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Optimizing Health

One of the many great memories I have from playing college softball is how our team circulated and shared inspiring quotes weekly. At the start of season, we would submit 2 quotes that struck a cord with us, that made our hearts sing. Coaches would pick one of the quotes from the team's "bank" to share each Monday and carry us through the week. 10 years later, one of my quotes is still on my mind daily:

"Do you want to survive? Or do you want to thrive?"

10 years later, this is my mission. To instill in others the power of living your best life. While each of our definitions of best may be slightly different, I assume we would all enjoy having our health. After all, this is the only body we will ever get. One body. Ever. The only thing we ever, truly, own.

So, what are some ways to incorporate more healthy habits into your routine? Look no further, our jobs as Naturopathic Doctors is built on the foundation of preventative healthcare.

1) Sleep

I'm sure you're aware of his one, or at least have heard of it's importance. But oh boy, is it important. You should be getting 8-9 hours of sleep a night, at least 4 hours in a row, uninterrupted by getting up to urinate, young children climbing in your bed or your thoughts telling your elaborate stories. Sleep is the time of the day that so many body systems get a rest. Your memories are generated in your deep sleep cycle. Your immune system is able to clean house by clearing out any mutating cells (a totally normal process), and viral or bacterial offenses from the day. Your hormones are able to find a natural rhythm of rising and falling to keep a natural balance, homeostasis, among the organs they so often signal. The list of sleep benefits could be the length of this post! Some ways to achieve more sound sleep include:

  • Turn off your TV, cell phone or chosen device by 8:00pm. This give the proper signals to your brain sleep hormone (melatonin) that is it indeed nighttime and that sleep is approaching.

  • Incorporate a nightly meditation. My favorite is to sit or lay in a quiet space and take 10 deep, conscious breaths. Then, think of 10 people, places, things, experiences, foods, choices, etc. that you are grateful for. Then, take 10 more deep, conscious breaths. Deep breathing really helps promote parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest) which will also signal your whole body that it is time to calm, rest and repair.

  • Listen to your body. Your body is so wise. If you know you need 1 hour of resting in bed to fall asleep, give yourself that time. If you want lights out and dreamland by 10pm, begin your falling asleep time at 9pm. This will set your mind up to have permission to toss, turn and think while you do your think on the way to sleep. Sometimes our falling asleep is inhibited by trying too hard to get to sleep. Ease up some, listen to your body's rhythm and set yourself up for success.

2) Move

Physical activity sets the stage for numerous health benefits for our bodies. With increased blood flow to our tissues and organs, they get a bit of "flushing", reducing stagnation and improving overall function. Physical movement also helps immensely with inspiring positive thinking and improving mood. I can't stress how vital this is. When our minds are in a state of positivity and optimism, we have the space and motivation to take time for self care. Likely, you have some motivation now if you're here reading this post. Consider what type of movement feeds your mind and body - yoga, running, weights, dancing, walking, etc. Set a schedule for when in your week you will do that activity. Be specific with day, time, what you'll be wearing and who you will do the activity with. Lastly, be mindful that this is not working out, it is not work. It is mindful movement. Nourishing and invigorating movement.

3) Eat

Fuel your body with optimal nutrients your cells need for life. The millions and millions of cells circulating throughout your body, fueling your tissues, signaling vital pathways and communications between organs are reliant on healthy nutrients! The science-y word here is mitochondria. This is the part of the cell that is the energy center for all the other cellular compartments. When we optimize mitochondrial function, we can optimize cellular health and in turn the overall health of ourselves. Start making changes that are subtle and attainable. If you eat most of your meals out of the house, try to incorporate one more meal a week at home. This affords the ability to know what ingredients are really going into your food and to purchase and cook organically sourced ingredients.

Another great way to enhance your meals is to pack your lunch. Even if just 3-4 days a week, start packing a lunch with healthful, nourishing foods. You can still take your lunch out to the park to eat with co-workers or eat it while you're driving to another client (when you would usually pick up food along the way). Pack it up the night before so it doesn't feel like more work to your morning routine. Buy yourself a cute bento box and/or lunch box to pack your food in. Think of all the money you'll be saving!

So sleep, move, eat. Pretty basic right? When we dial back our routines and consider how we can enhance them to better suite our purpose (improved health) we can make simple, attainable improvements. The biggest thing here is to commit to wanting better overall health! You choose if you want to continue on this same path (survive) or if you want to make your path cleaner, freer, more beautiful (thrive).

To your best health,

Dr. Kelsey Stang

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