Sukham Blog – A monthly column focused on South Asian health and wellbeing.
As we close out another eventful year, I’m taking stock of the blogs I wrote, just as I did last December. Two dominant themes threaded their way through my articles this year: an emphasis on self-care, and an exploration of paths to improved wellbeing.
I began the year describing a way to reflect and reset with a fresh sense of purpose in Charting a Course for Renewal. By developing an inner awareness to stay connected to our purpose, we can make a healthier, more meaningful, valuable, and loving life for ourselves, tailoring our expectations and demands of ourselves and achieving our daily goals while practicing self-compassion, self-care and gratitude.
In Ask Yourself 4 Key Questions Everyday: Redesign Your Wellbeing, we recognize that it’s the people in our lives that make life truly worth living. The key is to appreciate people for who they really are, build relationships based on deep and meaningful connections, and understand the misplaced value most of us give to superficial and material things. I described a gradual, transformative process to re-design our lives for well-being, by building practices that increase our capacity for meaning, purpose, and connectedness, and then engaging in these practices regularly until they become habits.
I examined a thousand-year-old Japanese ideology in Ikigai: A Roadmap for Sukham as a prescription for finding contentment, being happy, and feeling fulfilled as we go about our daily lives. The central concept in Ikigai is to have a direction or purpose in life, and obtain that sense of fulfillment by taking actions that give satisfaction and a sense of meaning. The article described the five pillars on which Ikigai is based and the 10 “rules” underlying its practice.
Last month I explored how pets improve our well-being. There’s a growing body of evidence that pets do much more than provide joy, love, and companionship; they also reduce stress, anxiety, depression, and loneliness, and boost our vitality thereby improving our health and wellbeing.
Haldi: That Wondrous Golden Rootstalk reported on the benefits of turmeric; from the antiseptic and anti-infection properties that were well-known 4000 years ago, to the anti-inflammatory properties modern medicine has been documenting, driving studies to understand its efficacy in combating a variety of diseases including cancer and neurogenerative diseases. Phytochemical analysis of turmeric has revealed a large number of compounds, including curcumin, volatile oil, and curcuminoids, which have been found to have potent pharmacological properties, and research is underway to develop medical pathways for its use in treating or mitigating such diseases in more formal and scientifically-proven ways.
I talked about all the ways climate change can affect our health in Climate Change and…the Loss of Sukham, highlighting its ongoing impact on human health, and the decreased quality of life that it brings for people. The role of increasing air pollution in driving the worsening of respiratory illness and heart and lung disease is well documented. We are also beginning to understand the less obvious impacts of climate change on the quality of life for millions of us on this planet – from the ability to deliver good health care to communities worldwide, to the spread of disease enabled by changes to physical, biological, and ecological systems. Unless we take action before it is too late, existing health threats will intensify as new, as yet unknown health threats emerge.
Three other articles I wrote this year addressed quality of life issues for those who have been diagnosed with serious illness or are dealing with related symptoms. In Why Should You and I Care About Palliative Care, I talk about the need for us to clear away all misconceptions, and understand the emerging medical sub-specialty called Palliative care, and how it can support the patient’s ability to feel better while undergoing treatment for the disease. Palliative Care is specialized care for someone with a serious or chronic progressive illness. It is supportive of any ongoing treatment and is provided concurrently by a multidisciplinary team for relief from the symptoms and stress of the illness and to improve quality of life for both the patient and the family by addressing psychological, spiritual, and social needs that arise from that illness.
Finally, in Are Amma’s Memory Lapses Normal? and Amma Has a Dementia Diagnosis. What Now?, the reader first runs through a narrative to help spot the difference between normal forgetfulness and the symptoms of dementia (an umbrella term that describes a collection of symptoms including changes in thinking, memory, or other cognitive functions). The second article provides a road map – an action plan for what to do if there is a suspicion that your loved one’s behavior is caused by an underlying neurological illness like Alzheimer’s Disease.
Striving to stay healthy, to be and feel well, and find contentment, purpose, and happiness from day to day is not easy in this increasingly turbulent world that we live in, constantly buffeted by unbalancing forces, both large and small, that try to throw us off balance. I hope one or more of these articles will help you, the reader either strengthen or regain your footing as you continue your own journey to find and keep your Sukham – your contentment, joy, and zest for life.
Mukund Acharya is a regular columnist for India Currents. He is also President and a co-founder of Sukham, an all-volunteer non-profit organization in the Bay Area that advocates for healthy aging within the South Asian community. Sukham provides curated information and resources on health and well-being, aging, and life’s transitions, including serious illness, palliative and hospice care, death, and bereavement. Contact the author at [email protected].