If you are anything like me, you are always looking for ways to look and feel better. Especially as we get older. Those of us approaching age milestones notice the changes our bodies go through as our lives “season” us with extra flavor. However, as with food, too much “seasoning” in our lives may be overpowering or plain unsavory. In this metaphor, seasoning represents too many bad habits and excessive stress. No one is perfect, and we all have that something we do that we aren’t so proud of. Here are a few tips to ensure that the seasoning in your life results in a well-balanced and enjoyable experience.
Many claim that the secret to good health is in your diet. In fact, Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine (and famous for the Hippocratic oath), declared
Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food
Food quality is very important to health. If you are consuming good quality, nutritious, fibrous foods, then there is little need for internal detoxification programs or colonics. This is why we are blessed with a liver and two kidneys. Otherwise, you are just giving your hard earned money to someone else for something you could do yourself. Further, most experts would argue that no one diet plan is better than another (except in specific populations). What is critical is that what we do put in our bodies is free of unnatural additives and raised for optimal nutrition. This could mean locally grown, seasonal fruits and veggies, eggs and meat from pasture raised poultry or grass-fed beef. It does mean leaving most processed, pre-packaged foods at the store, however. Even though this can become expensive, what animals eat during the course of their lives can dictate the nutrition they impart to us. Look at this as an opportunity to enhance a smaller amount of good quality meat with a variety of health grains and produce, which could lead to increased longevity.
Build an emergency fund.
A major source of stress for many people is their finances, particularly when they are taken by surprise. The reality is, that we will all, at some point in our lives, have to deal with an unpredictable event that may be more manageable with some emergency savings. Health crisis, job loss, emergency travel can cause worry and a distorted perception of reality, so you never know when you might benefit from having a few extra dollars in the bank. The great news is that anyone can create an emergency fund and you can start it today. Here are some tips for starting your own (or increasing) your own emergency fund.
Get active most days of the week.
This has been the one that is most difficult for me, especially since I began the third trimester of my pregnancy. I have found that a routine that includes regular movement is a function of your schedule, what you have access to for fitness, your social circle and how much of an importance exercise plays in how you see yourself. What you do is not of importance, as long as you are achieving the appropriate level of intensity. If you are having trouble getting started, get a piece of paper and answer these questions: What will being fit allow me to do? When during my day can I exercise for at least one hour? What around me can I use for fitness? Who can I join for exercise?
I have never been one to journal consistently. However, as part of a coaching prescription to reduce my reliance on negative self-talk, it was suggested that I keep a gratitude journal. In fact there is quite a bit of research that demonstrates some profound benefits to documenting those things in your life for which you are grateful. From relieving pain and fatigue in patients with neuromuscular disorders to improving general physical health, recording those three to five things you are thankful for on a weekly basis can be much cheaper than medication.
Your body uses sleep to rejuvenate itself after a hard days work. Typically we need between 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep per night. Prioritizing this is critical because sleep deprivation prevents necessary cell regeneration and hormone production. Some studies have even shown that sleep deprivation can cause a reduction in life span. You can improve your sleep by sticking to a sleep schedule, removing all electronics from your bedroom and having a dedicated dark room for sleep.
Conduct a regular body scan.
A body scan is an oft employed mindfulness technique used to improve awareness. I think they are brilliant because you can also use them to identify those things in your body that don’t feel quite right. This is particularly useful to do just before your annual check up or well-woman visit. It just requires that you find a comfortable position and in your mind, scan and concentrate on each area of your body. You are looking to note any unusual sensations or discomfort. In addition to being very relaxing, its a great way to take inventory of all of the things you might want to discuss with your physician. Just be sure to write everything down when you are finished. I would encourage everyone to try this at least once–it costs nothing and you can do it in the privacy of your own home. Here is a link to a free 20-min body scan provided by the University of California, San Diego Health System.
Connect to your higher purpose.
Many of us are grappling with the question, “Why am I here?” Some find the answer in their faith. No matter your religious practice, research has shown that there are health benefits to people that attend regular religious services, engage in prayer or Bible study. If you don’t have a religious practice, you may get similar benefits from writing a personal statement of purpose, developing an awareness practice and identifying those values that drive your life.
Check in with your health care team.
Assembling a health care team before you need it will help to make sure you stay your healthiest. This means selecting those professionals you want in your line up, verifying that they participate in your insurance plan and keeping track of your well visit appointments and preventative tests. Check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the most up to date information on important exams, screenings and vaccinations. In addition to the results from your own body scan (see above) you can help to make sure that all of your health practitioners have a complete picture of your health, your medications, your supplements and the other lifestyle issues that may impact your life. MyHealthResume may help you to compile that information for your professional team in advance of your appointments.
Clean your home and your mind.
Did you know that there is a relationship between the cleanliness and order of your home and your health? Accumulation of dust, mildew and pests can impact respiratory health. Clutter, however is probably the most common energy sink in the home. Just clearing it can result in an energy boost and increased productivity. Clutter can present intangibly and tangibly. Intangible clutter could include something like maintaining an unnecessarily packed schedule on post it notes or by memory. Tangible clutter culprits are often excess paper or old clothes that have accumulated in your living space. To remedy, you can schedule a dedicated time for purging, hire a professional organizer, or use the one item per day method.
Taking the time to appreciate the blessings in your life is critical for both mental and physical health. Becoming familiar with your present state of mind will help with impulse control, emotional and physical awareness and finding the good in the now. Busyness plagues most of our lives and we don’t take time to smell the proverbial roses. A mindfulness practice may help with that. Even if you don’t see yourself adopting a daily meditation practice, just trying it a few times will help to reduce stress and notice things you have never noticed before.
What tips do you have for optimizing your health? What do you agree or disagree with on this list? Discuss!