On getting fitter by quitting Twitter

SEPTEMBER 15 — Taking care of your health these days has become very data-driven as the companies making very good money from selling fitness trackers will tell you.

Xiaomi this month has overtaken Apple in the wearable market according to research firm Canalys, which isn't a surprise as its fitness bands are a whole lot cheaper than Apple's premium offerings.

Both company's devices work as trackers, collecting data on your heart rate, calories burned and other metrics that help you figure out just where you are on the health front.

With mental health there is no easy, effortless device. 

Nothing you can place on your wrist can figure out if you're sad, angry or on the verge of a mental breakdown.

Perhaps a digital mood ring might be in our future some day but for now, it's really up to us to watch our mental health levels as diligently as we count our daily steps.

I'm using this month to figure out just how I'm going to change my approach to tweeting because tweeting doesn't make me feel better anymore. 

It just makes me feel worse, and I didn't even need a tracker to tell me so.

Mental health is everyone's problem

As even our former health minister has acknowledged the pandemic is taking a toll on people physically and mentally.

When I was diagnosed with major depression two decades ago, my psychiatrist was quick to reassure me that my depression was normal.

That it was just a fact of our times and modern living takes its toll on us all, young or old, whatever your background or gender.

For the mind to be healthy, the body must follow. I know it's a hard ask for those who are severely depressed or debilitated but the reality is that it will be harder to stay mentally fit if your body is not cared for.

I started exercising regularly months ago and instead of focusing on hard exercise, I spent 10-15 minutes a day after waking and before sleeping doing yin yoga.

Yin yoga is not an active practice. It focuses on the body's connective tissue and instead of switching between poses quickly, you hold a pose for a given amount of time and seek the "edge": a certain point you can go, not necessarily the maximum stretch, just enough to be challenging.

It was hard in the beginning. 

I fidgeted a lot and just not moving in a certain pose felt difficult but eventually I went from holding a pose for one minute, to three and slowly working up to five and 10.

My hips loosened up. Before, when I tried sitting on the floor for too long, I'd feel cramps in my lower back or a muscle pull around my hips.

Last month I assembled two new metal racks, spending over half an hour on them and nothing hurt. I was tired and sweaty but my muscles and joints were fine.

Yin yoga is about noticing things. Feeling the stretch, adjusting yourself when discomfort is bordering on pain and being aware of your breathing, where you are right in that moment.

Perhaps it helped me notice just how frayed my emotions were this month.

I realised that my body was feeling better but my mind was wrecked.

Too much of everything

The Twitter application is seen on a phone screen August 3, 2017. — Reuters pic
The Twitter application is seen on a phone screen August 3, 2017. — Reuters pic

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Twitter had just become a neverending stream of suffering and anger. 

Covid-related deaths, online squabbling, really bad takes — it was all getting a bit much.

Despite doing my best to cull the things I did not need to see, I still saw more than I should.

What have I done since I took a break?

Besides yoga, I get on my exercise bike three times a week. Take short walks outside when the weather permits (in my defence, the heat is searing) and I've added Pilates to my exercise routine.

Instead of long workouts, when I'm not cycling, I take mini workout breaks. Ten minutes of yoga here, maybe another 10 minutes of Pilates during my work breaks and when I don't feel like being prone, I dance.

I sleep better. There's more time to cook now that I'm not doomscrolling tweets for hours, and I spent those hours instead making a big batch of jiu hu char that will keep me fed for a few days.

Besides that, I've started bullet journaling and now have the energy to start writing things that aren't my column.

I got so much done in such a short amount of time that it was a little scary to ponder how many hours I'd thrown away being miserable on social media.

Not that I've given up social media completely. 

Instead I've embraced the ephemeral nature of Instagram Stories, where I can casually share things like my cooking or videos of my dog, knowing they'll disappear in 24 hours.

I want to get back to honing my macro photography skills, finish another Coursera course, prune my chaotic gardenia plants. 

It's not like I didn't want to do that before but my head wasn't in the right space.

The point of all this rambling is that meditation and therapy are well and good, but sometimes healing the body is part of the journey of seeking mental wellness.

It doesn't mean you need to push yourself into some boot camp or set hard goals. 

Start small, listen to your body, be kind to yourself. 

I started kettlebells too — yes, I do like variety — and from barely managing five slingshots a session, I can do 20, for multiple rounds. 

It didn't happen overnight. What happened instead was a few minutes every day, like with yoga. Learning, finding my "edge" and remembering that tomorrow, I can start again, try again and maybe in a few days, it will be better. I will feel better.

If life is getting you down right now, and no one should blame you for it, remember there will be another day, another moment.

Most of all, ask yourself if maybe the internet is taking too much of your time and perhaps you can take a bit of that time to just breathe.

I hope you find your own edge, that part of yourself that can find calmness and a way to persevere when things seem too hard.

And if all else fails, get off Twitter. 

*This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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