- As humans we are made for natural movement. When we were children our range of movement was huge; our days were spent crawling, climbing, walking, running, jumping, throwing, catching, stretching, climbing. Our first years of life are spent developing our co-ordination, strength, mobility, flexibility, speed and endurance.
- Although our bodies are designed for movement, we live in a world designed to keep us stationary while the latest technological and digital innovations do the moving for us. The downside of this progress is that few of us escape without developing weight gain, loss of fitness, some form of chronic pain, stress, and loss of vitality.
- The good news is that it now is the perfect time to get moving. Remember, you don’t have to be fit to move but you do have to move to get fit and it is never too late to introduce sustained, daily movement into your life. In no time you will see the improvement and gains being made. For those already on their natural movement journey, keep challenging yourself to move just beyond your comfort zone to the next level.
- Whole-health natural movement is about focusing on the key areas of strength, flexibility and aerobic fitness. By focusing on all three areas you will ensure all-round mobility.
- No matter how fit you are, you can be doing more in your daily life. It’s time to stop looking at housework, window washing, gardening, doing your own shopping as things you wish someone else would do! Instead, view them as opportunities to increase your mobility and get some good, accessible, regular exercise into your daily routine.
- Natural movement is a lifestyle medicine you have control of. Once you start taking the opportunities in your daily life to move more you give yourself the chance to live longer, live better.
Good eating habits
- Eat less. Stop eating when you feel full. In the healthiest parts of the world, people stop eating when they are 80% full.
- Limit calories. In the western world, we are surrounded by processed, sugar and salt-filled food that is very high in calories. Start reading the calorie content of processed foods, as well as the sugar, salt and fat levels. There are many benefits to cutting down on daily calorie intake that may include better heart health and a reduction in body weight which, in turn, helps with blood pressure and cholesterol regulation.
- Eat clean. Introduce more seasonal, locally grown food into your diet, with an emphasis on plant foods such as beans and tofu. Eat up to six types of vegetables daily along with nuts (small amounts because they are high in calories but have great health benefits) and seeds. Try and limit your intake of meat to no more than twice a week.
- Eat slowly. The faster you eat, the more you are likely to eat. Slow down, chew your food and allow your brain time to register when you are full.
- Eat early. By eating the most substantial meals during the early part of the day, you give your body the fuel it needs for the activities of your waking hours and lessen the chance that you will succumb to snacking during mid-morning and mid-afternoon. Eat the smallest meal of the day in the evening when your body is getting ready to wind down after the day’s activities.
- Drink alcohol in moderation. We are all aware of the negative effects of over-consumption of alcohol but more studies are showing the benefits of moderate, regular consumption of alcohol. One to two glasses of a quality red wine a few times of week may have health benefits beyond helping you relax. Red wine contains polyphenols which are powerful antioxidants (Pinot Noir has among the highest levels of polyphenols of all red grapes).
Good sleeping habits
- Getting enough sleep each night gives our body and mind time to rest, recalibrate and restore. Today, thanks to bright artificial lights, technology and blurred work-home time, sleep deprivation is at almost epidemic levels.
- Research has shown that the optimum sleeping time for adults is between seven and nine hours nightly. Lack of sleep and sleep disruption may, over time, have negative effects on our brain and our mental ability, as well as our physical health.
- By creating a regular sleep routine, by going to bed at the same time and getting up at the same time every day, we help keep our circadian rhythm (internal 24-hour clock) in balance. Start to get ready for bed an hour before you go to sleep. Turn down the lights, turn off technology, listen to calming music or read a soothing book – get your dose of daily news earlier in the evening. If you must watch TV or a streaming service out of habit or as a sleep aid, try and do this about two hours before you go to bed; set a time limit for watching and stick to it; don’t have the volume too high; and avoid action-packed, violent programmes.
- Don’t do dynamic exercise earlier in the hour or so just before bedtime as the stimulating hormones and neurotransmitters released by vigorous exercise make it difficult to get into deep-sleep mode.
- Be careful about what you eat in the evening. Although it’s believed that caffeine, chocolate, certain meats and alcoholic drink stimulate brain alertness, their effects are not the same for everyone so it’s important that you work out what food and drink keep you from having a full night’s sleep, and avoid consuming them in the evening.
- If you need to take a nap during the day, try to do so before 3pm as napping any time after than can interfere with the night’s sleep. Ten to 20 minutes is the optimum time for a nap which should be taken in a quiet, calm environment that has a comfortable temperature.
Good stress management
- Modern life is busy and stressful and there is hardly one of us that doesn’t experience stress on a regular basis. While some stress is good (it keeps us safe and mentally sharp), relentless, unmanaged exposure to stressors has a negative impact on our whole-health and wellbeing.
- The fast pace of life and the ever-presence of technology are among the greatest stressors we are exposed to on a daily basis. It’s getting harder and harder to slow down the pace. However, we can manage stress by taking some simple but very conscious steps.
- Move more. Any kind of exercise and physical activity helps reduce stress and makes us feel better, so when you being to your stress levels rising, get moving. Walking, running, swimming, stretching, gardening, doing housework will all help take you out of your head and into your body.
- Get out in nature and connect with it. We need natural light for optimal health and Vitamin D (which we get from sunlight) is really good for our overall mood and as an aid to ward off depression. Studies show that the fractals (repeated patterns) found everywhere in nature can help lower stress levels by up to 60%. Exposure to phytoncides (antimicrobial volatile organic compounds) while, for example, walking in a forest or anywhere among trees can help boost the immune system, lower blood pressure and reduce stress, energy level and sleep quality.
- Learn how to meditate and breathe deeply. This allows you calm you mind and learn how to create a space between stimulus and your response to it. Learn to become the observer in your own life, but remember to observe with compassion.
- Connect with something or someone beyond yourself, whether that is a dead ancestor, your personal God or the natural sprit world. We are not alone and by taking time to connect with who and what is beyond us, we can gain a greater sense of context and calm.
Positive social relationships
- Human beings are hardwired for social connection. In a world where we can connect with people at the touch of a screen, human loneliness is rampant. People are feeling incredibly disconnected from each other and experiencing a type of disconnection that is leading to an extreme feeling of being alone in the world.
- No matter how resilient you think you are, you need to connect with others as this helps keep stress at bay. Say hello to your neighbours and people that you meet casually. Even this type of connection has a positive effect on your brain and is of value. When we expand out from ‘me’ to ‘we’, we can have wellness-giving moments in our lives, either with those we know and love or with strangers.
- Focus on your family and and make the decision to spend time together. Share meals, establish rituals and traditions and commit to honouring them every year. Take holidays together and create memories.
- Surround yourself with friends that bring positivity into your life, as you bring into theirs. Invest in these friendships. Meet regularly to go for a walk or hike, go on a night out, or have lunch. Let them know that they can depend on you just as you can depend on them.
- Get involved in a community of like-minded people that support your whole-health and wellbeing journey. Join groups that support the life you want to lead and where your support is also valued.
- Develop your store of empathy (when we feel for the plight of others) and compassion (when we feel empathy but we also act on it) for others. We can train ourselves to be more compassionate not only towards others but also towards ourselves. The rewards are worth the effort – increased wellbeing and health; increased sense of trust; increased resilience to negative emotions.
Having a purpose
- We all need a purpose in life, to know why we wake up in the morning. Studies show that people who have clear goals and are focused on what their life purpose is live longer than those who don’t. When you are pursuing your purpose, you feel at one with the world, in a state of flow. Daily concerns seem further away, or you may even forget them totally for a period of time, when you are engaging with the activity that reflects your true purpose.
- Knowing your why does not have to be complicated. It ties together activities that encourage meaning, creativity and purpose in your life. It may be the work you do, the hobby you love or the voluntary contribution you make to your community.
- Who are the people you spend most time with? Are they the kind of people who will support you when you start talking about changes you want to make in your life? The company we keep has a big influence on us so it’s important to make sure we have, or find, people who support and inspire us.
- If you feel like you don’t know what your purpose is, you can engage actively with trying to find out what it is. Take time to explore your interests and think about what most sparks your interest in life, and what people you most admire. Take a look at where you engage most on social media. When you step back and get some perspective, you will see what subjects you engage most with others on. Try and find a way to forge a real connection with individuals or groups involved in that pastime/activity/work.
- Ask the people who know you best what they think your real interests in life are and where they see you really come alive. You might not realise it, but your passion – your why – may already be part of your life and might be something that just needs some more time, dedication and attention from you.
- Giving back and helping others creates a real sense of purpose in people and is something we can all do in some way. It doesn’t have to cost any money (time and talent are equally valuable) but it can make a real difference both to you and to those in receipt of your goodwill and voluntary service. Giving back reminds us that we are all part of a community.