Common-sense tips to live a healthy and balanced life
Health is more than physical fitness or the absence of disease. Real health is also mental, emotional, and even spiritual. It’s being a whole human being.
But how do you get it?
Dozens, maybe hundreds, of self-help writers and bloggers are happy to offer advice — but sometimes that’s part of the problem. How can you tell which advice to follow? If you’re feeling a little overwhelmed, you’re not alone. Maybe it’s best to start with some common-sense principles and see where it leads you. The results might surprise you.
Some say proper health begins with what you eat. Certainly, a lot of health advice begins with diet. Unfortunately, confusion starts with diet, too, because everybody seems to disagree. Some experts say to avoid carbs, others say to eat plenty. First,salt is the enemy, then it’s not so bad. But the fact of the matter is that many people enjoy excellent health while eating all sorts of things. The body has its own wisdomand can extract the nutrition it needs from many ways of eating.
ADVICE: Eat in moderate proportions, eat as all natural as possible, cut out processed foods, increase the amount of fiberand protein in your diet, and get the RDA of all your vitamins and minerals. And if all that sounds tough to fit into your busy lifestyle, consider high-quality supplementsand dietary aids to help you get the nutrition your body deserves.
You know that standard warning to talk to your doctor before beginning any exercise program? It’s not bad advice, but they should tell people to talk to their doctors before sitting, too. Spending too much time sitting down is a major health risk. Most of us have lifestyles that make getting enough exercise very difficult. Work, school, going online, watching TV, all of it involves way too much sitting.
ADVICE: Get up and move. You don’t have to be a world-class athlete. You don’t have to be an athlete at all. Just get up and move, preferably out of doors. Walk, ride a bike, play tag with children, dance. Do whatever you most enjoy. You’ll feel better physically, and you’ll probably be happier and more relaxed, too.
The human body needs water to work, and many of us don’t get enough of it. Dehydration can lead to irritability, forgetfulness, fatigue, even nightmares. Chronic dehydration can damage your kidneys. They say if you feel thirsty, you are already dehydrated, but part of the problem is that some people don’t feel thirsty, or mistake thirst for hunger (yes, not drinking enough can lead to eating too much). How much water you need varies, depending on the weather, your activity level, and other factors.
ADVICE: Get to know your own body to find out how much you need. Take a look at your urine when you go. Seriously, it’s a great indicator. If the coloris dark enough that you can see the yellow in your stream alone, you need to drink more. Drinking plain water is best. Soft drinks and juice can add up to too many empty calories, and alcohol and caffeine can be dehydrating. But the important thing is to drink something.
Get Enough Sleep
A lot of us are sleep-deprived. In today’s fast-paced world, there’s so much pressure to go, go, go! But the need for rest is not negotiable. There is no way to train yourself to need less sleep. Caffeine can keep you awake, but it can’t change the fact that you need rest. Sleep needs vary. You might need more or less than average, and that’s fine. But if you’re in the habit of waking up with an alarm clock and staying awake with caffeine, you might need more than you’re getting.
ADVICE: Get some rest. You’ll see your mood, your ability to focus, and your overall health all get better.
No one can be chipper all the time. Some people are naturally lessupbeatthan others, and that’s OK. But if you’re not enjoying your life, do yourself a favorand do something about it. Whatever it is, it’s important because YOUare important.
ADVICE: Maybe there’s a lifestyle change you can make. Maybe you can talk things over with your friends and get support. Maybe a therapist can help. Maybe you need more sleep (all ten of these tips are related). Maybe you have an underlying medical problem that needs attention — depression or anxiety can be symptoms of a surprising range of other concerns, from infections to drug interactions to liver issues.
A lot of us are chronically lonely. Modern life makes it difficult to maintain friendships, but without good friendsour mental health takes a hit — and so can our physical health.
ADVICE: If you get hurt and need help, who will be there for you if not your friends and family? Married people, on average, live longer than singles, even when the marriage itself isn’t quite the fairy-tale we all hope for. Why? It may be the married are less lonely.
All the self-care and happiness in the world won’t be much good if you get yourself killed in a preventable accident.
ADVICE: Wear your seat-belt. Wear reflective clothes when you go jogging. Schedule your annual exam — yes, that one you’ve been putting off. Don’t pick up rattlesnakes. You know what to do. Be careful. Be smart.
Speaking of Doctors….
While we’re talking about health, let’s not overlook the benefit of professional help. Many people dislike doctors, for one reason or another. Others don’t seek help because “it’s not that bad,” or out of a belief that no one can help.
ADVICE: Sometimes seemingly small problems are symptoms of deeper concerns that need prompt attention. Even genuinely minor issues are worth resolving. Why tolerate discomfort or pain if you don’t have to? And often, they canhelp. “They” include doctors, dentists, chiropractors, naturopaths, physical therapists, psychiatrists, and counselors. Insomnia, poor sleep quality, persistent aches and pains, allergies, mental health issues, and more can all be resolved. Have hope.
Be of Service
Self-care is good,but deep, long-term happiness (remember, we said these tips overlap) depends on living a life that is meaningful, not just enjoyable.
ADVICE: Help a friend, care for a child, take on a cause, and find something more important than yourself. Ironically, your own life will improve as a result.
Cut Yourself Some Slack
There are so many tools out there you can use to improve your health and your life — and that’s great! But the flip-side of having so many options is that if you find yourself with persistent mental or physical health challenges anyway, you might start to think it’s your fault.
ADVICE: Don’t do that to yourself. Some things are simply beyond your control. Don’t feel sick over being sick. Don’t worry about feeling anxious. Don’t get depressed over your depression. Use the tools you have to achieve the best health you can. And then enjoy your life.
You may also enjoy reading 3 Steps to Love Your Body: A Morning Ritual to Expand Self-Love, by Dain Heer.