Is there someone in your life who simply glows with an aura of radiant good health? Do you have a friend or acquaintance who flows with boundless energy, great physical presence and an endlessly positive attitude?
Perhaps this description fits you? Perhaps you’re the one who wakes up every morning fresh and enthused to tackle the challenges of the day. You laugh often, accept what the day brings with a smile, react to events with positivity and a can-do attitude, and have the endurance and stamina to stay present until bedtime. You sleep like a baby and dream sweet dreams, then awake with renewed inspiration for another glorious day on the planet…
…Or maybe you only wish this was you.
I consider my own health constantly. Not because I’m unhealthy, but because I am, and I am grateful. Cancer rates are escalating to all time highs despite leaps in medicine and technology, diabetes and obesity continue to rise despite undisputed evidence linking western diet to western diseases, and people are dropping dead of heart attacks at ever younger ages despite common knowledge that stress kills.
We recognize all around us the fragility of life, yet how many times do we need to hear someone who’s not well tell us we’re taking our health for granted before it sinks in? How often do we use the excuse of being too busy to go to the gym or too hurried to make a meal from scratch? How much longer can we put our trust in the government, the food industry, modern medicine and the pharmaceutical industry to care for our good health?
“A man too busy to take care of his health is like a mechanic too busy to take care of his tools.” Spanish proverb
A friend recently told me he’d put on 40 pounds in a year due to one “harmless” little lifestyle shift. Over the winter, he got into the daily habit of driving three or four blocks to his local Tim Horton’s for a coffee, double double, and a bagel with cream cheese, then driving home and chowing down. I wasn’t surprised that something so seemingly benign could wreak such destruction in his life. To eat, on a daily basis, a heavily refined white flour product topped with a refined dairy product, washed down with acidic coffee laced with too much cream and sugar, coupled with inactivity, is not a healthy habit. Along with the extra weight came depression, and he quickly entered a cycle of being home-bound, car-bound and attached possessively to his unhealthy habit.
This got me thinking about habits and how we usually associate the word with something bad or negative. I wondered how my friend could change his habit around. If he could gain 40 pounds in a year with one unhealthy habit, what could he do in a year with a few healthy habits?
It’s been my experience that when I take on new healthy habits, the old unhealthy ones tend to effortlessly fall away. I start to see and feel the benefits of a healthy habit quickly and begin to question my sanity in supporting an unhealthy habit for too long. And within no time, the results of a healthy habit start to show in my body, in my mind, in my emotions. I become my habits and my habits become me. People who take up yoga often find themselves quitting smoking. Not because they set out to quit smoking but because they start feeling so good the need for smoking simply dissolves.
I like to remind myself often that no matter how good I feel, no matter how healthy I believe I am, I can still become stronger, more vital, more balanced, more sound in body and mind, and I can continually strive to be free of ailment and disease. It’s a new year, it’s a new decade – there’s no better time to start a new healthy habit than today! Don’t worry about giving up old unhealthy ones. Just pick a healthy one and go from there.
Here are my Top 10 Daily Habits of Healthy Humans:
1. Take responsibility for your own health.
The number one thing you can do for your health is to claim personal responsibility for it. You can’t hire someone to do your sit-ups for you. Know that the doctor is not responsible for your health. Your yoga teacher is not responsible for your health. Prescription drugs are not responsible for your health. The government and its health care programs are not responsible for your health. Your grocery store is not responsible for your health. Your spouse is not responsible for your health. Your parents are not responsible for your health. Even God is not responsible for your health.
You’ve been given a body and a mind and you’ve been given free will and you are the only one who can choose spring water instead of coke, exercise instead of another hour of tv, laughter instead of conflict, sleep instead of alcohol and cigarettes, whole grain instead of bleached white, carrot sticks instead of candy bars, creativity instead of staring at your computer screen clicking into the rabbit hole…
So each day when you get up, smile, and say to yourself “Today I take full responsibility for my health.” In making that bold statement, you’ll find yourself learning more about what the healthy choices are for you, and you’ll quickly start to see that each and every choice you make affects your health in one way or another.
2. Eat whole foods, mostly plant-based, direct from the organic farmer.
“Your choice of diet can influence your long term health prospects more than any other action you might take.” Former US Surgeon General, C. Everett Koop
This healthy habit is what one whole section of Feel Good Guru is all about. Yes, for those of us not so enlightened that we can live on air alone, we really are what we eat. Food, in its purest form, really is medicine. Nature is miraculous in that it has provided us with every food we need to thrive. Humans, on the other hand, are astonishing in that we’ve managed to destroy so much in such a relatively short period of time. At best, the food industry has leeched most of the planet’s foods of their nutritional value, and at worst, plumped them full of toxins. The trick now is knowing which foods are medicine and which are poison.
Here are some hints for purchasing the highest quality calories:
- Stick to the outside edges of the grocery store – that’s where the real food is. The aisles are filled with packaged, boxed, canned, life-preserved foodstuffs. You’ll not only eat healthier shopping this way, you’ll avoid all kinds of unnecessary garbage in the form of excess packaging.
- Shop at your local farmers’ market. Every town or city has at least one. This is a great opportunity to forge a relationship with your food and your farmer. You’ll know exactly where it was grown, what chemicals or fertilizers, if any, were used, and most farmers, if you ask, will offer up their cooking secrets for the ingredients you’re purchasing. Eating directly from the farmer ensures that you’ll be eating in season, which is the way our bodies like it.
- Become a member in a small co-op where food is provided directly from farm to table, or join a produce delivery club where local organic vegetables in season are delivered weekly to your home in a box.
- Read ingredient labels. If there’s anything in it besides food, ie., anything you can’t pronounce, ditch it – or at least don’t make a habit of eating it.
- Grow your own! More and more people, even urban dwellers, are planting vegetable or herb gardens on their lawns, rooftops and windowsills. It’s a great way to empower yourself. I’m convinced that plants, like animals, respond to human energy. Good energy in = good energy out.
Of course, depending where we live, we can’t always eat organic, but the excuse should not be that it’s too expensive. Organic food, considering the back-breaking work that goes into it and the life-giving benefits we get from it, is still cheap in North America by global standards. By supporting industrial farming, with its widespread use of chemicals and genetically modified seeds, we’re perhaps paying less at the grocery store, but down the road, our costs will be much higher in environmental repair and health care.
So yes. Eat real food every day. Make it a habit and your health will benefit almost instantly. If you think you don’t have time, start with some of nature’s most perfect fast foods: a banana, an orange, an apple, an avocado or a handful of walnuts.
3. Get an hour of exercise every day. Yes – an hour.
“Those who think they have not time for bodily exercise will sooner or later have to find time for illness.” Edward Stanley
Our ancestors didn’t need the gym because they were constantly on the move growing food, making everything from scratch, busy from sunup to sundown. We, on the other hand, for the most part, sit at desks, then let the microwave “prepare” dinner, then sit on the couch. We absolutely need to move our bodies for an hour a day. Moving lubricates our joints, keeps our muscles strong and flexible and prevents atrophy.
The most common excuse for not exercising is that there’s no time, yet most of us can find two to six hours each day to watch television. Taking an hour a day for physical activity may require replacing one bad habit with a good one.
When we consider the happy side effects of a workout, this good habit is easy to adopt. Here’s a list of benefits from the Mayo Clinic:
- Improvement in mood. Confidence and self esteem are boosted with regular workouts. Chemicals in the brain are released during physical activity that make you feel happier and more relaxed. Feelings of depression and anxiety can be reduced.
- Combat chronic diseases. Regular working out can prevent or manage high blood pressure, help prevent type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis and certain types of cancer. Bad cholesterol is lowered and circulation improved.
- Weight management. This one truly is a no-brainer. The harder you work, the more calories you burn. A regular good sweat is the best way to lose weight.
- Strengthen heart and lungs. The entire circulatory system is exercised during a workout and that means a stronger heart and greater oxygen capacity in the lungs with translates as more energy for you.
- Better sleeps. Exercise, especially late in the afternoon, promotes deeper sleeps. If you have trouble sleeping, try working out at the end of your work day. You’ll fall asleep quickly and sleep like a baby.
- Better sex life. Feeling good about your body, having good circulation, feeling happier and having more energy all translates into a better sex life for men and women.
- Fun! It doesn’t have to be a chore. Find something you love, whether it’s rock climbing, roller blading, tennis, running or yoga. When it’s fun, it’s easy to work into your day every day.
4. Get eight to ten hours of sleep every night.
Doctors claim that lack of sleep is America’s top health problem. People who sleep fewer than six hours a night don’t live as long as people who get seven hours or more. It’s been estimated that hundreds of billions of dollars are lost annually in North America due to stress and reduced productivity on the job caused by sleep deprivation. And countless accidents, on the job and on the road, are caused by drowsiness due to lack of sleep. Oh, and lost sleep can’t be made up.
5. Cultivate community.
It’s been scientifically proven that those around us directly affect our happiness, and people with strong social ties live longer. Giving back and helping our fellow humans triggers the release of the same pleasure chemicals in the brain as chocolate and sex. Much as we sometimes hate to admit it, we depend on others for our well-being.
6. Laugh often.
The old cliche is true. Laughter really is the best medicine. It not only brings people together, it reduces pain and blood sugar levels, it increases creativity and offsets the effects of mental stress, and is proven to be a vascular tonic, helping to bring more oxygen to the heart and brain. The doctor in this study recommends thirty minutes of exercise three times a week, and 15 minutes of laughter on a daily basis.
7. Learn something new every day.
Study something new every year. Cultivate creativity. A challenged, stimulated brain keeps us juicy and interesting and a curious mind helps us find meaning in our life. Lifelong learning makes us better human beings and the world a better place.
8. Cultivate gratitude.
“The invariable mark of wisdom is to see the miraculous in the common.” Ralph Waldo Emmerson
Saying thanks is good for us. When we are feeling appreciative or thankful, we’re experiencing a sense of well-being and joy. And when we express gratitude, that feeling is amplified. People who practice gratitude are able to lower their blood pressure, lose weight and quit smoking and people who are able to maintain that attitude throughout life have lower risks of disorders like depression, phobias and alcoholism. Find something each and every day to be thankful for.
9. Hydrate hydrate hydrate.
We are 60% water. It’s often the last thing we think of consuming, yet water is one of our most powerful healers. We have no trouble drinking caffeinated, sugar-pumped and alcoholic beverages, but most of us don’t drink enough water. Our blood, muscles, lungs and brain contain a lot of water. Our bodies need water to carry oxygen to its cells and remove waste. Water lubricates our joints, delivers nutrients to our organs, and regulates our body temperature. Keep a glass of water with a slice of lemon handy beside you all day and sip between meals.
10. Do what you love.
“If my heart could do my thinking, and my head begin to feel, I would look upon the world anew and know what’s truly real.” Van Morrison
People who are interviewed on their death bed don’t have regrets that they didn’t work harder or make more money. Their regrets are that they didn’t spend more time with the people they love, didn’t do all the traveling they’d have liked, didn’t experience the world in a more meaningful way. We either do what we love or become paralyzed by fear.
It’s 2010. Time to consider that some of the healthiest choices we can make come from the heart. Why not be the author of your own health by choosing habits that enable you to have a more active, more joyful, and more meaningful life? Why not be that person in your life who glows with radiant good health and happiness?