Would you like to look and feel AMAZING every single day? Would you like to have more energy, health, and vitality than what you have become accustomed to?
Let's face it. For some of us, getting out of bed is somewhat of a chore. We went to bed late the night before, so we're still tired and barely awake when we stumble out of bed as the alarm goes off. We grab the first thing that looks like food, and then we dash off to work or school. Then, when we're hungry, we grab anything that looks good to us.
Of course, I may be exaggerating a little. (Or maybe not, depending on your situation.)
But seriously, to become the very best versions of ourselves, performing at maximum capacity, we need to optimize our health. It's the first of the seven pillars of the best life.
So here are seven well-researched strategies for improving the quality of your health:
The foundation of health is a good night's sleep.
Many people (hard-driving executives and students especially) downplay the importance of sleep. They think getting a full eight hours of sleep is a huge waste of time. So they charge full-steam ahead, ignoring sleep or relegating it to last priority.
What most people don't realize is that the body detoxifies itself between the hours of 11 pm and 3 am. When we are habitually awake during those hours, the body is not able to carry out this important function.
It may seem counterintuitive, but high-performance in any field is more easily attained when we are sufficiently rested, completely awake, and fully alert. This state cannot be achieved when we are half-awake zombies, due to habitually scrimping on sleep.
According to Deepak Chopra and other sleep experts, the ideal bedtime is 10 pm. During the night, we typically go through four to six 90-minute cycles of non-rapid eye movement (REM) and REM sleep. After these cycles, we get 7-8 hours of sleep and we wake up refreshed between 5 am and 6 am. Of course, these are averages. Some may need more sleep, some may need less.
The thing to remember is that non-REM sleep (dreamless sleep) dominates the earlier part of the night and tilts toward REM sleep as night moves toward dawn. Non-REM sleep is also deeper and more restorative. That means the earlier you go to bed, the deeper your sleep will be, as opposed to sleeping much later, like at around 3 am. The quality of your sleep may suffer. That's why it's often said that "an hour of sleep before midnight is worth two after."
Consider the world's richest man, Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon.com. He tries to get at least 8 hours of sleep every night by going to bed early and getting up early. In an interview with David Rubenstein, the co-founder and co-executive chairman of the Carlyle Group, published on Business Insider, he said: "I prioritize it. I think better. I have more energy. My mood is better."
He further explains: "If you shortchange your sleep, you might get a couple of extra 'productive' hours, but that productivity might be an illusion. When you're talking about decisions and interactions, quality is usually more important than quantity."
After the foundation of quality sleep, the next strategy is fuel: "You are what you eat."
Like a Lamborghini, you will get out of the car exactly what you put into it. You won't just put any kind of fuel into a high-performance car. Your body is more important than a sports car.
The closer we can get to the way the food was created in nature, the better it will be for us.
Sadly, much of what is considered as "food" today is commercially processed. In most cases, much of the healthy vitamins and minerals have already been removed. And what has been added is harmful to our health — such as trans fats, artificial sweeteners like aspartame (Nutrasweet and Equal), high-fructose corn syrup, monosodium glutamate (MSG), sodium nitrate, sodium nitrite, artificial coloring, preservatives, and other harmful food additives.
Therefore, beware of food with a very long ingredients list, filled with terms you hardly recognize. And if it doesn't spoil (except for honey), it's an indication that it's unnatural.
So what should the bulk of your diet be? Fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, berries, nuts, seeds, eggs, fish, and clean meats. (Not all animal flesh is fit for human consumption. For example, pork and shellfish.)
According to Dr. Joel Fuhrman (in his books, Super Immunity and The End of Dieting), G-BOMBS (Greens, Beans, Onions, Mushrooms, Berries, and Seeds) are the foods with the most powerful immune-boosting and anticancer effects. If you want to prevent cancer, which has now recently overtaken heart disease as the #1 killer in America, it would be wise to eat more of these kinds of food.
Drinking plenty of water is also important in maintaining vibrant health. When you're dehydrated, the cellular processes in your body run less efficiently. And sometimes, a headache is a symptom of dehydration. Drinking pure water helps eliminate body poisons and keeps your entire system clean. Drinking water also improves your complexion and helps prevent kidney stones and constipation.
How much water should you drink? We've been taught that we need around 6-8 glasses of water per day — perhaps even more if you work outdoors and sweat profusely under the sun. That's a good guide, but the exact amount you need depends on several factors — your activity level, the environment, your overall health, and whether or not you are pregnant or breastfeeding. When in doubt, let your thirst guide you.
Many of the chronic diseases we face can be traced to a sedentary lifestyle, including diabetes and cardiovascular disease. In fact, like smoking, too much sitting is dangerous to your health.
Six years ago, when I was a full-time assistant office manager and part-time assistant pastor, I missed two whole weeks of work due to debilitating lower back pain, partly due to a back injury I suffered many years prior. At that time, I was "wearing so many hats." It was a very busy and stressful time for me — constant travel, paperwork, and many late nights. I wasn't taking very good care of my health at all. I remember spending too much time at work just sitting. I used to wake up at 5 am to jog three kilometers every morning, but then when things got so busy at the office, I began to skip my morning workouts.
It came to the point that my back hurt so much when I stand or walk. Even going to the restroom was a challenge. I was advised to do gradual exercises to recover movement. And so I began to do daily stretches and exercises to strengthen my back and whole body.
Thankfully, I no longer have lower back pain today. I learned my lesson the hard way. I will never allow myself to become too sedentary again. Today, I strive to do daily exercises (either walking, running, or jogging).
In addition to the "big three" strategies mentioned above, there are four other strategies that can help us achieve vibrant health. The first of these is getting enough (not too much) sunlight, around 10-30 minutes every day. If we do our daily exercise outdoors, we will be "killing two birds with one stone" with this one. Since many of us work with our laptops and digital devices, it's very easy to just stay indoors most of the time and miss out on the many health benefits of vitamin D that can be obtained for free by exposure to sunlight.
It's also highly important to get plenty of fresh air. Since many of us live in urban areas, we may need to be intentional about getting close to nature and finding places where we can breathe clean and unpolluted air. As we all know, oxygen is essential to life. Where I live, my wife and I love to visit Eden Nature Park whenever we can. It's a mountain resort about 2,400 feet above Davao City. We found that spending time around the pine trees renews our spirit.
In connection with this, we need to learn to take really deep breaths for greater energy and vitality. Many of us just take very shallow breaths.
The second of the last four strategies is to maintain cleanliness. We cannot enjoy vibrant health when we have a dirty body, dirty clothes, or when we live in dirty surroundings.
You may have heard the saying, "cleanliness is next to godliness." That quote is not found in the Bible (that phrase is attributed to John Wesley), but cleanliness is taught in the Bible.
In fact, the biblical laws of sanitation, quarantine, burial, hygiene, and proper waste disposal have contributed to medical advances and the decline in deaths across the world when most of civilization was still ignorant about these basic principles.
We can't deny the fact that invisible germs— bacteria, viruses, fungi, and protozoa — do exist and they can invade our body and make us sick. Therefore, we need to maintain cleanliness.
Here's a fact we cannot deny: Accidents do happen — but we can lessen their severity — or better yet, prevent them from happening in the first place — by being more careful.
Did you know that for the last five years, accidents have been the fourth leading cause of death after heart disease, cancer, and chronic lower respiratory disease?
According to a National Center for Health Statistics report, the number of emergency department visits for unintentional injuries was 30.8 million in 2015. Mosty vehicular injuries.
Every year, 1.25 million people around the world die due to road crashes, according to a Rappler article. It's the leading cause of death for 15-29-year-olds. In the Philippines, the number of deaths due to traffic accidents has been increasing since 2006. In 2015, 10,012 people died due to road crashes, a 45.76% increase from 6,869 deaths recorded in 2006.
Just think of the billions of dollars or pesos lost in doctor and hospital bills, the millions of productive hours lost, or the precious and irreplaceable young lives that end prematurely.
There is a lot of information out there on how to prevent these accidents. But we need to make a conscious decision to be more careful to avoid unnecessary risks. So think ahead.
Yes, it's all common sense — but what is common sense is not always common practice.
Have you ever heard of the term, psychosomatic illness? It's an illness caused, not by your body, but by your mind — by your way of thinking, leading to emotional stress. Some examples of these are ulcers, indigestion, headaches, eyestrain, and nervousness. In fact, it has been estimated that more than 90 percent of doctor visits are due to stress-related health problems. So psychosomatic illnesses are more common than most people realize.
There is a very real mind-body connection, and — believe it or not — it is actually possible to think your way to being sick! In fact, we have a word for them — the people getting sick by simply thinking they are sick (even when they're not). We call them hypochondriacs.
So the final strategy to vibrant health is to cultivate faith and a positive mental attitude. There are so many things that happen to us in life, and many of those things are beyond our control. If we stress over those things that we have little or no control over, we will always feel stressed, worried, and anxious. Eventually, if we do not take control of our thoughts, this will lead to feeling powerless, angry, sad, frustrated, and ultimately, depressed.
The solution is to do your best and commit everything else to God. Look beyond yourself — the Creator has never run out of options or solutions. There is nothing impossible with God. There is nothing too hard for Him. We need to learn to put our faith and trust in His love and care for us so that we will be able to relax and not take things too seriously.
Your body is the most amazing, the most sophisticated, creation ever made. It operates on physical laws and principles. If we obey those laws, it will operate efficiently and optimally. But if we violate those laws, we will suffer the consequences of sickness and disease. If you want to live the best life possible and become the very best version of YOU, follow these strategies.
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