Vital Signs 1

Here’s some vital information about, well… vitality. The information here might seem obvious, but as Carrie Steele finds, few of us are acting on the very stuff of vital living.

p-10-620x310MY TRUSTY OXFORD dictionary defines the meaning of ‘vitality’ as ‘power, hold on life, ability to continue the vital functions, persistent energy’. Perfectly fitting then that this is the title of Pedram Shojai’s documentary film, which beautifully explains how vitality is not just an absence of disease, it means living life fully and being able to enjoy our days and time with our loved ones.

Here’s my recap on this interesting documentary, and I’ve included a link at the end of this blog if you’re interested in seeing the film for yourself.

So, what are the important components to achieve vitality? Let’s start with DIET. It’s no surprise to hear that the best disease prevention is a healthy diet. More plant foods, organics wherever possible (may be more expensive to purchase, but cheaper on the health system in the long run), scrap the processed/convenience foods, drink enough water to flush out the system each day – ‘elimination’ is critical to get rid of toxins. It’s not a new revelation but a sad one that many of us have lost the sense of ritual around the preparation of healthy, real food. More often these days it’s a ‘heat and eat’ job grabbed on the way home, gobbled in front of the television set or eaten in different rooms, little coming together to re-connect with loved ones in the preparation and sharing of the meal.

picture-428911Let’s move onto EXERCISE, which as it turns out, is the most effect strategy to counter depression. That’s any type of exercise, whatever you enjoy most. More’s the pity that doctors don’t prescribe a walk or a game of tennis before handing out the anti-depressant pills. (A Seattle study revealed that for every $1 spent on drugs, $1.85 is spent treating the side effects.) Life is movement, and since most of us spend at least half of our days sitting, we really need to try and get off our butts a lot more often. Do you know the origin of the word ‘doctor’? I didn’t. It’s from the Latin verb doc?re [d??ke?r?] ‘to teach’. What does Western medicine teach us today? Eat whole foods? Get some exercise? It seems not. Doctors aren’t taught about natural healthcare, only about drugs to suppress symptoms. As this film reminds us, medicine used to be very different prior to WW2, after which, “drunk on post-war success”, the industrialised movement decided the way of the future was to focus on creating a new drug for every ailment.

Here’s another component ranking highly: SLEEP. Time for sleep and rest is something else that’s been pushed into the background, with many preferring to stay awake as long as possible – often by consuming copious quantities of caffeine or other stimulants. For millions of years darkness signalled rest and recovery time for our ancestors. Today, this whole concept has been well and truly uprooted – we can have as much light as we want, for as long as we want it. What happens though, If we proceed intent on keeping going at any cost? It’s inevitable that stress will wreak havoc on our bodies. Stress factors not only inhibit our immune systems, leaving us more vulnerable to sickness, but they also affect our brain power. We are actually less intelligent when we continue to push ourselves to keep going without reprieve. That sounds like false economy to me. When we are so tired that we become unproductive, why keep going? We simply have to reignite with the belief that our minds, bodies and spirits are critically interwoven: “Human beings are not sectioned off into parts – we are wholistic, whole organismic entities”.

Let’s move onto the last component of vitality, which is MINDSET. We need to get educated, then act. Here’s a thought provoking quote from the film: “Self knowledge, without self change, is self abuse”. Mindset also includes meaning and purpose, taking charge of our lives, learning to say ‘no’, taking time out for ourselves so that we can function optimally and participate fully in all that we want to be involved in. We must be willing to take primary responsibility for our health. Once we give that over to anyone else, no healing will occur. If we do take primary responsibility for our personal wellbeing, the body’s own healing mechanisms can start to swing into action. It doesn’t sound that difficult, does it? Change your mindset, change your life.

vitalityposterframeThe film talks about how the direction of medicine needs to change, and that it is time to start looking at a new model for healthcare that looks at us in our entirety, with the emphasis on lifestyle and enhancement of vitality, not a war against diseases that come from our lifestyle choices. There is no dispute that modern interventions can be lifesaving in the field of acute medicine. For chronic illnesses however, like diabetes, cancer, heart disease and so on, the elements needed for change to occur are education, availability of good food and a less toxic environment. Doctors need to teach people how to live a healthy lifestyle. In ancient China, doctors were often paid a small fee (something like a retainer) to keep people healthy. Good doctors had a collaborative relationship with their patients and they worked in tandem to keep the patient healthy. If the patient got sick, they stopped paying. That’s the total opposite of Western medicine, where we pay up when we get sick. Our current system is totally focused on taking care of sick people, because that’s where the money comes from. Sick people have become “income producing units” and therefore it well suits that they keep returning – to see more doctors, have expensive medical tests, be prescribed more drugs. And the money keeps rolling in.

Vitality is a film that will motivate you to kick-start your own personal reincarnation. It is also a film full of hope, telling stories about a resurgence of energised people working to make the world a better place. It isn’t shy about sharing some home truths either, noting that waiting for someone else to solve our problems clearly hasn’t worked. We are reminded that Ghandi once asked us to “be the change we want to see in the world”. CARRIE STEELE

* Pedram Shojai’s film assures us, “vitality begins with you”. Check it out here.

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