Today’s world offers numerous ways to live healthy. With so many options, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.
Here in the states healthcare is changing rapidly. Currently, Americans invest thirty-million dollars each year in alternative health care, reaching outside of conventional medicine for solutions.
One simple tool we can all apply in our daily lives is incorporating the optimal pillars of health. The pillars are made up of four basis areas of life; nutrition, exercise, mindfulness, sleep. These areas need to be cultivated and lived in balance for ultimate health to take place. Finding balance in all these areas can be a real challenge, yet when we are dedicated to a path of empowered health we can relax into the perfection of imperfection.
There is no one right way to create health.
Pillar One: Nutrition
Nutrition has never been more simple and more complicated, which way is best for our bodies?
To begin, wellness is a creative on-going dance we participate in. The food we eat, the groceries we buy, and the reverence we have for our food, and its cultivation, influences how our bodies receive it. A healthy relationship with food is primary to our well-being.
Water is also a huge component to nutrition, as what we absorb is even more critical than what we ingest. Our bodies are made up of 75% water, and most of us are dehydrated, and not drinking the highest quality water. Bottled water, which leaches micro-plastics into us and the environment, and even filtered water is not optimized water.
Pillar Two: Exercise
Exercise helps with stress reduction and boosts our happy chemicals. Even fresh air and good quality socializing helps!
In fact, research suggests choosing mindful based movement, such as yoga, helps us develop empathy and compassion, in addition to strengthening our bones and muscles, and creating flexibility on all levels–body, mind and spirit.
All types of conscious movement, including dance, walking in the fresh air, kayaking, gardening and good quality socializing outside with friends, old and new, makes a significant impact on the health of our bodies and minds.
And while healthy movement is an important pillar, one without the others leads to imbalance, frustration, and sometimes confusion on the path to optimal health.
Pillar Three: Mindfulness
Mindfulness is a state of being, achieved by bringing the mind’s attention into the present moment.
Training the mind to attune to the present moment, rather than focus on the future or the past is an art, and may be easier said than done. This is especially true because the mammalian brain is geared towards survival and thus limited thinking. This limited thinking leads to cycles of negative thinking rather than creative use of the mind. What can we do about this?
The latest research about neuroplastic changes in the brain suggest:
ATTENTION is like a spotlight, illuminating what it rests upon. Thus neuroplasticity (flexibility within the brain) speaks to the ability for of our brains to change and grow, even as adults. Thus the essence of mindfulness is the skill of directing our mind’s attention in fundamental way, shaping the brain and one’s life over time.
Opening to mindfulness requires us to slow down and be still. Stillness helps us recover and heal, literally creating new neural pathways in the brain.
Below are several ways to step into stillness:
Breath in the positive, sit in a quiet place, close the eyes
tune into station “quieting the mind”
Surround yourself with positive reflections
choose esteem-able actions
ask for help
Surrender to change, and receiving wellness
Sit still for five minutes and breath
bare-witness to the present moment
choose new patterns
Research shows meditation increases gray matter (enhanced dendritic activity = better memory, intelligence) in the following parts of the brain that control self-awareness and empathy for emotions (Insula), which control visual-spatial memory and establishes context (Hippocampus), inhibiting amygdala and cortisol–stress responses, which manage executive functions and attention control (Pre-frontal cortex).
36% of life is sleep. The first three hours of sleep are our deepest. During this time growth hormones surge, which become blocked when we eat before bed, as does Valium and Xanax.
The brain craves sleep. Sleep is restorative, helps us conserve energy. Our genes turn-on during sleep, and memory and brain consolidation occurs, enhancing our creativity.
Tips for optimal sleep conditions:
Create a haven, a dark room that is slightly cool
Reduce light exposure 1/2 before bed (tv, computer, phone)
Utilize natural sleep aids (magnesium, bio-idential hormones, chamomile passion-flower tea…)
References: Heidi Most–Associate Professor @MUIH, Body Mind Science Power Point and Text