Saturday, 16 February 2013

Want to live happier and healthier? Start today with these 6 easy tips.

I don't claim to be Deepak Chopra or the Dalai Lama, obviously. Not by a long shot. These are just some things that work for me and they're super easy to do. Wellness doesn't necessarily require a large commitment. It doesn't mean becoming a yogi or devoting your life to charity work or giving up all your worldly possessions to live in a nudist colony in the arctic. Certainly, for some, I'm sure those are viable options. My guess is that, for most, they are not.

My journey to a healthier lifestyle, as you know if you've been following the old blog, started with a diagnosis of IBS. Which is really the absence of a diagnosis, in the end... Unexplainable digestive disturbance. That's not to minimize how disruptive the symptoms can be on your life, certainly there were days I couldn't get out of bed and I knew people who suffered worse than I did who received the same diagnosis. But, I digress, IBS is not only triggered by dietary choices but stress and mood does effect our physical body. Certainly for me stress was a major trigger of a digestive episode. However, stress and mood can also decrease your overall tolerance for pain and can have long term negative effects on your physical health and well being (there is a ton of research on the short and long term effects of stress and mood on overall health). It's all connected. Anyway, hopefully you find some of these tips as helpful as I did!

1. Start and/or end every day by allowing yourself to be still and enjoy the present. We focus our energy so much on what has happened or what will happen and sometimes we forget to live in the present. I'm totally guilty of this. Our minds become so distracted with bills and getting to work on time and making that sale and... and... and... I feel exhausted even just writing about those things!! Take time to stop, "and smell the roses", as it were (wise words). For me: this means coming to my yoga mat. My yoga mat has become a safe place for me, a place separate from the floor beside it. Once I step on my mat, it's almost as though I have conditioned myself to be still and quiet there. For you perhaps this means going for a walk, maybe you find contentment and quiet enjoying your surroundings and focusing on that.

2. Drink water. I know, I know...... But seriously, do it. If you can tolerate it, the water should be room temperature. Cold water can be shocking to your digestive system. If water doesn't do it for you, try spicing up your life a little by adding a lime and/or some peppermint oil or leaves (press mint leaves in the glass with a spoon or something to release the flavour). You can also try adding: cucumber slices for a cool, fresh taste or lemon and honey......

3. Dry skin brushing. What's the point? Your skin is your largest organ and your body's first defence against environmental contaminants. Dry brushing will stimulate blood flow to the skin and promote lymph drainage. It will help keep your skin looking firm and remove dead skin cells which will give it a healthy glow. As an added benefit, it leaves you feeling invigorated. Another potential benefit (ladies) is a reduction in cellulite. I'm not sure how much research there is to support this last point, but some suggest that because dry brushing releases toxins in the skin, it can serve to break up cellulite deposits/toxic buildup in the tissue. Maybe experiment with that for yourself! So how do you do it? Before you shower, stand in the tub/shower stall and starting from the bottom of the feet, moving to the top of the feet and up your legs gradually brushing in a circular motion, always in the direction of the heart. Continue to your abdomen, hands, arms, back, etc. don't dry brush your face. How often? Every day.

4. Eat more plants. Even if you can't put down the McDonald's, make a conscious effort to eat more fruits and veggies every day. The benefits are sooooo plentiful. Even now with everything we know about the benefits of the fiber content, vitamins and minerals in fruit and vegetables, there is still new research cropping up all over the place on the benefits of phytonutrients. It seems the benefits never end. Protect your heart, prevent cancer, keep your digestive tract doing what it does best....... Just do it.

5. Moisturize. Sometimes to find the best moisturizers we need look no further than our kitchen. I was first curious about the benefits of using fruit/vegetable oil on the skin when I was suffering through a particularly irritating case of dry itchy skin this winter. I found that conventional, store-bought moisturizers (yes, even the organic, paraben-free, chemical-free kind) were either not helpful or only exacerbated the problem. It was then that I reached for the olive oil. Yes, that olive oil. The extra-virgin kind that was waiting patiently in my pantry to be part of my next salad dressing. I've also used pure coconut oil. I find olive oil absorbs pretty quickly (use it sparingly), it's also chock full of vitamins and nutrients that will be absorbed into the skin. I've also read that it will protect the skin from environmental damage and even from UV rays... To some degree. That said, I would never recommend it as a sunscreen. I just mention it for interest sake.

6. Sweat. Here it is. Those of you who know me, knew this was coming haha. Strap on your running shoes. Dance like no one is watching. Join a fitness class. I'm sure we all know how working out can prevent heart attacks and strokes... Elevate mood... Prevent premature aging... Promote detoxification (that's the sweating part)... etc, etc, etc.  I'm not suggesting you become a marathon runner or relentlessly drag yourself to a gym or fitness class you hate. Or even that you become and athlete at all if that's not your cup of tea! Maybe it means a brisk walk after dinner or a friendly game of tennis, a leisurely bike ride (maybe you take the hilly route home once in a while?), a game of catch with the kids... Whatever. No one ever regretted working out. Ever.

7. Cook. As often as you can. It sounds so simple, but when did it become a treat to have a home cooked meal? More and more often I hear about people bragging about 'that home cooked meal' they ate on the weekend or that restaurant they went to that tastes 'just like a home cooked meal'. The best way to know what you're putting into your body, or perhaps more importantly, what you're NOT putting into your body, is to prepare food yourself. With fresh, raw ingredients, as much as you possibly can. Keep it simple.

... And at the end of the day, that's really the best advice, I think. Keep it simple. Remember to enjoy life because you only get one to live (unless you believe in reincarnation, which is sort of redundant in this context because you don't remember your past lives anyway). Stop and enjoy the moment, laugh... Often!!! Even if you don't always feel like it. Ask questions.  Take good care of your body and mind and spread the love. Nobody ever regretted kindness.

Ah bientôt!

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