We have all heard how important the following factors are to health but are we regularly practising them? Maybe you have been in the past but of late have been making excuses or too many exceptions to the rule (hey, I am no stranger to this!).
Listen to Your Body – Have you developed a new ache or pain? Our bodies are always speaking to us and these are important messages, intended to make us examine what is going on in our life and make a course correction. If we continue to ignore the signals we may be setting ourselves up for disease down the road.
For example, you know when you are feeling stressed but do you take action to address this? If your job is continually causing you stress for whatever reason, know that if you don’t manage it you will likely begin to experience symptoms at some point. Perhaps it is time to change employers or even begin to plan for a different career altogether. Regardless, learn techniques to shift your stress response back into a calm state, such as using The HeartMath Solution, or your own approaches like listening to uplifting music, stretching, walks, meditation, or time with friends.
Diet – is understood by most everyone to be a key factor in our health but the question of what to eat remains confusing. Experts suggest that the foundation of our eating should be plant-based and as free of chemicals as possible, that is, a diet high in organic fruits and vegetables (unprocessed foods) and to aim to eat locally-grown and seasonal food, for the best health benefits related to nutrients and the microbiome associated with that food.
Personally, I have been intuitively directed towards following Ayurvedic guidelines and these have worked well for me, with a little personalization. Ayurveda is a holistic system of medicine originating in India, which focuses on maintaining a physically and emotionally balanced state. Individuals are classified according to three possible doshas, or combinations thereof, which are associated with different mental, emotional and physical characteristics. Free online resources can help you determine your dosha, and the eating and lifestyle that supports this dosha, or you may want to have a book on hand, such as Deepak Chopra’s Perfect Health.
Sleep – in adequate amount and quality – is central to maintaining our health. The body has many circadian rhythms, synchronized with the day/night cycle of the Earth, and sleep hours are important to repair and restore our systems. When that cycle is disrupted, such as in shift work, the risk of disease increases. For most of us, the advances of our technological world, such as indoor lighting, television and electronics distort that cycle, continuing to expose us to bright light late into the evening, effectively telling our bodies that it is still day and not time to sleep.
As much as possible, endeavor to tailor your sleep patterns to the natural world – rise with the sun and go to bed not too late after sunset. Prioritize sleep and find the methods that work best for you, to allow you to begin to slow your mind and body down as the evening advances. Gentle, natural sleep aids such as essential oils, may be helpful.
Exercise – you knew this was coming, right? There is no one best fitness plan for everyone. What is important is to incorporate some form of physical activity on a regular basis, whatever you enjoy that will be easy to maintain. Some form of cardiovascular exercise, as well as stretching and strength such as Pilates or yoga, will round out your approach. Ayurveda speaks to this as well – see Perfect Health.
Sunlight and Time Outdoors – you’ve probably heard this one too, but perhaps like me, it never really registered or seemed that important. But lately I have come to appreciate just how important getting lots of natural light and outdoor air is to my mood and energy. And getting out in nature has the most centering and healing effect, provided you soak in the surroundings rather than live in your head.
Socializing – It is well established that social isolation is one of the greatest risks for disease. Do you have a network of real friends you can go to, to share your problems who will listen to you? You don’t need the 50+ ‘friends’ from Facebook, just a handful of like-minded people you resonate with and trust. Invest time in the relationships that support you, and let go of or limit the ones that do nothing but drain you. Often when you begin to feel offtrack what you need most may be that feeling of connection. If you don’t have solid friends in your life, set the intent to make new (real) friends and put this out to the Universe, then do your part by getting out more to find others who share your interests (Meetup is one way to start), but recognize that true friendships take time to develop.