Photo by Simon Rae on Unsplash

I have explained before the importance of being an active participant in maintaining well-being. For me, this includes daily walks with my pups, yoga, and meditation (as well as healthy eating and rest). I am going to talk about the multitude of benefits from each, as they address not only physical health but mental and emotional health, as well.

When it comes to walking with my puppies, there is of course the benefit of physical exercise and being in the outdoors, breathing fresh air and savoring its beauty. For me, it is my time to “disconnect” from everything except for my focus on Lola (our blue-merle sheltie) and Lyla (our 6-month-old “dorkie”). Their joy of life, their quirky personalities, their thrill of new sights, smells and sounds is enchanting. Everything is new and fascinating to them, from sighting a bird overhead to catching a glimpse of a deer or a bunny rabbit. Each has her own pace, the littler one hopping like a bunny herself to keep up the pace of her older sister. What captures Lola’s interest, Lyla follows and vice versa.

Lyla’s entrance into our lives was a choice at this time partly fueled by me wanting her to be there for my husband and Lola when I am gone. She brings all of us much joy, her boundless energy and thrill in life incredibly addictive and life-affirming. She has brought out the puppy in Lola, who now knows how to play with another pup (having grown up in an adult-only household), and her maternal instinct has kicked-in as she cuddles with Lyla when they have tired each other out from play. Lyla’s mischievous get-into-everything nature is a constant source of amusement, as Lola watches over her like a mother-hen, almost visibly shaking her head at the little one’s antics.

But I digress…walking the pups and spending time with them inside is an endless source of positive emotions, mental and physical stimulation. The simplicity of their wants and needs, their life-in-the-moment with no regrets or resentments or grudges is a perfect role-model for how to live.

As I’ve explained before, I used to do daily yoga before I became ill but was unable to as my symptoms worsened. Once I was diagnosed I started it up again, as much as I could do with my limited energy levels. My flexibility and stamina were at an all-time low but I persisted, adding a few additional minutes each time, as much as my body could manage. Now, I am back up to where I was before I became ill, rotating a sequence of three work-outs. Yes, there are the physical benefits, but there are also wonderful emotional and mental health advantages. I see and feel my flexibility and stamina returning with each work-out. At the same time, the mental focus on balance, breathing, positioning, and movements takes my mind off of everything else. Nothing else matters but being in that “zone”. I do it for me, even when I’m having a bad day, reminding myself that I can do it, even if everything hurts. When I am done I feel refreshed, accomplished and alive.

Meditation is something I have added to my daily regimen after a yoga work-out. It comes somewhat naturally to me, as I practiced clinical hypnosis as part of my profession throughout much of my career. The learning and teaching process for clinical hypnosis is an experiential one, such that we easily attained a trance state during the training process. However, at this time of my life I found it more difficult, with my mind too clouded and hard to focus. So, I set about to figure out what would be the most “entrancing” sights or sounds that would help “take me away”.

Everyone has their “perfect place” that their mind would let them escape to, if they let it. I listened to a multitude of YouTube audio recordings that promised to help with relaxation or meditation, finally settling on one with the sounds of birds and gentle ocean waves. Now, after my yoga I settle into the sounds of a tropical paradise with Lola and Lyla at my side, my mind floating on the breezes, my breathing following the waves of mental peace. As I used to say to my patients, “There is nothing you need to think about, nothing you need to do…,” and that is true of any meditation. It becomes effortless with practice, a “mental holiday”, a place you can go to when life gets to be too much.

Between my walks, my yoga and meditation, things seem more balanced and somehow manageable. I give myself permission to focus on me, my body, my mind, and my heart, something we all need and deserve on a daily basis.

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KLP

As a now-retired psychologist, I was recently diagnosed with terminal cancer, and am currently undergoing chemotherapy to hopefully prolong my life.