Updated: Feb 12
Sophrosyne (soh-fros-uh-nee) (n)
a healthy state of mind, characterized by self control, moderation, and a deep awareness of one's true self, resulting in authentic happiness.
This word is pretty cool isn't it? I learned this word through my meditation app as ideas were being formed for this blog site and business. It was one of many small answered prayers that have been coming my way since the birth of this company. The origin of sophrosyne is an ancient Greek concept of an ideal of excellence of character and soundness of mind. The basis of the word stems from two popular Greek precepts: “nothing in excess” and “know thyself."
Why Moderation is actually good for your happiness
Life can be so busy. You fold the laundry between preparing a meal and listening to a podcast. You try to do a home workout while also keeping an eye on the kids. You commute to work while planning the day ahead and listening to music. But in the rush to accomplish necessary tasks, you may find yourself losing your connection with the present moment. Did you notice whether you felt well-rested this morning or do you feel like you barely slept at all? Did you notice the vibrant orange poppies blooming on the side of the highway on your commute to work? Did you notice how fresh the air smells after a recent rain shower?
When working towards a Sophrosyne Health lifestyle, the first key is being present. Bringing awareness to every passing moment, every breath, every thought. The pace of life for most Americans is FAST. Sometimes we can feel that there is no time to simply sit and be present.
“To do nothing at all is the most difficult thing in the world, the most difficult and the most intellectual." - Oscar Wilde
Tips for mindfulness
Basic mindfulness meditation – Sit quietly and focus on your natural breathing or on a word or “mantra” that you repeat silently. Allow thoughts to come and go without judgment and return to your focus on breath or mantra. One deep breathe at a time.
Personal mantra examples:
Breathing in- smile
Breathing out- gratitude
Breathing in- I am aware of my heart
Breathing out- I smile to my heart
I vow to eat, drink, think and work in ways that preserve my health and well- being.
Body sensations – Notice subtle body sensations such as an itch or tingling without judgment and let them pass. Notice each part of your body in succession from head to toe.
Sensory – Notice sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and touches. Name them “sight,” “sound,” “smell,” “taste,” or “touch” without judgment and let them go.
Emotions – Allow emotions to be present without judgment. Practice a steady and relaxed naming of emotions: “joy,” “anger,” “frustration.” Accept the presence of the emotions without judgment and let them go.
Urge surfing – Cope with cravings and allow them to pass. Notice how your body feels as the craving enters. Replace the wish for the craving to go away with the certain knowledge that it will subside.
Urge surfing is essential in Sophrosyne Health. Personally, when I find myself stressed or anxious and cravings (usually something sweet) start to encroach my thoughts I immediately take a step back and ask: what is productive to my thoughts and actions right now in this present moment ? What inefficient habits or thoughts do I need to discard in order to get my peace back? There are two ways the pendulum will swing; conquering the thought or giving into it.
Mindfulness is key on your journey with Sophrosyne Health. It is the deep self awareness that leads to moderation and self control in all things. The Five Wonderful Precepts of Buddhism (which are also precepts that are all addressed in the Ten Commandments) summarize how and what we should be mindful of in order to reach authentic happiness and live a life of true purpose. These precepts include: reverence for life (cultivating compassion and learning ways to protect all living things), generosity, responsible sexual behavior, speaking and listening deeply, and ingesting wholesome substances.
An excerpt summary from Living Buddha, Living Christ by Thich Nhat Hanh
Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful consumption, I vow to cultivate good health, both physical and mental, for myself , my family and my society by practicing mindful eating, drinking and consuming. I vow to ingest items that preserve peace, well - being, and joy in my body, in my consciousness, and in the collective body of society. I am determined not to ingest foods or other items that are toxic to me including certain TV programs, magazines, books, films, music, and conversations.
I am aware that to damage my body or my consciousness with these poisons is to betray myself , my ancestors, my society, and future generations. I will work to transform violence, fear, anger, and confusion in myself by practicing diet. I understand that a proper diet is crucial for self- transformation and the transformation of society and future generations to come.
Not too shabby for a random book I found at Goodwill for 50 cents! #goodwillfinds
In modern life, people think that their body belongs to them and they can do anything they want to it. But the bible proves the contrary.
1 Corinthians:19 " Do you not know that your body is a temple of the holy spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body." Your body is a precious construct from the Universe that was carefully thought out and created to be loved and nourished.
Think back to a time you went out eating and drinking, stayed up way past your usual bedtime and ate an excess of foods you don't regularly eat. Did you feel like your usual perky self the next morning? Or did you have a hard time getting up? Did you wake up with negative self talk about how you knew you shouldn't have stayed out that late or had that many drinks? This isn't to say that these occasions are wrong. Carpe diem. I am a firm believer in all things in moderation- including moderation.
Secrets to self control
If you are on a weight loss journey and eating super strict Monday through Friday but then find that the weekends are a free for all and your weight loss has stalled, something needs to change. You exert all of your self control during the week and then after a weekend of total lack of self control, those 2 days of failure have outweighed your success.
One of the secrets to self control with food is to eat. Yes this may seem counter intuitive but there is logic in the reasoning. Your brain burns glucose stores when attempting to exert self-control. If your blood sugar is low, you are far more likely to succumb to destructive impulses. Sugar dense foods trigger a spike your blood sugar levels quickly and leave you feeling drained and vulnerable shortly thereafter.
Eating something that provides a slow burn for your body, such as whole grain rice or meat, will give you a longer window of self-control. So, if you’re having trouble with the mid day office snacks make sure you eat a hearty lunch with ample protein and slow burning carbohydrates if you want to have a fighting chance. Remember: moderation doesn't have to mean restriction. Moderation can mean one beer instead of five. It could mean one slice of pizza with a salad instead of 3 slices of pizza.
Another secret to self control is exercise. Sustained movement for as little as 10 minutes releases GABA, a neurotransmitter that makes your brain feel calm and keeps you in control of your impulses. So as you are urge surfing your cravings, do yourself a favor and go for a walk or do some jumping jacks. Those urges should be in check in no time.
This may come as a surprise to some, but sleep plays a critical role in self control. When you are tired, your brain cells’ ability to absorb glucose is highly diminished. Your brain has zero ability to control impulses without glucose. What’s worse is without enough sleep you are more likely to crave sugary snacks to compensate for low glucose levels. So, if you’re trying to exert self-control over your eating, getting a good night’s sleep regularly is one of the best decisions you can make.
The vicious cycle of failing to control oneself followed by feeling intense self-hatred and disgust is quite common in attempts at self-control (food related or not). These emotions typically lead to over-indulging. When you have a lapse in self control, it is critical that you forgive yourself and move on. Don’t ignore how the mistake makes you feel; just don’t wallow in it. Instead, shift your attention to what you’re going to do to improve yourself in the future.
I've gone through this journey and needed someone for accountability. Even with a wealth of knowledge and knowing exactly what to do, everyone needs some help with how to do it. If you are reading this and needing someone to help you embark on your journey I am here for you and would love to help.
Schedule your free 15 minute consultation and see if Sophrosyne Health is right for you