advised us to drink liquids before eating solid food: “Take first the liquid food before partaking of solid food.” – Ibid.
When we drink water before each meal, we also consume fewer calories while eating.
8. Eat a Light Breakfast
After many hours of fasting through the night, it’s best to start off our day with something light. The Baha’i teachings say: “A light meal in the morning is as a light to the body.” – Ibid.
9. Walk After A Meal
Walking after meals speeds up metabolism, aids digestion, increases blood circulation, lowers blood sugar, reduces stress, etc.: “When you have eaten walk a little that the food may settle.” – Ibid.
I hope you found these nine health and wellness tips helpful! As we go through our busy, hectic lives filled with work, traveling, exams, etc., let’s make sure to take the time to take care of ourselves too.