Before continuing you might want to review the previous blogpost in which we discussed an 8 week plan to create a healthier lifestyle!
Considering the span of your lifetime in which you probably indulged in the standard American diet and lifestyle; eight weeks is a short period of time in which to reverse your unhealthy habits and create new healthy habits.
No doubt you probably will experience both successes and failures during the 8 weeks. Transitioning to a healthier lifestyle is a work in progress and you are taking positive actions so don`t beat yourself up over your failures. Definitely don't focus on your failures. Be proud of and concentrate on your successes and continue to build on them.
In this post we will explore further the essential components of optimal health:
1. Managing Stress
4. Mind, Body, Spirit and Self-talk
Optimal health isn't just about "eating right". Your health is affected by how you (do or don't) manage stress in your life, how sedentary you are, what you say to yourself and your beliefs. Optimal health encompasses your whole lifestyle.
Stress is the most common cause of ill health, probably resulting in as many as 70-90% of all visits to the family physician. Stress in our lives comes from many areas; workplace and/or school, financial, relationship problems being the three top situations where stress arises.
Chronic stress may lead to such chronic illnesses as: depression, cardiac disease, ulcers, obesity, anxiety disorder, sexual dysfunction, decreased immune system health and even possibly cancer. It is imperative you learn to manage the stress in your life because it is a very real danger to your health.
So how do you manage stress? Many people use food, alcoholic drink or cigarettes to give them a short term relief from stress. However, in the end this will only result in greater stress due to their long term negative effects on health. A better way to manage stress is to examine your life and determine what is creating stress in your life. Actually write down what you feel your sources of stress are on paper. If you started a journal during the 8 weeks use your journal for this. (If not why didn't you?) Now would be a good time to start a journal. You may find you have a list of stress sources. After you have determined your stress sources write down three positive actions you might take to relieve the stress of each of these sources.
Sometimes the actions needed to resolve stress are not "quick fixes". For example you may need to see a financial expert to set up a program for reducing your debt or a relationship counselor to heal your relationships or perhaps, you may need to find a new job more in line with your passions. Those things take time.
For a temporary relief from stress you may:
1. Stretch your arms above your head. Reach for the ceiling!
2. Move your hands in a circle to relieve stress in your wrists.
3. Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths in thru your nose and
slowly out thru your mouth. Count to ten slowly as you inhale and again as you exhale.
4. Take a walk around your desk, down the hall or even better, outside where you can appreciate the beauty of nature, benefit from the sunlight and breathe fresh air.
5. Have a bite of dark chocolate. I DO mean just a bite! Some chocolates are healthier than others. Be choosy!
6. Try Rescue Remedy: A Bach Flower remedy you can find in most health stores.
Keep in mind those who indulge in a daily routine of exercise and eat optimally nutritious meals find dealing with stress much easier.
A regular routine of exercise is imperative for optimal health and longevity. Exercise helps relieve stress, combats depression, increases your energy level, helps prevent osteoporosis and high blood pressure, boosts good "HDL" cholesterol, helps to maintain a normal weight, promotes better sleep and improves your sex life. Exercise is one of the keys to optimal health.
It is said the average person watches four hours of television a week. We all have time to exercise. It's a choice. There are many kinds of exercise. You can find something you enjoy doing! Take a class in ballroom dancing, or square dancing, join a gym, start walking everyday, hire a personal trainer to develop an exercise routine which accommodates your needs, the possibilities are endless! There is a form of exercise you can do no matter your age or physical ability. But check with your doctor first if you have been sedentary and/or have health issues.
If we can watch television for four hours a day we can certainly find the time to exercise for 30 minutes. If it seems overwhelming start with 10 minutes a day. Just start! Your health and quality of life depend on it!
Probably the biggest stumbling block one encounters in their journey to transitioning to a healthier lifestyle centers around food. Most people have a hard time deciding what to eat because they aren`t accustomed to having to think about what they eat. In our culture we are so used to reaching for convenience foods. It's hard to stop pulling into the local drive-up junk food place,nuking your dinner or grabbing a convenient soda when thirsty. But if you have the desire to live a life of quality with optimal health you must stop eating junk food and drinking junk drinks. You will need to develop a repertoire of nutritious recipes you enjoy. In the first eight weeks you have made an attempt at eating a salad every day and increasing your vegetable intake. That wasn't easy but it was a good first step. Hopefully, you have at least decreased your intake of junk food, if you haven't totally cut it out yet.
Your next step with food is to consider eating a percentage of the vegetables and fruits you eat raw. For instance, 60% of my nutritional intake is raw. Women should eat 7 servings and men should eat 9 servings of vegetables and fruits per day. Remember a serving is ½ cup. Why would you want to eat raw foods? Because food in it's natural state contains enzymes which are destroyed when you cook food at high temperatures. Your body needs those enzymes. Every function in the body is run by enzymes. One of the chief reasons processed food is not good for you is because enzymes are destroyed in cooking/food processing. Many illnesses can be traced to enzyme deficiencies.
Lest you think your only option for eating raw is eating salads let me tell you that is far from true! Considering you have probably spent your lifetime eating predominately cooked food this is going to take some work on your part. Obviously, you aren't just going to dive in and start eating this way. Eating a percentage of your food intake raw is something you work up to. The good news is if you're following the 8 week plan you've already started by eating a healthy salad every day! Eating raw is much more than that though! You can learn more about eating raw and how to transition to eating raw foods by reading any of these books:
1."12 Steps to Raw Foods: How to End Your Dependency on Cooked Food" by Victoria Boutenko and Gabriel Cousens
2."Raw: The Uncook Book: New Vegetarian Food for Life" by Juliano, Erika Lenkert,and Juliano Brotman
3."Living on Live Food" by Alissa Cohen
4. "Green for Life" by Victoria Boutenko
Food in it`s natural state supports our immune system. We have taken food in its natural state, and adulterated it with additives, processing, coloring etc. As a result we have many chronic diseases and acutely severe diseases such as cancer. We must return to eating foods in their natural state. Every cell in your body is created from what you eat. If you assist your immune system by giving it the nutrients it needs your immune system will assist you in combating, recovering from and even preventing chronic illness.
Mind, Body, Spirit
We are not just physical beings. We are also mental and spiritual beings and the balance between mind, body and spirit contributes to our degree of optimal health. There is so much busy-ness in life we frequently forget to care for the deeper inner us when, in fact, the spirit facet of us needs care just as our mind and body do. Whether one explores spirituality by engaging in one of the worlds many faith traditions or embarks on an independent path it is a journey vitally important to optimal health.
Our connection with spirit paves the foundation for our understanding and experience of the concepts of forgiveness and gratitude, the importance of service and compassion and the equal importance of giving and receiving. Connection with spirit helps us to choose love, make positive choices, have meaningful relationships and connect to the joy of being. These are all integral to managing stress, feeling happiness and creating optimal health in our life. In optimal health spirit uplifts the body and mind. It is important to take some time to give some thought as to what part spirituality plays in your life.
You may further explore spirituality in these books:
1. "Finding Joy: A Practical Spiritual Guide to Happiness" by Dannel Schwartz and Mark Hass
2. "There`s a Spiritual Solution to Every Problem" by Wayne Dyer
3. "The Laws of Spirit: A Tale of Transformation" by Dan Millman
What is it you say to yourself when you're alone? Self-talk is key to mind/body interaction. What it is you say to yourself over and over colors your attitude, raises or lowers both your energy and stress levels, it may affect your relationships or finances, your emotional state and even the degree of success you have in life. Your self-talk has very real effects upon your health and life.
Negative self-talk such as "I can't", "I'm dumb", or "I'm fat" demoralizes you,lessens your self-esteem and creates a setting for depression to take hold and your immune system to be weakened. On the other hand positive self-talk such as "I'm good", "I can do it" or "I'm a beautiful person" raises self-esteem, combats depression and motivates you to take positive action. It gives you a sense of well-being,less stress and a stronger immune system.
Are you in a negative rut with your self-talk? Sometimes people fall into a habit of negative self-talk which becomes very hard to overcome and change. But you can! When you find yourself thinking something negative immediately replace the thought with a positive one. Take some time in your journal writing to make a list of your good qualities and the things and people in your life for which you feel gratitude. Focus on solutions instead of problems. Be your own best friend. Remember your body hears and reacts to what you say to yourself.
So what are your next plans in transitioning to a healthier lifestyle? Consider these suggestions:
1. If you haven't completely stopped eating fast and/or processed food resolve to do so. It's a hard habit to break, but as you incorporate more fresh vegetables and fruits into your daily nutrition regimen you will find it will become easier to say no to less healthier options.
2. Go to the library or bookstore and get a raw food book(s) and discover the amazing array of healthy gourmet options open to you. You will be pleasantly surprised! Gradually incorporate recipes and ideas from these books into your daily nutrition regimen. This will also help you to stop eating unhealthy foods.
3. Continue to journal about your successes and thoughts and feelings regarding transitioning to a healthier lifestyle. You might also write about what you feel gratitude for each day. It makes a difference to think about it and write it down!
4. Plan your meals a week at a time so that less healthier options aren't inviting.
5. Don't forget about your stress list positive actions. Go to work resolving your stress issues.
6. When you have a negative thought replace it with a positive one! Negative thoughts (and negative self-talk) are habits which can be rehabilitated! You might write a few positive affirmations on index cards and carry them with you. Read these positive affirmations several times a day.
Lastly, be proud of yourself for taking responsibility for your health. Continue to make small changes in your day to day life which enhance your new healthy lifestyle. A balanced life with optimal health is a great joy. One in which you can experience the complete fullness of life. Don't settle for anything less!
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