4 Ways to Improve Your Health, Unrelated to Food

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I know I talk a lot about food on here.  Honestly, that’s because changing my diet made such a huge and immediate difference in my health and life.  But I know not everyone is ready to give up their grains and sugar or even minimize them.  So I’ve complied a list of things that will make your life better, even if you are not ready to change your diet.

I know these 4 things aren’t rocket science (you’ve probably read or heard them before somewhere else) but I have tried to include links to articles that if read, might take these 4 things from “helpful suggestions” to “absolute essentials for your survival”.

 

1. Be Outside.

You need vitamin D and the best way to get is by absorbing sunlight into your skin.  Vitamin D isn’t actually in the suns rays, rather our skin produces vitamin D when it is exposed to sunlight.  If you want to know more about that, read this.  Due to the way most of use live and work (and dress in some cases) our skin does not get enough exposure to the sun to create an adequate level of vitamin D.  It’s also true that there are very few foods that are good sources of vitamin D.  The answer – get outside.  Even if it means leaving your cubicle to eat lunch.  You’ll be reducing your risk of cancer, boosting your immune system and strengthening your bones (all functions Vitamin D plays a role in).

Sunlight will also elevate your mood and a pharmacist can’t charge you for it!  Good stuff!

2.  Walk.

Preferably, outside!  If fitness and working out isn’t your thing or your new at it or you have a long way to go, etc etc – just walk.  Any amount at whatever pace you are able.  Even if you are able to power walk with the best of them, I’m going to humbly suggest that not every walk you take needs to be at a super fast pace.  Human bodies are not designed to always be in a hurry.  Take a leisurely stroll in the evening, not for time or distance.  Just to enjoy it.  Just to get off the couch.  Do this enough and it will probably lower your stress level and make it easier for you to fall asleep.

If you can’t go outside due to weather, etc, then go to a mall or the gym.  Whatever you do, just walk.  Hop over to Marks Daily Apple and he will give you 17 ways walking will benefit your life – my favorite? – [Walking] keeps your buttocks engaged with the world.  I think we all want engaged butts.  They’re perky 🙂

3.  Sleep.

For 8 hours.  Every night.  I’ve heard Paleo fitness experts say that if you have to make a choice between losing an hour of sleep to work out, or getting a full 8 hours – they would rather you stay asleep.  Think about that.  Sleep is important and too much of America is compensating for a lack of it with soda and coffee – and walking around like zombies.

I know a lot of people have a hard time falling asleep (my mother is one – HI MOM, hope you are reading this!) So I feel like bed time should come with it’s own stewardess voice… “Please turn off your electronic devices.  And stop watching Netflix.  You are making this harder on yourself.”  Seriously – I’m going to insert some of my own personal experience into this one.  When I was first trying to lose weight, I took the 8 hours of sleep advice to heart.  My normal bedtime routine was to turn off my computer an hour before I wanted to fall asleep.  I usually read during that time, because that helps me relax.  Also, one of the biggest things I learned from Paleo regarding sleep – your room needs to be dark.  Like a cave.  Block out the lights, cover up the digital displays on your alarm clock.  It makes such a difference because your body is designed to function on a circadian rhythm and different types of light effect that rhythm.

If you have a background in photography, this will make sense to you – sunlight is blue, firelight is red/yellow.  When your body is exposed to blue light, its bells are going off to stay awake, but red/yellow light and darkness signals that it is time to sleep.  We mess with this when we use TV’s and other electronic devise right before we want to fall asleep – because they all emit blue light.

This is one area of my life that I have let slide.  I still sleep in a very dark space, but for the last 6 months I’ve been very bad about shutting down the devices before bed.  Join me in resolving to help your body get back into a circadian rhythm!  You’ll stop tossing and turning and actually wake up feeling refreshed instead of groggy!

 

4.  Manage Your Stress.

If you think you are doing everything right and you don’t understand why you aren’t seeing results… it might simply be stress.  Cortisol is a powerful, stress related hormone and you need it to live – but it will do all sorts of nasty things to your body when it is pumping constantly.  And most of us could say that we live with low levels of constant stress.  Some of us, more than low levels.

If we don’t do anything to combat stress or find effective ways to cope – basically cortisol is going to slowly kill you.  You might think I’m being dramatic, but I’m not.  Stress can kill people and that’s not a metaphor, it’s a chemical fact that presents itself in the body.  Mark Sisson will do a better job of explaining this all to you and giving you ideas on how to lower the effects of stress on your body – so read his article!

Here’s a thought I heard on stress recently. A lot of it is mental, because we are humans and we are smart so we think. But sometimes, we need to stop thinking!

There is a book called Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers – and too sum it up if you were a zebra, and you were living on a plain in Africa and a lion started chasing you, you would panic and run as fast as you can and your body would be pumping adrenaline and other fight or flight hormones for about 90 seconds because you would either die or run fast enough to get away in that amount of time. Let’s say you got away – you would NOT, as a zebra, spend the next 6 hours thinking about how scary that was, or the next week worrying about if it was going to happen again. When we, as smarty pants humans, do that our body continues releasing stress hormones. And that’s bad for us, because we are not designed to be that stressed out all the time. So take a page from Frozen and Let It Go.

This even applies to health and fitness. Do you really want to get healthy? Exercise more? Eat better? Are you obsessing about every little detail of those things? You might be causing yourself more stress than you realize and that approach isn’t healthy, it’s actually counter productive. Eating and exercising should be enjoyable, not a math problem. Don’t worry about numbers, just eat real food and move!

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