HealthWorks Voices is where our guests post their take on healthy and happy living. In this post, Janet Tan, co-founder and director of Human Capital Connection talks about the elusive work, life, and health balance.
Juggling Work and Living a Healthy Lifestyle
When we were children, things were simple. We were always preoccupied with random things, never thinking too far into the future and what it may bring. Those were the best times of our lives, where the future is always the day itself. Sometimes, we felt like we needed to grow up faster and thought that perhaps the grass is greener in the years to come.
And now, we’re grown ups juggling many more things than we can usually manage.
Throughout the years, we’ve created many dreams, goals, commitments, and responsibilities. As it progresses, our number of active hours has outweighed our capability to manage. While we are spoiled by many fabulous choices, making decisions have become a daily chore. It’s a tough battle to keep a work-life balance, and there’s no shortcut to self management. Every day, we are literally placing a million dollar bet on the gambling table as we have no control of anything except ourselves.
Here are the guiding principles I use to keep my mind and body balanced:
#1: Connect To Your Inner Self
Ask yourself what you really want in life and what it means to you?
Have faith in yourself. Like any birth, faith has its source. It is something greater than the concrete world you see, something that you once believed in. Set your positive values right. Before deciding on your values, take a moment to truly think about it. Our wise old friend Socrates said “an unexamined life is not worth living”. What type of life do you want to have?
Spiritual practice can cultivate the development of your heart and mind.
Connect to your spiritual self in the way you believe in. This is a physical and mental healing practice that promotes calmness and a sense of connection with yourself and the world. Spiritual practice may include prayer, meditation, mindfulness and cultivation of positive values such as compassion, contentment, forgiveness, harmony, love and patience.
Spend 20 minutes to an hour a day in your spiritual practice.
Cultivation of spiritual practice is more than pounds and pence. It is bigger than work, childcare and the rest of the daily grind. The body and mind must always be together to start a happy day.
#2: Love Yourself. You Are The Most Important Living Person
To love yourself is to use your head, to love another is to use your heart. You are often the last person you give love to. Either that, or you totally leave yourself out of the list. From the time you are awake, you tend to be busy for others. As much as I believe in putting others before yourself, you must know how to care for your well-being first before you can attend to others. If you don’t love yourself enough, you will never be at peace. Take the time to re-connect with yourself and learn to let go of the things you have no control.
Start or end the day by doing the things that you enjoy the most. When I am not working or travelling, I will spend my time reading, running, watching documentaries and cultivating my spiritual practice. Every year, I will travel to places that I have never been to recuperate and have the mental space to find clarity.
#3: You Are What You Eat And Do
Beauty comes in all shapes and sizes. Before you decide on the type of lifestyle you want to live for, think about your daily activities. Are you the type who is very active, moderately active or not active? If you can understand your lifestyle, you can design a health plan to keep yourself fit and healthy. Each one of us has good and bad habits. Write down all your good and bad habits and work towards your desired lifestyle. Start by working on the easiest bad habits and the easiest good habits. Reduce the bad habits and improve the good habits, then move on to the next easiest bad and good habits. If you are totally clueless on how to eat and live healthily, start by reading books from bestselling authors and get to know the people who live a lifestyle that is similar to your desired lifestyle. Cultivate this method until the habits become part of you.
Listen to your body and find what works for you
As my lifestyle is always on the move and involve lots of travelling, water, food, meditation and sleep are my main replenishment. I drink about 4 liters of waters daily, never skip breakfast and eat mostly home-cooked food. I meditate approximately 2.5 hours weekly. For days when I only sleep for 4-5 hours, I will make up for the lost sleep during the weekends. In the last 10 years till today, I have not consumed any supplements to keep my body healthy. If you really want to find out what works for you, listen to your body and do many little experiments to find the right fit for your lifestyle. No one is watching your back except yourself.
#4: Healthy Body Healthy Mind
A report from Oxfam International I was reading earlier this year told me that Malaysia has been ranked the fattest country in South East Asia. With the variety, affordability and easy access to food, we indulge for pleasure rather than need. We also have become less active partly because technology has made our lives easier and our jobs involve little physical effort than the previous generations.
As the saying goes, the first wealth is health. Take good care of your body as it is the place you’ll live in forever. Whether you are wearing size XS or XXXL, you still need to give your body a workout to keep yourself fit, healthy and in good shape. A good workout stimulates various brain chemicals that leave you feeling happier, boosts your self-confidence and improves your self-esteem. Pick up a sport or outdoor activity that you have some interest in and start developing it until it becomes challenging and fun.
When your body and mind are working efficiently, you have more energy to go about your daily chores.
My health turning point started when I weighed 68kg at the age of 16. I barely worked out and consumed food in jumbo portions. One day, when passing by a mirror, it struck me that I didn’t feel or look healthy. I had very low self-esteem and decided that I should start to do some running. My first run of two miles was hell, but I kept working towards a healthier body. It took me five years to make running as a habit. Today, running is my favourite sport. For me, sport is a game of empowerment that shapes your character and this will reflect in other areas of your life.
#5: The Purpose Of Living
All of us have a wish or many wishes. Some will just be dreaming away for it while others might set it as a goal. A goal is the purpose of your life. The purpose has got to be S.M.A.R.T, which is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-targeted. You might have attended a goal setting workshop, seminar or even read about it, but still wonder why you are not getting anywhere near it? A goal without a plan and action is just a wishful thinking. Still not going anywhere near it? Well, perhaps your goal is not big enough and you are not passionate about it to create the desire. Move on to the next goal that you desire most. Remember all of your goals wherever you go so that you will know if you are on the right track. There is no perfect plan to achieve the goal, but to stay focused on the journey of reaching towards it. The purpose of living should add value and happiness to your life. If you do not have a purpose in life, think of a wish and set that as a goal. If you already have a goal, keep working towards it.
Twelve years ago, I never thought I would start my own company, doing what I love at work. I also never thought I’d run a full marathon, buy a house, backpack, make a few good friends, get connected to people from different countries and cultures, fund raise for the less fortunate, learn to meditate, and stand on the stage to speak in front of 0ver 200 people. And the list goes on. My next nearest goal would be to climb Mount Rinjani. We live in a beautiful world. There is so much to see and so little time.
#6: Travel Beyond The Sea
I am sure most of you have watched the movie titled “Eat, Pray, Love”. I found the lesson of the story to be very meaningful. The story is about a woman after a divorce, who spent a year traveling around the world. She spent four months in Italy, eating and enjoying life (Eat), three months in India, finding her spirituality (Pray) and the remaining months in Bali looking for balance of the two and found love (Love).
By traveling you get to learn about different cultures from a first-hand experience.
You learn the most when you travel. When you are back home, you will bring a widened perspective of the world with you. Travel or backpack within your means and go to places that you have never been before. Plan for it, put that into your calendar and make it a yearly ritual. At age 22, I left Penang for Singapore. It was not so much of finding a career, but I was very curious about what is it out there that I don’t know. It was the first time of my life that I move out from home with only S$550 and I was all alone in the big city. I got myself a job and spent one year living in a different culture and lifestyle of a far more developed country than Malaysia. It had been a great life experience for me. Travel as much as you can, as far and wide as you can, as long as you can. Life is not meant to be lived in one place.
#7 – Build A Strong Friendship
There is an old proverb that says, “friends are flowers in the garden of life”. Friendships need their own kind of water and soil to grow healthy and strong. It is not to be sought only in times of need. Keep a sincere friendship with everyone and build an intimate friendship with a handful of friends that share similar interests as you. Choose your friends wisely. Choose to be friends with people who build you up and inspire you in different areas. They are one part of your family. Let us be grateful our friends that make us whole.
From Me to You
I would like to send my admiration, well wishes and blessings to all the people that have made a difference in every part of our lives. Especially to my late mother that have raised up a beautiful princess, she is the source of my patience, strength and courage. Remember, each one of us forms a part of the bigger picture. Keep your heart warm and smile to a beautiful day.