In today’s video, I will talk about peak wellness, the slogan of the website and our motto.
Many people always ask me, what’s the end goal with all this, all the health, fitness, nutrition, meditation, what is your end goal? Aren’t we all dying at the end, why bother?
These are great questions, and as the philosopher Plato said, an unexamined life is not worth living. In Short, peak wellness is my end goal when it comes to nutrition, fitness, and health in general.
Peak Wellness, the End Goal
I started to get into fitness and nutrition when I was in college, back in Arizona. The motivation came from trying to be a better athlete, better at basketball really. Coming late to America, I saw right away the gap in physicality and conditioning here in the states vs in Africa.
But back in high school, my English was barely good and I didn’t understand much. But when I got to college, around my sophomore year, I started to buy nutrition and fitness books and applied everything I would learn right away.
As college was finishing, I started to think about what to do next. So I sat down to write down my goals, priorities and spent a lot of time reflecting on it… being healthy and fit took the number one spot.
My reasoning was very simple, if I wanted to realize my goals and ambitions, I would need to apply the maximum of my energy toward it…so being healthy and strong, making that my lifestyle was the only way to create a foundation upon which I could achieve my goals.
Remember, your priorities are where you will allocate most of your time.
So by the time I finished college, I already realized my main fitness goals, I gained 20 pounds of muscle, completely changed my nutrition and had a healthy lifestyle. But I felt like something was missing in my health.
Shortly after college, I started to read about human movement and realized that the gym was very limiting, I needed to expand my range of motion, work on flexibility and movement, so this led me to Yoga.
This opened a new dimension to me, now I was playing basketball, eating well, going to the gym and doing yoga at home. In the physical department, everything was covered. Yet, I felt like something was still missing.
And as I kept digging, I realized that the missing piece of my health was mind control, mental health.
Mental health is very popular today, for good reasons, but we mostly talk about mental health in relation to people who have mental issues. But I’m talking about mental health for people who are normal but want to go higher, like someone who is in shape but wants to look even better.
You see, being normal from a mental perspective doesn’t mean much, it simply means that your emotional state is not too chaotic, so you can manage your sanity and go through your daily life. That’s what being mentally normal means, it’s pretty vague.
But being normal, we still go through a roller-coaster of emotions and mindstate all day, all week long.
We take on many roles in this modern world that require a certain level of mental energy and stability. Yet we are all expected to be mentally well and produce, teach, parent, love, be good citizens.
So I started to look at how I could fortify my mind, reduce mental fluctuations, impulsions, be less reactive…more watchful, centered and have an inner calm and long-lasting happiness.
So around 2014, I started to slowly research more about the mind, how to improve my mind and overall well being. Today, I would say 70% of my study time is around emotional development and mind control.
I still read a lot about nutrition and fitness but when you get it, once you understand the science at the core, you are set…but I still need to stay updated with the latest nutrition and fitness findings.
In regard to nutrition and fitness, I’m more in teaching mode than learning, helping people improve their fitness and nutrition.
As mentioned before, my number one priority has always been my health..but 10 years ago, it was more focused on physical health…because coming from Africa, I was behind. Now, the focus is mental health, emotional health.
Material achievement is great, we all have ambitions and things we want to achieve, but genuine happiness, equanimity can’t be accessed if your mind is always fluctuating, going through peaks and valleys, being moody here and there. No matter how wealthy you become, this won’t fix it, just like being rich doesn’t make one physically healthy.
After all, America is the wealthiest nation in the world, yet 70% of the population is overweight or obese, so money can’t fix this.
Now, it’s important to understand that being mentally normal, okay, not being depressed, we still experience a lot of subtle affective emotions. For example, do you still experience:
- Does your mind tend to judge too quickly
- Or label people?
- Are you mentally commenting on everything around you?
- Do you tend to overreact?
- How often are you daydreaming?
- How often are you thinking of the future?
- How much inner chatting is going on inside your mind?
- Do you cling to your past, is it affecting you negatively?
- Is your happiness conditional to a good situation or external factor?
- Or do you have a crystallized state of happiness at all times?
- Is your mood at the mercy of praise or criticism from other people?
- Do you have recurrent thoughts you can’t get out of your mind?
- Are you insecure about yourself? Or Overconfident?
On a daily basis, you can experience everything I just mentioned and be considered normal, mentally healthy. You hear people saying, well, this is his or her personality, this is who I am.
Going Beyond Being “Normal”
Peak wellness is when all these afflictive mental emotions are gone…so you go from being “normal” and experiencing mental fluctuations, who are often not under your control to now being free of them.
And new emotional states are available to you…constantly…You feel peaceful…joyful within, silent mentally…you experience a sense of mental spaciousness…no more disturbs by the ongoing traffic of your inner, mental life….you are centered, at ease on a day to day basis.
This is peak wellness,the highest emotional, mental state you can reach.
Before I speak more about peak wellness, let’s talk about the root of psychology and its limitations.
Almost everybody today knows what psychology is about, either by reading in-depth or pop psychology books, articles, videos or listening to podcasts. But it’s important to understand how psychology started in the Western world.
Psychology started to help people who were physically and mentally disturbed come back to baseline, to normal.
Sigmund Freud was first a doctor, specifically a neurologist who found out that many of his patients with physical illnesses were actually helped by focusing on their mind, through verbal interaction techniques he developed. Psychotherapy
Freud found out that by improving his patients’ mental health, he helped them cure physical ailments.This was revolutionary, at least in the western world. Think about it for a second…helping alleviate physical pain and mental issues by just talking…
From this discovery, he developed theories about the subconscious and unconscious mind and how they affected human mental states, behavior and overall health.
This was the beginning of a new field in science, the field of psychiatry and psychology, which back then were not really science-based but are becoming more and more thorough. In terms of research today, with the use of technological devices like the MRI, CT scan, EEG or Hormonal tests.
For the purpose of this video, and the title peak wellness, it’s important to keep in mind that…the field of psychology was created to cure mentally ill people, not help normal people in any way.
Stigma of Modern Psychology
This is why there is a stigma today with seeing a psychologist, you don’t hear someone who is mentally normal, without any issues say, I need to go see a therapist. To improve my emotional health beyond normal.
If you say that to your friends, they will think that you have some issues to deal with because it’s only when we are really mentally disturbed that we look into psychology and psychiatry.
But in the fitness and nutrition industry, it’s normal to hear someone say, I’m not sick or in pain but I need to improve my overall fitness and nutrition, I want to look and feel better.
This option is currently not much available in the psychology space. But a subset of psychology emerged and is gaining strength. They call it positive psychology, which is focused on peak wellness.
Helping normal people, who are not mentally ill, improve their mental health, flourish. If Psychology is focused on cleaning up the roots, peak wellness is all about blossoming.
Now, here is the issue with modern psychology, and to an extent, positive psychology. As I was studying them, reading books after books, I felt like something was missing.
The problem of western psychology is that those psychologists are not studying people who have very high levels of mental health, who are models of peak wellness.
The history of psychology is in majority focused on studying mentally ill people, and bringing them back to what is considered normal.
Students aspiring to become psychologists or psychiatrists are not sent to study people on the top of the spectrum when it comes to emotional health, who are always at peace, centered, balanced, at ease.
Who can bounce back quickly after facing difficult situations.
Psychologists are not studying those people. Depression, anxiety, fear, recurrent doubt, low self-esteem or deeper issues requiring the help of psychiatrists, that’s what they know best.
In fitness, we understand what it is to be out of shape, sick and unhealthy to becoming healthy, in a normal range and then reaching higher levels of fitness.
We know what peak fitness is, seeing Michael Jordan in his prime, Christiano Ronaldo, Kobe Bryant, Lebron Jame, Serena William, Michael Phelps, Usain Bolt, we have so many models of what peak fitness looks like, and we have blueprints to reach those levels of fitness.
But peak wellness, you don’t hear that in the collective consciousness, but we need to talk about it more so at least, some people, our friends, coworkers, parents, and love ones can start to think that: you know what, I can improve my emotional health beyond normal, I can reach new states of well being.
Or another good word, mental hygiene, taking care, proactively of your emotional health so you don’t accumulate bad moods, thoughts, afflictive feelings and suffer from it over time.
Thanks to the field of positive psychology, new theories of peak mental health have been coming out. One of the pioneers was the Italian psychologist, Roberto Assagioli, a contemporary of Freud and Carl Jung but less known.
He basically had great insight and saw the missing pieces of psychology. Using the analogy of a building, he said, psychology mostly focuses on the basement of the human mind, finding out what is causing trouble in people’s lives, but they don’t focus on building upper-level floors, toward higher levels of mental health.
Another positive psychologist we all heard about is Abraham Maslow. You might not know his name but definitely heard of the pyramid of needs he created. Basically, Maslow articulated that Humans behavior are motivated to follow a path, to satisfy levels after levels, which he called the pyramid of needs, it goes from:
- Taking care of physiological needs, like eating, having shelter, water, air, clothing, and sex
- To safety needs life personal security, employment, health and property
- To love and belonging,
- And then self-esteem, respect, status, recognition
- To the last step, he called self-actualization, the desire to maximize your potential…not in terms of potential at work, or the path you choose in life…but in terms of emotional health…blossoming.
Not every psychologist agrees with the Maslow pyramid of need but this was a big step in peak wellness, Like Assagioli’s psychosynthesis…it gave us an understanding of how mental health can be improved, beyond being normal.
But I kept searching and studying more neuro-psychology…I stumbled on GOLD-mines…
I finally found techniques…like workouts to develop my mind, toward peak wellness.
Turning my attention toward Asia, I discovered how various cultures, in China, India, Japan, Tibet and other lower Asian countries, through yoga, Taoism, Advaita, Zen, Yogacara, and Buddhism…all developed comprehensive systems to develop the human mind beyond normal, to higher levels of mental health.
The peak wellness I was searching for. Those schools and systems developed it thousands of years ago.
Right away, I saw that unlike western psychology, currently at the beginning stage of teaching peak wellness. Asia has complete systems to help anyone increase his mental health to the highest level possible.
In terms of peak wellness, those Asian systems are where we are today with fitness and nutrition science in the west.
The same way you can pick up a good fitness plan to gain lean muscle mass and get in shape, the same way, yoga or zen can help you improve your emotional health and get rid of afflictive emotions like anger, jealousy, moodiness and so forth.
I will give you a quick example before finishing this video. Check a super popular pop psychology book in the west like the power of habits, or a better one, thinking fast and slow by Nobel prize winner Daniel Kahneman.
After reading these books, what do you really get, how does that improve your mental health…Besides feeling smarter and understanding a little bit more about the mind, you gain nothing.
But if you learn about Raja Yoga, which is the segment of Yoga that deals with mental development, they show you concrete exercises to increase your concentration and focus, to observe the working of your mind from within, to regulate your respiration, thus slowing down your thoughts or reducing anxiety and relaxing.
You learn insights about the mind that can completely change how you experience life everyday…One insight that blew me away was that…The speed at which you breathe…is linked to how fast your mind is moving…hence why when we panic or are scared…our respiration becomes hectic and it’s hard for us to think clearly.
So by learning how to elongate and slow down your breathing, first manually until it becomes second nature, you will feel calm and centered most of the time, with fewer thoughts coming in and out when you are at rest.
In the western world, ancient Greeks had schools that taught ways to develop emotional health toward peak wellness. Actually, they had a term for peak wellness, they called it Ataraxia. A state of equanimity, inner calm, and unconditional joy.
To finish this long but important video, when you start to understand the benefit of reaching peak wellness, personally and on a larger scale, as a society, you can see why we should think about it as a need, a basic human need we all need to reach.
Material achievement is great, but enjoying life constantly peppered by ongoing mental afflictions ruins the party in many ways. Stress is always around the corner. This is the great insight buddha came to realize, our lives are constantly interrupted by moments of stress, which can lead to higher states of suffering.
Another benefit of peak wellness is becoming spontaneously grateful and contempt of what we already have. Because, normally, we become numb to our achievements, to our current mode of living, to the good life we might have already, focusing instead of what we don’t have.
Another insight from ancient Indian sages was that happiness is connected to the mind being in the present, not dwelling on the past or projecting in the future.
Think about this, if your happiness is linked to a desire you want to get in the future, you will not be happy, satisfied until you reach it, your current happiness in the present will not but total, there is something missing…How can you be spontaneously grateful if you want more?
There is a difference between what many people do today with grateful journals and being spontaneously grateful because this comes with a feeling of joy, of zest.To link all this back to fitness and nutrition, I realized that you can’t talk about improving your emotional health toward peak wellness if your body is not healthy.
So being in good shape and eating healthy is a prerequisite to improving your mental health.
It’s natural to feel anger, frustration, jealousy, cravings and all these afflictive emotions, but that doesn’t mean we cannot get rid of them. Just like you can go from being a teenager to now an adult, you can also increase your well being and reach peak wellness.
Now that you know a little bit more about peak wellness, that our emotional health can mature like a caterpillar to a butterfly and blossom, knowing this is possible, it’s up to you to make it happen for yourself.