- Go to bed 15 minutes earlier -and keep adding 15 minutes every night, until you get enough sleep to wake up without an alarm clock. If you need an alarm to wake up, you didn't get enough sleep, and not sleeping enough is just about the number one thing you can do to wreck your health. This one is a no-brainer, and when you really understand how much you increase your risk of cancer, obesity and general body breakdown and being a sourpuss you will do whatever it takes to get enough sleep. And don't forget that it actually helps your brain work better too! And no drugs, please. Just say no. You will not get real sleep with those and like all drugs they do have side-effects, especially when used long-term. Not my definition of health, and probably not yours, either. There are alternatives, and the first one should be getting help in figuring out *why* you're having trouble falling asleep, if that is the case.
3) JERF - Just Eat Real Food. There are many reasons behind our neurotic relationship to food; the obesity epidemic, the rising prevalence of lifestyle-diseases, dietary information from self-proclaimed gurus that often contradicts everything else you've read, including itself. Take a deep breath - food is not out to get you, and the latest dietary "truth" is not here to save you, only to add more stress to your already heavy stress bucket. Focus on eating real, organic food instead of packaged processed food products, no matter how much kale they contain, and focus on good taste, quality and enjoyment. You know, kind how those Italians do. You do know that they live longer than Americans, right?
4) Be grateful- find something every day to be grateful for - the soft bed you woke up in, your car, your furnace that keeps you warm, the commute that gave you time to listen to a great audiobook, your children ( what a miracle!), the food on your plate before you eat, a friendly word, an opportunity to help someone, your ability to walk and move, how beautiful the sky is...you get the idea. You will decrease muscle tension, stress hormones and general grumpiness, and enjoy and appreciate your life more. You might even live longer, and at least you’ll enjoy whatever time you do live more.
5) When faced with a stressor, fast forward 6 months in time, and realize how trivial most things we worry about are.
6) but live in the moment. We tend to either live in the past ( regrets, grudges) or the future
(worry, fear and planning how to avoid what we fear) and miss out on the now. This makes time
(aka life!) fly by and increases ( again) muscle tension, stress hormone levels, and your ability to actually enjoy your life. Bring your attention to something tangible, like the taste of your food, the feel of your body, the temperature and softness of the skin of someone ( you?) you touch. What can you be aware of right now? Reach out and touch something, and let yourself take a moment to actually feel it. Do it often.
7) Throw out all vegetable oils right now. They are not good for you, and are among the biggest contributors to inflammation (pain, degeneration) in your life. Let the canola, safflower, corn etc oil go. (And while you're at it, if you're using it, let your flax seed oil go, too. It is not a good source of omega 3 oils of the kind your body can use, and very likely rancid and thus even more harmful to you.) Use high-quality olive oil, grassfed butter or coconut oil instead.
8) Stop associating with people that don't make you happy. If they don't make you happy, you don't make them happy, and you are both wasting your precious life making each other miserable. Respect your short time on earth and the miracle of the life you've been given enough to make quality choices, especially when it comes to the thing that's been shown to have the greatest impact on your health - the relationships you have with other people. Remember, happiness = health and unhappiness = lack of health. Pretty simple.
9) Move more, but not for too long - your body will deteriorate (= age, "fall apart") if you don't use it as it is supposed to be used. You need to move it every day, often through the day (see #2), you need to use your muscles and bones if you want to keep them. Lift something heavy - your own body is great for starters. Do some squats, push-ups (against the wall or chair if you can't (yet!) do them on the floor. You don't need to do them at the same time, or at a gym. If you sit for work, the overall benefit will actually be greater if you intersperse your sitting with the squats and push-ups throughout the day. Most people don't move enough. Those that do move, tend to not exercise vigorously enough. A leisurely stroll with a cup of Starbucks i your hand is much better than only sitting still (congratulations!) but not nearly enough to maintain muscle and bone mass and a youthful look and disposition.
10) Stretch. Place your body in positions other that the fetal position ( which you are in when you sit by your desk, dinner table, car, sofa, sleep curled up on your side)on a regular basis. Otherwise you'll soon find yourself unable to assume other positions, and will need a walker to hold yourself upright. I know you've seen people that this has happened to ( they are often referred to as the elderly, and it is assumed that their condition is an inevitable stage of life. Not so). Straighten your body completely before you walk, if you've been sitting for a while. Stretch a little ( just let your body lead; if your dog can do it, so can you). Get used to existing in other positions that a sedentary one- lie down or to read and watch a movie, walk instead of calling or driving.
11) Get some light ( and avoid it at night). Our bodies need help keeping the rhythmic and cyclical production of hormones and other bodily functions in sync. Bright light is one of the signals to the body that it is daytime, and thus functions as an important pacemaker for the body. It follows, then, that if you want easy and deep sleep, you should not be shining bright light ( computers, backlit reading devices, bright ambient light) into your eyes at night, thus telling your body to perk up and get ready for action.
12)Don’t be too trusting. Develop a good conspiracy theory from time to time, realize that drug companies, governments and media do not first and foremost have your best interest at heart. Realize that it can take between 10-15 years for research findings to reach the office of your primary care physician to be implemented as standard practice. That means that at any given time, you probably are being given obsolete advice and that you can probably benefit from some thinking and digging of your own. PubMed is a way to directly access scientific studies online, and there are many independent healthcare professionals that make an effort to stay more up-to-date than big medical associations and the government.
13) Laugh. Only stressed-out adults do not find life hilarious. Little children laugh often throughout the day, 72 percent of centenarians laugh or giggle every day, and anthropologists and other travelers often find the behavior of"primitive" peoples around the world puzzling - they actually seem to laugh at life's hardships and the crazy and sometimes absurd little twists and turns we find ourselves in as we go through life. Maybe we should all aim for a bit of that attitude? Take in medicinal amounts of funny movies, books and vines (google it). Train yourself to be more lighthearted, and above all, don't take yourself so seriously, because it will just increase your level of stress ( although others might find such pompousness humorous). Laughter, on the other hand, has been shown (in case you haven't experienced it lately and had a chance to notice) to decrease stress and thus increase health. Oscar Wilde was right when he said “Life is too important to take seriously!”
Now choose one thing from the list and try it out! Dive right in and do all of them right away, or make a commitment to incorporate them one at a time, choosing a new one once a week. Either way, the list is intended to demonstrate that health-enhancing changes are easily within your reach, they do not need to be dramatic or hard. As the Pareto principle (somewhat paraphrased) states, 20% of the work accounts for 80% of the results. And remember to stay humerus!