Occasionally I have one or both of my nephews around to stay with me at the weekend, they are currently aged 6 and 7. This usually gives me the opportunity to regress a bit and have a lot of fun.
I get to play games and eat unhealthily for a day or two whilst they get the freedom to do pretty much what they like. As they are not ready to own the merits of eating healthily I have adopted their mentality whilst they are staying. Meanwhile, I get to pick their brains for the pearls of wisdom that they occasionally present.
I have a habit of asking them questions that I have yet to find an answer to and indeed probably never will. “What is the key to the universe?” and “What is the secret to life?” are things I have pondered for many hours.
Over the years I have asked them such questions and have been given answers that both astound and amuse. “Doing good farts,” was an old favourite of them both in response to the above questions, for a good while.
Whilst sitting down for lunch last weekend I asked “What is the secret to everlasting happiness?” My eldest nephew, Connor, looked up and said “Look after yourself.”
His tone was questioning, yet his response struck a chord with me. I knew that looking after myself was a good idea but I do not always do it. I do meditate. exercise and walk a lot “but I could do more,” is a well rehearsed line that soon followed.
The tyranny of the word “but” suddenly came into play. In one second I had dismissed all of the good work that I do. But dismisses all of the content that has gone before it. It is dismissive, finite and pointless in a context like this.
I know that as far as health is concerned that I am in the higher reaches of the population in looking after myself. Using the word and, instead of but, is a much more productive linguistic structure after acknowledging something positive.
It is certain that I could do more to be healthier and look after myself better but (and this is a good context to use it) when I compare myself now to where I was last year I walk more, drink more water, eat healthier and exercise more. It is about momentum and mine has been in the right direction.
Most of my changes have been slight and manageable, without causing major or immediate shifts. However (a word that is virtually the same as but!) over time major shifts occur.
So, the lesson from Connor has deeper reaches. Looking after myself is not just about taking action to feel better it’s about giving myself proper credit for the changes that I have made.
Part of this process is allowing myself to venture into less healthy practices occasionally, like eating occasional junk foods with my nephews. It is important for me to realize the lessons that I learnt whilst nursing. Namely, that how I speak to myself will have much more impact on my health than what I do to myself.
Only by becoming my own best friend will I ever be a truly healthy individual. The key to happiness is indeed looking after myself, by giving myself more credit for what I have done and being less harsh for what I haven’t. It also helps to play a lot, laugh a lot and let loose.
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