I'm a Certified Health Coach who wants to help you create the best balance of spiritual, physical and mental health that is possible.
These days it seems that everybody has a plan that they follow, or aspire to follow for their optimum health. I guess I'm no different as I too have developed several daily habits that help me to feel physically at my best and mentally happier and fulfilled as well.
It is not a mystery or a secret of the ages. Nothing earth shattering to be revealed. But, sometimes the best suggestions are cloaked in their simplicity. And, being accustomed to work for every thing of value in our lives, we sometimes distrust the simple suggestions as being so simple as to not be important. But, there can be a large impact for the better made by choosing to follow even the simplest of habits.
Allow me to list for you the five top habits that have had the most impact on my life personally and you decide if you would like to try to incorporate any or all of them into your daily routine.
1) BREATHE. I know, breathing is a "no-brainer" right? Well, our body is a great machine and breathing is a natural occurrence that happens without our thought or effort.
But, let's consider what I mean by "breathing". I do not obviously mean the simple act of autonomic inspiration and expiration of oxygen into the lungs. No, I'm thinking of a more deliberate type of breathing. There are many occasions throughout the day when actively breathing can make the difference from feeling out of control, and regaining a sense of peace and wellbeing in a hectic situation.
I like to do a practice where I note that I'm breathing shallowly, or am feeling stressed and decide to take a "time out" and breathe. Let's say that I'm sitting in the chair facing the computer and studying when I realize that my brain is all over the place; there is no recall from what I just read and I feel kind of chaotic mentally. What I do is stop what I'm doing and make an effort to relax. I place both feet on the floor and my hands in my lap. I consciously inhale deeply through my nose and slowly exhale again from my nose. I repeat this practice a minimum of three times in a row. Then I evaluate how I feel and check in with my breathing. Most of the time, three repetitions is ample to reset my level of focus and normal, deep, rhythmic breathing. But, it can take a few repetitions of 3 breaths if you are new at the practice or particularly stressed or jumbled. Keep practicing and before you know it you will begin breathing properly before you even notice that you aren't.
2. MOVE. That's right, get that body moving. It is one of the simplest things we can do to create more energy in our physical selves. I have long believed in "working out" and "no pain, no gain", but of late have come to feel that perhaps less is more. I found when I worked out like there was no tomorrow that I often had residual pain or discomfort for a day or even longer following the routine. Oh, I was very fit and all, but I was not in balance. Vigorous exercise became inordinately important to me. It was my license to eat. I would exercise even when I felt sick, or unwell. I have since learned that it is important to listen to our bodies. To push them to exercise vigorously even when we are feeling less than well on a given day is to invite injury or discomfort.
But, when one exercises their body in a way that feels good and natural one derives the most benefit. I had been on a roll of vigorous kick boxing almost daily. I felt that I would not find the results from movement if I weren't sweating and breathing hard and feeling like I needed to recover when I was finished.
Over time I realized that exercise accounts for only 20% of the results in weight loss and our diet accounts for 80%. That little factoid did me a lot of good. I stopped obsessively exercising with a mind to burning off all calories, and began to do what felt good and strengthening for my body instead. For me, Yoga was a game changer. I found that I could increase my bodies strength and flexibility and calm my mind and spirit all at the same time! I learned that I was indeed reaping the benefit of exercise but in a kinder, gentler manner than I had been accustomed.
I also know there are multitudes of folks who will say "I simply don't have time to exercise". For those that fall in this category, there is help. It has been proven that even small bursts of activity; a 10 minute brisk walk; can be beneficial. Now, how hard would it be to walk 10 minutes at one time, but do this maybe 5 or 6 times in a day? Now you have totaled 50 minutes to one hour of activity. Walking is widely considered to be one of the safest activities for most people to enjoy. If you live in an inclement climate, you can invest in a treadmill or stair stepper. You can exercise while watching television; or read a book or study while performing exercises. Make everyday activities work to your advantage. Park further out from store entrances to increase the distance walked to and from your car. Do gentle stretching several times a day. Even do some isometric exercises while seated at your desk chair.
It may be helpful to not even think of what you are doing as "exercise" or good for you, but just part of your normal day. Whatever method you wish to choose, just commit to doing something a few minutes each day. I can almost guarantee that the activity will make you feel so much better that you will want to take time daily to do it. And, the side benefits can be a lower resting heart rate, reduced blood pressure, weight loss, muscle tone, better sleep and much more.
3. EAT-your vegetables. I remember about 8 years ago, well before I became interested in being a Holistic Practitioner and working as a Health Coach that I read that we are to consume 8 servings of fruits and vegetables per day. This filled me with a sense of the impossible. I recall saying to a friend "If I were to eat 8 servings each of fruits and vegetables, there would be no time to eat anything else!". Well, that is one of the many ways that getting proper quantities of these magical foods is useful! If one is consuming the proper amounts of the required nutrients there indeed is little room left for junk food or food that doesn't serve the body nearly so well.
I learned a year ago that juicing was one of the easiest ways to insure that I got the proper amount of servings of fruits/vegetables in my daily diet. One can juice 8 items at once and drink them once or twice a day for a quick boost. I then added my Nutri-bullet to the mix and began making a green smoothie for my daily lunches. I just added a few more servings of fruit and vegetable. Then for supper a nice green salad along with whatever else is for dinner and guess what-I just had eight or even more servings of fruits and vegetables!
Now, those who are already indoctrinated to eat these power house foods knows that they will give you a huge boost of physical and mental energy like no other. They will help with digestion, bowel regulation, satisfying hunger, micronutrients of every variety that will flood and heal the body where it is needed.
I like to add that seasonal fruits and vegetables are especially good to rely on. For me, squash, pumpkin and warm vegetables are a high point of the fall and winter months. I indulge in more raw salads and cool entree's made of these gems in warmer weather.
Start out small if the very idea of any vegetables and fruits is daunting. Add as you go along. You will definitely reap huge benefits from this one tip.
4. DRINK-water. Yep, along with breathing this also sounds too simple to be of much import. But, let me assure you that drinking water is one of the easiest and most helpful things you can do for your body. I like to suggest that you start your day with 8 ounces of room temperature or warm water ingested before you do anything else. This helps to lubricate organs after the dormancy of sleep. It helps move nutrients into and through your circulatory system for healthy bodily function. You will have less hunger and thirst if you are drinking ample water throughout the day.
Studies have shown that it is better to drink warm water over iced, especially following a meal that contains any fats. Some studies have found that cold water following a meal with fats can cause the fats to solidify and become stuck in the vessels. Warm water is felt to be better for the bodies metabolism and to move foods through the system more easily.
I recommend drinking a full liter to two liters per day. I would suggest drinking the bulk of the water before 8 pm to avoid trips to the bathroom during the night. One can add flavor to water if they absolutely can't make themselves drink it plain. I do think it's helpful to have filtered water if you live in an area that you can't control the water quality. I truthfully like the taste or feeling of plain, fresh water and despise the artificial flavors of the pre packaged sweetened stuff. Adding fresh lemon is a great bonus! The lemon is good for activating your metabolism and helping flush excess fluid from the system. Warm lemon water is a good way to start the day as well.
I learned that once I got used to drinking water throughout the day in a large quantity, that my body will naturally crave the water. It never hurts to drink 8 ounces of water before meals as it may help fill you up sooner and prevent over eating. It is also suggested that before giving in to a craving for food that first you try 8 ounces of water. A lot of hunger is disguised as thirst.
5. Get some GRATITUDE going. This was not the easiest on my personal list, but I can truthfully say that once I cultivated the practice of daily gratitude I found I consistently have more to be grateful for.
I find that meditation and/or prayer go hand in hand with this practice. I am not a religious person, but do have a spiritual life. In order to find complete balance, I believe that one needs some sort of spiritual practice. This is not to say that I think everybody should be in church! Rather, it is that sense of knowing we are not alone; that there exists a power higher than ourselves. This can be very freeing and liberating for those who are anxious or stressed. I find that prayer though very personal, is somewhat universal among healthy people. It is less about how it "looks" and more about how it feels to connect with your higher power.
For me, I like to start my day thinking of three things that I am grateful for. I don't have to struggle very long to find three things. The more often you do this, the more you will think of. It can be as simple as being grateful you woke up today! For me, I am often grateful for the love of my family pets, as they enrich my life so much. I do advocate meditation, or just sitting quietly and being reflective for several minutes per day. I think that in our exceedingly hectic, verbal, loud and busy lives we benefit from sitting quietly with our breath and just being. Breathing in, breathing out and letting our mind be open and free. It may induce sleepiness; it may inspire great fits of creativity or joy. But, it is a helpful tool to find balance and to remain in the flow of all that life has to offer.
Think of gratitude as an essential tool for your daily life. If you take a daily vitamin, you can take a daily inventory of what you are grateful for. It will go at least as far as the vitamin in establishing health and wellbeing.
These are my 5 tips. There are many more ideas I could share for wellbeing, but in my opinion these are five essential and relatively simple tips to begin adding to your daily routine.
Over time, a lot of these habits will become so ingrained as to not even consciously think of implementing them.
I know that I personally have a life that is much more comfortable, joyful and positive since I instituted these tips in my life. I have lost weight, improved my sleep, my elimination is healthier and I have more physical and spiritual energy than ever before.
Try these tips for yourself and see what results you experience. You will be pleasantly surprised how easy it is to feel better with a little bit of daily effort.
So, breathe, move, drink water, eat your veggies and remember to be grateful for the good in your life. Your body and soul will thank you.
Ava on December 12, 2014:
I can say with honesty: if I were to make my own list I would have included the same 5. You are right that simplicity is essential. Life is simple. Ha... well... it should be! ;-)