Staying healthy has been a challenge over recent months. Starting a business is a full-time affair. Like some kind of inanimate baby, it demands all of our time, our finances, and our loving care.
Jason and I are constantly evolving our commitment to health, each day coming closer to practicing everything we preach. We're still human and slip backward from time to time, but being fully immersed in our passion for health and happy living has led us to learning what habits have made the greatest overall impact on our health.
On to the 8 habits (in no particular order):
#1: Sleep with the window open
This is obviously a seasonal treat, and now is the time we can fully enjoy this habit, especially here in the delicious Rogue Valley.
Research has demonstrated many times the remarkable difference between our indoor household air and the air just outside our homes; the quality is incomparable.
Even if you filter your air, it is important to let fresh outdoor air inside when possible. If you suffer from allergies, don't open windows that parallel wind flow from pollen-forming trees and plants (and please come see me to work on treating your allergies!).
The difference is not only for the air quality within our homes, but for the quality of our sleep. Research has demonstrated that poor indoor air quality increases the risk for breathing problems during sleep (see here for more). So, conversely, improving air quality at night leads to deeper sleep and less risk of sleep apnea. Researchers suppose that it is the higher quantity of oxygen in the fresh air that prevents the sleep apnea and leads to a deeper sleep.
#2: Use less stuff
Alright, that's pretty broad. But it's an accurate description of an important component of what I believe to be a healthy life.
This one may not be a surprise. We all know exercise is important. But as we age, we are beginning to feel the old adage "use it or lose it."
Movement goes beyond fitness. Movement is essential to keep up a high quality of life. And movement is therapy.
"I walk at work all of the time." No, that doesn't cut it. Unconscious, required movement and movement under stress is not therapeutic. It serves a purpose, but it's not the type of movement I'm talking about here.
Jason and I know we can only go so long without consciously doing some kind of physical activity before we start to get stressed out and tired. This doesn't mean we have to run 5 miles a day. The movement can be as simple as a walk or 15 minutes of stretching, but it must be done and done regularly. Yoga, walking, Qi gong meditation, jogging, stretching-- something. Just take time to consciously move.
#4: Sleep as much as possible
For me personally, sleep takes priority over movement. I cannot relate to those who wish they did not need sleep. I love sleep! And without it, my brain still functions, but my body gives out. If I consistently get 7 hours or less for a few nights in a row, I will probably come down with a head cold or some other stress-related illness.
Sleep is restoration. It is as much food for our body as our meals are. Don't starve yourself or deprive yourself from the best passive nourishment you can get. Make a full night of sleep a high priority. (And if you are having problems sleeping, please see your favorite acupuncturist and get that sorted out!)
#5: Crock pots, freezing leftovers, everything salads
I consider food to be my most important preventative health treatment (other than sleep, of course). We make an effort to eat very healthily: only organic produce, grass-fed meats, home cooked meals.
We've got the routine down. We know what to buy, where to shop, what to cook. Our biggest risk of failure is time. When we are busy, tired, trying to do too much, it becomes too easy to give in to convenience: quick foods, eating out, skipping meals.
I don't know how working people live without a crock pot. We depend on that lovely device almost daily. It always welcomes us home at night with a warm dinner, filling the air of the kitchen with the aroma of thank-goodness-for-that-crock-pot-I-am-so-hungry.
Aside from the crock pot, I use other strategies to make meal preparation fail-proof. Plan ahead for meals and leave nothing to chance (or laziness). Make big meals and freeze the leftovers for a quick and easy lunch to take to work.
When you don't want to cook, make an "everything salad." This is an easy way to make a quick healthy meal that avoids having you eat too many carbs. Whatever you want to eat, throw it on the salad: meats, nuts, fruits, cheese, veggies. And take a glass jar, throw in some vinegar, lemon or lime with the oil of your choice and seasonings, and shake. You instantly have a healthy home-made dressing sealed in its own container if you need to take it with you.
Find your own strategies to make eating healthy easier, faster, and more convenient so you don't give in to the temptation to eat less-healthy choices.
#6: Be spontaneous
What? That's silly.
After all of the patients I've treated over the years, I conclude that stress is the biggest cause of damage to our health. And it's awfully hard to hold on to stress when we're being silly.
Let go! Go nuts and do something out of the ordinary. Surprise someone around you by acting completely spontaneously. Last night when Jason and I were cleaning up the kitchen, I stopped what I was doing and broke into a ridiculous dance, and then pretended nothing happened. Of course he broke out laughing, and the humor carried through all the way to bed time.
Spontaneity breaks you out of your routine, and breaks your body and mind out of any stressful patterns you were stuck in. And better yet, it's often contagious. Such a gift, anyone you act spontaneously around runs the risk of being so surprised they too drop out of their stressful pattern and join you in child-like joy.
#7: Get outside every day View from the top of Woodrat mountain in Southern Oregon.
It doesn't matter where or for how long, just get outside. Particularly if the weather outside is pleasant like it has been.
There are many reasons to get outside. Here are three that pertain very directly and strongly to our health:
#8: Have a purpose
Without a good reason to be living out our days, it's hard to stay happy or to keep a good perspective when challenges arise.
Having a greater purpose in life is a personal choice; it's not simply handed to you. It may be a religious reason for being. It may be a spiritual inter-connectedness with others. It may be for the sake of your children. It may be to be a steward of the earth and all of it's creatures. It may be to solve life's mysteries. It may be simply to help others.
What the purpose is doesn't matter as much as having it. Most everyone has concluded some degree of purpose simply by being alive. Being alive isn't easy, and making it through difficult times can be nearly impossible without some sense of perspective that your current problems mean something different in the bigger picture.
Whatever your purpose is, define it further. Be conscious of it. Discuss it with the ones you love, and let it guide your every decision in life. It will make your challenges easier to face, and better allow you to see how all of your gifts eventually return to you.