A good place to begin seemed to be with the outline that guides me through the wellness workshops that I conduct. The main portion of the workshop gives a nutshell version, or what I call Nutrition 101, the very basics of how to achieve and maintain optimum health. The mind/body connection is very important to the process of achieving the goal of optimum health. The body would not get very far without the mind, and since we know that the mind has no real “form” it also would not be useful, in this world, without a body.
It is clear that good health is without a doubt our greatest asset. Achieving good health may sometimes be a challenge and a mystery; but It doesn’t have to be either if we just take the time to learn a little about how to attain optimum health and to maintain it for life. Regardless of what health issues we may be dealing with at the moment or what medication we may be taking for those issues, we can stand to benefit from the some changes that will improve our overall health and possibly enable us to feel much more energetic than we do presently.
The Basics: Nutrition 101 (a nutshell version):
Definition of optimum health: The simple answer is the best possible level of health for each individual. That means, for example, that someone who has MS and is overweight and has type 2 diabetes can work towards losing the excess weight and stabilizing blood sugar through diet and exercise and they will still probably have MS, but they will feel a lot better without the extra weight and the symptoms of diabetes. Someone who is simply overweight and always tired, but may not have any other health issues can work towards losing the extra weight through lifestyle changes and they will feel great.
A healthy immune system is at the basis of good health. Max Gerson, MD, said in his book “A Cancer Therapy” that there is only one thing ever wrong with our bodies when we get sick and that is that our immune system has failed us for some reason. He believed that if we strengthen the immune system we can overcome anything that comes our way as far as pathology is concerned. Given that information, we can be assured that one of the keys to optimum health is a strong immune system. A healthy mind is the most important ingredient. The mind is a tremendously powerful entity. We will go into this topic a little deeper later on.
What it takes to attain and maintain optimum health: The mind must first be committed to achieving optimum health. The reason that diets don’t work is that the goal is so narrow. We decide to lose 15 pounds by the summer and that’s what we do (sometimes). When summer comes and goes we go back to our old eating habits and the weight comes back with more besides. If the goal had been to achieve a healthy body weight for life then the changes would be different and the results more lasting.
Yoyoing our body weight is as bad, if not worse in some cases, as being overweight all the time. Mind change is what will bring us lasting results with our health. The way to achieve mind change is first to make a decision and set some realistic goals, write some affirmations and make some concrete plans to get you where you want to go.
What we eat is next on the plan list. We consume about 40,000 meals in our lifetime, so food must have some impact on our overall health. Good nutritious food is very important. So much of what constitutes the current American diet is not even food, and many Americans do not understand these basic nutrition facts. Real food spoils with mold and bacteria with time if not eaten. Some of the foods that we see on the shelf will outlive us if left alone. Our bodies are alive and we must feed them with live foods.
We must also have the ability to assimilate the food that we eat. If our digestion system is not working properly it won’t matter how good the food is if we can’t process it correctly in order to get the nutritional value from the food. A large part of the immune system is included in the digestive system. Proper digestion is very important.
The end part of the digestion system is the elimination process. We must also be able to properly eliminate waste products from our bodies for good health. Ideally, your body wants to eliminate at least once a day. When your body is really on track it will want to eliminate about 30 to 45 minutes after each meal. If this sounds completely foreign to your body’s habits then you have a problem that must be corrected soon, or bust (pun intended).
Pure water is vital. Our bodies are about 98% liquid and require lots of good pure water to keep everything flowing properly. Drinking 8, 8oz. glasses of water daily is a start. For those who are very active more may be required. Most of the water we have access to is not pure so we need to learn how to get pure water. If you eat lots of fresh fruits and veggies, raw, then you won’t require as much water. Be careful with bottle waters as some of them have additives like caffeine or chlorine and other stuff they call vitamins. Vitamins is a subject for another post. Just plain spring water, distilled water or purified water are the best choices.
Fresh air is also vitally important. We have all experienced some occasion where we encountered smoke or something else in the air that caused us to cough. Our lungs were rejecting the bad air that is harmful to their functioning. The air in our homes and workplaces is often far worse than the air outside. Be mindful of what is going on around you when you are outside for exercise so you are not breathing in a lot of pollution. A park or a path through the woods is a good place to take a long walk. More on the air in another post.
Exercise is way more important than most of us realize. Our bodies were made to move regularly. Our Creator designed our bodies to last about 120 years or more. We wear out much sooner than that because we just don’t take care of ourselves and a large part of why we don’t take care of ourselves is that we just don’t know how.
Exercise is great for every function of our bodies without exception. Since we no longer are an agrarian society we have to invent ways to stay active. Get busy inventing ways to exercise as much as you can.
The Basics of Stress Management: Most people don’t breathe correctly. We are shallow breathers. Breathing is one thing we cannot do without and water is the other. The need for food is still debatable. If you take a Yoga class one of the first things they teach is proper breathing and there is more than one way to do that. If you train for some athletic sport, breathing is an important part of training. Why is it we don’t learn to breathe correctly for every day? Do it! it is very important. Lessons on breathing will be available soon. Don’t hold your breath while you wait. Do this instead. DON’T DO THIS IF YOU HAVE BREATHING HEALTH ISSUES SUCH AS ASTHMA.
Do this while standing up. The first place your hands on your abdomen and breathe as you normally do and note if your abdomen expands when you breathe out or in. Ideally, it should expand when you breathe in and contract when you breathe out. If the reverse is happening then you are a reverse breather like most people. Now while you still have your hands on the abdomen, empty your lungs as much as you can blowing out slowly through your mouth.
Before you think you are going to faint start breathing in slowly through the nose and take in as much air as your lungs will hold. Focus on this process to make sure your abdomen is expanding while breathing in and contracting while breathing out. Practice this for about 5 minutes or so. Not much longer than that at a time as you might become dizzy. This is a basic breathing lesson. More later.
Exercise is not a four letter word. The truth is that if you don’t use it you will lose the ability to use it as you get older. If you don’t believe that ask me. I am over 60 and when I don’t do my Yoga for a few days, because I think I have more important things to do, and then start back again my body screams at me and wants to know if I have lost my mind. The truth is a resounding YES. It is very important to exercise consistently, so find a plan that works for you and do it consistently. Your body will thank you in wonderful ways, like not failing you when you have to run unexpectedly for a taxi, or a bus or a train. Or not failing you when the elevator gives out and you have to walk up 3 flights of stairs. Just do it. It is part of your plan to get more healthy. Walk at least 30 minutes a day to start. If you haven’t walked in years then do 10 minutes and increase it by 5 minutes every 7 days. Either join a gym, or a Yoga class or Pilates or something that gets that body moving on a consistent basis.
Now for the best part. The most important part of a relaxation plan is a meditation of some kind. I am not advocating any particular religion. However, getting connected with whatever you perceive to be your Higher Power is vitally important, so also do that consistently. Find a quiet spot either inside or out and do your quiet time at about the same time every day. I highly recommend you utilize the first 5 to 10 minutes of your day and the last 5 or 10 minutes of your day for meditation and relaxation techniques. Whatever works for you. If life gets a little out of hand during the day stealth away to a place where you can re-group, your life depends on it. And there will be more on this subject available as well.