15 Ways to Jumpstart Your Health!
1. Lemon water.
After 8+ hours of zero water intake while your body is resting, repairing, and rejuvenating, it is of course dehydrated in the morning! Before you have that cup of coffee, make yourself a warm cup of water with a quarter of lemon/lime squeezed in. The warm water is less jarring on the body while it is still waking up, while the sour taste of the lemon stimulates your digestive system and bowel movements. This is a very natural way to move toxins, which are your body’s metabolic by- products during the night, out of the body first thing in the morning. Why not start your mornings cleansed already? Read more about benefits of warm lemon water here.
2. Take deep breaths
Nothing wakes up the body and brain more than a few deep, diaphragmic breaths to send oxygen to your muscles and brain cells. Taking deep breaths is another way to move toxins out of your body by eliminating wastes with your exhales. In addition, when you take deep, diaphragmic breaths, you switch on the parasympathetic nervous system, setting the tone of our day as grounded and calm.
3. Eat breakfast
You’ve fasted overnight while sleeping, and so it is natural that you would want to “break your fast” in the morning upon waking! Instead of pastries and cereals, however, opt for high-protein items like eggs, yogurt, or a protein smoothie. Have you noticed that you get super hungry 2 hours after your pastry or cereal? These food items are packed with sugar that gives you an immediate boost of energy but not long-lasting. After this “spike” of energy, your blood sugar levels dip to an extreme low, which you most likely will satiate with another pastry. It is recommended to consume about 20 grams of protein (approximately 3 eggs) to fire your metabolism and to keep your blood sugar level stable until lunchtime (1). Add a little fat to keep you satiated and some greens to help you towards the 5-A-Day goal! Stuck on breakfast ideas? Read on here.
Have you noticed that on the days you exercise, you feel infinitely better? Studies show that when you exercise, the brain releases a chemical called endorphins that naturally perks up your mood (2) . This can be as simple as taking a morning walk, going for a light jog or bike ride, swimming, or stretching in various yoga poses.
5. Pause - Take mini meditations and/or savasanas
It is way too easy to get caught up in the happenings of the day. Our monkey minds always want to grab hold of as many tasks as we can do, but sometimes, this is not the most efficient method for productivity (4). We need to teach our minds to step off that hamster wheel at least once a day to reflect on your tasks at hand, look at the bigger picture, and see whether the tasks you were getting caught in steer you towards the goal in the most efficient way. It is easy to get lost in the woods, but if you can climb on top of a tree to scan across the forest, you are more likely to find the correct path. Both short meditations and/or a brief savasana can clear out stagnant thoughts and energies, as well as replenish and reset the mind and body.
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), laughter is a great rejuvenator for the liver (5) to remove any blockages. Having a good laugh is a great way to relieve stress and loosen up the tensions in the body. Some folks think adults nowadays are so serious and grim and they even came up with Laughter Yoga (http://www.laughteryoga.org/english). So, go ahead and treat yourself to a comedy show, a funny flick, or goof around with your friends. Exercise those facial and abdominal muscles!
7. Drink water
Your body is made up of at least 60-70% water. Fluids help keep metabolic processes in your body running smoothly, help maintain mental clarity, and regulate your appetite. It is easy to get caught up in the runnings during the day that we forget to take a few sips of H2O. As a general rule of thumb, you should drink at least half your weight in ounces of fluids. For example, a 150-lb person would need 75 oz of water per day, which is about 9 cups of water (1 cup is 8 oz). Of course, if you consume lots of raw vegetables or soups during the day, you might need less, and if you exercise and sweat a lot, you might need more. Take note, however, caffeinated beverages (coffee, tea, and soda) are actually dehydrating, thus for every cup of these beverages you consume, make up for the lost fluids with a cup of water. One trick to help you remember to drink water is to set an alarm for every hour as a reminder. Get up from your chair and walk to the kitchen or water dispenser to get yourself a cup of water. This is also a great way for you to get some mental break and move your body a little throughout the day.
8. Have a meaningful conversation
And not via text, email, Facebook, Twitter, or other social media. Have an actual, real conversation with someone in person, or at least, over the phone. Connect. Ask them sincerely how they are and what’s been going on in their lives. Share stories. Actually laugh, and not just LOL’s. Human beings are social creatures, and we thrive on intimate connections and sense of community. While social media has its benefits on our global communications, it can also be alienating within our immediate community.
9. Give and/or receive a hug
Similar to having conversations, we as human beings are also meant to touch and be touched. Nothing makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside more than a good ole hug. Hugging increases levels of the “love hormone” oxytocin, and may even be beneficial for cardiovascular health and stress reduction (6). Consider the psychotherapist Virginia Satir’s famous line: "We need 4 hugs a day for survival. We need 8 hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth.” (6)
10. Make dinner.
Instead of ordering that takeout, why not spend some time to connect with the food you eat? To me, cooking can be rather relaxing, and almost like a meditation. From washing, to chopping, to prepping, and watching the raw materials turn into a dish of delicacy over the wonders of fire and heat—it is what makes us human. One of the many things that differentiate us from other animals is that we cook our foods to make them more digestible. We even go as far as preparing dishes with touches of science, art, imagination, and creativity. The work, care, and attention you give to the food while preparing them makes the dish so much more delicious, not to mention cooking at home can save you some bucks.
11. Have one meal a day without distraction
Ever since TV became a common household product, families and individuals have been spending more and more time eating meals in front of the screen rather than socializing and bonding. Not only does eating together as a family helps build relationships, studies also show that children who do not eat dinner with their parents at least twice a week were 40% more likely to be overweight than those who do (7). In addition, students who do not eat regularly with their parents are significantly more likely to perform poorly at school (7). In many countries, meal times are sacred, and should be enjoyed while sitting down with families and friends. If alone, the meal should still be consumed at a leisurely pace away from screens. Mindful eating allows you to appreciate the food, and the hard work the farmers and workers put through to get these foods on the plate. Chewing slowly without distractions also allows for better digestion.
12. Indulge (in moderation and with mindfulness)
A glass of wine along with dinner, followed by a square of high-quality dark chocolate, make the perfect finish to my day. Both have their health benefits as well, when consumed in moderation, in particular the resveratrol in red wine and antioxidants in dark chocolate. It is also a great way to exercise your mindfulness and moderation muscles, and notice how much more you’ll enjoy these little indulgences.
13. Read, journal, take a walk, or do other creative work
Sure, I like to watch some of my favorite TV shows at night too, but I try to limit my screen time to no more than one hour. Reading and journaling unwind me at the end of the day before bedtime, and taps into the creative side of my brain. This is especially important if, for the most part during your day, you are engaged in activities that use the logical side of your brain. Give that side a rest, and unleash your creativity and imagination. Taking a brisk walk after dinner additionally helps with digestion, and allows you to reflect on your day.
It is always nice to reflect on the day’s happenings and find some things you are grateful for to end the day on a positive note. Even if a thousand and one things went horribly wrong that day, there is always, ALWAYS one thing, however trivial, that you can be thankful for. As William Arthur Ward stated: “Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.”
15. Sleep in complete darkness and silence
If you live in big cities, chances are you can hear street noises and see dim lights through your curtains. Even if you think you are a heavy sleeper and are not affected by the light and sounds, they can actually make minute changes in your internal biological clock and hormone regulation. Dim your room thirty minutes to an hour before you go to bed so the body can be properly set up for sleep mode to ease you into a restful sleep, and try not to look at computer or phone screens either. Invest in blackout curtains, or buy eye masks and earplugs for quality sleep.
(1) Foundations of Nutrition by Dr. Ed Bauman
(2) Effects of physical activity and exercise on depression
(3) Why your brain needs more downtime
(4) Success Intelligence by Robert Holden