By Cassi Villanueva
The twentieth century is an exciting time to live. Technology is so advanced that whether it be completing a last minute task for work or ordering dinner, almost everything can be done at the push of a button. While this gives us the opportunity to fit more into our day, it also has the ability to burden us with less downtime and more stress, both of which can lead to fatigue and illness. While modern medicine would have an eighteenth century time traveler on his knees claiming a miracle, let’s not forget that history holds a wealth of knowledge that is still beneficial to us today. Even the most experienced specialist and skilled surgeon will attest to the fact that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Annual or biannual dentist appointments, eye exams, and check-ups are important for making sure our body is functioning effectively, but the work we do in between those visits is what keeps us healthy and strong. Put simply, if you take good care of your body on a daily basis, you will have less repair work to do later on. Just like a person following Weight Watchers has to put in the weekly effort to see his or her results at each weigh-in, so too does optimal health require constant maintenance.
If you are looking for a way to minimize stress, reduce fatigue and ward off illness, regularly incorporate these four simple, yet tried and true practices into your life regularly, for a more energized and healthy you.
- Good Nutrition
Calories, carbs, protein – pick up any packaged item at the grocery store or nutritional pamphlet at your local restaurant and you’ll see the facts about nutrition detailed down to the last gram of sugar. Whether you are a hard core Paleo fan or new to the Vegan lifestyle, there is certainly no lack of options out there. We live in a society that makes many nutritious diets, regimens and options easily accessible, so take advantage of them! Health Hints: Grabbing a bite for lunch with friends? Choose a bistro that offers more wholesome, organic choices. Need to ward off hunger pains during your evening commute? Grab a green juice and enjoy a powerful punch of nutrition while keeping hydrated.
Also, since 80% of your immune system is in your gastrointestinal (GI) tract, by adopting a health-conscious approach to the way you eat, you strengthen and fortify your body with each healthy bite you take. Probiotics, live bacteria and yeasts that are good for your health, are an important part of a healthy diet. When ingested, probiotics replenish the microflora in your intestinal tract, which ultimately enhances digestive function and helps keep your digestive tract healthy and strong. Health Hints: Probiotics can be found in unfermented and fermented milk, yogurts, miso, tempeh, soy drinks and some juices. They can also be taken in pill form if you have a hard time regularly incorporating these items into your diet.
- Regular Exercise
Scientific research has repeatedly shown that regular exercise is necessary for maintaining good physical and mental health. While the daily stressors of life can lead to fatigue and illness, maintaining a good exercise regimen can provide an increase in energy and clarity. Regular exercise decreases anxiety, mood swings, and other effects of stress, such as headaches, high blood pressure and heart problems. Experts claim that just 3 hours a week of moderate activity (think, 30 minutes a day) can significantly improve health. And the good news is that the type of exercise doesn’t matter as long as you are moving, so get to it! Health Hints: Don’t let lack of time or motivation be an excuse to skip a workout. Set your alarm for an hour earlier than your normal wake-up time and pop in a Pilates DVD before showering. Make plans to meet a friend 2 days a week for a scenic run or jog around Central Park. Hit up a yoga studio for an hour-long class on the weekends. Pick something you actually enjoy and you’ll be twice as likely to stick with it.
Many historians believe that for as long as we have existed, meditation has been practiced by humans, in an attempt to remove ourselves from stress. Moderate stress may be good for us, but severe or prolonged stress can have devastating consequences on our health. There are many different styles of meditation ranging from Acem, where you mentally repeat a meditation sound (a combination of consonants and vowels, which has no meaning) without effort while thoughts and impressions are allowed to come and go freely – to Qi Gong, which typically involves moving meditation, coordinating slow-flowing movement, deep rhythmic breathing, and a calm meditative state of mind.
Transcendental Meditation (a type of mantra meditation), uses a simple, natural technique practiced for 20 minutes twice a day while sitting comfortably with the eyes closed, and is becoming increasingly popular. A recent study claimed that the effortless technique of Transcendental Meditation was found to be twice as effective as other ways used to deal with stress and anxiety. Gary Kaplan M.D., a neurologist at NYC Medical School says, “Though Transcendental Meditation is a mental technique, due to the mind-body relationship the practice has extensive physiological effects. TM allows the mind to settle very deeply inward—in a natural way. TM teachers call this effortless transcending. It’s what sets TM apart and why the technique is so beneficial for mind and body, right from the start.” Health Hint: Set aside some time – even if it’s just five to ten minutes at first – to explore the different varieties of meditation and choose one that feels most comfortable to you.
- Sufficient Sleep
Proper nutrition, exercise, and meditation are great, but they aren’t going to help you very much if you aren’t getting a decent amount of zzz’s. Sleep is absolutely essential for your health and wellbeing. While individual sleep needs vary person to person, experts recommend an average of 8 hours a night. In an age where laptops and iPhones are as common as pillows in bed, it can be hard to unplug and leave the day’s work behind, but it is crucial to your health. Health Hints: It’s recommended to avoid screen time at least an hour before bed, so switch out your wireless device for a cup of herbal tea and a good book before hitting the hay. Light stretching for five to ten minutes can also help prepare you for sleep by releasing tension from your body and increasing oxygen flow. Feeling relaxed before drifting off will help you reach a deeper sleep state sooner and allow you to reap the benefits of a good night’s sleep. Have something on your mind that you still can’t shake once you’re lying down? Grab a pen and jot it in a bedside journal. After you’ve written it down, let it go until the next day when you can readdress it with a fresh mind. Make sure your blinds are drawn, the temperature is comfortable, and try to latch on to positive thoughts as you drift off.
The human body is an amazing and efficient machine. In the time it takes you to read this sentence, approximately 50,000 cells in your body will die and be replaced with new cells. We are constantly in a state of bettering ourselves, even when we aren’t consciously working at it. As with any machine, however, our bodies can weaken from the normal wear and tear of everyday life. By incorporating Good Nutrition, Exercise, Meditation and Suffiient Sleep into your regular routine, you’ll give yourself a better chance at avoiding the fatigue and illness that so easily creeps in when the body is overtaxed, and enjoy a healthier, happier life.