Wellness has to be sought, but not with desperation. “Mens sana in corpore sano,” as the Romans say, but they never mention having bulging biceps and a thirty-two-inch waistline. The fitness of mind and body can be done with grace and ease. And is fitness really the subject of bragging rights—how much weight do you bench press? It should be possible to remain fit without, well, needing to bring around a tape measure or enter your weight loss and muscle gain on Facebook.
What’s this thing with fitness drills? Note that the word is the same one dentists use for cavities.
The physical regimen or torture, known as “exercise” entails exertions undertaken merely for their ability to make you tired and irritable. This bustle is totally unrelated to any functional goal like getting from point A to point B.
The treadmill is a perfect example of this goal-neutral effort. The
I favor work-related exertions like carrying an attaché case full of manuals and lugging this up the stairs instead of taking the elevator to my office on the sixteenth floor. You don’t have to wait for a fire drill. And if you’re really a masochist, you can bring up two attaché cases, one in each hand.
Are gyms really useless?
When the doctor asks you to exercise, he is not requiring you to sign up for a year at an expensive gym that has flavored water with swimming water lilies, available at the water stations. True, gyms provide free bananas and a hot shower with soft towels on top of the physical workout. (A personal trainer hired hourly to design a regimen for your tummy which now looks like it has its own nickname costs extra.) But is all this worth the bucks you pay monthly even if you get a personalized locker key and a discount at the massage center? (Okay, that discount is not bad.)
There are other exercising options besides working out in a gym. I call this new approach to fitness the “purpose-driven lifestyle.” I realize that this sounds very much like the title of a bestseller by a pastor who has a big cathedral where he hosts political debates.
What I am advocating is body movement with a purpose and a bit of variety. This can easily be mistaken for goofing off. But why does exercise have to be defined in terms of driving to a gym after shopping for shorts, gym pants, and tank tops to wear to a crowded place with equipment that makes you tired and irritable? This is not to mention experiencing pectoral envy when doing your thing with clearly more disciplined shareholders of the gym. Then again, how can one tell if a person is doing any exercise at all or just going about the business of living? Does it matter?
As in any human pursuit like automated elections, the proof lies in results and not the testimony of losers. If someone oblivious of purposeless exertion (known by most as exercise) seems otherwise healthy, even trim and able to eat all sorts of food without undesirable side effects, say crab fat without getting dizzy, maybe he is on to something. My mother, who followed this regimen, lived to the ripe old age of ninety-five.
It is possible to increase physical activity without having to run in place. Getting up at night to take a pee rather than holding it in till the morning is an example. It doesn’t take much imagination to see how this can work. Doing away with maids for a weekend and fetching one’s own cold drink, dispensing with the remote control for TV surfing, and walking the dog—aren’t these natural activities? Okay, following the fish in the aquarium with one’s eyes may be a little too tame. But you get the picture.
There’s no problem combining our old “working out” activities with the purpose-driven lifestyle. Business activities, like walking to a lunch meeting, parking the car three streets away, and moving the power point projector this way and that, can be thrown into your new exercise grid. Jumping to conclusions and stretching the truth are not counted.
Just so we don’t leave out anything in our deep dive into the wellness thing, let’s now talk about “mens sana.” It’s not enough to have a trim physique. We want to have a copacetic mind, too. How do we relieve mental stress?
Companies are paying more attention to stress in the workplace and using techniques of catharsis, flushing out fear and trembling, to resolve conflicts and address cubicle hostility.
Straightforward remedies include taking it out on the boss, symbolically speaking. Maybe a punching bag approximating the pear-shaped body is provided at the chill-out center, also used for meditation. This canvass likeness designed for pummeling allows those who wish to augment our purpose-driven approach to work up a sweat, at the same time expelling demons that Mr. Pear and his EA represent to his subordinates. A dartboard with the bespectacled face of our genial-looking boss can serve the same purpose. Accuracy is not necessary.
The best form of catharsis involves intentional amnesia, also called repression. It’s a conscious effort of trying to stop thinking of the past and moving on with the rest of life, relieved of all bad memories.
Anger management is part of achieving mental health. Anger management is a psychological discipline to address short fuses. The patient is asked to take a deep breath, count to a hundred and think funny thoughts devoid of sadistic images. This self-distraction is supposed to defuse the building fury and theoretically calm down the angry beast.
Still, psychologists allow that some dissatisfaction over certain situations is healthy. Suppressing anger at all times can lead to cardiac arrest. Good mental health lies in aiming for reasonable assertiveness. Logic can defeat anger since it tries to isolate a problem and look for possible solutions. Criticism of your work, for instance, is not necessarily an attack on your personality, even if it seems that way, especially if it’s the same critic doing it on a daily basis. This can cause TV hosts to go on indefinite leave.
Maintaining a sound mind in a sound body is a matter of attitude. Optimists seem saner and more unflappable. It helps if they can laugh at themselves and others who try their best to torment them.