Increase the good in these 4 aspects of your life to optimize your health.
1. Nutrition: “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food” — Hippocrates. Food either helps us to grow and heal or it is toxic. Work towards a whole foods plant-based diet. Start by increasing vegetables, cooked or raw. Fill up your plate more with plants and see how it makes you feel. If you do not tolerate raw yet start with cooked and then slowly increase raw, chewing well. You can use a blender to start getting more raw into your diet with a green smoothie. Try raw kale or spinach with frozen fruit of choice and some fresh ground flaxseeds or chia seeds. Switch from dairy milk to non-dairy. As you slowly increase the ‘essential’ foods you may find your cravings for the ‘fun’ foods decreases. What are the ‘fun’ foods? Processed foods, cheese, animal flesh, ice cream, etc. Joe Cross, the creator of Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead puts it nicely this way: We all like to have fun but we all know that if we spend too much time in the fun part of town it will not be much fun anymore, we may get into a bit of trouble. So we need to spend more time in the essential part of town. We need to eat more of the essential foods: vegetables and fruit. Very importantly, make sure you are enjoying these essential foods. Find plant-based recipes that you enjoy. Believe it or not they can be fun too! Go to Forks Over Knives website or Happy Herbivore for recipes to get the ball rolling. And remember to drink plenty of water in between meals. Sips of water throughout the day is better than big gulps.
2. Exercise: Move your body! This will increase the circulation and oxygenation of every cell in your body and help remove waste products though activation of your lymphatic system. Start slow. Walk. Stretch. Try Yoga. Swim. Find what is practical and enjoyable. You don’t need to kill yourself to get results. Forget about the no pain, no gain logic. It is not necessary. When exercising we should be able to carry on a conversation with someone. We should be able to breath through our nose. Remember to do this and you will best prevent injury and burn out. Read Born To Run and learn about proper mechanic barefoot running. That book got a non- runner like myself into running. Now running is my primary exercise and I am training for my first marathon. If you want to try running, check out the Couch to 5 K app for your smart phone. Try to increase to 30 minutes of exercise 4 times a week and maintain that regimen for at least 6 weeks before adding anything more.
3. Stress Management: See my recent post on abdominal breathing. Make breath work your foundation for stress management. Always start with the breath. Return to the breath when in a jam. Observe your breath, then change from a stress chest breath to a soft belly breath. Maintaining observation of your breath for a few minutes will kick start your re-training of the nervous system. You can create new neuro-pathways in your brain by observing the breath, then your sensations in the body. This is also called meditation. We all should know how to work with the breath as a starting point in stress management, mindfulness training, and learning to live in the present!
4. Sleep: Most of us need to sleep more. Go to bed early and wake up with the sun. Avoid late night TV. Avoid caffeine after lunch time. Exercise in the morning before you start your day so the evening can be a peaceful warm and cozy time. Read at night. If your muscles are achy and tense, make sure to stretch before bed. Practice some breath awareness and soft belly breathing. You can try magnesium citrate before bed to help relax the muscles if needed.
So take a personal invitatory of how much you are doing in these 4 areas of your life. If you are not feeling optimally well, then chances are one or more of these areas are not getting adequate nourishment. Start small and increase the right kind of medicine into these areas and watch the magic happen.