The start of a new year gets a lot of people thinking about how they can get or stay healthy. I’ll talk about five ways we can all improve our health this year, naturally!
You’ll see that these all play into each other as well. If you’re staying hydrated, eating well, exercising, and lowering your stress, you will probably sleep better. Exercising may lower your stress levels. Sleeping well may give you that extra boost of energy to exercise more.
Our bodies are amazing and the more tools we give it to succeed the better we’ll be and feel.
1. STAY HYDRATED
This is so important, and sadly, many people, myself included, don’t consume enough water every day. This could be the root of many ailments because our bodies depend on water for daily functions. Do you have a headache, are you tired, are you always sick? Maybe you just need more water. Did you know that many vitamins and minerals are water soluble? That means if you’re not getting enough water, your body is also not able to fully and properly absorb nutrients. Dr. Kurt enlightened me on the subject in his post, The Urinal Reveal. Be sure to check it out and poke around his blog for tons of information and many rants about healthy living.
So how much water should you be drinking every day? The popular belief is that everyone needs 8 cups of water, but that’s not necessarily true. The best way to figure out how much water your body needs (not including additional water for exercise) is to divide your body weight by 2. The result in ounces should be your daily intake. For example, someone weighing in at 150 pounds should drink 75 ounces (a little over 9 cups) of water daily.
A great way to stay hydrated and be able to track your daily water intake is to use a travel water bottle. Take note of how many ounces the bottle holds, fill the bottle up in the morning and throughout the day, and make it your goal to drink “x” number of bottles a day.
2. EAT A BALANCED DIET
There are so many fad diets out there it’s hard to keep track and know what to eat, how much and when. If you’ve been around here a while, you already know my stance on healthy eating, but I’ll reiterate for the rest of you. I cannot stress enough that eating healthy is not a diet in the common sense of the word; it’s part of a healthy lifestyle. First, you need to get your mind set on living a healthy life and the rest will fall into place. It’s more work to eat healthy. You actually have to take care to make food from scratch and read ingredient labels and research what healthy foods are to begin with. But trust me, it’s worth it, and before you know it, it doesn’t even seem like extra work anymore, it’s just normal.
A great place to start is with a balanced diet rich in whole foods, cutting out processed foods altogether, and cutting down on sugar (it’s bad for your intestines and causes blood sugar spikes!). Some ways to help you with sugar cravings are to replace processed sweets (like cakes, cookies, candy) with fresh fruits, and use raw honey or molasses in place of granulated, powdered and brown sugars. Eating whole, nutritious foods allows are immune systems to focus on healing rather than constantly fighting.
Here are some examples (not a comprehensive list) of whole foods you could incorporate into your balanced diet:
Healthy Fats: olive oil, avocados, nuts (raw, roasted, milks, butters), grass-fed whole dairy products (milk, cheeses, yogurt)
Protein: grass-fed beef, pastured eggs and organic pastured chicken
Complex Carbs: whole grains (brown rice, millet, quinoa, whole wheat), beans (garbanzo, black, white, pinto)
Vegetables (fiber/nutrients): greens (kale, spinach, broccoli), root vegetables (carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes, beets, celery root), squashes (zucchini, butternut, acorn, pumpkin), cabbages (red, white, brussels sprouts), mushrooms, celery, tomatoes
Fruits (fiber/nutrients): apples, bananas, dates, grapes, kiwi, mangoes, berries (strawberries, raspberries, cranberries, blueberries, boysenberries), citrus (oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruits)
Probiotics: fermented foods (yogurt, milk kefir, water kefir, kombucha, sourdough bread (whole grain please!), soft cheeses (gouda), sauerkraut, miso soup), supplements (Wellness Mama has some good insight)
I understand not everyone is physically able to eat all types of food because of health conditions or allergies, and others choose to avoid grains and some/all animal products. This is just a starting point to give you an idea of what a healthy diet could look like for you.
A few blogs I like: 100 Days of Real Food, Food Babe, Detoxinista, Against All Grain, Shalom Mama, Modern Alternative Mama
3. EXERCISE DAILY
Even a small amount of light exercise every day can get you on the right track. Staying active keeps your immune system in tip top shape, can help lower stress, and can even get you from craving junk food to craving filling, wholesome food (it does for me!).
Some ways to get off your butt and get moving: walk or run around the block or a park (take your pooch to kill two birds with one stone!), play outside with your kids, ride a bike, roller blade, walk to dinner instead of driving, walk during a work break, clean the house (again, two birds!), do yoga or pilates, go to the gym, workout at home (weights, floor exercises, jump rope), while shopping in a large outdoor center, walk from store to store instead of driving.
Our busy, always-on-the-go society sometimes frowns upon relaxing, but I urge you to make some time each day to simply “be.” Turn off the tv, stop making lists, put down the cell phone, stop planning for tomorrow and just appreciate the moment. Forget about the stressors of life.
Stress has a direct impact on our health and not only kills our immune systems, but drains all our energy.
Everyone is different, so something that may help lower your stress levels may not work for someone else. A few things I can think of to help you de-stress: meditation, taking a light walk, watching the sunrise/sunset, praying, taking a few deep breaths with your eyes closed, taking a nap, getting a massage, playing with your kids and pets, stretching, playing a game with the family.
5. SLEEP WELL
Getting a good night’s sleep can go a long way in keeping you healthy. When you wake up well rested, you’re in a better mood and feel better, so you’re more likely to do the rest of these on a regular basis. I know that’s how it works for me.
If you have trouble sleeping and/or getting to sleep, try some of these ideas: don’t eat late at night (stop eating at least 2 hours before bedtime – your body is busy at work digesting and processing food instead of getting to sleep), stay hydrated throughout the day (so you don’t wake up parched in the middle of the night), exercise (during the day, not right before bed – this raises your heart rate and internal body temp making it hard to fall and stay asleep), turn off the tube (don’t watch tv or browse the internet right before bed – it tricks your brain into thinking it’s still daytime), use lavender oil on your temples, forehead and/or chest (lavender is calming).
READER FEEDBACK: What are your favorite ways to stay healthy naturally?
P.S. This post can be found at Holistic Home Link Party!