Earlier in the summer, we started a conversation about life balance. We discussed some ideas and thoughts about balance, and we even gave a “challenge” of picking one thing you have been putting off around your “self care” and practicing it throughout the summer.
Some of you may have had lots of success with this challenge, and some of you may have been thwarted by summer activity and never even got started.
Whatever the case, you may have noticed that making a lifestyle change isn’t always as easy as just deciding to make a change and sticking with it. There are many other factors that can get in the way of our success and because of this we often need support. There are currently several studies and theories discussing what gives us “will power” and our ability to make decisions around change. In future articles, we will get deeper into these but for now let’s talk in a little more detail about a few habits that can create a great foundation to set you up for success in creating more consistent balance and the ability to recover more gracefully when you falter.
The things I’m mentioning below are accumulative. It’s not usually the health choices we make every once and awhile that effects our health significantly; it’s what we do over and over, day to day in repetition, that over time affects your health for better or worse. This is true of food choices, physical actions, mental attitudes, relationships, and even our external environment.
There are many things to consider as you build your house of balance and wellness. Let’s begin with the foundation…
3 Things to Consider for a Balanced Lifestyle:
These first three are your foundation. To build a house you need a strong and sturdy foundation. These are usually the easiest to start with and will give immediate return when practiced.
This includes how much you’re getting (too little or even too much), quality of sleep, what time you choose to go to bed, and what time you get up. All can affect your health over time. There is a direct relationship between the quantity and quality of sleep, immune function (ability to fight off infections), mental attitude/mood, and our ability to manage stress.
Simple Suggestions around Sleep:
- Turn off electronics at least one hour before bedtime, and do some relaxing activities in low light like reading under candle light. (If you read with a Kindle, try doing it in darkness with the light set at its lowest setting.)
- Make your bedroom as dark as possible. Or wear a sleep mask.
- Take an epsom salt bath one hour before bed.
- If possible, get to bed by around 10:30pm and preferably to sleep by 11pm. Try to get 7-8 hours of sleep per night.
- I often refrain from making this suggestion out of fear of a mass rebellion… Eliminate coffee/caffeine for a few weeks, and see if your sleep improves and energy and moods stabilize. (It’s just a suggestion! Please don’t show up at my door with pitchforks and torches.)
All the substances you put in your body your cells have to deal with. What cannot be used is discarded, and your body has to process the waste products. Your body is amazing and does this extremely efficiently, however, the more processed, refined, and altered substances that are void of nutrients that flow through the body (i.e. refined sugar, processed grains/flours, deep fried/overcooked foods, corn syrups, natural flavoring, artificial flavoring, aspartame, MSG, BHT, drugs, excess alcohol consumption, etc.), the harder it becomes for it to maintain balance and attempt homeostasis.
Simple Suggestions around Nutrition:
- Shop in the outer edges of the grocery store where they keep the freshest unprocessed foods.
- Eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables with a multicolored arrangement of phytonutrients.
- Avoid processed foods in packages as much as possible.
- Get in the habit of reading labels and avoid foods with added sugars, corn syrups, preservatives, etc. Also, look at serving size. If it says 6 grams of sugar per serving, but at the top there are 4 servings in the bottle, that means 24 grams of sugar in the bottle.
Our bodies are meant to move. We build energy by using some energy. We get stronger through bearing the right amount of resistance. Moving our bodies at the very least one hour per day, ideally in an intentional and mindful fashion, is necessary for mental and emotional balance. There is still no pill on the market that is a replacement for the mental and physical benefits of proper amounts of exercise.
Simple Suggestions around Exercise:
- Do types of exercise that you mostly enjoy. Don’t do exercise that you hate and resent unless you think you can learn to love it over time.
- Know your personality. If you know you won’t do it in the evening, then schedule it in the morning or visa-versa. If you know you won’t do it on your own, then get a partner you can be accountable to, or pre-pay for a series of classes that you are expected to show up for.
- Do exercise that builds energy and doesn’t deplete.
- Get to know your constitution, based on body type, blood type, personality, and do types of exercise that support your constitution. (Chinese Medicine, Ayurveda, and Blood type all have models you can check your constitution with and use as a framework)
These are your foundational three.
When I get off track because of travel, illness, or abnormally busy times, I always say start with these three: Sleep, Food, and Exercise. Drink more water, eat lots of fresh organic fruits and vegetables, get an hour of some form of exercise that energizes but doesn’t deplete you, and get on a regular routine sleep schedule. Once you get these things into place for 3-6 months, your body and mind will be primed with proper sleep, nutrients, and energizing movement. Then, you can begin incorporating some of the other habits we will be mentioning in future articles.
We cannot always do everything on our own. It’s good to have support from practitioners who emphasize “preventative care.” Ask for support when you feel you need it from a Life Balance and Nutritional Counselor like Heather or Nathan (for more info click here), a naturopath, Chinese medical doctor, and of course when appropriate or necessary a psychotherapist and/or allopathic care provider. Work on surrounding yourself with friends and family who support you in making healthy choices and spend as much time out in nature as possible.
Remember this is your life happening right now. Not at some future date that may not come. The time to make your life better and improve your health is right in this moment. The more you practice it, the better at it you will be. Like any other skill in life you have to practice it to get better at it. Start practicing today!