For so many of my patients, much of what’s driving their lack of well-being is rooted in the way they live their lives. Contrary to what science used to think—that we are victims of our genetics—we realize today that there are so many ways we can live our lives that can positively (or negatively) impact the expression of our genes. We’ve gone back to the ways of our grandmothers, leaning on ancient wisdom to inform new habits. Nature and nurture are intricately intertwined in the tapestry that is our lives.
The great news is, staying healthy doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive. Try making these five basics a part of your weekly routine and experience what it will do for your happiness and well-being!
5 TIPS FOR A HEALTHY LIFESTYLE
- Eat whole foods. Rather than reaching for the most convenient processed foods, try to cook meals based around whole foods, and snack on things like nuts and apple slices. Aim for nourishment that is minimally processed, low in added sugars, and diverse. This doesn’t have to mean your food needs to be low in fat or flavor! Some whole foods can be high in fat, like avocados or free range eggs, which we’ve been taught are bad for us, but really aren’t. And with the help of organic herbs and spices, even the simplest dish can be a feast for all the senses (while also making your foods more healthful in the process!).
- Get rest. Getting the recommended 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night and giving yourself mental rest by unplugging during the day—stepping away from your tablet, putting down your smartphone, and turning off the TV—can do wonders for your well-being. Make space in your life for quiet.
- Nourish relationships. Maintaining your social networks and investing in healthy relationships can be very protective for you. Research has found that people who are socially isolated (a.k.a. “lonely”) experience serious health consequences. Studies have found that being lonely can be as dangerous as smoking, being an alcoholic, never exercising, or being obese. Find time to have dinner with your family, play board games on the weekends with friends, say hello to your neighbor, or take your kids to the nearby park. Stay connected!
- Move your body. Research shows that around 60 million Americans over the age of six years old get less than 30 minutes of movement a day. No question, our sedentary lives are making us sick. We know that low levels of activity are associated with heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, lower back pain, depression, and anxiety. Walk your dog around the neighborhood, use the stairs in your office building rather than the elevator, go out dancing, sign up for a yoga class, take a hike; just keep moving.
- Experience nature. In Japan, there is a common practice referred to as “forest bathing” (or shinrin-yoku), which involves simply being in nature and experiencing it through our five senses—sight, smell, taste, touch, and hearing. Whether you adopt this lovely practice, or find your own way to get outside and pay close attention to the natural world, I expect you’ll feel less stressed and more content afterwards.
For those of us with limited time, it’s easy to find ways to combine many of these tips into one activity. For example, going on a walk outdoors with a friend and leaving your cell phone behind can check #2, #3, #4, and #5 off the list simultaneously.
As an integrative physician, I can tell you that all the pharmaceuticals, all the acupuncture, and all the herbs in the world cannot compare to the health benefits you can achieve if you incorporate these five basic tips for enjoying a wonderful life.
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