I want to be healthy. It is an expression we hear often. We see it in magazines and in the media, but what is health? What exactly does it mean to be healthy?
Most of us seem do define health as exercising and dieting. Well, I would definitely agree that exercising and eating a nutritious diet are part of health, but do not alone equal being healthy. Let me break down all of the components that define health.
What is Health
When I say diet, I am not referring to food restriction. What I am referring to is what you eat. Far too often the word diet is associated with starvation and deprivation. However, Merriam-Webster define the word diet as, “food and drink regularly provided or consumed / habitual nourishment / the kind and amount of food prescribed for a person or animal for a special reason / something provided or experienced repeatedly”. The media has greatly played into putting a negative stigma around this word, so let’s do our best to move past that and think of it simply as what we eat.
What is a nutritious diet? When you think nutritious, think nourishing. It is good for the body! There is no one diet that is perfect for everyone. In fact, in can be so overwhelming because every diet claims to be the best. That is a big fat myth. When it comes to food there is no one size fits all because every body is very unique.
Universal easy ways to eat a nutritious diet:
- Color equals nutritious – think about filling your plate with all the colors of the rainbow (green spinach, yellow peppers, purple cabbage, blueberries, red raspberries, etc.)
- Eat foods in their natural form
- Avoid processed foods – in general, if it comes from a box try to limit your consumption of those items as processing foods can remove many of their nutrients
- Organic – do your best to buy organic whenever possible to avoid harmful pesticides and chemicals
- Responsibly sourced animal products – do your homework to avoid supporting factory farmed products
- Shop the outside aisles of the grocery store
- Make veggies the star of every meal
- Stop eating when you are full
- Drink more water
I am going to exchange the word exercise, which again can stimulate a negative response, which the word movement. Human beings are meant to move and our new office culture has changed the norm to remaining sedentary for most of our days. This is unnatural and our bodies are feeling the effects of it. Make it your priority to get up and move more often!
While there are recommendations on daily physical exercise, it is arguably more important to simply move more each day.
Move more every day:
- Take the stairs
- Park farther away
- Skip the drive – walk to your destination whenever possible
- Take movement breaks – during your work day make a goal to take a movement break every hour
- Drink more water – the more water your drink the more you have to fill your water bottle and the more bathroom breaks you need
- Get your family moving – this could be something as simple as playing in the backyard with the kids or nightly family walk or bike ride
- Get an active hobby – gardening, biking, running, swimming, or dancing – just to name a few
Sleep is so incredibly important and far too many us sacrifice sleep on a regular basis. There are endless statistics on how sleep can lead to increased stress, anxiety, depression, weight gain, lack of concentration, lack of focus, irritability, increased risk of a number of illnesses and many more negative impacts on the body.
Make sleep a priority. Set a non negotiable bed time that allows you to get at least 7-9 hours of sleep every single night. It is also beneficial if you set a regular bedtime and wake time and stick to it every single day – yes, even on the weekends.
We are in a constant state of stress, as the natural flight or fight response is now triggered multiple times a day. While certain types of stress, like from exercise, can be extremely beneficial for the body, being in an ongoing state of stress triggered by an email, someone cutting you off in traffic, or an impromptu meeting with your boss is causing some major issues. Stress can cause headaches, muscle tension, chest pains, sleep problems, and many other negative effects on the body.
Manage stress daily. Try some of the easy tips below to relax and stress less:
- Move more
- Surround yourself with loved ones
- Laugh and smile more – meaning, do things that make you happy
- Make time for yourself
- Avoid stress inducing situations whenever possible
- Don’t sweat the small stuff – take action and think about your response to stress triggering situations
- Let go of control – remember you can only control how you choose to respond
Part of living a healthy life is setting out to live a good life. This means taking a step back and looking inward. What is your overall attitude about life? If you live day to day focusing on the negative and playing the victim, you will never truly be happy or healthy.
A positive mental attitude (PMA) is what ultimately leads to a healthy life. This means taking control of your life and setting out to have a positive mindset in every situation. This is definitely no easy task and you need to work on your PMA every day.
Connect to Nature
Like many, if you live in a big city, you are likely very disconnected from the natural world. There are studies being released correlating exposure to nature to better psychological health. According to Yale School of the Environment, “In a study of 20,000 people, a team led by Mathew White of the European Centre for Environment & Human Health at the University of Exeter, found that people who spent two hours a week in green spaces — local parks or other natural environments, either all at once or spaced over several visits — were substantially more likely to report good health and psychological well-being than those who don’t.”
Make nature a priority. Get outside daily! Bonus, this can also help you move more!
A number of folks are vitamin D deficient, especially those of us who spend the majority of our days indoors and are not mindful of a nutrient rich diet. Vitamin D’s main job is to help the body absorb calcium from the intestines. Calcium is a critical mineral for forming the hardened bone that keeps you strong and healthy and vitamin D directly helps with this process.
Additionally, studies have showed that vitamin D can be linked to a decrease of symptoms from the common cold, noted by NPR.
It is a unique nutrient as your body produces it when exposed to the sun or you can consume it through certain foods like salmon, tuna, mackerel, beef liver, and egg yolks.
Getting sunshine (in moderation – we don’t want to get into skin cancer from too much sun) and eating well can boost your vitamin D levels, but overall are just simply part of feeling good and being healthy!
Creating healthy relationships is a large part of living a healthy life. Removing toxic people from your life can be quite difficult to do, but it will be an immense help to improve your emotional health. Recognizing unhealthy relationships is the first step in the process and I would highly recommend talking to a professional to help you through this.
Aim to surround yourself only with positive people that will bring you up, not push you down. The people in your life should be those that you look up to and can learn and grow from.
Be kind to others and yourself. Make it a priority to serve others on a regular basis. Your ultimate goal should be to always question, “Is this going to make the world a better place?” Doing good makes you feel good.
The same should be applied to yourself. Far too often we are overly negative toward ourselves. You should treat yourself how you kindly treat others. Do something nice for yourself everyday. Stop that negative talk about yourself. When you feel good about you, you can begin to bring positive change to others.
Living a Healthy Life One Step at a Time
You might be thinking, “Wow, I have to do all of these thing to live a healthy life?!” Leaving you to feel overwhelmed and giving up before you even begin.
Start small. Pick one doable thing to help you live a healthier life and make it your goal to slowly chip away at this list.
Living a healthy life takes ongoing work and you will never reach a point where you are done with the journey and are now healthy. We are all a work in progress and will always be a work in progress.