Daily Habits for Long-Lasting Health: Part 2

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Let’s face it… old habits can be hard to break. It takes work and commitment. On top of that, we live in a society that pushes and markets “magic bullet” fixes. So, it’s quite easy to find excuses for why you are stuck in the same routines.

However, you have the power to change this! Starting now. An easy place to begin is with daily rituals, the behaviors that make up our day-to-day lives and support our health, goals and happiness. When it comes to health, start with small, effective routines, and watch them snowball into a lifelong wellness.

Last month’s The Paper Trail article outlined the first half of my top healthy lifestyle habits, including…

#1 Create a morning routine

#2 Stay hydrated

#3 Practice intermittent fasting

#4 Get outside in the sunshine

Let’s complete the list!

#5 Focus on Gut Health

We learn more everyday about the importance of a healthy gut in preventing disease and supporting overall health and wellness. Did you know that 80% of your immune system lies in the gut?

It’s not just what you eat that matters, but we must also pay attention to how our bodies digest and absorb the goodness in our food. Adopting habits that support gut health can lead to optimal wellness.

A simple way to do so is by eating fermented foods (like sauerkraut, kimchee, organic yogurt with no added sugars, kefir, and Kombucha tea). You can also add a high quality probiotic to your daily supplement routine to replenish and support good gut bacteria. And don’t forget to chew your food; your stomach doesn’t have teeth after all.

#6 Simplify Your Diet With Colorful, Whole Foods

One of the easiest dietary habits you can implement is to focus on whole foods. What is a whole food? Think, one ingredient. Broccoli, quinoa, almonds, salmon, kale, eggs, apples, walnuts, brown rice, black beans, etc.

We all know vegetables are good for us, and plant-based foods are thriving with nutrients, vitamins, minerals, and healing compounds that balance the body, decrease inflammation, and prevent cancer. Take charge of your health and start feeling better now by eating more plant-strong foods (i.e., fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans, unrefined whole grains, herbs, etc.).

Fill your plate with mostly veggies (and colorful ones). Avoid processed foods when possible. Try drinking your vegetables in smoothies or juices. Incorporate more raw, living foods into your diet, if digestion permits.

WholeFoods

#7 Move Your Body

“Typically, people who exercise start eating better and become more productive at work. They smoke less and show more patience with colleagues and family. They use their credit cards less frequently and say they feel less stressed. Exercise is a keystone habit that triggers widespread change.”

~Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business

Our bodies were designed to move and sweat. It’s that simple.

The body heals faster when you exercise regularly, and sweating is an important outlet for detoxification. Movement stimulates the lymphatic system, which governs the main channels of elimination while moving oxygen throughout the body.

We have a tendency to over-complicate things, exercise being one of the many. Just focus on adding more movement to your life. Choose the stairs instead of the elevator. If you have a desk, get up a move every hour. Take an easy walk after meals to improve digestion. Do some evening stretches before bed. Jump more… jumping jacks, jump rope, and trampoline. Chase your kids or pets. Dance. Garden. Enjoy life in the process.

#8 Practice Mindful Dining

The psychology of eating is quite fascinating. What you choose to consume is incredibly important, but did you know that the emotion with which you eat affects how your body digests food?

Part of your central nervous system, the autonomic nervous system, controls your digestion. What does this mean? When you eat under stress, for example, the nervous system actually suppresses digestive activity. The opposite is also true: when you’re relaxed during mealtime, digestion is activated.

Start paying attention to your state when eating. Slow down, and notice the beautiful colors, textures, and tastes of your food. Chew completely. Eat when calm and relaxed. Try to minimize multi-tasking during meals. Breathe and express gratitude before eating. Whenever you eat, regardless of what it is, enjoy, savor, and be mindful of the experience.

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Daily Habits for Long-Lasting Health: Part I

Front Page, Health

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“We become what we repeatedly do.” ~Sean Covey

     As human beings, we naturally want to improve. For many people, progress equals happiness. Whether it’s your home, relationships, education, finances, spirituality, career, exercise or health, we enjoy growing, changing, and evolving.

     We often fail to recognize the power of our daily habits and how they support our desires, set us up for success, and make large goals tangible. Our rituals and routines define us… and this is super exciting! Getting a grip on this concept will give you amazing control of your life. The key is to start small.

     In relation to health, implementing some easy, daily routines can put you on a solid path to long-lasting wellness. This month’s The Paper Trail edition highlights the first half of my top healthy lifestyle habits; look for Part II in April.

#1 Create A Morning Routine

     Your mind is most open first thing in the morning, and starting off with a calm, consistent morning routine can set a positive trajectory for the day. Here are some ideas:

  • Make your bed upon rising. Control what you can control. Begin the day with confidence. Minimize distraction lest you create distraction.
  • Drink a large glass (or two) of filtered water. Our bodies are naturally dehydrated in the morning, and this is one of the BEST habits to start NOW.
  • Enjoy a cup of warm water with fresh lemon. This jump starts your digestive system, gets your bowels moving and balances your pH.
  • Eat an alkalizing breakfast. While you sleep, your body works on rejuvenating and detoxifying, which naturally creates body acids. Try a green smoothie, green juice, or chia pudding (check out mindfuldine.com for recipes).
  • Take a probiotic, a supplement of live “good bacteria” cultures for a well-balanced gut, right before breakfast.
  • Pause for meditation, breathing exercises, or journaling.

Hydrate

#2 Hydrate

     Many of us walk around in a state of chronic dehydration. Since our bodies are over 70% water (the eyes are 98%; blood is 94%; the brain is 80%), staying hydrated is a crucial habit for optimal health. Water neutralizes body acids, fuels your metabolism, promotes weight loss, fuels detoxification, and supports the immune system.

     Drinking good quality, pure water is really important! Avoid tap water when possible, as it can be full of toxins and chemicals. Try adding a sprinkle of Himalayan sea salt to your water… sea salt contains over 84 natural minerals that enhance your body’s ability to absorb and hold water.

    Pay attention to your body’s cues for dehydration. What are some common signs? Fatigue, sore throat, headache, brain fog, dry skin, dark-colored urine, heartburn, and even high blood pressure. It is easy to mistake these as hunger signs so begin tuning in to your own cues for thirst.

#3 Intermittent Fasting (The 12 hour Window)

     This is one of my favorite health habits… leave at least 12 hours between dinner and breakfast. Generally, my dinner is finished before 8 p.m. (ideally earlier), and breakfast begins after 9 a.m. the next morning. Digestion is one of the biggest energy demands in the body, so implementing a digestive break is wonderful for overall energy, detoxification, and wellness.

     We burn either sugar or fat for fuel, and most people have only 12 hours of sugar reserves. If you eat frequently and don’t leave a fasting window, your body learns to rely on sugar as its primary fuel. You feel hungry more often and forget how to burn fat. Don’t fret! You can retrain your body and metabolism by eating more healthy fats and adding a fasting window to your daily routine.

Sun Worshiper © Matthew Thornton
Sun Worshiper © Matthew Thornton

#4 Get Outside In The Sunshine

     Living in the Caribbean, we are abundantly blessed with sunshine everyday. The sun can improve your mood, boost serotonin levels (the happy hormone), encourage efficient fat burning, and regulate sleep cycles. Perhaps most importantly, sunshine on your skin triggers the production of super important vitamin D.

     Vitamin D influences 10% of all genes in your body and is absolutely crucial for maintaining health. It supports the immune system and bone health, prevents cardiovascular disease, assists in calcium absorption, and may protect against cancer. Approximately 1 billion people worldwide are deficient in vitamin D, so get your levels checked during your next health examination. Ask for a 25-hydroxyvitamin D blood test [25(OH)D]; normal levels are between 50 and 70 ng/mL.

     Stay tuned for “Daily Habits for Long-Lasting Health: Part 2” in next month’s The Paper Trail edition. Cheers to your health and happiness!

Sources:

Mercola, J. Effortless Healing: 9 Simple Ways to Sidestep Illness, Shed Excess Weight, and Help Your Body Repair Itself. Harmony Books, 2015.

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