If you are like me, knowing is one thing, but doing is another. The basic principles are simple. We all learned them in school, eg. healthy food, fresh air and sunshine, good hygiene and sleep habits, etc. They are just not always that easy. There are always the demands of work, family, friends, pets, personal chores, running a home, keeping a yard, and so forth that can distract us easily from our own self-care. We are all familiar with the instructions given at the beginning of an airline trip, ie. “Put the oxygen mask on yourself before placing it on the child next to you.” This piece of common sense pertains to life in general. If we don’t have our own health, we cannot help our loved ones or anyone else.
In addition, our environment has changed since we grew up and, with the vast amount of information we can find on the internet, it’s often difficult to know which pieces of advice we read and hear to follow.
The holistic model for good health includes body/mind/emotions/spirit. Most of us are better at some of these categories than others.
Let’s start with the physical body. Proper nutrition is a major building block in our health. We really are what we eat! But how much of what we eat is recognized by our bodies as truly nutritious food? Living in our fast-paced culture, it is way too easy to fall back on processed food and fast food chains. Our grandparents ate food that was locally grown and according to the season. With our modern methods of growing and transporting food, we can find just about any food from anywhere at any time of year. They also ate food grown on soils that were rich in nutrients.
Family farms have mostly been replaced by factory farms for meat and produce. Not only are our soils missing many of the nutrients our grandparents had, but we also have to deal with antibiotics in our beef and chicken, and much of our produce contains herbicides such as Roundup. We really don’t know how safe GMO’s are. Do our bodies recognize genetically modified food as food? As of this writing GMO’s include canola and cottonseed oil and nonorganic corn, soy, squash, sugar beets, papaya, some tilapia, and Atlantic salmon.
Refined sugar is such a part of our American diet, that we don’t think much of it, unless we are trying to lose weight. A healthy body is a balanced body. Refined sugar creates an acid pH of the body, and an acid pH has been found to be related to many chronic diseases, such as cancer and diabetes. Refined sugar also creates a roller coaster of our blood sugar, which affects our energy level and mood and makes us crave more sugar. It also increases insulin resistance which can affect our brains and lead to diabetes.
Diabetes, unless it’s Juvenile Diabetes, is usually connected to lifestyle, usually a diet of too much refined sugar and carbohydrates. Artificial sweeteners are not recommended by practitioners like me, because they produce the same kind of craving for sweets that we get from eating candy. They are also considered to be toxic to the nervous system and brain. Local honey is my preference. There are also natural sweeteners, such as maple syrup, stevia, and monk fruit.
Eating properly demands a level of awareness that requires education and attention. Organic produce, grass-fed beef, and free-range chicken can be expensive; however, in the long run, it will be more cost-effective if it decreases medical bills. Most cities have a farmer’s market where we can find locally grown organic produce. Growing our own fruits and vegetables is not hard. Plus working in the yard gets us out in nature with fresh air and sunshine, grounds us, and some exercise.
Toxins in our environment are another cause of stress on our bodies. Inflammation, the underlying cause of many chronic diseases, is one of the results of being exposed to toxins. One obvious toxin is smoking. If you are a smoker, stop…… no matter what it takes. You will add more years and healthier ones to your life. Cooking with glass and ceramic pots and using organic deodorants will cut down on our exposure to aluminum. Fluoride is a controversial subject, but if you would rather not have it in your toothpaste, it can be found in health food stores. Some household items that we should handle with care or simply avoid are non-stick cookware, flea and tick products, mothballs, air fresheners, oven cleaners, furniture polish and stain, toilet bowl cleaners, and gas space heaters.
Other toxins are not as controllable, and perhaps not as obvious. For many of us, water filters and air filters are necessary in our homes. We know that exposure to radiation, such as from nuclear power plants, is a danger to our health. We don’t know the effects of other electromagnetic fields ( EMF ), such as TV’s, computers and laptops, cellphones, electrical wires, Smart Meters, etc. We are just beginning to learn how EMFs can affect us and what we can do to protect ourselves. Regardless of what the pollution may be, periodic detoxification programs can help us stay healthy. Hot lemon water, dandelion tea, red clover tea, exercise, and saunas are gentle ways to detoxify on a regular basis.
We live in a sedentary society. Again, our grandparents had it right. They didn’t spend hours sitting in front of a TV or computer. They tilled the soil, cut down trees, herded cattle, and did their own upkeep of their homes and farms. According to Dr. Norm Shealy, we all need a minimum of 30 minutes a day five days a week in order to maintain our health. What is often recommended by health professionals is that we do three kinds of exercise: weights, stretching, and aerobic. Whether it’s going to a gym, playing tennis, swimming, golf, yoga, running or even simply walking, we can all find some way to move our bodies. There is even chair yoga and qi gong for those who cannot walk. For those who like to exercise at home, there are numerous DVD’s available online.
When we are stressed, our breathing tends to be shallow. Since our breath is how we oxygenate the body, learning healthy breathing is important. Yoga classes are a good place to learn how to breathe properly.
Other aspects of our lives that contribute to healthy minds and emotions are a satisfying job/profession, nurturing relationships, ability to handle our daily lives eg. finances, self-awareness, self-acceptance, and being part of a community. Stress, like refined sugar, can make the body more acidic than is healthy. Therefore, finding what methods of stress reduction work for us is really important. Rest, sleep, recreation, and time in nature are all important if we want to keep healthy bodies, as well as peaceful minds, balanced emotions, and a joyful spirit.
We all have our own unique spirituality. Finding our life’s purpose and meaning and having a way to nurture ourselves on a spiritual level gives us peace of mind. Meditation doesn’t have to be complicated or take up hours in our day. A simple way is to sit in front of a lighted candle. This will take about 5-6 minutes. Stare at the candle for about 3 minutes then close your eyes. You will see the afterimage of the candle flame. Focus on that image until it disappears. Simply cultivating an attitude of gratitude will also add to our peace of mind.