Your health goes far beyond the food you eat and how much you exercise
Eat well, exercise often. How many times have you heard this mantra, a simple formula for a healthy life?
For years, decades even, we’ve been told what we should be doing to stay healthy. And with the rise of lifestyle diseases like diabetes and some types of cancer, many of us have indeed been spurred on to eat better and exercise more.
But today, the concept of health is expanding to include our overall wellbeing and happiness in a context in which health is as much mental as it is physical.
That means your health can be affected by everything from your stress level and emotions to your overall happiness.
It’s a concept that’s become a focus in the UAE. The nation became the first in the world to introduce a ministry of happiness as part of its mission to make the UAE the happiest country in the world.
On the ground, companies like Ripe are giving us easier access to organic produce, restaurants are highlighting healthier dishes on their menus, fitness festivals are catering to our need to be active and meditation classes and wellness retreats are popping up across the emirate.
Here we speak to two wellness experts to find out what it means to be truly health conscious.
Healthy mind, healthy body
Laura-Helene Kopinski founded her wellness company Inner Seed after undergoing a journey of self-reflection, and knows from experience that being health conscious is about having a healthy mind and being aware of how you feel.
“I think nowadays – with everything happening around the world, technology taking over, society telling you what to do – people tend to forget who they are and why they’re here. You’re not just here to pay bills and go to work,” she explains.
“For me, being consciously aware about your health and happiness is much more important than just eating a healthy breakfast because once you realise more of who you are and your purpose in life, then you will not allow anything from the outside to bother you and you will care more about your values and purpose, which is much stronger than anything when it comes to a healthy mind.”
Through Laura’s various workshops and classes, she comes across many people who are suffering from stress, or feeling lost and unhappy despite eating well and exercising regularly.
“It’s not about the external things that you do it’s really all about how you’re feeling and how you control your emotions and mindset,” she explains.
“It doesn’t matter how healthy you are on the outside, how many times you work out or even if you eat good food, if you’re not good inside your heart or soul.”
In today’s hectic world, Laura says that many people are stuck on auto pilot, doing what other people tell them to, sticking within their comfort zone, and just going about their routine on a daily basis.
Kasey Conrad, founder of wellness centre Change Works, agrees, and stresses the importance of taking time each day to stop and think about how you’re feeling and become more aware of your happiness.
The use of technology and in particular, social media, she says, has created a world where we’re constantly comparing ourselves to others and misinterpreting communications, which can be a detriment to our health.
“It becomes the norm for us to compare ourselves with others,” Kasey says.
“And I think that creates a lot of pain for people. Instead of looking in at all of the wonderful things about us as humans, we’re comparing ourselves.”
Like Laura, Kasey has noticed an increase in people looking to improve beyond physical health and boost emotional health as well.
Whether it’s an increase of awareness instigated by global and government health initiatives, or stress just finally catching up with us, the number of people who are becoming more health conscious is surging.
“I think people are becoming more aware of the need for balance, and the availability of other things, where they’re looking for something outside of themselves to create this balance instead of medication or lifelong therapy,” explains Kasey, who’s now started working with large companies and even hospitals to incorporate wellness sessions like laughter yoga, meditation and self-hypnosis in the workplace.
“There is this awareness that is coming to the surface now, that a holistic approach to wellness and health is necessary. Because if you’re not emotionally healthy, you will not be physically healthy. And if you’re not physically healthy, you cannot be emotionally healthy.”
“People are speaking out, they’re coming up with this understanding on their own. They’re ready to do something, and even if it’s a small thing it’s a start.” Laura adds,
“People are becoming more focused on this side of a healthier lifestyle, not just working out, but getting into their soul and finding out what it is to be happy.
“Everything they need is already there, it’s just a guidance really.” Laura continues,
“I think people are becoming more honest with themselves in the sense that, ‘Ok I’m doing all this but why am I not feeling happy? Why do I want to leave my job? Why am I in this relationship if I’m not happy?’ It used to be that people didn’t want to leave their comfort zone but because of what’s happening around the world, people are doing their research and thinking, ‘Wait a minute, maybe I’m not where I’m supposed to be’, and trying to ask questions, becoming more aware.”
Find holistic health in the city
WHERE TO EAT
SoulFull: Dine guilt-free with a menu of tasty dishes that list nutritional elements like calories, protein and fat. Muroor Road, Al Nahyan. Visit: soulfull.ae
Nolu’s: Choose from a selection of healthy dishes such as trout with basil quinoa, and a variety of healthy juices and smoothies as well as a detox brunch. The Galleria, Al Maryah Island. Visit: nolusrestaurants.com
Moni’s Healthy Choice: Order homemade health foods you can’t find anywhere else like chia and beets quinoa bread, oat and date flapjacks, raspberry jam and even cakes. Visit: monishealthychoice.com
Nectar: Tucked inside the Bodytree Studio is a small spot serving unique juices and smoothies as well as healthy brownies, energy bites and more. Hazza Bin Zayed Street. Visit: lifeisnectar.com
WHERE TO SHOP
Organic Foods & Café: This speciality store features health foods and products from gluten-free goodies to fresh bread, produce and meats. Nation Galleria, Corniche West. Visit: organicfoodsandcafe.com
Farm Box: Shop online for organic produce by selecting a box of goodies to be delivered straight to your door. Visit: farmbox.ae
Ripe: Shop organic at pop-up markets on Fridays in The Collection at The St. Regis or Mondays at jones the grocer in Al Raha Gardens. Online delivery is also available. Visit: ripeme.com
Mawasim: Have organic goods like fruit and vegetables and cleaning products delivered straight to your door. Visit: mawasim.ae
WHERE TO GO
Eastern Mangroves: Join a stand-up paddle session or go kayaking while sighting wildlife like crabs and herons, and breathing in the cleanest air you’ll find in Abu Dhabi.
The desert: Laura says the desert landscape has a great, positive energy and can help you switch off.
The park: Being surrounded by greenery, feeling blades of grass between your toes and breathing in fresh air can help you balance your mind. Grab a blanket, get comfy and remember to breathe. Our favourite parks include Umm Al Emarat Park, Yas Gateway Park and Lake Park.
WHAT TO DO
Find happiness: The popular Happiness Programme at The Art of Living centre
is back from 6th to 9th September. Contact: email@example.com, artofliving.org
Meditate: Inner Space is dedicated to helping you find peace of mind with various meditation courses and workshops, the next one being on 26th August. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org, innerspaceabudhabi.org
Try yoga: Yoga classes with Sasha Quince at Let’s Go Yoga are all about self-awareness and using your breath to be in the present moment. Visit: letsgoyogame.com
Seek help: If you’re struggling with anxiety, depression or stress, contact one of the specialists at online wellness platform, Enritsch. Visit: enritsch.com
Float away your troubles: Settle into a pod or cabin and float effortlessly in super-saturated saline water with flotation therapy, known to reduce stress and improve sleep. Point Zero Floatation Center, Khalifa City, near Al Forsan. Daily 10am-10pm. Contact: 02 445 5775, pointzerofloatation.com
WHO TO MEET UP WITH UAE
Trekkers: Explore new places and enjoy the great outdoors with like-minded hiking enthusiasts. Visit: uae-trekkers.com
Raw yoga: Join in a yoga session and learn more about living a raw lifestyle with this group on meetup.com
My Chi Journey: Dedicated to helping you find your purpose in life so you don’t have to ‘escape’, this wellness company conducts excursions abroad with wellness at the heart of every trip. Visit: mychijourney.com
Love is an Inside Job: Look within for greater self-awareness and happiness with this group on meetup.com
Reiki Share Circle: Learn the healing art of reiki and meditation with this group. Search for them on meetup.com
WHAT TO SIGN UP FOR
Get Driver Fit: Take part in free fitness classes across the city hosted as part of Yasalam. From 17th Sep. Visit: yasalam.ae
Training nights: Don’t forget about the free weekly training nights at Yas Marina Circuit on Sundays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, the latter being ladies night, where you can walk, run or cycle the track. Visit: yasmarinacircuit.com
Abu Dhabi Sports Council Indoor Run: Escape the heat and run around Ferrari World Abu Dhabi on 15th September. Visit: premieronline.com
Is this Abu Dhabi’s healthiest resident?
Mother of two Neli Merris founded the Raw-Yoga meetup group and runs her own wellbeing and yoga company, Anaadi Yoga. Here we speak to her about the challenges of living a raw lifestyle and the importance of being health conscious…
Tell us about your raw lifestyle…
My passion is following a holistic way of living, which includes a plant-based food diet, practising yoga, meditation and cultivating a positive outlook on life.
Have you always been this healthy?
I was brought up consuming bread, meat and potatoes, which for a lot of people is a balanced diet, however, my journey to a healthy lifestyle began with yoga. The notion of Ahimsa (non-violence and compassion for all living beings) resonated deeply and I began to explore the vegetarian and vegan realm of possibilities. I also become more aware of the horrific meat production business and how animals are treated. Furthermore, realising that animal production causes the largest environmental pollution was the tipping point when I decided to become an advocate for green living, not only to improve my own health and the health of my community but also our planet.
Is it difficult to follow this lifestyle in Abu Dhabi?
It is easier compared to eight years ago! Now there are a number of places where I find good quality organic fruits and vegetables, superfoods and nuts and seeds. Mawasim is one of my favourite places, as well as Ripe and the Organic Foods and Café. I also make bulk purchases of superfoods, supplements and other packaged food online via iherb.com as it is less expensive and offers more choice.
What are the main challenges?
Socialising and eating out. I wish there were more restaurants that promote exciting raw vegan options. It is not always easy to be the odd one that does not drink, smoke or talk about the latest fashion and eats ‘weird’ food. This was my main drive through the Raw-Yoga meetup, to create a community of holistic health and wellness enthusiasts so that everyone feels understood, supported and inspired.
Does the raw life ever get boring?
Just like everything else in life, it could get monotonous, however my passion is learning and experimenting with raw food, herbal tonics, superfoods, probiotic drinks, homemade skincare, and so on, so it is ever-evolving.
Why do you think it’s important to go further than just good food and exercise to be healthy?
Our thoughts shape our reality and it is crucial to adopt the correct mindset that will bring you to a state enabling you to create the reality you want.
Furthermore, we live in an environment where we are constantly inhaling, ingesting and absorbing chemicals – potentially carcinogenic and devastating for our health.
A holistic way of living not only helps us prevent some of the most devastating lifestyle diseases such as cancer, obesity and diabetes, it also helps us live life more fully, having the energy to do the things we love and sustain the health of the planet for our children.
WORDS Rachael Perrett