Pick up a women's or men's magazine and the dominant features will be appearance, nutrition, fitness, work, sex and romance. We want to be strong, fit, healthy and attractive and enjoy our work and love life. We want them and expect them to go right, but we can be in for disappointments when they don't go according to plan. We need a Plan B: a fit mind to back us up.
By focusing solely on outer appearance and ignoring the inner strength, we are far from being fit. What's more, we can easily become attached to looks and thus suffer its transiency due to weight gain, weight loss, wrinkles, grey hair.... And we observe that the next person has a fitter body. Jealousy, disheartening and worry lead to stress hormones being released, making us yearn for comfort food - which tends to be fatty and sugary. We embark on a vicious cycle that stimulates our appetite even more and accelerates the ageing process. Et voila! Our shape and appearance are transformed - and not in the intended direction.
An attractive person exudes confidence. Their inner beauty radiates from within; their eyes sparkle, they walk tall and their smiles say it all. For romantic hopefuls, attractiveness leads to infatuation. But after a while this does not suffice to hold the heart and affection of another person, especially when the love hormones wear off. If good looks make love grow or last longer, then beautiful actors and actresses would have the most successful relationships. But that is not the case. They suffer heartaches and break-ups like any of us, but publicly.
According to studies, men find women more attractive and sexier just before ovulation. Right timing thus helps. That said, one may fall in love at the right time but for the wrong reasons: loneliness, the need for someone to fill in that void. Or, we just fall in love totally unaware. With a void to be filled, we are likely to rely on others to carry on pampering our emotions, rendering us needy and demanding. Such emotional dependency means that we have sacrificed our mind's freedom and are likely to get upset over little things and anything, feel disappointed and hurt.
As they say, when things get tough, the tough get going. This toughness comes from inner strength - without which one can easily give up and give in to the temptation of comfort. This toughness, this mind fitness, needs certain qualities: balance and understanding. The mind needs to know the limitations of the body, not to push it beyond the risks to health.
Nothing comes easy except for long growing hair and nails. If we want to be fit, we need to work at it. Exercise helps boost mental fitness as the body releases endorphins, boosting our mood and brain functioning while good nutrition nurtures and enhances our physical functions and immunity. Physical fitness may stay with us for a while until the aging process and sickness kick in. Mental fitness, however, stays with us through thick and thin. When bedridden, for example, a positive outlook and a sense of humour help boost immunity. If the mind gives up, physical health deteriorates.
The mind's strength and stability are equally crucial if we are to achieve the dream list above. If love bounces, work is difficult and the body is exhausted, we can still have the inner strength to carry on and with a smile on our face. Mindfulness is a great exercise for mental fitness. Often, we write off meditation before getting started, thinking that it's boring; nothing seems to happen except for an aching body. Or we make excuse of having 'no time' or 'will do it later' but never get round to it. Mindfulness brings the mind to the present moment. It helps the mind understand things as they are. Understanding is the key to managing and letting go of pain, physically, mentally and emotionally. When the body aches, we are mindful of it. The pain moves around, not constantly thumping in one area. The mind comes to understand that pain is impermanent, thus we can let go of fear. It's the fear of pain that makes the muscles contract, giving us a greater sensation of pain. Likewise, when we are mindful of our feelings and emotions, when we acknowledge them as they are, they will fall away naturally. What's more, if we bring the mind to the present moment, it doesn't worry about the past or future but focuses on the task before it. Stress is released. We become more productive.
If you want to look your best, to be happy, to stay strong, fit and healthy, work at it from inside and out.