Personal health is something we often forget about when the overwhelming responsibilities of life take over. We are living in times where stress can easily take its toll on our bodies, minds, and spirits. Furthermore, aging lowers resistance to certain diseases. It is important that we protect ourselves. Sometimes prevention is the only option you have to fight against illness. True health isn’t about medicating the symptoms; it’s about curing the cause. Your body is your temple, your instrument, and the one place you’ll always live. Personal health should be your top priority – But there’s so much information out there about health and wellness. What’s real and how do you start?
1. Cardio training
Never underestimate the power of great cardio training. While cardiovascular training benefits are proven over and over again, it’s easy to get stuck in that neverending limbo between ‘’Oh yeah, I am definitely starting next week’’ and ‘’I can’t find enough time to start working out’’. Our bodies are created to move to use this stunning evolutionary machine the right way. Not everyone is a runner, but the good news is there are tons of cardio options out there now. Find something that excites you! Kickboxing, Zumba, Spin Class, Pound class, long vigorous walks with your dog, whatever makes you show up and see it through. The benefits of cardio are just too vast to ignore.
First – your heart will be healthier and stronger. As we know – heart disease is a leading cause of death in the USA. Cardio also promotes healthy weight loss by burning calories during the workout and raising your heart rate after to keep that metabolism buzzing. Internally or externally, if extra pounds have been bothering you for a long time, cardio is the most important step in getting rid of them. Another amazing attribute to cardio is lowered stress levels. Not only is cardio a natural stress relief (thank you, endorphins!), but you will have a better night sleep (good-bye, cortisol!) and it can help when dealing with frequent anxiety attacks. Cardio training will also help with maintaining healthy bones, as every training increases bone density. Cool right? Let me stop you before you start with your favorite excuse – you don’t need an expensive class or to wait for Monday. Start now. Take a quick walk. When the walk is over, you will feel better instantly.
2. Quit smoking – leave that cigarette right now
If you enjoy a good smoke and think that ‘’a man without vices is a man without any virtue’’… well, we need to break the bad news to you. Smoking is bad for you. It is a very nasty habit that has very real medical consequences. Man is a creature of habits – it is true – and many addiction professionals say that quitting smoking is harder than quitting heroin. Let’s see the anatomy of one single cigarette: Approximately 70 of the chemicals in cigarettes are known to cause cancer. The most notorious ingredients are benzene, formaldehyde and vinyl chloride. Not to mention toxic metals like arsenic and cadmium – one is used as a rat poison and it could find its way into cigarette smoke through some of the pesticides used in tobacco farming. Formaldehyde is used for embalming dead bodies – why do you want to put a pack of that into your body every day?
Take this advice and throw that smoke away. We know it is not an easy task, but there are products on the market designed to aid you as you kick the habit, once and for all. Cold turkey is not always the best approach though, contrary to popular culture. Start by decreasing your number of cigarettes in a day. Or there are even options that make the process less painful. Many people, for example, start vaping because it is a safer alternative to smoking. The creator of vaping was actually inspired to create this alternative because his father died of lung cancer. If you decide to take this step you need to be well informed about vaping equipment and how everything works – about atomizers, different kinds of vape tanks, and different e-liquids, amount of nicotine etc. Vaping eliminates daily ingestion of formaldehyde and rat poison while the smoker processes their habit and finds a healthy way to address it.
3. Stop drinking extra calories
What are those little nasty things called calories? I’m pretty sure they live in your closet and shrink your clothes while you are not watching. Jokes aside, the truth is that we consume many extra calories daily without even realizing it. How? Liquid calories. Are you guilty of consuming one extra super duper sweet latte with whipped cream a day? It’s costing you in more places than your wallet. Many juices are promoted as healthy but are riddled with hidden sugars. And then you get confused – how am I gaining weight when I’ve reduced my nutrition? Do you really want to know how many calories you have in your venti caramel frappuccino half-caf extra whip 3 pm pick-me-up? (Answer: No.) With one drink like that, you could easily take in half of your daily caloric intake.
So drink only good old plain coffee and enjoy the pure aroma of robusta or arabica grains, without sweet traps. Or opt for green tea. When in doubt, drink a glass of water- and repeat at least 8 times a day. Your skin will thank you for it, you will feel more hydrated, and you will be healthier. Try setting an alarm on your phone to remind you to drink more water.
4. Eat a handful of nuts and one extra fruit a day
Like it or not, we secretly love fast food. It is tasty, smells heavenly and is so convenient when you’re driving back and forth between work and all of your family obligations. But the undeniable truth is: Fast food will not provide you with any of the important nutrients your body needs as fuel to function. Bummer, huh? Set one day a month when you can treat yourself with your favorite guilty pleasure. But in the meantime, enjoy little healthy snacks. While you are watching your favorite television show, have a handful of peanuts, cashews or pistachios. It contains healthy fats that will support brain function and a big kick of protein. If you prefer sweets more than salty snacks – fruit can help. Pick your favorite color and enjoy! Or make a healthy smoothie with all kinds of fruit. It can be your new daily ritual.
5. Take a deep breath
Recent studies have shown that most people are not breathing properly. Seems crazy for something that comes so naturally, but it’s true! Unintentionally you may be messing up your sleep, mood, digestion, heart, nervous system, muscles, and brain. When we are nervous or anxious we tend to breathe from our chests, instead of low diaphragm breaths. The chest breath signals to our brain that we are under stress and the natural “Fight or Flight” instincts kick in, releasing cortisol throughout your body. You will feel off but probably couldn’t put your finger on the exact cause. A dysfunctional breathing pattern, like a short and forced one, results in a tense body and much higher levels of stress. You need your oxygen and so do your organs – so use it wisely. Simply – relax and take a deep breath. Breath in through your nose and out through your mouth – breathe slowly and rhythmically. Notice how it makes you feel. There, now everything makes sense again and life seems a little more doable, doesn’t it?
6. Good night sleep
Sleeping habits have changed over the years. Lots of people are night owls and have their own biorhythm. It is completely fine if you like it this way – did you know that it is proven that creativity works better in the night? Regardless of your sleeping schedule, the bigger question is: how do you wake up? Do you get up rested with a smile on your face? Or are you grumpy, snoozing that evil alarm for an hour, contemplating how long you can sleep and still get to work on time? If the latter is you, it’s time for major changes. Just like everything – you need to set your sleeping time. You need to get 7-8 hours a night for optimum function as an adult. In order to achieve that, however, you may need to set the mood and atmosphere. Forget about the TV, laptop or mobile phone – digital lights will only distract you from getting rest and signal to your brain that you are still active. Two hours before you go to sleep try to not eat anything that will be heavy on your stomach. Instead, herbal tea is an excellent choice. If you want to try supplements, opt for melatonin – it will calm you. Make a new bedtime habit: move your tv and laptop from the bedroom and leave your mobile phone out of reach – the next morning you will thank me. Bonus tip: Check if you have a problem with sleep apnea. It can be very dangerous and affects your entire body.
7. Be thankful
The most important thing is to be happy with yourself. True health is when your inner and outer self-are in sync. We can help you with small yet effective changes that will improve your life’s quality, but the most important element is always going to be you. Do you like yourself and this life you’ve made? Be thankful for what you have right now and take steps to change the things that no longer benefit you ….and accept the things you can’t change. List what you’re grateful for every night quietly and observe as each day brings you more gratitude to share with the world.