Last summer I was on a vacation with my family out of the country and caught the flu from a 6-year-old boy staying in the same place we were. Vomiting, diarrhea, knocked out for 48 hours. Plus add on two days of a slow climb back to the land of the living. I didn’t want to beat myself up because it is hard to avoid exposure to the flu. Plus we were gone for two weeks and at this point had eaten exotic and at least uncommon foods. BUT!!! I was still very upset that I screwed up part of our vacation and started on a quest to figure out how to never get sick. I was shocked to find out that there were people who were doing it successfully.
Research on how to never get sick shows that people are successfully using self-study to identify what patterns lead to a loss of health and are then using the data to correct it. As a whole, they make modifications in the areas of sleep, stress, nutrition, hydration, activity level, and awareness to avoid illness.
I conducted an experiment on myself for the last 6 months to see if I could use tai chi to prevent illness and am excited to share the results.
Honestly, I was mad when I got home from vacation. I was ill in paradise, staring at a beach I couldn’t swim in, trading beautiful meals for crackers, avoiding my wife and daughter when the entire purpose of the trip was to spend time with them. It…stunk…
Fueled by frustration and a deep desire to know why some people never get sick I was able to turn myself into one of them. I never get sick any more. It definitely could happen. But I am over 36 months out and am still doing great. Let me take you on my journey so that you can figure out how to never get sick again. Tai chi helped a long the way and this is just another one of many benefits of practicing tai chi.
Researching How to Never Be Sick
Here is the issue: I practice tai chi. Tai chi has purported health benefits. Yet, I don’t know that I was any more heathy than any other person. I did know that my tai chi teachers from China were extremely healthy. Some of them were even ultra-fit and smoked and drank! So I asked some questions about health.
Are their people who never or minimally get sick? Lots
Okay, so what are they doing? Do they have specific behaviors? Umhum.
Is it rocket science? No. The first few decisions are easy but you can deep dive on these subjects as far as you want to go.
What is my specific problem? Me.
I read tons of really great books identifying people and entire populations that are not sick. For example, The Secrets of People Who Never Get Sick by Gene Stone identifies dozens of people who do not get sick and chronicles their often bizarre behavior. It is a good read although he shies away from any concrete conclusions. The main take-away? People exist who never get sick.
What was paramount for me were two common threads that were present in all the literature. People made progress when they were honest about how healthy they actually were. They also were religious about taking data. Here were my two main take-aways:
1. People think they are healthier than they are.
All of the different resources brought to light that we may have a skewed idea of what healthy is. When asking people if they were healthy a common response was: “Oh yeah! Now that I am on X medication for my Y I feel great…I am probably only sick two times per year and take Advil for the headaches…My allergies are better too.” Wouldn’t a healthy person be free of medication and not visit the doctor?
2. We need good data on our specific health if we have any hopes of becoming healthier.
I was embarrassed by how simple this was. We are all different. I had to figure out what my level of health was, numerically, and then try to make a shift. People who never get sick had previously been sick in their own unique way. They were susceptible to colds or flues, coughs or headaches. There was a specific trigger for them and a typical reaction.
My experiment: Being your own laboratory
I put a calendar by my bedside and each day recorded my health for six months. I highlighted the date with a color and made a note.
Green = good, high energy, my health did not stop me from doing everything that I planned today.
Yellow = I did everything I planned today but was: tired/groggy/achy, etc. This could be related to a work out, bad eating, social event, etc. In each case I had to do something or take something extra to boost myself. I made notes.
Red = I had to alter my plans today, cancel things, or take medication. I made notes here too.
I felt pretty good most days but reacted to workouts, drinking alcohol, stress, or allergies by “giving myself a boost” of some sorts. I quickly saw that I needed to quantify what this boost was that I was using to improve the situation. I started coding my yellow days with activities that improved my well-being:
N = nap: This was usually 15-20 minutes between 4:30 and 6:30 on really tired days.
E = EmergenC: This is a vitamin packet that I drank in a cup of water.
S = Sleep in: I normally wake up at 5:15 to practice guitar, meditate, read, or do tai chi, before I get the family and dog up at 6:30. These days I skipped this.
Things that did not work? Eating bad food due to stress, eating more or greasy food in the morning if I drank or was out late. You mean to tell me that doing bad stuff doesn’t alleviate bad stuff? Data doesn’t lie. Sometimes it is ridiculous to see your behavior when it is written down. I was excited to learn that some of my old cure-alls were not effective.
Change happens rapidly when you focus on something. I detected a pattern for my yellow and red days. Red days were always preceded by a string of yellow days. When the yellow days began, if I threw the breaks on or started shoring up my heath, the red days just didn’t occur.
PREemptively, PREvent non-green days.
I napped before evening workouts. I allowed myself 2 days/week to sleep in if I was really tired at night.
By month three I was extremely accurate at responding to a yellow day so that a red day never happened. his was good. No medication, no altering my schedule. It is also amazing how calm things are when you are never having to “make up” work or cram things into a day because you couldn’t complete them the day before. When I was really taxed I called them my NES-days meaning I preemptively Napped, took an Emergen-C , and Slept in.
Can I use Tai Chi to Prevent Illness?
This is the point in the story where you say BIG WHOOP! I said that too. I study tai chi remember which offers outstanding health right? Was there a path to purely green days with no preemptive work needed?
The answer is YES. The epiphany came in the next three months and from information I learned in a seminar with Master Chen Bin.
Month four brought really great results. Two days with naps and Emergen-C because we had social engagements in the evening and I got up early the next morning for work. Being proactive and preventative was paying off. I saw another bonus: Winter came and I didn’t catch what anyone else had. I believe I just wasn’t susceptible.
All green days and no need to support my energy with vitamins or naps. By this time in the process, I started sleeping in on both weekend days and also drink a big glass of water each morning. I have continued both of these habits without effort because I am just naturally more tired and thirsty at those times. The biggest change came after I attended a lecture-style seminar with Master Chen Bin and he spoke on “How to Judge Other People’s Energy.” Being in the place I was in, I read this as How to Judge MY energy. Read what he shared here.
The pie graphs of month five and six are identical. However, the big difference is that in month six I didn’t need the naps, vitamins, or extra sleep. This process has made me more highly intuitive and I am making micro-adjustments throughout the day to alter may water intake, food intake and need for sleep.
So I conclude that Tai Chi can bring extraordinary health. I feel that it led me to ask if great health was possible, address it objectively, and refine it after the heavy lifting of changing my habits was in place. Tai Chi teaches a high level of attunement and without it (for me) I don’t think that the shift experienced from month 4-6 would have been possible.
Author’s note: Sickness and low energy does still occur and it is not completely avoidable. In month 7, I experienced cedar allergies that got up into my head for a few days. Somewhat manifested itself as a cold. However, neti pots, steam treatments, and patience resolved it. Work and family obligations all stayed the same. I find this to be an incredible improvement to my life. Every day it seems, more research is being released on the health benefits on tai chi that I am feeling like I want to eventually run another experiment!