What are some basic habits/routines/disciplines you do to stay healthy?
Recently a friend of mine surprised me with this question and I was eager to share as helping others heal and stay healthy is my passion.
Whilst typing the (looong) reply, I figured I might as well turn it into a blogpost to benefit as many people as I can so here it is.
“Okay I guess my basic health practices now revolve around mindset, food, sleep, exercise, nature and life fulfillment.
This is numbered 0 because initially I listed food as the most important factor, followed by sleep, exercise, nature and fulfilment
Then as I was about to reply, I realized these days I have been very intrigued with the topic of mind-body connection and healing; about the seemingly ‘magical’ abilities of our minds such as spontaneous recoveries from all sorts of incurable illnesses ranging from cancer to autoimmune and genetic disorders.
This came about from listening to podcasts like this one and watching ted talks like the one below:
Basically I am now convinced that our minds are so much more powerful than we give them credit for. Just as we can THINK ourselves into sickness (the nocebo effect), we can also THINK ourselves into healing and back to full health (the placebo effect).
A positive mindset and jolly, optimistic outlook in life is extremely health promoting and I believe is a key component of staying healthy or increasing your chances of recovering from a serious or chronic illness.
From that Ted talk, I learned that the trick to creating physical change was in being able to relax and not always be in that sympathetic “fight or flight” mode – one reason why meditation always helps.
Often, these spontaneous recovery stories take place when someone diagnosed with a terminal illness goes away on a holiday or retreat and comes back cured!
But there are so many other factors that affect health and as convenient as I’d like to think positive thinking is enough, the reality is we can harm or heal ourselves via the countless choices we make throughout our days. Particularly around food so here are some healthy food habits I practice.
I rarely eat meat anymore. Or even buy any animal products for the house. So basically I’ve gone vegan! 🌱 I find it is one of the most healing diets for my body so far in terms of reducing inflammation. However there is the odd occasion where I get invited over for a meal or when eating out and there isn’t a vegan option available. When this happens, I’m won’t be too strict or hard on myself and will forgive the momentary indulgence knowing that 90% of the time I am eating very healthy.
I’m not saying you should jump cold turkey into a vegan diet (I certainly took quite a while to transition). But what I’m suggesting is slowly coming to see that we do not need as much animal protein as we’ve been marketed to think we need to survive.
Just try avoiding animal products for one meal first. See how you feel. Then maybe slowly build it up to avoiding animal products on alternate days. If you feel even better, then go for a few days at a time.
It’s funny how I only started noticing how ‘heavy’ meat feels in my system only after I stopped consuming it. It feels like it is much harder to digest; like my body utilizes much more energy to break it down. Then there is also the spiritual aspect of things where you are taking in less ‘blood food’ and helping reduce the unnecessary suffering and violence inflicted on our fellow inhabitants on earth.
As a neat consequence, I eat lots and LOTS of vegetables and a moderate amount of fruits. I also try to include something raw with each meal such as probiotic coconut yogurt or kombucha or some sprouts or herbs such as coriander.
I also try to listen to my hunger and only eat when hungry. Some days only one meal a day but it’s a big meal. 😀
If I feel like snacking, I snack on natural and raw nuts and seeds or on fruits like organic apples, bananas or kiwis, etc. But often I realize snacking is mostly emotional or the consequence of unhealthy habits such as snacking during a movie. If you are eating a nutrient dense diet of enough whole and real foods, you’d feel so satisfied after your meal that you’d not even think of snacking.
Of course I don’t drink or smoke or eat much sugary treats or chips or snacks, I try to put only natural foods into my body (meaning it looks like its natural form, not processed into a package in a factory).
It took a while and I am still trying to make it a habit/routine to sleep by 9pm and wake by 5am. I simply can’t stress how important good quality and restful sleep is for healing.
Deep sleep is the only time our body truly heals itself through the processes of clearing inflammation, cellular debris and toxins as well as repairing broken tissue (muscle-building) and growth.
My ‘sleep sanctuary’ and habits include:
- sticking to a routine
- making the room as silent and dark as possible
- using blue-light eliminating software on devices such as your phone/laptop’s ‘Night Light” setting
- ideally ceasing all screen time when the sun goes down and just relaxing with a book (only happens during the holidays now though 😅)
- Not eating too full and allowing about an hour to digest before bed
- Not drinking much fluids/water before bed as waking to use the toilet is very disrupting so I basically don’t drink at all after dinner
- Not sleeping near electrical devices or switches
- Focusing on breathing to help me relax and fall asleep easier, especially nasal breathing and the exhales
Gym about 3 times a week and this includes a mix of various weightlifting modalities like barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells and gymnastic rings. I prefer crossfit/circuit training style as it keeps the heart rate up more consistently than traditional ‘lift and rest’ bodybuilding style training.
On the other days I try to head to the beach or somewhere with lots of nature to run and enjoy the nature. Nature can be so very healing as well.
Lots of movement throughout the day.
If I am studying in a sedentary position like sitting down in a desk, I will set a timer for every 25 mins I study, I will move for 5 mins. That includes stretching or just walking around or just doing some burpees. This actually improves my productivity!
I make it a point to get some vitamin D from sunshine every single day. At least 10 mins and best in the morning when the sun rises. It’s one of the my favourite feel good habits and I can just stand facing the sun, close my eyes and meditate. Just enjoying the warmth from the sun.
As mentioned above, I try to get in touch with nature whenever I can find the time. Like during lunch breaks I enjoy eating lunch outdoors and staring at the trees swaying or dancing in the winds, listening to the birds singing and just adoring being out in nature. (Of course, the natural scenes here in NZ are spectacular but our park back home also has its unique attractions.)
5. Pursuit of passions/calling/purpose, finding life fulfillment
For me a big part of being healthy is also living a life that is meaningful and fulfilling.
This comes naturally when you have found your calling/purpose in life and/or are living in service of others or contributing to something greater than yourself; for a bigger cause or simply contributing towards making the world a better place.
When you look forward to waking up every day, jumping out of bed and pursuing a passion. Something which also brings out the best in you and ideally for the benefit of others.
One way to realize this is something that you love doing so much and which makes you lose track of time every time you do it.
Eventually, I guess it is everyone’s dream to also be able to make a living pursuing your passions. I’m not exactly there yet either but I guess I have a rough picture of where I’m going and am slowing but surely working towards it.
Hope this helps!
Stay healthy, for yourself and for others.