All organisms strive to maintain homeostasis, or physiological balance. Whether it be a lion, a human, a guinea pig, a mussel or an amoeba, homeostasis is the goal. This is true of every living thing, and homeostasis is the gold standard for maintaining life.
The Macro and the Micro
Within our bodies---and the bodies of other organisms---countless physiological processes occur at every moment with the overarching goal of keeping us in balance.
When we're a little dehydrated, our kidneys decrease the amount of urine that's produced, and more fluids are retained in the body in order to maintain the blood and fluid volume in our bodies.
When we're sick with an infection, the body mounts a fever in order to battle that infection. Meanwhile, we may breathe faster or have a racing pulse as the body attempts to compensate for acute illness.
On a very microscopic level, white blood cells will multiply in reaction to an infection, or red blood cells will be produced in greater numbers if we relocate to a higher elevation for an extended period of time.
And if our blood sugar is low, glycogen stored in the liver will be broken down into glucose as an emergency source of energy.
On the macro and micro levels, the body has many processes for maintaining homeostatis.
In Our Heads and Hearts
We also seek homeostasis or balance in our heads and our hearts, and this should not be overlooked or deemed as less important that the physiological aspects of balance.
In our heads, we seek homeostasis by choosing to take a nap, leave work early and go for a walk, or settle into the hammock and read a good book on a summer day.
We use many emotional and psychological---and perhaps even spiritual---techniques and methods for achieving or maintaining homeostasis and balance, and these can be as simple as a walk in the woods and as complex as seeking psychotherapy, spiritual counseling, or going on a yoga retreat.
Seeking homeostasis can also come in other forms, such as smoking, using drugs, drinking alcohol, or engaging in high-risk behaviors that bring us pleasure in the moment but may, in the end, compromise our well-being.
Do you have a drink to relax after work? How does it impact your blood sugars? Are you able to compensate for that drink with extra insulin or cutting down on other carbs and sugars? Do you have trouble having only one drink, and not two, three or more?
Have you found yourself doing drugs, smoking cigarettes, or engaging in promiscuous, unprotected sex as a means to "blow off steam" or otherwise feel better for a moment or two? What does it cost to do these things? Is there a price to pay?
Smoking, drinking or drugging are also processes for seeking homeostasis, but they may not lead you to the healthy place where you ultimately want to be.
Balance, Balance, Balance
I've said this on this blog before and you can expect me to say it again. Balance is the key to a happy life, and the ways in which you seek balance are very important.
While you can't control what your kidneys do from moment to moment, you can indeed control your fluid intake. You can't tell your brain to produce more dopamine (a chemical that makes you feel pleasure), but you can go for a walk and help your body to secrete more dopamine.
How do you seek balance? What do you do that's healthy and helpful? What do you do that's not so healthy? These are good questions to ask, and even better questions to answer!
Seek balance and homeostasis. It can be a conscious process, and the benefits are endless.