What is YOUR Optimal Health?
According to Webster’s Dictionary health is defined by the following:
– The state of being free from illness or injury
– A person’s mental or physical condition
What I have found over the years is optimal health is a skill, not a destination; much like learning and mastering any skill, this means you need to work at it every single day.
It is important to also understand that the idea of having “perfect” health is a moving target and rather subjective to each person. “Optimal” means best or most favorable, which can change throughout the course of your life and your health journey.
What is optimal health to you one year might be totally different another, depending on your mental, physical, emotional and biochemical state. Some days are harder than others when it comes to trying to find balance with enjoying life, being “healthy” (whatever that means to you) and learning to trust and enjoy the process.
When you are striving to reach your version of “optimal health” just remember we don’t have to get gold stars 7 days a week…What we can do (even on a perceived “bad” day) is pick one category to focus on and choose to make that the health focus for the day.
Progress is progress, regardless of the amount time that passes.
I like to always tell people that health (and reaching all of your goals) doesn’t have a date on a calendar. It doesn’t understand the difference between 12 weeks, 12 years or 12 minutes, so you have to figure a way to actively participate in enjoying the process and health journey.
Take time this week to focus on improving one of the below health habits and actually give yourself some much deserved credit for accomplishing these small victories:
- maybe you got one more hour of sleep in than you usually do,
- or you ate one more serving of vegetables
- or maybe you set some energetic boundaries and finally said “no” to that happy hour you know you really didn’t want to go to…. it’s all cumulative and it’s all about our averages!
1. Practice Emotional HygieneWe need to take our emotional health as seriously as we take our physical health; we often value the body more than we value the mind, and sometimes this should be reversed.
When we feel sick we go to the doctor, but when we feel emotionally imbalanced we often suppress it or put it on the back burner by treating it with unhealthy coping mechanisms.
Many times this backfires at a later time in your life (aka you have a rage-blackout at a family party because they served the wrong cake…maybe you’ve suppressed those emotions for too long!?).
Practicing emotional hygiene means that we place importance on taking care of our emotions, our minds, our thoughts, our positive and negative self-talk, our relationship with our bodies and food, our participation in unhealthy relationships (friendships, romantic, co-workers etc), our past psychological stressors and emotional traumas. This should be AS important, if not more important, than placing importance on our physical health.
Research has found that having balance with your mind and body is important for not only your mental health, but also for your cardiovascular, hormonal and immune system health.
Studies have found that people who habitually engage in negative emotions and thinking experience greater feelings of stress and physical pain due to increases in cortisol and prolactin (which deal with pain) and are also at an increased risk of developing heart disease and stroke.
Regain Emotional Balance
You can regain emotional balance by engaging your prefrontal cortex and amygdala (two areas of the brain that deal with emotions, decision making and logical thinking) by increasing your intake of quality omega fatty acids, getting quality and restorative sleep, as well as engaging in physical activity that you actually enjoy.
Try practicing gratitude and managing your daily stress, which includes removing pro-inflammatory people, energy and thoughts (including your own) from your life.
We can “detox” from pro-inflammatory people, places, energy, thoughts, vibes and just general baggage that doesn’t contribute towards reaching our health goals.
Learn to develop some “Spiritual Nutrition”, which I would define as assessing what is nourishing your soul, mind and emotions.
Never underestimate the power of simply withdrawing your attention from people, thoughts and daily habits that don’t serve your highest good or that won’t help you create the life you want.
If your thoughts are toxic, your body is toxic, despite all the cauliflower you try to eat!
You are the only person you have complete control over.
So, if you find yourself feeling the kind of tired that has nothing to do with sleep or lack of coffee…
- tired of not feeling good
- tired of energy vampires
- tired of saying yes when you really want to say no
- tired of doing the same thing and getting the same outcome
…then it is time reevaluate how you are allotting your time and energy.
2. Play Outside
Motion is the lotion, you don’t have to spend hours at the gym. Try playing outside.
Do you ever notice that when you go and sit at the beach for awhile, or surround yourself by trees and nature that you start taking deeper breaths, feeling more relaxed and at peace? Research has shown that taking nature walks outside can enhance mental health, as well as significantly lower levels of depression and feelings of stress.
Lift some weights, walk at the beach barefoot (#grounding), ski, paddle-board, take a class, play outside, ride your bike, just keep it moving… as I said earlier motion is the lotion!
Research gathered from the New Zealand Health Survey found that living somewhere with a view of the ocean is associated with improved mental health.
Studies also found that those who walked for 90 minutes in a natural environment setting reported lower levels of anxiety and reduced neural activity in the part of the brain that is related to mental illness.
Don’t forget to take off your shoes and practice earthing, which is based on the theory that the Earth carries negative charges, which are rich in electrons. These act as a source of antioxidants and free-radical destroying electrons.
Grounding can promote feelings of well-being, enhance overall health, reduce pain, improve immune responses and positively affect various circulating chemical factors related to inflammation. Grounding also appears to improve sleep, reduce stress and reduce blood viscosity.
Enjoy the Sunshine
If you are looking for some extra credit, take some time to play outside in the sunshine!
Take advantage of the health promoting benefits of playing in the sun. Vitamin D, which our bodies can make when exposed to sunlight, up-regulates your body’s ability to deal with infections, as it produces over 200 various peptides that deal with immune support and is also responsible for producing cytokines (small proteins that deal with the immune response).
Recent research has shown high-dose Vitamin D and bright light therapy is helpful in decreasing symptoms of depression. Exposure to sunlight can also increase the release of beta-endorphins (aka molecules that make us feel good and happy).
Receptors that respond to Vitamin D have been found in almost every type of human cell, from your brain to your bones. The mechanism by which Vitamin D influences mood is through Vitamin D receptors found in the hypothalamus, which may be important in neuroendocrine functioning.
3. Go To SleepGoing to sleep is probably one of the easiest (and cheapest, as it costs zero dollars to get to bed) ways to get your optimal health on track!
When I say sleep, I mean getting quality deep/restorative sleep and developing healthy sleep hygiene patterns that leave you feeling well rested.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 33% of Americans admit to getting fewer than seven hours of sleep per night. A 2014 study at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota found those who were sleep deprived had higher rates of heart disease, respiratory illnesses, cancer, and premature death.
An additional study conducted at the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom, found that people who lack sufficient nightly sleep had a GREATER likelihood of being overweight and having a bigger waists; findings from the study showed that getting less than 5.6 hours of sleep per night was associated with higher blood sugar levels, increased inflammation, and decreased thyroid function.
Data from the research found that for every additional hour of nightly sleep a subject got was linked to almost one-third of an inch DECREASE in waist circumference and a drop in BMI of close to half a point.
Lack of Sleep Can Affect Our Diet
A 2013 study at the University of California, Berkeley showed that poor dietary choices are often made by those getting too little sleep, due to alterations in hunger and satiety (feel full) hormones, with the up regulation of the hunger hormone ghrelin and down regulation of our “feel full” hormone, leptin.
The National Sleep Foundation recommends seven to nine hours a night as the appropriate amount of sleep for adults…and be sure to sleep in a completely dark and cool room.
Rock those #blueblockers for up to 2 hours before bed and try using some calming herbs to relax your mind and body. You can improve your optimal health by also practicing gratitude, journaling, some deep stretching, or even opting for a hot sauna or bath!
Healthy Snacks for your Lifestyle…
Whether you’re busy and on-the-go or taking a break and relaxing on vacation, it’s nice to have healthy snack options available. Our bars and snacks are easy to pack and take on a hike, to the beach, or in the car on the way to your next destination.
At MariGold, our goal is to create great tasting, high quality, real food snacks with premium ingredients that you know you can enjoy anywhere, anytime.