Whether we are looking for ways to tweak our health and wellness, or drastically revamp our lifestyles, health experts are more informed than ever about the bigger picture of health and wellness.
Science is discovering more and more about the incredible inner-workings of our bodies every day. As fields of study such as epigenetics and physiology evolve, we now know that where health is concerned, it’s complicated.
Our overall health is the result of so many interdependent systems, environmental interactions and emotional considerations that it’s no wonder we struggle to find a one-size-fits-all solution to our health concerns. Gone are the days of evaluating health by heart rate and body mass index alone – we are as unique as we are complex. So, where do we begin making changes toward a more balanced and fulfilling life?
If you imagined your brain as a network of thousands of race tracks, it would make sense that the tracks that are used most often become the hardest tracks to deviate from. With use, these tracks become deep ruts or grooves, carved into patterns that require time and effort to change. While some tracks are useful and productive, others may result from past traumas or environmental conditioning and begin to work against us in the background. Put another way: a grumpy old man doesn’t become a grumpy old man by thinking compulsively optimistic thoughts – being negative takes practice!
When we identify which cyclical thoughts and beliefs are running in the background, we can begin to observe the result and slowly guide our thought processes away from negative or unproductive thought cycles and into new supportive neural pathways that become easier to access with use. Just as some of the people in our lives have trained their brains into negative and self-deprecating thought patterns, others have trained their brains to look for solutions and opportunities when challenges are present and they regulate stress hormones more effectively as a result. This is why diving deep into our limiting thought patterns is so critical if we want to maximize our potential for holistic health.
When we aren’t taking care of our most fundamental health needs, outside events carry more weight in determining the trajectory of our day, and we unconsciously look to coping mechanisms as a result. By taking stock of habits that aren’t honouring our needs, we can start to replace these habits with empowering behaviours that position us to make the most of the natural ebb and flow of our lives. We undertake these changes slowly, one item at a time, until we have amassed a profound understanding of Self and no longer need coping mechanisms to meet our needs.
Sleep is our body’s natural restoration process. This is when many of the toxins are flushed from the body and the brain recovers from the demands of the day. Sleep deficits drastically impact your body’s metabolism and ability to cope with stress. Lack of sleep causes erratic cravings, poor allocation of fat storage and can even have negative effects on critical organs such as the liver. Getting the right amount of sleep is critical for overall wellbeing and its impact is often underestimated.
If we look at the standard western diet, we see a spectrum of offerings from organic fruits, vegetables and grains right down to heavily processed and high sugar content packaged foods. When we combine an appreciation for food quality with a healthy respect for Self, we often see that the quantity of what we consume isn’t as impactful as what we’re reaching for in the first place. When we return to a diet that embraces food designed by nature, we see that it’s much more difficult to overeat because our bodies can process these natural ingredients more efficiently. Good healthy fats, substantial proteins and nutrient-dense foods are the kinds of foods that are going to enhance the function of our metabolism and keep us full of the right things. By choosing high quality ingredients, we avoid sugar crashes and can do away with radical diets that are difficult to maintain and show massive results until the moment that we inevitably return to a ‘regular’ diet once again.
Many of us are so enmeshed with the circumstances outside of ourselves that we can forget that we live in a body that requires maintenance beyond the ‘fuel’ we consume to keep the motor running. Even a body that is lean and well-nourished absolutely, positively, and without a doubt needs to move.
Without movement our bodies can harbor stress chemicals, and without movement to activate and flush our systems, we have no outlet for chemical stress. Moving our bodies does not necessarily mean getting up before the rooster crows to work out at the gym seven days a week. While these regimens work well for some, the reality is that many of us are so far removed from that physical standard that simply increasing the pace at which we do our regular activities can make a difference. I teach my clients to embrace what works for them – what grounds them into their body and allows some time to appreciate its magnificence. Taking time to demonstrate respect for your powerful Self can come in the form of bike rides, hiking, walking, dancing, sex – or any other activity that has you engaging in conscious motion. Movement gradually gives way to strength as our capacity to flex, stretch and move improves our capacity to try new ways to get active.
Taking control of your health means paying attention to the needs of your whole person and finding a lifestyle that fosters a sense of self-acceptance and love. One day at a time, and with the right support, a lifestyle that is True to You puts you back in control.