While, there are many, many ways to improve your health, here are 10 to get started.
1. Be Accountable: Your health and well-being is your responsibility. You can not blame your general health on fast food restaurants, rainy days or a bad mood. Your choices, each and every one, determine how well you feel and how well you are. I recommend, writing the following on a post it note, or card and putting it on the mirror near your bathroom sink. “I am fully responsible for my own great health. My daily habits create my great health.”
2. Healthy Weight: You didn’t gain weight overnight and you aren’t going to lose it overnight. In fact, studies show that losing 1 or 2 pounds a week predicates a better chance of keeping the weight off than a big, crash diet loss. (watch for upcoming posts on how to drop the weight and/or shape up)
3. Exercise: Move everyday. If you are just starting out, try simple stretches in the morning or a relaxing walk around the block. As you build strength and stamina, walk faster or farther, lift weights, ride a bike, or try a class at a local gym or yoga studio. If disease or injury prevent you from walking, find other ways to move.
4. Reduce Stress: I know! This is the toughest one of all. Life doesn’t stop so we can get our act together, relax and be in a low stress state of mind. Knowing that, we have to carve out time to “stress-less” and find ways to under-react. Many of our stressful situations are caused from how we react to certain events and not the actual events. Stress plays an enormous role in your health from weight gain to high blood pressure.
5. Vitamin D: Vitamin D is key to include in your daily vitamin mix. Adequate levels of Vitamin D have now clearly been identified as important in reducing the risk of developing influenza and other viral illnesses. My doctor recommends levels between 50 and 80. Check with your Doctor to see what levels are best for you. A simple blood test will let you know where you are.
6. Leafy Greens: Eat more! This is an area that I need to work on. (Stay tuned for a leafy green “mini mission” coming up). Leafy Greens, especially the dark ones, provide you with many of the B vitamins, and are, calorie for calorie, perhaps the most concentrated source of nutrition of any food. They provide minerals (including iron, calcium, potassium, and magnesium) and vitamins, including vitamins K, C, E, and many of the B vitamins. They also provide a variety of phytonutrients including beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin, which protect our cells from damage and our eyes from age-related problems. Dark green leaves even contain small amounts of Omega-3 fats. (Drop me a line if you want some of the BEST Leafy Green Juice recipes ever!)
7. Less Meat: Do you feel tired after a meaty meal? Consider this: your body typically takes three days to digest meat. The meat often rots before you digest it. Digesting meat requires energy. The more you learn about how meat affects your body and how the majority of animals are treated before becoming “meat”, the less appetizing it becomes. Consider a Meatless Monday. I became a Vegetarian for health reasons, but maintain my meat free lifestyle because I read too much about CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations) and factory farms. I cannot ignore the reality of how meat is put on our plates. If you are curious about a Vegetarian or Vegan diet, I highly recommend reading The Kind Diet.
8. Sleep: I typically go to bed before 10pm and wake up before 6:30 am. I have experimented with waking up earlier, but I haven’t been able to do it consistently. When I don’t get eight hours of sleep, it shows. Sleep needs are individual but usually between 6 and 9 hours is required, not only to function effectively, but for long term health. Not enough sleep is linked with a higher risk of car accidents, increase in body mass index (sleep deprivation causes an increased appetite), increased risk of diabetes and heart problems and a decreased ability to pay attention or remember new information.
9. Connect with others: Healthy relationships can reduce stress and increase better health. If you don’t have a strong social circle, meet people and re-connect with old friends. Remember, when it comes to connecting with others and maintaining relationships, think quality not quantity. Find people with similar interests and attitudes.
10 Give: Donate your time, talent, or treasure to a cause you believe in. Visit Volunteer Match, enter your city and interest to generate a list of need in your area. There are also options for virtual volunteer opportunities.