What jumps out at you in these pictures?

Upon first glance I see a moth and a vase. But looking at it from a different perspective I see there is more to each picture…

I am sure most people have seen other optical illusions where you something in the foreground but if looked at differently something completely different arises in the background. As so often happens in life, when we focus on the positive space (what jumps out at us) we don’t see the rest of the picture. This is how I have begun to look at wellness. When it comes to what makes us healthy, success may often come down to just that- the NEGATIVE space. That is, what we don’t see and focus on is in fact the thing that matters most. And the thing is, when you tell people this, they know it. Everyone can see the negative space, they just focus on what they can see the easiest.

Let’s take a look at nutritional advice: everyday we are bombarded with countless claims of the key to health and weight loss. Start drinking these smoothies and you will feel better and lose weight. Become a vegetarian. Go Low-Carb. The Eat _____ Every Day Diet. My question is, does the added intervention even matter? In other words, it’s not what you add (e.g. smoothies) that makes you feel better. It’s what’s not there that matters. Being vegetarian is the positive space. Not eating as much processed junk food is the negative space. Smoothies are what you can see. Not having a sugar-laced, vegetable oil filled snack instead is what actually makes the difference in your life.

In the world of nutrition, there are so many different opinions and conflicting research that it’s hard to wrap your head around any of it. And it all seems to make some sense, have a little research behind it and, most importantly to some people, all those magic solutions have feverish believers that “swear by it.” How many different diet books have come out with their unique program and the countless list of people it has worked for? Maybe they all work not because they give you anything spectacular but because they simply encourage you to stay away from the negative behaviors that were contributing to or causing the problem.

Two conflicting parties on the surface (even though they actually have much in common) are Vegans and Paleo. Vegans claim that not eating animal food has helped them recapture health. Paleo/primal folks think animal products could be the key to health. Both camps have avid followers. Both have tremendous success stories. How can they both be right? Because they both create nearly the same negative space. Both limit sugar and processed foods. Does it matter in the grand scheme of things if you are vegan or paleo? Maybe not. Both camps encourage more real food (positive) and removing junk food (negative). And it’s the removing of processed foods that probably makes the difference.

Then we get to fitness. Want to get in shape? What’s the best way? Run. Pilates. Cardio. Yoga. Crossfit. Weight train. High Intensity Interval Training. Spinning. Basketball. Tabata. The list goes on. They all have avid believers that swear by their method. Once again, the question is, “is it the actual intervention that matters?” Or was it simply getting rid of inactivity? I think it doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you do something. Any activity works because it limits the negative space (sitting on the couch).

We could probably go on for a while with examples of other positive/negative spaces, but let’s cut right to the chase. How can we focus on the negative?

Let’s keep it simple by focusing on what we all agree on- the negative. Refined sugars. Refined grains. Vegetable oils. Artificial sweeteners. Preservatives. Chemicals. Inactivity. Sleep deprivation. Unnatural light exposure. Lack of interaction with nature. Loneliness. No personal interaction.

Take the negatives in your life and give them a positive treatment. It doesn’t matter what, just address these negatives.

The Bare 5 Bottom Line for Focusing on the Negative:

What are the big negatives in your life? And what can you do to eliminate them?

1. Refined foods (sugars, grains, vegetable/seed oils, artificial sweeteners, chemicals, dyes, preservatives) – eat more whole foods (hopefully local)

2. Inactivity – move your body (anyway that feels good and makes you happy counts)

3. Lack of interaction with nature – get outside (feel the sun, dirt, grass, wind, rain, hot and cold)

4. Sleep deprivation – go to sleep (turn off the lights early and leave the computer and TV alone)

5. Lack of community and interpersonal communication (talk to people, give hugs, reconnect with friends, join groups, smile)

And I leave you with a little diagram I tried to work up as an example of this post…

The picture in my head was a little more detailed and fancy but this ended up being the best I could do on short notice. 

Thanks for reading, have a great week!

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