Interested in learning to communicate better with yourself and others? Alona Pulde, M.D., and Matthew Lederman, M.D., the renowned physicians from the documentary Forks Over Knives, recently introduced a new book titled Wellness to Wonderful: Nine Pillars for Living Healthier. In it, they tackle everything from nutrition and exercise to self-care and reconnecting with your authentic self.
“The evidence is irrefutable that isolation and disconnection cause real physical disease at the cellular, hormonal, and nervous system levels,” says Pulde. “It is clear that connection is not just an emotional nicety; rather, it is an essential part of optimizing physical health.”
Lederman goes on to assert that “We would be remiss to exclude it from our treatment paradigm. By spending time learning how to connect to your authentic self and to others more effectively while eliminating isolation, you begin to stimulate a sense of safety, health, and wellbeing where physical disease can reverse.”
Here, they share tips for reconnecting with your authentic self:
- Establish Core Values: Identify the things that are important to you and that will guide your everyday decisions. Make a list as a reminder to yourself when faced with making big decisions, or even daily choices.
- Engage in Self-Reflection: Carve out some quiet time each day to reflect on your thoughts, feelings, and desires. Engaging in self-reflection can help you identify patterns, beliefs, and behaviors that may be blocking your connection to yourself. An example would be expressing yourself in a journal. Studies on expressive writing have shown that this simple task can have a profound impact on physical health.
- Be Mindful: Mindfulness is a practice of being fully present in the moment, without judgment. It can be achieved through meditation, deep breathing exercises, and other techniques for quieting the mind. For those of you who already have a meditation practice, continue it. For those of you who are interested in starting a meditation practice, you can try it on your own or find a guided version that resonates with you.
- Be Authentic: Authenticity is essential in the path to discovering things you have suppressed and learn how to heal by facing them. Learn how to develop the skills to empathize, find acceptance, and even let go. Ultimately this authentic flow of our own life energy provides us with a sense of inner peace, security, and harmony.
- Practice Self-Care: Self-care is essential to thriving, and yet we do not do enough of it. Remember that self-care can include any number of activities that enhance your well-being and help you reconnect with your authentic self. Make time for activities that nourish your mind, body, and soul—this can include getting enough sleep, eating healthy foods, exercising and maintaining a balanced work-life balance. Self-care is not a luxury, it is a necessity. It does not need to be luxurious or costly. Think about taking a two‐minute breathing break when you start feeling tense or playing your favorite music on your drive home. It might mean choosing a healthier option for lunch over a less healthy one or recognizing you would enjoy a walk over a run. It might mean hibernating in bed rather than socializing with friends or choosing to read a book rather than watching a movie.
- Establish Boundaries: It’s important to set boundaries with others and learn to say no to things that don’t align with your values or goals. Setting healthy boundaries and learning to say no are crucial to reconnecting with yourself. This means being aware of what drains your energy and saying yes to things that align with your values and priorities. This helps you maintain a strong sense of self, avoid being pulled in different directions, and focus on your priorities.
- Connect with Others: Building a support network of people who accept and respect you can help you reconnect with yourself. This might include joining a support group, seeking therapy, or simply spending time with friends and family.
- Be Present and Play: Play is crucial as it gives you the opportunity to practice presence. Be present in this moment, now. Play whenever you can, be it joking, laughing, or dancing. Incorporate it into your daily life.
- Address Stress: In today’s fast‐paced world, it can be difficult to prioritize self‐connection. Stress is the result, and addressing and tending to all states of stress in your life are vital. Acknowledging our stress raises our awareness and allows us to gain clarity. Lingering stress is associated with many health issues, including increased inflammation, heart disease, anxiety, depression, obesity, eating disorders, gastrointestinal issues (reflux, gastritis, ulcerative colitis, and irritable bowel syndrome), impaired immune function, and decreased resilience and overall ability to cope.
- Practice Self‐empathy: This is one strategy to bring us out of our heads and into our hearts, thus helping us connect to our authentic self. The key to self‐empathy is to connect to the underlying feelings and unmet needs you have in the present. It’s about empathizing with yourself the way you would empathize with someone else, by accompanying them on their experience in the moment.