Why It Is Important To Care About Your Health?
By Sara Novak
Health is such a broad word. It means so many different things to so many people. But when you look good, you feel good and when your physical body is in good shape, so is your mental body. You have been given this vessel and it is yours for this lifetime, so why not take as good a care of it as you can? Of course, we cannot be perfect, but if 90 percent of the time we are doing our best to enjoy good foods, exercise, manage stress, and supplement when necessary, we are going a long way toward caring for this beautiful body that we have been given.
Cheers to your health!
Table Of Contents:
- The Link Between Happiness and Health
- Americans Longevity On The Decline
- How To Start Caring About Your Health
The Link Between Happiness And Health:
For better or worse, your physical and mental health are linked. It is hard to feel good when your body is ailing. For example, psychosomatic illnesses happen when stress in the body starts to overwhelm physical health. Stress is as bad for your overall health as a bad diet, smoking, and inactivity because when you have an acute stress response it activates negative hormones in the body that overtime can cause anxiety, depression, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and the list goes on.
Additionally, when you are inactive, your body does not get to enjoy many of the feel good hormones that keep us sane, like dopamine. This, overtime, can take a toll on mental health. Stress relieving activities like yoga, meditation, and pranayama can also help balance your hormones and keep your endocrine system running smoothly.
American Longevity On The Decline:
Americans are not living as long as they used to for a variety of reasons. It is sad to think that as the richest nation the world has ever seen, we are not extending our lifespans. But in fact, a few major factors are causing this decline (which today is just 77 years old). For starters, suicide rates are up. As of 2019, the rate of suicides was up to 14.5 per 100,000 versus 10 per 100,000 two decades ago, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. It is unclear why the rates have increased but completed suicides are mostly males, white, and half are done with a firearm. Another reason why longevity is on the decline is because of deaths by alcoholism and opioids. All of these causes of death relate back to stress and the inability to cope with negative emotions. While you cannot control all of the stressors in your life, taking care of your health is a good place to start.
And even before longevity was on the decline, it was not all that high. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, “[s]ince 1980, life expectancy in the US has increasingly fallen behind that of peer countries, culminating in an unprecedented decline in longevity since 2014. Life expectancy at birth in the US in 1980 was 73.6 years, in 2014 was 78.9 years, and in 2018 was 78.7 years.” Compare this to Japan, Hong Kong, and Macao which all have life expectancies of 85 years old. If you want to take care of your health so you can look and feel your best, it is worth looking at what these countries do well.
How To Start Caring About Your Health:
So now that you know that your health matters to nearly every aspect of your life as well as to all those people who love you, why not start to take steps to up the ante? Here is how to love and care for this body that you have been given.
1. Eat Right -
Your diet is your daily medicine, three times a day, everyday. What you eat matters to your health because it helps to build and rebuild your body all the way down to the cellular level. Take a long hard look at your diet and be honest about what you are eating. Choose a whole foods diet that is as unprocessed as possible. Buy organic and local when you can. Enjoy ample fruits, tubers, sweet peppers, grass-fed beef, free range chicken, bison, game meats, bone broth, ghee, MCT oil, local honey, and the list goes on. Of course you cannot be perfect on your diet, but with a little meal planning and some time in the kitchen, you can start to value your diet like you do your body.
2. Exercise -
Exercise is so important to keeping your hormones balanced and keeping your mood in good order. You should get at least 150 minutes of moderate activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity a week. That is really not very much. Just a few minutes a day is all you need. Do not forget strength training, which is important to bone health and is also your body’s engine and fat burner. According to the Mayo Clinic, you should do “strength training exercises for all major muscle groups at least two times a week.” If you are short on time, short chunks of exercise time have been shown to be an incredibly effective tool for keeping your body in tip top condition. Not sure how to break a sweat? Find an activity that you love whatever it is because the more you love an activity, the more likely you are to do it on a regular basis. From walking, swimming, surfing, kiteboarding, biking, yoga, and the list goes on, it is easy to find an activity that you will come back to again and again.
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3. Manage Stress -
Stress is a killer and as mentioned above, it has become an epidemic in this country. Americans are not as happy as they should be. Find activities that help you manage your stress on a daily basis. Here is what I like to do to keep feeling my best even when life gets heavy:
- Yoga - Yoga is really good for the endocrine system and if done on a regular basis can help to keep stress hormones at bay. A study published in the journal American Family Physician found that “there are no apparent negative effects of mindfulness-based interventions, and their general health benefits justify their use as adjunctive therapy for patients with depression and anxiety disorders.” I like to wake up each morning and start my day on my yoga mat. I do not practice for long. My routine is only about 20 minutes during which I move through sun salutations, standing poses, twists, inversions, back bends, and seat poses. If you are not sure how to practice on your own, take an online or in-person class. I have a local studio I love and I also like Brett Larkin online.
- Meditation - This is huge for stress management. Learning not to react to emotions when they come up is a step in the right direction. The key to making meditation a regular part of your life is to avoid biting off more than you can chew. A little bit on a daily basis, goes a long way. Find a quiet place with a pillow to sit on and a timer and commit to practicing. Start with 15 minutes each day at the same time and then add on to that as you become more proficient. The more you meditate, the more you will be able to concentrate on one thought at a time.
- Breath Work - Breath work or yogic breathing is a great step to reducing stress. When we are stressed, we forget to breathe and that is a huge part of the problem. According to a study published in BMC Psychiatry, prenatal yogic breathing in pregnant women may help reduce depressive symptoms.
- Chanting - Yogic chanting, also known as kirtan, has been shown to reduce stress. Each morning during the pandemic, I started doing a kirtan chant for health and protection and it is something that I have done ever since. Yogic chanting feels good because the words that are coming out of my mouth are positive rather than complaining, talking bad about others, and all the negative things that we can often use our mouths to do. A study published in the journal Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience found that "practicing religious chanting may structurally lateralize a network of brain areas involved in biased memory formation. These functional and structural results suggest that religious chanting helps to form a positive schema to counterbalance negative emotions.”
4. Supplement When Necessary -
Sometimes, no matter how well you eat, you may be short on a number of vitamins and minerals. The soil may be depleted of many minerals which means that many of the foods that you are eating do not have what they should have. This on top of the fact that we cannot be perfect in our diets all the time. And luckily, you can cure real health problems naturally. Take a look at UMZU.com because on everything from sleeping to low testosterone, stress, high blood sugar, circulation, digestion, and the list goes on, you can support your health with the right supplements.
5. Sleep -
If you are not getting enough sleep it’s nearly impossible to function at 100 percent. When you do not sleep, you are too tired to workout, you do not eat well, and it can almost immediately impact your mental health. A lack of sleep can also increase your risk of a host of chronic medical conditions like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, depression, anxiety, cancer, and obesity. Not to mention that when you are really tired, you can make mistakes that are detrimental to your health, like for example, getting into a car accident. According to a study published in PLOS Biology, “a key function of sleep is to defend against oxidative stress.” If you’re not getting enough sleep (which for adults is about 7-9 hours daily), here’ i what you need to know to improve your sleep quality:
- Get Into A Routine - This means going to sleep at the same time every night. You may need to adjust your wake up time as well in order to make sure that you are tired at bedtime. It is so important that you are tired at bedtime or you are likely to lay awake in bed, an unfortunate habit that can cause insomnia. Go to bed early enough to get your minimal 7 hours of sleep.
- Lay Off The Booze - This is important to your overall health and important to your sleep. Drinking more than one or two drinks daily may cause you to wake up in the middle of the night when the depressant effects of alcohol have worn off. If you are going to have a drink at night, keep it minimal and make sure that you’re drinking organic or biodynamic wine or a clean alcohol like organic tequila.
- Wind Down - Winding down before bed is such an important part of getting and staying asleep at night. You cannot be running, running, running, and expect your brain to just shut down all of the sudden. Turn off the television, meditate, stretch, breathe deeply, take a warm bath, get into comfy PJs, and get into bed when you are tired. Avoid reading emotional books or watching emotional television just before bed.
- Exercise - Again, what is good for your health is also good for your sleep. Exercising has been shown in a number of studies to improve sleep duration and sleep quality. So if you are not hitting the pavement, it is time to get started.
- For Better Or Worse, Your Physical And Mental Health Are Linked - It is hard to feel good when your body is ailing. For example, psychosomatic illnesses happen when stress in the body starts to overwhelm physical health. Stress is as bad for your overall health as a bad diet, smoking, and inactivity because when you have an acute stress response it activates negative hormones in the body that overtime can cause anxiety, depression, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and the list goes on.