When we speak of health, most people visualize nutritious food and exercise, yet it’s an unfortunate reality that, in the United States, our “healthcare” system is more focused on treating illness than promoting wellness. The current need for tutorials on handwashing and public sanitation practices are evidence that many of us don’t think about staying healthy until we try to avoid getting sick. This reactive vs. proactive approach is often stoked by fear and anxiety, which only further compromise health and wellbeing. Moreover, the most impactful health practices involve more than bottles of hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes. True whole-self health considers our mental, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing, as well as physical.
Here are ten ways we can proactively focus on holistic health and increase our defenses against illness all year round:
Eat for optimum nutritional value. Consume more vegetables and fruit. Reduce the amounts of animal-sourced products in your diet. Sufficient amounts of protein and minerals can be derived from plant-based foods. Ignore marketing claims, and focus on understanding ingredient and nutrition content labels on packaged foods.
Move more. Fancy cycles and treds may seem sexier, but old-fashioned walking is one of the most benficial forms of exercise – and gets us outside. Gentle stretching or basic hatha yoga exercises are a good place to start for those with physical limitations. Commit to just 10 minutes of movement a day to get started.
Sleep. Our bodies need rest for basic functionality, to heal and repair, and even maintain a healthy weight. Average adults perform best on 7-8 hours every night.
Be a learner. A sharp mind is always an asset. Keeping a learner’s mind helps us to better gauge facts and make good choices. Read. Take a free class online. Listen to a podcast. Watch a TED Talk.
Make meaningful connections. Nurturing our relationships is as essential to all facets of human health. Spend quality time with people you love. Play with animals. Text a friend or family member across the miles just because. Use social media as a tool for connection. Write an actual letter. Times of crisis may require physical distancing, but maintaining our social/emotional ties is always important.
Meditate. In addition to fostering mindfulness, meditation can reduce stress, lower blood pressure, and promote deep breathing. Regular meditation practice is linked to greater focus, declines in conflict, and memory enhancement.
Take supplements. The Standard American Diet is notoriously lacking in nutritional value, while our sedentary lifestyles see us logging more indoor sofa minutes than outdoor daily steps. Taking a quality multi-vitamin and other supplements like wild fish oil, B-complex, and vitamin D can ensure that we don’t develop serious conditions of deficiency.
Spend time in nature. Scientific studies show that spending time in nature delivers a host of health benefits including stress reduction, lowering blood pressure, and improving mood. Even a view of trees or looking at images of nature has been shown to have similar advantages.
Hydrate. Drinking enough water is crucial for kidney function, digestion, brain health – and can even reduce wrinkles and improve complexion. Half your body weight is a good guide for the number of ounces to consume every day.
And, yes, practice good hygiene. Regular and thorough hand-washing and taking sanitation measures in public spaces are necessary every day.