Updated: Jul 31, 2019
Obviously, if we desire to live a long and healthy life, we should avoid smoking, drugs and binge drinking. Granted there are always outliers who, nearly all their lives, smoke and drink and live to be one-hundred. For the vast majority of us, however, good health and a long life takes some effort. Here are some less obvious ways we all can work toward a higher level of health and wellness...
#1 If you wouldn't put it in your mouth, don't put it on your skin (or your kids').
Most consumers have no idea, but there are thousands of approved chemicals that manufacturers can legally put into beauty, personal care and cleaning products. You might be thinking that if it's legal then it must be safe, right? Not necessarily. The issue is that our skin can absorb some of these chemicals and they end up circulating in the body and hiding out in our tissues, such as the liver and thyroid. For example, every time I take my kids to their annual well-check, the pediatrician reminds me to use plenty of sunscreen when we head outside. Living in Florida, this recommendation makes good sense. The trouble is, many sunscreens contain chemicals that are known hormone disruptors and possible carcinogens. It feels like a catch 22, doesn't it? Who do we trust? It can be overwhelming and frustrating for us moms who are trying to make the right choices for our families. The great news is, there are many safe and effective sunscreen products on the market that offer the same sun protection without the health hazards. The same goes for beauty products, personal care products and cleaning products. Yes, these options are a bit more expensive, but what is wealth without good health? Check out The Environmental Working Group's consumer guides web page for a list of independently tested and approved products. You can also email us and request a FREE, easy to read, e-book on this topic!
#2 Get out and Recreate.
The term recreate, short for "recreation" simply means getting outside just for the fun of it, preferably in nature. Synonyms for the word "recreate" include refresh, recharge, rejuvenate, restore, revive, renew and repair. Research studies have demonstrated this is exactly what happens when we recreate. Our minds become renewed simply by enjoying and exploring the parks and the natural habitat around where we live. What is waiting to be discovered in the natural world right outside your front door? Challenge the kids to learn the names of a few different birds and flowers native to your area and listen to their excitement each time they spot one. Getting outside and connecting with nature either alone, with family or as a community, is a means of physical exercise, mental relaxation and enjoyment which can significantly impact overall health and wellness. Start with at least 10-minutes of outdoor recreation time most days of the week and work your way up to one hour. This could even be playing in the backyard, doing some gardening, or taking the dog around the block. Any outside time counts and might just turn into an adventure! My kids have some incredible nature stories from our past walks around the block. The non-profit organization, Parks Rx America, works with city leaders and health care providers to improve health and happiness levels and reduce chronic diseases within our communities. You can learn more about Park Rx America by clicking here.
#3 Start thinking about food as "health-care" and medicine as "sick-care".
Use that mindset to justify the higher cost of purchasing and eating more fresh and frozen produce, preferably certified organic and locally grown if it's available. Yes, produce can be expensive but not as expensive as higher health insurance premiums, frequent trips to the doctor, time off of work and school, and high monthly prescription drug co-pays. That all adds up, not to mention the time, stress and discomfort associated with having a chronic and often times debilitating illness. I often hear the same concern, "I try to buy more fruits and vegetables but then we don't eat them and they go to waste." This is a totally valid point and I have a good solution. Stock up the freezer with frozen fruits and vegetables of every color and set a family goal to eat at least one serving of every color most days of the week. Give your family an incentive, such as a special family outing at the end of the month that excites everyone. Start this goal on the weekend when you're home more and then begin working toward adding in more colorful produce on weekdays. In my house, before my kids have a dry snack, I encourage them to eat a piece of fruit or handful of raw veggies. To start off, produce should be eaten before flour and sugar and eventually produce becomes a replacement for flour and sugar, except on special occasions. When the whole family adjusts to this new way of eating and learns to think of "treats as treats" rather than everyday snacks, everyone feels better and benefits physically and mentally. Give it a shot for three weeks and let us know how it goes! Email us by clicking here.
#4 Get at least 6-hours of uninterrupted sleep per night away from screens and electronics.
Preferably in a dark room with some type of white noise playing in the background. I know, I know. This is easier said than done, especially when you have a newborn waking up every two hours, but did you know after 3-weeks of getting less than 6-hours per night of sleep your mental capacity is the equivalent of a being under the influence of alcohol? Yup! To make matters worse, chronic sleep deprivation induces inflammation in the body, makes the adrenals work harder and puts us at higher risk of weight gain, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and some types of cancers. Enough to keep you awake at night! Okay, bad joke, but it's no wonder the U.S. is in a major health crisis, especially when we combine the chronic sleep deprivation, heightened stress levels, poor eating habits and physical inactivity that so many of us live day-in and day-out. It's a recipe for disaster. As moms, we often wear our chronic stress and sleep deprivation like badges of honor. I recall a scary conversation with one of my best friends when our oldest kids were babies. She had gone back to work as a high school teacher 6-weeks after her son's birth. One morning, she was driving to the school after dropping the baby off with the sitter, fell asleep at the wheel and ran her car into a cluster of garbage cans on the side of the road! This experience was too much of a close call and consequently, the reason she started drinking coffee in the morning, a habit she had to adopt out of necessity. Luckily, once we get past the infant phase, creating a night-time routine for our family can greatly assist in a much more restorative night's sleep for us and our kids. Here's a helpful article on how to overcome sleep deprivation written by Harvard Medical School's division of Sleep Medicine.
#5 Don't forget to breathe.
Do you ever catch yourself holding your breath? Check in with the breath every so often throughout the day. Take a deep breath all the way in through the nose, hold it for a few seconds and then breathe it out of the mouth slowly until you feel all the air in your lungs has been completely expelled. Do this a few more times, especially when under a lot of stress or pressure. Deep breathing helps us move out of "flight or flight" and into the "rest and digest" nervous system. As moms, we tend to stay in hyper-vigilant mode in order to keep our little ones safe, fed and well-cared for. This constant state of stress taxes our adrenals as they work hard to pump out more and more of the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline. This gives us a rush of energy but eventually wears down the mechanism by which our bodies are able to manage and adapt to stress. Instead of life threatening emergencies triggering our "flight or fight" nervous system, we live in this state 24/7. Checking in with the breathe daily and regularly for at least 6-weeks has been shown to act like a natural tranquilizer for the nervous system. It shifts our body back into a calm state, reduces heart rate and blood pressure, improves ability to fall and stay sleep and handle everyday stressors, such as a baby screaming on the car ride home or a bowl of baby food splattered all over the freshly mopped floor. It also brings in more oxygen to the blood, tissues and brain. Here is a great handout on the truly effective 4-7-8 breathing technique put out by the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine.
These are just a few of the not-so-obvious ways to live a healthier life. Give them a try and let us know which ones made the most impact on you and the family!
Wishing you radiant health and abundant energy,
Christy and the L.W.C. Brevard Family