THE BUDDHIST VIEW ON HEALTH & WHAT WE CAN LEARN FROM THEM
We don’t need to be Buddhist to learn and adopt some of their healthy habits. I believe in learning from many other cultures and adopting some of their habits into our lifestyles. Buddhism began in India around 2,500 years ago with Siddhartha Gautama who later became known as Buddha (the Awakened One). Buddhism teaches the Dharma, which is Siddhartha’s teachings (1).
Their approach to health and healing is through spirituality. They do not teach the meaning of sickness as this focuses on the past. Instead, they focus on how to move forward and the present moment (3). The Buddhist approach is very holistic with a healthy diet, exercise, sleep, avoidance of alcohol and tobacco, and meditation (4).
Vegetarianism is common, but not universal, with Buddhists since Buddhism promotes avoiding killing and harming any living beings (insects, animals, humans, etc.). Plant-based diets are an excellent way to help reduce the risk of chronic diseases, cardiac events, cancer, and diabetes (5).
Buddhists believe that the mind and physical body are interrelated and interdependent. Good physical health is important for their spiritual development. Meditation is used as a tool to help prevent and address physical and mental illnesses (2). Buddhist meditation is excellent for mental health, stress reduction, and overall mental wellbeing.
As we age, the cortex of the brain begins to shrink. Studies have shown that meditators increase their gray matter in the prefrontal cortex region as well as some other important areas associated with focus, learning, cognition, memory, empathy, compassion, and more. Some regions even shrink that are associated with stress, anxiety, and fear (6).
SO WHAT HEALTHY HABITS CAN WE ADOPT FROM BUDDHISM?
- Respect your mental and physical health.
- Start a meditation practice. You can download an app like Headspace for some guided meditations. You can start off with 1-minute meditations in the morning and build up from there. Anything is better than nothing.
- Go vegetarian. If you have ever been curious about going vegetarian or vegan, give it a try and see how you feel. You also don’t have to go completely vegetarian/vegan. Try a few meals per week or vegetarian dinners during the weekdays. Heck, you could even do one vegetarian meal per week and still receive some benefits.
- Intermittent Fast. Some Buddhists do not eat after midday and don’t eat again until breakfast the next day. There are lots of health benefits from intermittent fasting, and I encourage you to give it a try. It’s easier than you think. I could write a whole blog post about it.
- Physical activity. Take lots of walks in nature and be physically active. Try taking a walk with the family once per week.
- Practice living in the moment. Meditation helps brings us into the moment. When you are stressed, try taking a few deep breaths and focus on what is happening at the moment and what you can control. Again, this is another topic I could write a whole blog post about.
FOR MY HEALTHCARE PRACTITIONERS
If you ever have any Buddhist patients, please know that there is no one set way of practicing Buddhism or beliefs. It’s best to ask them what they need and how you can respect their practice. The Buddhist approach to health is often holistic, so make sure you try and treat them in such a way.
If your patient is an ordained monk or nun, they may be prohibited from being alone in a room with the opposite sex and may have other needs based on their vows. Again, just make sure you ask. I’m sure they will appreciate it. If your Buddhist patient is in the hospital or another inpatient setting, make sure you ask them about their dietary needs since they may be vegan, vegetarian, or they may not eat after midday(4).
Have you ever met someone who is Buddhist, or do you practice Buddhism? What healthy habits do you admire about them and would like to implement into your lifestyle? Share in the comments below. If you found this post interesting, please share it on Facebook. It would mean a lot to me.