Everyone wants to be healthy, whether it is realized or not; we all have a desire to watch our children grow up, to hold and play with our grand kids, travel the world as we retire, and enjoy every moment of a disease free life. These are all common dreams many people share, yet the way we live our lives are not conducive to living those dreams.
Many of us are burning the candle on both ends; it seems as if with all the conveniences of smart phones that help with this and a machine to help with that, we have less time to devote to taking care of our bodies and minds. Technology seems to have taken our attention away from the self and transported it across the galaxy to be lost amongst the stars.
I would like to help you get back to focusing on yourself; the only portal you have to navigate this amazing world. It’s never too late to start focusing on cleaning up your diet (which you can read about in earlier posts) and today is the perfect day to integrate healthy, body and mind improving activities into your everyday tasks.
Small changes lead to big results
To be successful at making changes stick in your life, you’ve got to start thinking of your ideal healthy body and mind not as a destination but a lifelong goal. There are some changes that should be immediately implemented, to invoke and perpetuate change, yet many of the tasks leading to a healthy mind and body are done slowly on a small scale.
The first small change in your life should be directed towards your diet. A clean diet is the single most important factor when it comes to a healthy body and mind. I don’t have to tell you that a healthy diet is important for your body but studies are showing that a healthy diet can also improve anxiety and depression( 1). Hours spent lifting heavy weights at the gym or tirelessly trudging along on a treadmill is an uphill battle that you will never win until you embrace healthy changes in your diet. A recent study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine supports the idea “you can’t outrun a bad diet”(2).
Get rid of all the unhealthy foods in your house, today, by donating it to your local food pantry. Things that you can keep are canned or frozen vegetables that contain nothing more than that vegetable, unprocessed honey, and condiments (since they are such a small portion of your overall diet, they aren’t important right now but will be in the future). Get rid of flour, sugary drinks, ice cream (yes, even the ice cream!), cookies, candy…anything that isn’t in a raw form that came directly from the ground, a plant, or an animal. The most important thing here is to eliminate temptations and force yourself to eat healthier by providing yourself with only healthy choices.
The first steps toward your goal of an overall healthy body and mind are the toughest. There will be many setbacks along the way and the easiest way to avoid those setbacks is to remove all temptations until you gain some ground on your ideal self. The more you progress towards your overall goal the easier it will be to ignore the urges to eat processed foods and those delicious looking donuts your coworker keeps bringing into the office.
Hang a calendar to keep organized and plan meals. The road to a healthy body and mind is littered with failures. If it was easy, everyone would be walking around looking like Brad Pitt in Fight Club and talking like the holiness himself, the Dalai Lama. What I have learned over the years is that a healthy life comes down to two factors, organization and discipline. I skimmed over the discipline portion above (it gets easier the longer you do it) and the best way to keep organized is by first hanging a calendar on your refrigerator. Before you go grocery shopping, pick out a couple recipes that you will have time to cook during the week. If you are crunched for time, crock pot recipes are your best bet. Chop up the vegetables the night before, store them overnight and throw it all in the crock pot in the morning. Being greeted by the wonderful smell of a freshly cooked meal, with very little work, will keep you on track to healthy eating. Plan your meals for the week and write them down on the calendar so you know what you will need to prepare the night before or the morning of, which covers organization. If you are engaging in an exercise program, write down on the calendar the days you plan on working out, which will make you more accountable.
Add static stretches to your everyday activities. Stretching isn’t just for athletes, the benefits of stretching are worth the time you will put into it. Benefits of adding stretching to your daily routine include: increased flexibility and range of motion, improved circulation, better posture, stress relief, and enhanced coordination (3). A healthy body and mind is one that is without stress, which seems to be almost impossible at this time in our existence. One of the ways the body reacts to physical and emotional stress is by tightening muscles which over time creates poor posture and studies are showing poor posture effects your mood and level of happiness (4). Add stretches to everyday activities and kill two birds with one stone. I’m sure you already brush your teeth twice a day for 2-3 minutes each time, like you should, so this is a perfect opportunity to throw your straight leg up on the bathroom sink (or the toilet if you need to start slower) and stretch out your hamstrings. Think about how much time is spent sitting at a traffic light; try stretching out your wrists and forearms. There are times you have the ability to add a few stretches into your day, you just need to be aware of that time and be disciplined enough to follow through with the activity.
In conclusion, you are the only one responsible for your own health. You have all the information in the world right here in your fingertips, you just need the motivation, discipline, and organization to go out and make the changes that will improve your life.
Be part of the solution and not the problem.
Chad R. Puschel