We’re all in search of a happy and healthy body, each trudging through life looking for the elusive “magic” health pill. I’m sorry to burst your bubble but that “magic” pill just doesn’t exist. Happiness and health are not found, but a way of life. It takes hard work, desire, and time to create the picture of happiness and health that’s ideal for your own situation. The following five steps are basic guidelines for living a healthy and happy lifestyle.
One: Ditch processed foods
Boxed potatoes, cake mix, mac and cheese, yes these may all be easy and fast ways to create “food,” but we have to first ask ourselves what exactly is food? Marriam-Webster defines food as “material consisting essentially of protein, carbohydrate, and fat used in the organism of a body to sustain growth, repair, and vital processes and to furnish energy.” Or “something that nourishes, sustains, or supplies.” Does the “food” you eat accomplish this task? If your diet is comprised mostly of processed foods that are filled with artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives, the answer is an overwhelming NO. These “foods” are known to have a negative effect on our physical and mental wellbeing.
What constitutes food that “nourishes, sustains, or supplies” our bodies you may ask? I tend to follow this one rule – Can you reproduce the product, in it’s entirety, in your own kitchen? For most processed foods, I would bet the answer is no. The fool proof way is to cook the way your great-grandma would have, with whole foods straight from the garden and pasture. While most of us do not live on farms, we have the convenience of large grocery stores where whole foods are abundant.
Tip: Just stick to the perimeter of the grocery store and skip the aisles; the perimeter is where the whole foods are found.
Two: Move, move, and keep on moving
Constant movement, no matter what kind, is imperative for good health. We are made to move, which in this day and age is lost through desk jobs, suburban living, and the convenience of modern technology. Studies show that exercise not only increases our physical well-being, but also our mental well-being. “I have no time for exercise,” you may say, but in reality the opposite is true, every minute of exercise is shown to increase life span by five minutes; therefore if you want to live longer and spend more quality time with the people who matter most in your life, moving more and exercising should be a priority on your list of life goals.
Tip: There are easy ways to move more in life – walk more: park at the end of the parking lot, take the stairs, exit public transport one stop before or after your stop. You can also do exercises such as squats and push-ups during your favorite shows, the opportunities for movement are endless.
Three: Drink more water, not calories
One of easiest ways to live a healthier lifestyle is to ditch the sugary, chemical laden drinks. I’m sorry to say that means soda (yes, especially diet sodas), fancy coffee drinks, so-called “sports” drinks, and juice. These drinks are filled with useless and harmful sugar and chemicals. Our bodies are made up of at least 2/3 water, therefore it would be intuitive that we drink mostly water. You’re not a fan of water you say? Join the club. Good thing there are many ways to make water more palatable – squeeze some citrus in, add a dash of 100% fruit juice, enjoy a cup of herbal tea.
Tip: Always carry a reusable water bottle with you, that way you will be constantly reminded to drink water throughout the day.
Would you be surprised if I said most people don’t know how to breathe? But breathing is something that is intuitive and innate you say. Yes, this is true, but stress relieving, health benefiting breathing takes some conscious effort for most of us. Buddha belly, aka diaphragm breathing, is what we should strive for. When breathing in through our noses we should try and imagine we are bringing our breath all the way into our stomachs, thus creating a “Buddha belly.” And we then exhale through our mouths, letting all the air out of our “bellies.” When feeling stressed or anxious doing as little as 10 of these Buddha belly breaths will instantly calm us down, as we are finally getting the air we need to nourish our bodies.
Tip: Take the time each day to really breathe – while driving, showering, cooking, anytime – breathe in through your nose for a count of 5, hold for a count of 5, and then exhale through your mouth for a count of 5. Repeat for as long as you want.
Five: Clear the air
The sad truth is we are surrounded by tens of thousands of untested chemicals, many of which are toxic, in our daily lives – from the foods we eat, water we drink, air we breathe, clothes we wear, cosmetic products we lather on, cleaning solutions we use, to the furniture we have in our houses. Of the chemicals commonly used in everyday products that actually have been tested, many have been shown to disrupt our hormones, cause developmental delays, instigate an allergy response, and even contribute to cancer growth.
While it’s impossible to eliminate all chemical exposure, it’s quite easy to reduce our exposure by changing the way we eat, clean, beautify, dress, and drink, for example:
If you’re just starting your health journey, take your time, change is hard and it surely doesn’t happen overnight. In fact, a study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology shows it takes an average of 66 days to imprint new behaviors into habits. Start with one step and once you feel ready, add in another step. It’s not a race, it’s a journey, and we want these lifestyle changes to become a routine way of life. Now choose a step and get your feet wet, I don’t think you’ll regret it!