I was out running yesterday morning in the scorching heat and I had three kilometres left to go. It was one of those days when you just want to hide inside, drink iced tea and chill out near the air conditioner. But seeing as I always tell patients how important exercise is – physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually (especially when it is done outdoors) – I thought I’d better “walk the walk” and avoid excuses. As I was running (more like jogging) along a small side street, a car passed with a lone, elderly man driving. He made eye contact with me, then gave me a huge smile and the thumbs-up sign. It was amazing how much that little gesture boosted my energy levels, made me smile and gave me the push to continue on. My perception shifted, and I was now enjoying my run on this bright and muggy morning.
We often get caught up with our “to-do” lists, appointments, routines and schedules, and we forget how much a small offering or gesture can really make a difference. A smile offered to a stranger, a “Good morning” or “Thank you”, or holding the door open for someone can go a long way. Even just sending a loved one a short email, text or voice message telling them you are thinking about him or her can give a stressed-out, burnt-out person the jolt they need to continue on with the day with a positive outlook.
The smallest things make the biggest differences.
This also pertains to our health. It doesn’t take drastic changes in order to start leading a healthier life today.
I know, I know…time is of the essence. It takes time to add in that little bit of physical activity and stress-relieving exercise. Excuses, excuses, excuses. We actually waste time talking about how much time we don’t have.
I came across this powerful quote, to remind ourselves that we actually do have control over how we use our time:
“All that really belongs to us is time; even he who has nothing else has that.” ~Baltasar Gracian
We all have the same amount of time, but it is up to us to decide how we are going to use it.
So, what are some examples of little things that you can do to live a healthier life?
- Get to bed a half-hour earlier…ideally around 10pm, and no later than 11pm. Sleep is a time when our bodies repair themselves. From a Chinese medicine perspective, it is the time when the blood returns to the liver, so that “the eyes can see, the hands can hold, the fingers can grasp, and the feet can walk” (Maciocia). The liver is related to eye function, affects tendon and sinew health, and ensures the free flow of Qi (the vital life force) throughout the whole body.
- Eat fresh, organic blueberries and blackberries. They are high in antioxidants and vitamin C, and help to prevent cancer, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, cataracts, macular degeneration, etc.
- Practice 10 minutes a day of deep breathing, yoga, tai chi or meditation. Studies show that these activities can lower cortisol, the stress hormone in the body. Cortisol, in high levels, can impair the immune system, disrupt sleep, increase blood pressure, disrupt thyroid and sex hormone levels, increase sugar cravings, decrease energy/sex drive/mood, increase abdominal fat, contribute to allergies, impair cognitive function, decrease bone and muscle mass, the list goes on and on…
- Eat breakfast every day! Make sure it includes fibre, protein and healthy fats. Most people are not getting enough protein in the morning. Protein is key to balancing blood sugar levels to provide you with a steady level of energy throughout the day. It also helps to prevent those dreaded afternoon energy dips when most people reach for the nearest coffee and donut.
My favourite sources of protein in the morning are protein smoothies with pumpkinseed protein powder or vegan fermented protein, hemp hearts omelettes and hardboiled eggs (which also make a quick and easy snack).
- Journal.Keep a diary near your bed. Write down all of your thoughts and feelings before bed, not worrying about punctuation and spelling. Just let all the of thoughts (negative and positive) flow out of you. If you find you are waking up in the middle of the night with your mind racing, pull out your journal, jot down your thoughts, and make a “to-do” list for the following day or week. If you can get all of your thoughts out on paper, you are more likely to have a deep and restful sleep.
- Have alternating hot and cold showers.Aim for 3 minutes of hot/warm water, followed by 30 seconds to 1 minute of cold/cool water. Repeat three times. People always look at me like I am crazy when I tell them to do this, but the benefits are huge. The alternating temperature helps to increase lymphatic flow, meaning that your immune system gets a boost. It also increases circulation throughout the body, makes your hair shinier, rejuvenates you, and makes it easier to get out of the shower when you are done. At the very least, end your shower with a 30-second to 1-minute burst of cold/cool water. You’ll feel great afterwards!
Remember, it is the small things that count…and time really does belong to us!
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is not meant to replace treatment with a licensed healthcare practitioner. It is for informational purposes only. Consult with a Naturopathic Doctor or other licensed healthcare professional to determine which treatments are safe for you.