I want to share with you what I consider to be the most important actions you can take to live a full and healthy life. No, it’s not to do an extreme diet, cut out all sugar, or to take a bunch of supplements. How to be “healthy” today can be so confusing because of the overwhelming amount of opinions and media-hype of diets and “natural” products we should we buying. I want to bring it back to simplicity, the roots, the foundations of what allows our body to keep functioning at its highest capacity in this sometimes crazy and not-so-healthy world we live in.
The purpose of this list is not to impart more stress into what you SHOULD be doing, but areas to focus your attention and energy when making daily choices that impact your well-being. This is also a general list and I believe that health is never a “one-size-fits-all” approach, but in my experience and education, these are the pillars of the table from which we stand.
These are not in any order of importance, but should be considered to work together synergistically.
Sleep: The usual goal is 7-9 hours/night, with ease of falling asleep and staying asleep, waking minimally, and feeling refreshed upon waking. Most people reading this are probably like, “yea, right” and I agree, sleep is one of the most sought after reasons to see a Naturopathic doctor. But it also controls our immune strength, mental health, and a list of diseases that are linked to lack of sleep. If you want to know more tips and tricks about creating a healthy sleep routine, read my blog titled “Sleep, Why We Need it and How to Get It”.
Diet: Ok yes, diet is important, but it’s about balance, moderation, and consistency. The goal is 3 evenly spaced meals a day with 6-8 servings of fruits and vegetables, 30g of fiber, choosing organic, minimally processed meats and dairy when possible, and avoiding foods that bother you (you know….gas and weird #2s). The most researched healthy diet is the Mediterranean diet, which emphasizes veggies, healthy fats, whole grains, and lean meats and fish.
Water: This one everyone knows about but not many do, I struggle with this as well. The goal is 8 cups/day (64oz), or half your body weight in ounces. Add a cup for each 30min of exercise and each cup of caffeinated beverage (coffee, soda…). Tea counts as water! Some tips to remember to drink water are to find a plastic-free water bottle you love and make sure you carry it with you everywhere, to have glasses of water in all the rooms you visit most, and try setting reminders on your phone throughout the day. If you are techy and wish that Giga Pets were still around, try out the app “Plant Nanny”.
Exercise: Movement is SO important for so many bodily reasons including our mental health! The goal is 30-60min 5 days/week of a combination of walking, cardio, stretching/yoga, and resistance training. Hate gyms? Get outside for even more mind-lifting benefit, take walks, runs, or join a group that meets weekly to keep the motivation up. Strapped for cash? Many local rec centers are super affordable and offer free classes. Look into it! Free online yoga is great too…check out www.doyogawithme.com
Stress reduction: More and more the research is showing the negative effects of stress on our health, and more and more I see it in my patient’s ability to think and function at the level that is demanded of them. When our bodies are in a state of constant stress, our adrenal glands, the organs that release the stress hormone cortisol, get tired and confused. Mixed signals are sent and other organs can suffer too, including our thyroid, brain function, insulin levels, as well as many more. The goal is not to experience no stress at all, but to have the tools to reduce the impact of that stress on your health (meditations, exercise, talk therapy, social connections, mind-body techniques, biofeedback…ect). I will blog about this more later because it’s a big topic! Something you can start with though is an easy mindfulness app called “Headspace” or “The mindfulness app”. Just 5-10min two times a day can make such a difference!
Elimination: Keeping the organs of elimination open is a concept in many healing modalities, especially Naturopathic medicine. This means that our bodies are able to get rid of any unwanted toxins, chemicals, and unwanted byproducts of our metabolism it comes into contact with every day. The goal would be to have a daily bowel movement, sweat 3-5x/week, urinate every 1-2 hours, and breath and exhale fully.
Creative outlet and Connections: It’s easy to get away from our creativity as we get older and “life gets real”. But being able to express ourselves and exercise our right brain can help us feel more accomplished and lift our self-esteem. A sense of connection has also been shown to be a good predictor of a longer, healthier and happier life. The creative goal is to have something in your life that allows you to express yourself and make you happy, and the connection goal is to have a feeling of community/support/spirituality with known individuals you feel comfortable reaching out to when you need. I believe this is starting to feel lost in this age of social media vs. in-person encounters.
Whew! That was a lot, I know. But don’t feel overwhelmed or like you’re not doing these things well. Just take even one of them and make it a point to try to meet the goal. From my experience, when people focus on the foundations of health, their aches and pains, chronic illnesses, and years of complaints improve dramatically.
To get started with a personalized health plan, contact me today at 303-679-3402 or at firstname.lastname@example.org