The Health Benefits of Moving Your Body

 
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Having a healthy balance between activity and rest is essential to living a long, healthy life of vitality. Over the past several blog posts I’ve been outlining a variety of areas of wellness necessary to live well, feel well and be well on all levels. The area of movement and exercise is one that is commonly focused on in the wellness world, but often one that is difficult to create a routine around that sticks for the long term.

Our bodies are designed to move. Haven’t you heard that sitting is the new smoking? Yikes, that makes sitting sound super unhealthy! There’s a ton of information out there about the optimal type and amount of exercise and movement that we need. However, really the best kind of movement is movement you actually enjoy doing and the best amount of time is how much time will realistically fit into your current schedule—without creating any additional stress.

Beyond identifying what you like to—and are willing to do—and the realistic amount of time you can commit to it within your schedule, the next most important aspect of movement and exercise is consistency. If you only sporadically move your body, you will not receive the same level of long-term benefits that come along with consistent exercise. These benefits are well researched, vast and most impressive. Some of the benefits of movement and exercise include improved sleep, increased energy, reduced cholesterol, reduced blood pressure, reduced cognitive decline, increased mobility throughout your lifespan, increased mood stabilization, and reduced stress levels. These are all pretty convincing reasons to get off the couch and get moving. 

I find the most difficult part of being consistent is that I don’t ever really feel like exercising. Now, if you suggest taking a restorative yoga class, to that I say, yes please! Doing thirty minutes on the elliptical machine and 15 minutes of strength training, not quite as exciting to me. While yoga can absolutely serve as exercise (and so much more!) for me, it’s more of a relaxation practice, and I find that to get in exercise I personally need to more traditional movement. To shake the low motivation I have to remind myself that I am most likely never gonna feel like it (at least not very often.) So, to stay motivated, I find it is super helpful to focus on the benefits, including how I feel after I complete a workout. I want to be healthy—health and vitality are two of my personal values—so this means I need to exercise. I have to plan it and prepare for it so I don’t talk myself out of it. When I do move my body, I feel accomplished, stronger and more emotionally balanced. Focusing on those super valuable positives helps me to get off the couch and to the gym.

If you are struggling to get exercise into your routine, I suggest that you keep an exercise log. First, plan out what days you will exercise, what form of movement you will do, and for how long you will do the exercises directly onto your calendar. If you put it into your mindset by writing it out and planning ahead of time, you are far more likely to make it happen. Then, keep a log of how you feel before you exercise, how you feel after you exercise, and what motivated you to do if you didn’t feel like. When you reflect on this log it will serve as a helpful reminder of why you are choosing your health and vitality over a temporary feeling of laziness—or even dread.

If you are just not a gym person, the most effective way to start the process of moving is finding a form of movement that you really enjoy. (You can catch an older blog on 5 ways to get more movement without the gym here!) This could be dancing, joining a community sports team, walking, yoga, pilates, signing up for a community 5k and training for it (with a friend makes it even better!), swim, hike, taking a dance class… Finding something you enjoy and doing it along with a buddy can make it something you actually look forward to doing regularly! 

When you commit to regular movement and exercise you are committing to your health and wellbeing and creating a greater life of longevity and vitality. To begin to make it happen for you, first identify what movement you actually enjoy, then the amount of time you can dedicate to doing it. Create your exercise log and plan for exactly when you will do it. Begin using these tools and see the impact moving your body can have on your life for the better beginning today!

The Health Benefits of A Good Night's Sleep

 
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I am now at the half-way point of outlining the eight essential areas of wellness for vitality! Today’s topic is one that alludes many… Sleep…Ahhh… doesn’t a good night’s sleep sound just delightful? Do you remember the last time you got one? Sleep is an area of wellness that can be the most neglected and the most difficult to grasp. With all of the foundations of wellness, when it is neglected it will negatively impact how you feel on all levels. Getting a good, restful night’s sleep is essential to living a healthy life of vitality and wellbeing.

If you suffer from chronic insomnia, waking during the night and having trouble getting back to sleep—or just struggle to fall asleep despite feeling exhausted—you are not alone. Sleep is allusive to so many and it is an area that many people spend a ton of money on to attempt to remedy with varying results.

Loss of sleep can cause an imbalance in blood sugar, which causes cravings. Lack of sleep can cause you to be a bit, let’s say, grumpy? Or even worse, super irritable, causing challenges in relationships and overall contentment. Lack of sleep will cause you to feel drained and not have enough energy to engage in the other areas of wellness needed to live a life of vitality. When you are exhausted, do you feel like preparing a healthy meal, getting in time for exercise or even a date night or something social and fun? Probably not.

On the other side, when you sleep well you feel refreshed, energized and able to make clear-headed decisions throughout the day. Here are some suggestions to help you get the zzz’s you need to feel vital, energized and prepared to take on whatever challenges come your way.

If your goal is to sleep through the night and wake feeling rested it can be helpful to attempt some of the following strategies to create a sleep plan that works for you:

-       Go to bed at the same time each night, your body thrives on routine and consistency for your personal circadian rhythm

-       Create an evening ritual that helps you focus on the transition time from the activity of your day into time for rest, this will signal to your brain and body that it is time to slow down and prepare for sleep

-       Find a good book, reading can help shift your focus from your thoughts or the long to-do list running through your mind and prepare your mind for sleep

- Avoid blue light exposure (cell phones, iPads…) at least an hour before you go to bed

- Avoid stimulating TV shows, movies etc… at least an hour before you go to bed

-       Take a warm bath before bed with Epsom salt and calming essential oils such as lavender and/or vetiver, ylang ylang, bergamot and sandalwood (my favorite!)

-       Have your room as dark as possible, the smallest amount of light can cause sleep disruptions, use a sleep mask if it is comfortable for you

-       Use a sound machine to block out any external noise that may disrupt your sleep

-       Keep a sleep journal, logging your routine in the evening such as what you had for dinner, when you go to bed and anytime that you wake up- this can help you notice patterns or triggers that disrupt your sleep- it also helps you recognize when you are making some progress and what helps you sleep well

-       Practice stress reduction techniques daily to help maintain a more positive mood and to create less restlessness at night, a great resource is the Insight Timer app with guided meditations, binaural beats and even bedtime stories to help you fall (and stay) asleep

-       When you are struggling to calm your mind, say to yourself “this is the time that I have designated for my mind and body to rest, I can return to my thoughts and worries the next day when I can actually do something about them”—use this or other coping thoughts that help return you to the present moment and away from the distracting and distressing thoughts, such as stating to yourself, “this is my time to rest, I can return to these thoughts later” etc...

-       When you wake up in the middle of the night, first try to do a body scan in your mind’s eye and notice if you are holding tension in any areas of your body—if so, with awareness, allow the tension to release—if your mind wanders away, come back to focusing your attention on your body—this may be a difficult process at first as it is the nature of the mind to wander, this takes practice and perseverance

-       Practice counting your breaths or use the so-hum breath (saying “so” in your mind as you inhale and “hum” in your mind as you exhale) to help keep a single point of focus to your mind until you drift off to sleep

-       Do not have any caffeine after lunch

-       Limit or avoid alcohol, try not to have any at least 2 hours before your bedtime as it can cause your body to not enter a state of deep sleep

-       Drink enough water throughout the day, when you are even a little bit dehydrated it creates disruptions in all of the systems of the body

-       Do some movement and exercise during the day, even a short walk or gentle stretching in the evening can help improve the quality of your sleep

-       Try some type of tea such as chamomile or other rest, sleep or calming teas to help induce a feeling of being sleepy, although this may not help you sleep through the night, it may help you get a few hours of deeper sleep

Did you try any of these and find that they improved your sleep? I’d love to hear what works for you! Have another suggestion that helps you? Share it with me so I can help get the word out! Sleep is so important and can create greater health in mind, body and spirit.

8 Wellness Essentials to Live a Life of Vitality

 
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Research has shown that those who remain vital and well throughout their lives engage in several areas of health and wellness that go well beyond making healthy food choices. While nutrition is absolutely a big part of health and wellness, it is one facet in a much larger view of living a long, healthy, happy life. There are eight areas that seem to be consistent practices amongst those that do find themselves healthy and vibrant in mind, body and spirit all throughout their lives.

These eight areas that create longevity and a strong, healthy mind and body are:

1.    A large social support including family, friends and community groups

2.    Close core relationships

3.    Well-nourished through whole, healthy enjoyable foods

4.    Restful sleep

5. Active throughout much of the day/consistent movement

6.    Curious, open-minded and continue to learn ALL throughout life

7.    Remain willing to take on new challenges no matter what their age

8. Consistent meditation practice

If you are rushing through life getting poor sleep, inconsistent movement and are isolated don’t fret! Just know that this is the right time to evaluate how you prioritize your health and wellness within your life. If the foundation is not set, most likely you are not seeking out new challenges because you feel that there is so much yet to do with your current ones. Wellness is about creating the time needed to nurture healthy relationships, learning and growing as well as healthy cooking in order to eat well and meditation. 

Think about it this way, what is the cost to your life if you don’t begin to shift your ways and create wellness within your life now? Your body is very forgiving, it wants to be in balance and to feel well. Today is just the right day to re-evaluate and create a new wellness routine that will support your vitality and longevity. What healthy changes can you begin to make today if your hope is to live a long, healthy, happy life?

When you begin a wellness journey, it is helpful to start with just one area that you would like to improve within your life. A complete overhaul is generally not possible and most likely not sustainable (you can read more about that here!) The focus for this post is about not just knowing what you need to do, but actually doing it! If you were to select one area from the seven areas on the list that could benefit your health for the better starting today, what would it be? Why would you start there? The thing is, we are all aging at this very moment, so why not continue to do so in a way that feels as though you are expanding, growing and encouraging vitality!?!

After you consider the above questions about where to start, it would benefit you to think about why you aren’t prioritizing your health and well-being? What blocks do you face? Are they motivationally based, timing or something else? What fears do you have to change, grow and live in a space of vibrancy? Take time to think these through in order to help yourself live your priorities.

I know that when I get stuck, it is usually because I fear that I’ll have to give up something I enjoy despite whether or not it is good for me. That’s not the most useful line of thinking, right!? Do you do this too? If so, know that restriction is not what improving your health is about. Wellness is about what you add to your life and when you do, to be able to notice and grow what improves for you within your life.

I talk a lot about healthy eating and the importance of a healthy lifestyle, (it’s kinda my thing!). While I love talking about all things food related, I will be detailing each of these eight areas of wellness over the next few weeks as reminders (for myself included!) that wellness is a wholistic journey! You can’t ignore or avoid areas of wellness because they aren’t convenient to you, or because of any other excuse. Vitality is a process, and if you want to create a full and vital life, it requires that you take action and that you dedicate yourself to well, yourself—your own well-being.

So, are you with me? Are you ready to address the process of living a full and vital life, even if it means giving up some things that are difficult to let go of, or adding in elements that are unfamiliar? Keep your eyes out for detailed ways in the posts ahead to improve your overall health, vitality and wellbeing!