Everyone wants to consistently feel good, have endless energy and balanced moods, right? For most of us, it takes work to get to this place by making changes to the way we live our lives and the foods we eat, but actually making those changes can be a bit overwhelming. So, what if we take a step back, and look at a few things we can do right now that can make a difference? Some of them may seem silly, like chewing your food more - seriously??? Believe it or not, something that seems so small, can have a big impact for some. Consider trying one or more of the options from the list below and see where it takes you. You may be surprised!
1. Water ~
Hydration is key, as our cells and tissues need water to support life. Dehydration can impact energy levels, cognition, detoxification, and can lead to headaches, constipation, etc. We get water from drinking water, of course, but also from eating fruits and vegetables and drinking herbal teas. Strive for 6 - 8 cups per day, and one's needs can change based on level of exercise, how hot it is, etc. Be sure to drink filtered water, as tap water can contain chlorine, fluoride and/or other chemicals that can interfere with the body's hormonal pathways, among other things.
2. Sunlight ~
In a nutshell, sunlight:
- Stimulates vitamin D production, which is important for many things including bone health, immune health, muscle function, respiratory health and others, and is a topic for a whole blog post on its own. Please note that vitamin D production from sunlight only occurs depending on when UVB rays are present, so based on where you live and the season. For more information, check out the Vitamin D Council Website.
- Can elevate mood via serotonin production
- Supports normal circadian rhythms that impacts sleep/wake cycles, body temperature and hormonal changes
- Feels good!
To experience the benefits of sunlight, one needs exposure without sunscreen, so the duration of exposure and time of day should be taken into account, because you don't want to get burned. The Vitamin D Council Website has a lot of great information.
3. Relax ~
We live in a high demand, fast-paced world, and finding time to relax can be challenging, and is not always a priority when our schedules are maxed, but because of those things, it is more important than ever to take a few moments to relax. If we are always stressed and running from one thing to the next, burnout is a big possibility, and even if we are doing everything else "right", if we aren't managing our stress appropriately, it can undo everything! What constitutes relaxation is relative and can include things like: laying down for a few minutes, practicing mindfulness, meditating, listening to music, taking a hike, going for a walk, sitting outside, reading a book, watching TV, playing a game, etc.
4. Sleep ~
Getting enough sleep, like 8 hours every night (even for those people who think they only need 5 hours), is important for health. Not getting enough sleep can be a stressor on the body and play a role in weight gain, hormonal imbalances, heart disease and lack of focus, among others. How can we get more sleep? That can also be a whole other post, and is very individual, but a few general suggestions include:
- Taking a warm bath (with Epsom Salts) in the evening
- Drinking chamomile tea to promote relaxation
- Sleeping in a cool, dark room
- Managing stress
- Exercising during the day
- Getting exposure to sunlight during the day as mentioned in #2 above
- Staying away from artificial light from computers, smart phones, tablets, TV for a few hours before bed. You can download f.lux on your computer, phone or tablet and it changes the blue light in the evenings to an amber light.
5. Breath ~
All of our cells need oxygen and a lot of times we just take shallow breaths in our chest. How many times have you actually paid attention to your breath? Try making a conscious effort to take deep breaths throughout the day and provide those beautiful cells with the oxygen they need.
6. Chew ~
The action of chewing our food is a part of mechanical digestion, which when done sufficiently helps with the rest of the digestive process. By breaking down our food as much as possible by chewing, our livers, gallbladders, stomach, intestines don't have to work as hard, and have a better chance of completing the process of digestion. Some people have just made the one change of chewing more and that has helped their digestion, overall. I have always been a fast eater and didn't think much of it, and I have had numerous digestive issues. Now I try to be very mindful when I am eating and make sure I slow down and chew my food really well before swallowing, and have noticed a difference with my digestion (it didn't fix all of my problems, but has helped).
7. Gratitude ~
Try to make an effort to think of what you are grateful for each day and express that feeling. This expression can be through prayer, meditation, coming up with a mantra, consciously thinking positive thoughts, writing notes to yourself or others about what you are grateful for, and on and on. There isn't just one approach. In the end, expressing gratitude can promote the feeling of greater connection to the world, which can provide a meaningful experience to life.
8. Move ~
Have you heard the saying "sitting is the new smoking"? If you sit most of the day, be sure to take breaks and move your body. This is true even if you exercise and then sit behind a desk for the rest of the day. Research has linked sitting for long periods of time with conditions like: obesity, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat and abnormal cholesterol levels. You can find more information in this article from the Mayo Clinic.
9. Hugs ~
Besides the obvious reason of feeling an attachment to those you care about when you hug somebody, research suggests that hugging also promotes the release of the hormone, Oxytocin. This hormone is referred to as the "bonding hormone". In the brain, it influences mood, behavior and physiology. This hormone may sound familiar, as it is also released when moms breastfeed their babies to promote attachment between mother and baby. To find out more about the amazing benefits from hugging, check out this great write up on Jen Reviews.
10. Music ~
Listening to music can be therapeutic and have a profound impact on our brains, from learning to boosting mood. I know when I am listening to music that speaks to my heart, I get an immediate boost in mood. If you add dancing to that, look out - a mediocre day can improve like that! Here is a great write up with more information about the benefits of music.
Pubmed.gov. Water as an Essential Nutrient. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19724292
Chris Kresser's Website. Does Avoiding the Sun Shorten Your Lifespan. Retrieved from: https://chriskresser.com/does-avoiding-the-sun-shorten-your-lifespan/
Chris Kresser's Website. 8 Tips for Beating Insomnia and Improving Your Sleep. Retrieved from: https://chriskresser.com/8-tips-for-beating-insomnia-and-improving-your-sleep/
US News Website. The Health Benefits of Hugging. Retrieved from: http://health.usnews.com/health-news/health-wellness/articles/2016-02-03/the-health-benefits-of-hugging
Jen Reviews Website. 20 Amazing Benefits of Hugging According to Science. Retrieved from: https://www.jenreviews.com/hugging/
NPR Website. The Power of Music to Affect the Brain. Retrieved from: http://www.npr.org/2011/06/01/136859090/the-power-of-music-to-affect-the-brain
Music Center Website. The Most Amazing Benefit of Music. Retrieved from: https://www.musicinstrumentscenter.com/best-benefit-of-music/#1_How_does_music_affect_the_brain