Health is wealth. Everyone knows this simple concept by head, but not many practise as if they believe in it. In the journey to financial freedom, many would inevitably arrive at this crossroad where they have to choose between advancing further at the expense of their health or to give up financial freedom for health. At this juncture many would remember examples, or minimally know that, if they neglect their health further, they may have no more lifespan left to enjoy the fruits of their labour.
I too, recently arrived at such a crossroad. Readers of this blog may have realised that the frequency of my blog postings have slowed down a bit compared to few months back. I do not have any big illnesses now, but I can tell my health is getting worse. I have also spent quite a few days doing nothing but stoning, not working nor engaging in any form of entertainment for relaxation. Just purely wasting my life away doing nothing. It took me some time to realise that after many years, and especially after the past 1 year of working very hard under stress, I am already mentally burnt out and am suffering physically. This is not the first time, but as age catches up, I am forced to relook at what I am doing.
But I am not going to give up freedom like many others and choose health. I want both. A life without freedom is not a good life, at least for me.
Everything we do can be logically optimised for effectiveness and efficiency, and when it comes down to taking care of ourselves, it is no different. The purpose of this article is to share my knowledge and experience of doing so, so that you will still have the mental and physical capacity to fight for freedom. Whether you believe in what I say below is up to you since what I will be saying is mostly under the realm of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). There is also nothing to debate or argue about too. I do not understand everything myself, for I am not a doctor. But it works for me, and to those who will take up the advice, I hope it works for you too.
Introduction To Healthy Living
In TCM, there are 3 factors which we have to take note of in general healthy living, namely 情 (relationship)，食 (diet)，寢 (sleep). Our human body is a complex system where each body part can impact another. Each of us have a different body constitution, so although 2 people are doing the same thing, the results can be quite different. For example, some heavy smokers or drinkers live till a ripe old age, while some died early due to cancer. We will not take outliers as a reference point, because a logical person striving for freedom should always make decisions based on one concept – probability. If I drink heavily, chances are I will suffer from liver failure few years down the road. If I take care of myself, I have a higher probability of enjoying my later years in good health.
Relationship in this case refers to our emotions in our relationships with others. For example, I may feel very angry at a permanently irresponsible colleague, or frustrated at a non-understanding boss. I may feel happy when I am enjoying a whisky with my good friends after a long week at work.
Diet is quite straightforward. Whatever we eat has an impact on our health.
Sleep is also quite literal in its meaning.
These 3 concepts will be the basis of our healthy living. Join the healthy club, so we can live longer and achieve freedom faster.
Health Tip 1 – Sleep By 2300h
From young we were taught to sleep at least 8 hours a day. But while there are theories on both the West and the East on the negative impacts of sleeping late, many of us have the concept of: if I manage to clock 8 hours of sleep a day, I have ticked this aspect of the health checklist. I used to think that way and even argued with people who have told me that I need to sleep by 2300h, because our bodies repair and detox different parts of our body throughout the night. I argued that how does my body know the concept of time, that it is 0100h now and it needs to perform a certain detox or repair?
I still do not have the answer now. But at this age I know better than to argue. I get to bed before 2300h now and ensure that I entered sleep by 2300h. I generally can sleep well, but now the quality of my sleep now is noticeably better. Little ailments which plagued my body gets somewhat better. Though sleeping well cannot solve all health issues, but they can be improved.
If you think you are a night person, I can also understand that. I perform tasks better at night. Unfortunately, whether we like it or not, we need to enter sleep at 2300h. Take time to adjust your body clock. For a start, lie on the bed even if you are unable to sleep. Your body clock will slowly adjust itself. Since you need to spend 8 hours of sleep anyway, do it so the results are optimised.
Health Tip 2 – Drink Warm Water
Many of us like to drink cold beverages (be it plain water or the cola). But our body is warm. When we drink cold water, it runs contrary to our body system and our body needs to expend energy and resources to remove the coldness. You may realise that although you do not like to drink warm water, but your body will feel more comfortable drinking warm water compared to a cold beverage. Give it a try and test it out yourself. In your day to day drinking of water, as far as possible, try to drink it warm instead of cold or even at room temperature.
Since we are going to drink water anyway, do it so your body do not get ‘harmed’ by it.
Health Tip 3 – Eat Proper Meals
Many people do not eat their meals properly. Either they eat at odd times, or they eat very little during their meal times. As a result, they get hungry at non-meal times and turn to snacks. Snacks are processed food and are very unhealthy. Eat proper meals in accordance to what your body requires and you will find yourself having no interests to snack anymore.
Additionally, city people often skip breakfast due to the fast pace of life. In TCM, they say we have to eat a full breakfast, eat a good lunch, and eat a little dinner. Western medicine also concurs that eating a good breakfast gives you the required energy to start the day. If you are aiming for financial freedom, working hard and thinking hard in the day is a given. How will you work and think if your body do not have the required energy?
Do not eat or drink (even if it is plain water) too much for dinner because your body is preparing to rest. Give it the proper rest it needs instead of making it work.
Health Tip 4 – Have A Warm Foot Bath Every Night
Realistically I do not expect many to be disciplined enough to do it. Basically all you need to do is to get a pail, fill it with some warm water such that it covers your ankles. Let it soak for about 15 minutes and that’s it. I used to boil a kettle of water and then top up with it whenever the water in the pail gets cold.
Doing that will first drive away the coldness in your feet, warms up your blood (you will experience perspiration) and improves blood circulation. You will sleep better at night. It is especially important for females because females generally have a colder constitution. Certain females may often feel cold in the 4 limbs and at night, may have pimples in the face which they simply cannot get rid of. Not saying that a foot bath will definitely get rid of pimples, but to some it will work. But definitely you will not feel so cold anymore.
Health Tip 5 – Curing Eczema
Many Singaporeans suffer from eczema, hence I will open up a special section for this.
While eczema is not a life threatening disease, it is a torturous sickness where you feel constant itch deep into your body and worse still, your skin breaks and body fluids keep flowing out. It is made worse by Singapore’s very humid weather. Western medicine states that eczema is a result of genetics where one of the proteins in your skin is abnormal. What the doctors will do is to prescribe steroids in increasing dosage, but such prescription is harmful for you in the long run and does not solve the root of the problem.
TCM is of the view that eczema occurs because there is too much toxins in your body which your liver cannot process, and the skin will have to take over some of that duty. The following is from my own personal experience because I used to have a very serious case of eczema affecting me from head to toe.
Firstly, sleeping at the correct time will help your liver to detox properly. While the detoxing process is not immediate and may be quite slow, you will have to persevere and sleep on time. Next is to stop eating poison. What is food for you may be poison for the body. Processed food with their many chemicals inside, seafood such as prawns and crabs are toxic as they scavenge (prawns are known as the cockroaches of the sea), alcohol is outright toxic. Try to eat home-cooked food as far as you can because you cannot control what goes in for your outside food. I have also realised that eating grapes alleviated my symptoms a bit.
I will not outright recommend it, because everyone’s constitution is different, especially for males and females. But when I went to see a good TCM doctor in China, he recommended me to buy the herb called 土茯苓. I have no idea what it is called in English but it looks like this:
Basically I took one or two pieces and pour hot water into it and drink. Whenever I want to drink water I just drink this instead. After a few days I suffered a bit of stomachache over 2 or 3 days and apparently much of the toxins went down into the toilet bowl. I am no doctor so I am unable to say this will definitely work. All I can say is that the doctor assessed that this will be useful for me, and it was. My eczema was half cured and the other half had to depend on eating and sleeping healthily, and also regulating my emotions.
Health Tip 6 – Regulating Your Emotions
When I say regulating emotions, I do not mean keeping them under control so we do not act like a spoilt brat and have meltdowns. For many of us, one kind of relationships that always gives us frustration and stress is workplace relationships. Whether you have a scumbag boss, or an incompetent superior, or an irresponsible colleague, workplace relationships give many of us negative emotions. These emotions cause damage to our bodies, and one very evident case for those who have eczema is that such negative emotions trigger the symptoms.
But whichever relationship is causing us stress or unhappiness, we have to decide whether to act on it (actively mend relationships with colleagues), to numb ourselves to it (just do what your boss tells you and don’t think too much) or to give up and run (resign from job). Of course relationships span a wide range and includes all the people whom we deal with. So, do what you can to regulate the unhappy emotions.
Many times, mentally we can take the stress and the negative emotions, but our bodies react to it and gives us health problems. Listen to the warnings of your body.
Health Tip 7 – Slow Walk After Dinner
Take a slow 30 minute walk after dinner, with your family preferably. Helps in digestion and little bit of exercise where it counts.
Of course few can live such a disciplined life following every health tip listed and not listed here. Where is the joy if we do not occasionally stay up for a late-night movie or a cold brew after a stressful day at work? Few has the luxury of resigning from a job especially if there is a family to feed. Some of us work night shift while others are so busy there is no time for proper meals at proper times.
Can’t deny that many of us have valid reasons for not living healthily. That is why many who are aiming for FIRE give up halfway and chose health instead as the body turned for the worse. But if we do not want to give up so fast, then while we know we cannot live perfectly healthily, we would want to make an effort to live as healthy as we can, ticking as many check boxes as we can. Health management is like time management – do it efficiently and effectively, so you can go further.