We live in an interesting time. From what the statistics say, it seems that we are currently some of the unhealthiest humans that have ever existed. Obesity is at an all time high, along with heart disease, diabetes, chronic musculo-skeletal pain and conditions, anxiety/depression, prescription medication use etc. Health has become so complicated, with more and more tests being done, medications being prescribed, and referrals being made to various specialists for any given condition. With all the advances in modern medicine, why is it that we are so unhealthy and that being healthy seems to be so complicated? Many health problems these days are treated reactively, trying to chase the symptom’s and put them out. The root cause of many health problems fails to be addressed and dealt with in many situations. Here are some ways to simplify your health, and work towards being a better version of yourself:
- Aim for 8 hours of quality sleep per night:
Sleep matters…A LOT. This is when the body recovers both mentally and physically. Chronic sleep deficits are a huge problem in today’s society. The body simply cannot recover if it does not get ample sleep. New studies coming out are linking a lack of sleep to brain related disorders such as Alzheimers and dementia (sleep is when the brain flushes and rids itself of adenosine, which is a waste product that accumulates during the day). Getting good sleep means taking the necessary steps to get to bed on time, and eliminate factors that may be negatively effecting your sleep quality. Here are 3 suggestions for better quality sleep:
- Eliminate any light in your bedroom. This means covering any light emitting alarm clocks, fans etc. and making sure your blinds are not letting excessive light in.
- Stop looking at screens at least 30 minutes before bed. Dim the lights to start getting your body prepared for its sleep cycle.
- Sleep in a cool environment. This will help with the quality of your sleep.
- Eat well:
This is a big one. Diet is the root cause for an enormous amount of health conditions. The problem is that we do not recognize the health effects of a poor diet instantly. Improving your diet will improve the way you feel, function, and perform. A consistently good diet is the key to disease prevention, better than any pill ever created. It doesn’t have to be perfect at all times, but it does need to be consistent. The things you eat literally make up your flesh and tissues, brain chemicals, cells. It’s no surprise why your body starts to deteriorate in many ways when simple nutritional needs are not met. Diet shouldn’t be complicated; we should try to eat a balanced diet with moderate portions. Without going into too much detail, here are some simple suggestions for improving your diet.
- Cut out refined sugar. We currently have a love affair with sugar. Studies show that it is physically addictive, just like cocaine or heroin. Don’t drink any sugar or eat too much of anything with added sugar. Pasta, rice, and alcohol are other examples of sugar, which should be limited.
- Eat a ton of colorful vegetables and greens, simple.
- Drink water instead of juice, soda, or anything else with calories/sugar in it. And drink a lot of it.
- Sit less and move more:
This is a simple but important one. We sit too much and don’t move enough. Movement is how our bodies stay alive. Every system in the body works based on continual movement. For example, the circulatory system and lymphatic system function in big part due to the body’s muscles contracting and literally acting as pumps for blood and lymph fluid. The musculo-sketetal system functions best when all joints and tissues regularly go through their normal ranges of motion. This keeps every joint lubricated and this is how nutrients are delivered to our joints and tissues. When we sit, we tighten up into the form of a chair…it’s that simple. Our hips seize up, our spines round and stiffen, and we are left with neck pain, low back pain, knee pain…and a whole lot of preventable pain. A massive percentage of musculo-skeletal problems I see on a regular basis are based on sitting too much and the restrictions it creates. Here are some tips to deal with this:
- Cut out optional sitting. Anytime you have the chance to stand, squat, move…do so.
- Sit on the floor at home when watching tv. It makes you change positions, and is also a great time to do mobility/self maintenance work.
- Transition to a standing work station.
- Work on your soft tissues and muscles each day for at least 10 mins (self massage, stretching techniques etc.) This also helps calm the body down and reduces stress/helps with sleep.
- Manage Stress:
Busy and Stressed is the new normal for many people. We rely on multiple coffees, energy drinks, anything to keep us fired up and going. Being constantly stressed red-lines out nervous systems. Stress taps into our sympathetic division of the nervous system (fight or flight), which affects us at a hormonal level. When we relax, we are tapping into the opposing part of the nervous system, and even our blood chemistry changes. The fact is, stress is only OK in small doses (for our ancestors, this meant fighting, running from a lion etc.), and your body can only take so much of it before things start to give. Compound chronic stress with lack of sleep and poor diet, and we have a recipe for disaster. Here are some tips:
- Learn to breathe with the diaphragm into the belly, and use calm diaphragmatic breathing whenever you aren’t exerting yourself during the day.
- Have a breathing practice, focusing on deep diaphragmatic breathing to calm your body down each day (start with 5 minutes).
- Exercise, train, or exert yourself physically every day.
Ultimately, health and longevity is very simple. In modern western society, it can seem far from that. The key is to try and live, eat, and exist more like humans have evolved to. Making small changes like this will ultimately lead to a healthier life. Small habits over a lifetime make a massive difference. Eat well, sleep well, move well, move often, sit less, manage stress, and take care of your body.