Creating & Maintaining Healthy Habits
Our state of health is a result of a combination of many influencesGenetics, environment, diet, exercise, relationships, thoughts, emotions, addictions, reactions, etc. The nervous system, immune system, endocrine (hormonal) system, emotions, pain pathways, enteric nervous system (our 'gut brain'), and our mental body (thoughts) are all intricately connected. A disharmony in one system affects all others. A positive change in one system causes a change in all others. We can't separate ourselves into compartmentalized parts. We are not machines. We need to look at the whole. This is also true for setting goals to change habits. If we only address the physical, for example, we won't completely heal the pattern or habit because other systems have not been addressed. This can still be accomplished in baby steps, one thing at a time, but it is essential to look at the whole picture. One of the principal philosophies in naturopathic medicine is to 'treat the whole person in an individualized manner by addressing the root cause'. Here are a few tips or principles on how to apply or sustain change to any habit.
Food mattersThe most optimal diet for preventing chronic disease, maintaining a healthy weight, and increasing energy and mental functioning is a whole-foods, mostly plant-based, organic, local diet. This can be further individualized based on your unique makeup but provides a general guideline for health. Regular consumption of whole grains, nuts, seeds, a variety of fruits and vegetables especially dark green leafy vegetables, beans and legumes, and healthy quality oils such as hemp, olive, avocado, almond, flax, and coconut to name a few. This diet supports optimal cardiovascular health, decreases inflammation, enhances the immune system, is a rich source of minerals and vitamins, and high in fiber. I also address food sensitivities as these can contribute to inflammation, increased discomfort, and poor absorption of nutrients.
Learn to read labels!The simpler the ingredient list, the better. Chances are, if you don’t know what an ingredient is, your body doesn’t either and won’t be able to utilize it to create a healthy internal environment.
Move regularlyMove your body every day. We all know exercise improves mood, helps with sleep, aids in maintaining a healthy weight, and benefits overall health. It is one of the best medicines available to us! If you’re not exercising regularly, check in with why. Is it a time issue? Lack of motivation? Is it painful to exercise? Low energy? Identifying the reasons why we choose not to exercise is the first step. For example, we know that exercise helps to produce endorphins and increase energy, but if you are starting at a point of adrenal fatigue, you may need help to create a movement routine that is suitable for your state of health at this point. Specific practices can be designed for health conditions. No matter where you are starting from or what your health goals, an exercise program can be tailored for you. If time is the issue, start small.
Connect with nature dailyThere has been a recent term coined ‘Nature Deficit Disorder’, a hypothesis that less time in nature has contributed to many of our physical, mental, and emotional health concerns. Coming back to the understanding that WE ARE NATURE is the first step. Nature is in us and all around us. Our bodies cycle with seasons, moon changes, day and night. We are dependent on our environment, and the earth is affected by our every action. When we come back to this remembrance, every choice in our life becomes more healthful and in balance.
Rest and restoreAnother helpful tool is to develop a ‘sleep routine’. Many of us push all day and use our relaxation time at night to watch television, catch up on emails or Facebook, or even finish work we didn’t accomplish during the day. This causes the nervous system to go into sympathetic mode (fight or flight response) and leaves us feeling tired but wired and often having difficulty falling or staying asleep. Our body loves routine! Our adrenals thrive on it! Rolling with our natural cycle can give us more energy for our day, a more restful sleep at night, and affect many other systems including mood, weight, and mental clarity.
Managing stressAny conscious effort towards self-restraint and self-observance reduces stress in life. Affirmation and prayer help remove negative thoughts and develop positive thinking. Consciously try to improve the level of self-awareness. “Regular” practice of meditation helps improve mental clarity, self-confidence, self-awareness, concentration, objectivity, creativity, comprehension, perception and equanimity. Through concentration and meditation, you can tap into your inner wisdom. Consciously practice patience and tolerance. Try to be content.
Aim for progress not perfection
Small consistent changes in the right direction are key. It is about renovating old ‘health draining’ habits and making them over with new, health-sustaining ones. Reach out to your naturopath for supplements or herbs to help you alongside the way. They can help you to feel better alongside your journey of creating a change. Nature helps Nature.