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Deepak Chopra: ‘Stress No 1 epidemic in our society… pandemic an opportunity to reinvent body and soul’

'Everyone can incorporate mindfulness into their day, whether just starting out or looking to deepen an existing practice.'

By: Express Web Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: June 19, 2021 12:34:45 pm
deepak chopraAlternative medicine guru Deepak Chopra talks about the importance of managing stress. (Source: PR handout)

Alternative medicine guru Deepak Chopra, MD believes the pandemic has made it even more important for people to be aware of the dangers of stress, which he calls the ‘Number 1 pandemic’ affecting our society. Chopra says “mindfulness and mental wellbeing are an important part of our holistic health, and we must understand how this part of our health impacts other areas — from mind-body connection, to activity, to sleep, to nutrition, and beyond”.

Fitbit, one of the world’s leading fitness tracker brands, has started offering Chopra’s Mindful Method exclusively for its premium users. “I admire Fitbit’s commitment to making the world a healthier place by taking a holistic approach to health and wellness,” he says in an email interview, adding: “Mindful Method makes a regular mindfulness practice easy and accessible – no matter whether you are learning how to begin or are interested in taking your mindfulness practice to the next level.”

Edited excerpts from the email interview:

How important is mindfulness to cope with stress?

Deepak Chopra: I see stress as the number one epidemic of society today and it’s more important than ever for me to offer support for people to help manage it. As we all know, it is a global issue, with one in three people experiencing psychological and physiological symptoms caused by stress.

According to the American Heart Association, more than one-third of people across the globe report physical and mental side effects of stress, which if unmanaged over time, can lead to negative health effects ranging from headaches to increased risk of cardiac disease, to obesity and depression. Better managing your emotional wellbeing, including mindfulness, stress, and sleep, can have a positive impact on your overall health.

I understand that trying to maintain your health today is hard, but it’s also more important than ever to take care of yourself. Everyone can incorporate mindfulness into their day, whether just starting out or looking to deepen an existing practice.

Has it become more of an issue in the pandemic?

There are many reasons to be stressed today more than ever before. However, I view the pandemic as an opportunity to reinvent the body and soul especially as we navigate difficult challenges such as balancing parenting and virtual learning, feeling isolated from family, friends, and coworkers, or caring for the health of your loved ones or simply needing motivation to put yourself first.

Indians are culturally supposed to be better at controlling stress and staying calm. Have we lost that over the years?

The truth is that, across the globe, we have all become used to daily stress and anxiety, which is not the best thing for our wellbeing. What is encouraging to me is that people have started giving due attention to mindfulness and started to adopt different ways to focus on mental well-being. For instance, according to Fitbit, we saw how meditation in India saw a massive uptick as the go-to activity among Indian Fitbit users.

How much is technology to be blamed for our stress?

Technology is not the bad guy in this equation. Technology is neutral. We are the creators of technology, not the victims of it. It can be used for destructive purposes. You can poison the food chain, you can be a troll on the internet and you can cause a lot of distress and stress. Or you can use it to ease the world. It’s up to us if we use it for the divine or not. I believe technology is here to help us get in touch with the divine. Technology is part of evolution and if we don’t adapt, we become irrelevant.

The most exciting part of this new era of technology is that we can immediately see the metrics behind how our bodies respond when we introduce mindfulness, breathing, and mind-body connection techniques into a routine.

My Fitbit Sense allows me to measure and see my personal data in the moment and trends over time, and what’s great is that your device is collecting personal health insights 24/7 while it’s on my wrist and can check the results anytime — on device and in the app. By tracking and measuring these metrics, we can figure out how a mindfulness practice (or any activity) is affecting our bodies, and adjust what we’re doing to better help better manage something like stress. This is where you start to make the connection between how everything — activity, sleep, meditation, nutrition, and beyond — fits together. The data is the truth, so the metrics I track empower me to know my body better and make the correlations between how I’m feeling mentally and physically.

With Fitbit Premium, I also see deeper insights and details about my Sleep Score and Stress Management Score, as well as receive additional guidance and programs like my Mindful Method to help me take action and implement new habits — it helps take the guesswork out of things and empowers me along my health journey. My Mindful Method for Fitbit includes sessions that focus on mindfulness for total well-being, incorporating mindfulness throughout your day, and using it as a tool to find awareness, manage stress and emotions, and build concentration.

Therefore, I see technology more as an enabler in our busy lives to reflect and manage some of the important aspects of health and keeping a track of our goals.

Is fatigue something that grips the mind more than the body?

Fatigue is simply a sign that we are not taking proper care of our mind and body, and neither is more important than the other. I’m glad that our health is increasingly being defined as so much more than being “exercise fit.” Being healthy in today’s environment is also about managing stress. Stress has a profound impact on your health, so it is important to understand how your body reacts to it and how you can manage it.

With the help of technology and wearables, we can now easily monitor the impact stress and fatigue has on our body as well as mind. The rise in skin temperature, resting heart rate and a poor EDA score are signs of unhealthy stress levels along with other physical conditions.

If you had one advice for all to cope with this pandemic, what would it be?

Consider meditation if your personal situation allows for it. In a 24-hour period, if you kept a log of how you feel, you’d see, immediately, anybody would see that the mind is all over the place. It’s not naturally tending to anxiety. Although these days, because of the news, it turns more towards anxiety. But the mind by itself always vacillates between joy and sorrow, between despair and hope, between pain and pleasure, so by definition, the mind is never peaceful.

Mindfulness is a practice which is more an awareness rather than using the mind. You are watching the mind. And as you observe the mind, or observe breath, or observe sensations, or observe emotions, or observe any experience, which is what we mean by mindfulness, then the mind automatically quiets and you feel rested and restored and renewed.

This pandemic is an opportunity for us to reinvent our lives and reinvent how we feel in our physical body, but also improve our emotional wellbeing.

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