Everyone knows a quick cleanse or a 5 day challenge may give you a quick boost in the right direction for improving your health, but sustaining health is a lifestyle for the long haul and is something that takes putting your energy towards consistently. This is where we often need some help or guidance so I've put together a few of my favorite tips.
Top Tips for Sustainable Health:
Sleep. There’s no getting around this one. Chronically sleep-impaired people don’t typically enjoy long, vibrant, energetic lives. Ideally, try to go to bed at an early enough time that you wake in the morning (at least 90% of the time) BEFORE your alarm goes off. Go to bed when YOU begin to feel sleepy – the first time, not after you’ve already started dozing. And that may be 9:00 pm for you. Be open to what your body is asking for in terms of the timing of optimal rest. Practice good sleep hygiene. Soooo, that television, email, smartphone, or other full-spectrum light exposure and any type of stressful activity (bill-paying, parenting debates, work, reading the News) in the full hour or two prior to bedtime IS indeed likely affecting your sleep later on. Let your brain know in that hour or two that you want it to wind down and get prepared to sleep deeply. Remember also, the caffeine we are consuming after noontime may also still be metabolizing at bedtime and may actually interfering with the depth and/or duration of our sleep.
Play. Many of us operate under the assumption that life's ultimate reward comes from cramming as many working hours as possible and diligently checking off items from our never-ending work-related or home chore to-do lists. However, that's far from the truth! In reality, it's more likely that we'll end up with regrets and missed chances. What if we crafted a daily "play to-do list" and regarded it with the same, if not greater, importance as our work tasks? Embrace life's pleasures. Share laughter. Engage in play. Unwind. Find delight. Cultivate happiness. When it comes to your leisure and relaxation time, opt for truly revitalizing activities instead of defaulting to mindless TV for an hour or two each night. Remember, there was a time when we were all around four years old, viewing the world as an endless playground full of wonder and opportunities for fun. It's time to rekindle what brings you joy now. Allow it space in your life and make it a priority.
Your Skin is one Big Mouth. Stop feeding it toxins. Consider this: Anything you apply to your skin can potentially find its way into your body's bloodstream. It's a good rule of thumb to only use products on your skin that you'd be comfortable ingesting. Take a moment to ponder that concept. When selecting your beauty and personal hygiene items, begin anew with this principle in mind. Also, steer clear of fabric softeners and dryer sheets, which essentially reintroduce toxins to your clothing right after you've just cleaned them. These simple adjustments can significantly enhance your overall health from within.
Eat Real Food, not “edible food-like substances” (M. Pollan). Most of us wouldn't fill our cars with low-quality gasoline just because it's cheap and convenient, right? So, why do we settle for feeding our amazing bodies with subpar food? Make a conscious choice to consume foods that you genuinely enjoy and that could have been part of your great-grandmother's diet over a century ago at least 90% of the time. Opt for whole, natural, unprocessed foods and beverages such as vegetables, proteins, fruits, legumes, nuts, and seeds. Steer clear of the extensive range of chemical additives like flavorings, preservatives, artificial colors, sweeteners, texture enhancers, hormones, toxins, and inexpensive fillers found in many processed foods. These additives don't support your body's healing or its optimal performance, which includes energy levels, mental clarity, pain management, clear skin, smooth digestion, a healthy sex drive, and a resilient positive mood. This isn't just catchy rhetoric; it's a fundamental biochemical reality.
Get Fresh Air. Everyday. Even if it’s cold. Or rainy. Our indoor air can actually become toxic due to outgassing from textiles and chemicals and building materials. This is especially true during the cold months when our windows are mostly closed. It’s even worse if you’re using “air freshener” products, which are on purpose putting chemical-laden, artificial scent in the air (inhaled toxicity anyone?). So, even if it’s just a short 4-minute walk around the block or out to the edge of the parking lot and back: it’s much, much better than no fresh air at all. While you’re outdoors, leave your phone indoors. Use this opportunity to shift your visual focus to the horizon. See and appreciate the nature around you and take some deep, cleansing breaths. Allow the exhales to be long and slow and through your nostrils. Stand or sit up straight, no phone glued to your hand, or ear pods on your head. Connect with and activate your parasympathetic nervous system mode that allows digestion, relaxation, healing, fertility, and ease.
Eat as much Organic food as you can find and as you can afford. It IS really that bad. Most pesticides and herbicides are endocrine-disrupting agents and can cause dramatic shifts in hormone balance. (that's a BAD thing) and we have an exponentially increasing rate of estrogen mediated cancers in both men (prostate) and women (breast/uterine). Many are also obesogenic and promote increases in body fat. When possible, maximize nutrition by purchasing local, fresh produce on which no pesticides have been used (not all small farmers can access or afford formal organic certification, so talk to them about their process and get to know them). At a minimum, make good use of the Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen shopping priorities revised each year by the Environmental Working Group (www.ewg.org).
Stop "Shoulding" on Yourself. You are a glorious unique human being on this earth, and perfect the way your are. Perfect. Try opening up to this truth. Stop being your loudest critic and your biggest source of stress. Honor who you really are. Honor what really makes you happy and brings you fulfillment. In what way can you start to do this right now? Choose activities based on what is Fun and Fulfilling. Release the need to use words like Should, Must, and Have-to. Instead, use the word Choose. And then allow yourself to change your mind when that phrase chokes in your throat. Honor your truth. Make time for a spiritual practice that allows you to release the “gunk” of expectations from society/family and reconnects you to Who You Really Are. This is the item on the list that may seem the most distant from the health of our physical body, yet in truth, it is probably the most impactful.
Drink plenty of plain, clean water every day. Make sure you know the real quality of the water coming out of your tap (don’t rely on regional or town source data). If necessary, invest in a water filter, both for drinking water and (yes!) shower water. There are a huge number of dissolved toxins found in regular municipal drinking water that your local regulatory organization is not required to measure or inform you about. You may even want to invest in a distiller.
Pay attention to the Oils. If you are what you eat, don't be cheap or easy. Don’t cook with typical cheap, highly refined, bottled vegetable oils. Choose pressed (and preferably cold-pressed) vegetable oils e.g. coconut, avocado, olive. If you eat in restaurants, you will nearly always be consuming these oils (because they are inexpensive/ cheaper), so take care not to increase the frequency by using them in your own home.
Avoid fluoride. Don’t consume fluroidated water. Many people don’t even realize that their municipal water is treated in this way, so be sure to investigate! Does fluoride kill bacteria in the mouth? Yes. Does it increase calcium uptake in bones? Yes. But at a high cost. From low thyroid function (sluggish? overweight?) to calcification of the pineal gland (insomnia?) to reduced IQ in children. Vitamin K2, magnesium, and a good multi-herb/xylitol toothpaste are good tools for many in helping you meet your dental and bone health goals.
Check-in with Key Wellness markers. Being well informed opens up the way to being well. These markers may not be what your PCP regularly checks on your behalf, but they are all often easily available from local labs. You can advocate for your right to learn about your body and optimize your health proactively. Check Vitamin D and, for most, keep it ideally in the 40-60 ng/ml zone to promote immune function that is strong and balanced. Check RBC Magnesium (not serum) The goal is to be in the upper third of the normal reference range. Check HbA1c and aim for it to be 5.2% or less; our carbohydrate tolerance is unique and depends on our genetics, lifestyle, stress, and nutrition. Check Triglycerides and aim for them to be 50-100mg/dl. There are other often overlooked markers that your practitioner may recommend in your particular situation.
Foods made with refined grain flours should be in your 10% diet, not the 90%. Yes, even if it’s gluten-free. We have a true epidemic of insulin resistance and its follow-on states of Metabolic Syndrome and Type 2 Diabetes. This dis-ease progression begins with the diet nearly every time. Even if there is no weight gain. In this arena, we focus so much on minimizing sugars/sweeteners, but forget that refined grain flours act very much like sugar in the body. And very few of us are active enough to counter the glycemic load that these foods present.
Be a part of something Wonderful that is Larger than You. Make your life mean something that Inspires you to the core. Not having good connection is a good pathway to depression. Or at least boredom. Find a cause or a contribution that gives you an opportunity to share your unique talents, history, and/or skills. One that is powerful to you, not necessarily anyone else nearby. Give regularly of yourself in a way that makes you feel gratified, useful, and part of the larger perfection of life. If you don’t know where to start, consider beginning a gratitude journaling practice. It’s easy to do, and easy to start! Just spend 5-10 minutes every morning (or right before bed) writing down 3 very specific things you are grateful for in that moment. Not general, easy-to-overlook things like “family” or “my job” – but a detailed description of a particular person or place or event or event that you are grateful for. Make it come alive by writing it down. Letting that feeling of appreciation wash over you has very real, biochemical healing power, in part by activating the parasympathetic nervous system. You can't be depressed and grateful at the same time, and you can control that.
Try implementing these tips and if you have any questions I'd be happy to help. Feel free to book a 20 minute health strategy call here.