4 Simple Ways to Regain Control of Your Health
Do you sometimes feel like you have no control over your health? Like you are in some downward spiral and nothing seems to work or help the problems you are going through? You are definitely not alone! There are so many people who are going through the same thing and have the same feelings. I often get asked about what someone can do to help regain control of the of their health. So, I decided to put together a simple jump start list to help you get started!
While there are a lot of moving parts to achieving optimal wellness, there are a few core principles that should always be at the forefront of your mind. Here they are!
- Sleep. Sleep is very important to our health, more than we give it credit for. Poor sleep can affect your memory, appetite, metabolism, mood, and behavior. Chronic sleep problems can result in changes in the gut microbiome which may be an underlying factor that sits at the core of chronic disease in general (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27739530). Yes, not sleeping the right amount can make you overweight! The Journal of the American Heart Association published a study stating that inadequate sleep (either too much or too little) can give you an increased risk of death from any cause and cardiovascular events; they suggested we all aim for a target of 7 hours of sleep per night (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28889101).
- Nutrition. This probably goes without saying. We all know that nutrition is key to optimal wellness. Did you know, though, that what you eat can influence the composition of the gut microbiome and how the various bacteria that live in our gut actually works? (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4303825/). This is a key concept because if we want to try to reverse chronic disease, one of the most important things to think about is what kind of fuel we are feeding our engines. Are you giving Diesel fuel to a body that needs Premium? By Diesel fuel I mean sugar, processed foods and meats, excessive alcohol, vegetable oils, trans-fats, fast foods, sodas, candies, and anything that is not “real food.” By “real food” and “Premium” I mean lots of plants and especially leafy greens, berries, nuts, seeds, healthy fats, cruciferous vegetables, and sources of Omega 3s. No matter what sort of diet you follow, these should be a key component of your nutritional plan. Try to keep things organic and non-GMO and don’t be afraid to try new things! It’s the variety of foods that is also important, not just the foods themselves. You can eat a broccoli diet everyday but just because we all know that broccoli is healthy for you does not mean that your diet is actually healthy.
- Stress Reduction. This may be one of the single most important elements of health and wellness. We are all busy, tired, and overworked. However, if we can find some time in the day to be still and enjoy the silence we will be doing our bodies a ton of good. I’m not talking about sitting and meditating for an hour a day. If you have the time to do that, then that is great. But if you start by giving yourself 5 minutes a few times a day you will start to see that it is highly beneficial. It would be nice to work up to 20 minutes twice a day but you have to start somewhere. Stress reduction techniques don’t have to be complicated. I’m not asking you to find a quiet spot in your office during lunch time so that you can do some downward dog poses. Start by just breathing and appreciating that you are here, you are alive, and life is good. While you do your breathing exercises, think about a few things that you are thankful for, whether it be the cup of coffee you had this morning or the fact that someone held the elevator for you when you got to work. Then think about how you give some of that good energy back to the world. We are, after all, connected to each other. Meditation can improve cell health, regulation of stress response, your immune system, and how your genes work. It can also reduce cortisol levels, inflammation levels, heart rate, triglycerides, and a number of other things (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28863392). Can you think of a better drug that can do all these things?
- Have fun. You have to enjoy life. If we don’t enjoy life now, while we are living it, it will be over before we know it. Human beings are social creatures. We need that social connection. We thrive on our relationships. Having fun and doing things you enjoy with your friends, family, colleagues, or even strangers can have significant health benefit as well. Dan Beuttner wrote a fantastic book called “The Blue Zones of Happiness” and he outlines that one of the key concepts to attaining happiness is cultivating social interconnectedness and spending your money more on experiences rather than material objects (Buettner D. The Blue Zones of Happiness: Lessons from the world's happiest people. 2017). Go out and have some fun! You don’t have to do it with friends or anyone else, but it is always nice when you can share a great experience with someone. Your genes and your gut microbes will thank you for the dose of fun and excitement!
Yes, you need to exercise. And yes, you need to avoid toxins. There are a lot of things that need to be done to optimize your health. However, you can’t do it all at once so don’t worry about being perfect straight out of the gate. Take your time. Lifestyle changes can take a while to get down pat. You have to start somewhere. These 4 points include some elements of lifestyle that are often overlooked and under- appreciated. Starting to work on some of these things will help you push forward and allow you the opportunity to work on some of the other things. There is no race to the finish line here. You’ll get there. You just need to start!
Cheers to your (gut) health!