Healthy living can seem very complicated and daunting. Often we can’t tell what’s really important and we find ourselves obsessed with the details. Organic or free range? Coconut water or mineral water? Body Pump or TRX? But none of this really matters if we’re not getting the basics right.
In this shiny, fast paced, hi-tech world of ours we really can’t see the wood for the trees. Whatever we do and wherever we go, there’s always something new to learn, retain and practice. We’ve become bogged down with the unimportant minutiae – heavy, tired and confused. Having lost the big picture, the details seem very complex. We need to step back, re-evaluate and always remind ourselves of what it’s really all about.
Changing Our View of Healthy Living
So coming up is a very simple view of healthy living. You may in fact feel it’s too simple. That’s OK, I like simple. For the truth of the matter is this: despite knowing the most we’ve ever known about health, we are the unhealthiest we’ve ever been. So maybe it really is time to get back to basics and simplify things? Although I’m a doctor, there’s nothing medical about this – it’s just common sense. Here it is:
Welcome to my house! It has:
- Solid Foundations – Food, water, movement, sleep
- 4 walls – Myself, family, partner, friends
- A roof – Peace, purpose
- Fixtures and Fittings – The small details
Food, water, movement and sleep (foundations) support my relationship with myself and with my loved ones (walls), and all these things together support my inner peace and allow me to find and carry out my purpose in life (roof).
The great thing is once you’ve got your foundations, walls and roof, you’ve actually got yourself a house – well done you’re finally on the best property ladder ever! And now you can allow yourself to pick out the fixtures and fittings. But until then, stay grounded and don’t let yourself get overwhelmed with the small details.
Getting Back to Basics
So for now, let’s talk about our foundations a little more:
We all need nourishment and not just for our body to function properly. We need food to think well and feel well. Eating food that appeals to our senses is a highly enjoyable activity that releases endorphins, engages and stimulates our minds and improves our creativity and emotional well-being. Food is not just the ‘stuff’ that keeps us going. Eating can also be a highly social activity and a great opportunity to push boundaries and try new things and new places. We need to stop viewing food as a means to an end and start seeing good food as a starting point to living. Put fresh, home cooked, unprocessed whole foods in your body and your mind will reap the benefits.
To quench our thirst we first need to realize we’re thirsty. Many people ignore their thirst and interestingly as we get older, our sensitivity to thirst reduces. But thirst is the best symptom of dehydration so it really is important to pay attention to this very basic human instinct. We’re mainly water so don’t underestimate the effects not getting enough can have on body and brain. In normal circumstances, the only liquid we need is water so start making really good friends with it! Our kidneys prefer not to be suddenly drowned, they would much rather be regularly watered so make a habit of slowly sipping throughout the day. There is a reason why we can’t survive very long without it – it is essential for sustaining life.
We’re designed to move. That’s why we have legs. And this may come as a surprise but our arms are not just for pushing a mouse around. They’re there to support our balance and stride whilst we go about our daily lives. So get up, go outside for some fresh air, walk a bit faster, swing your arms and work up a little sweat. Appreciate your mobility and enjoy the freedom it offers you. Do an activity once a day, whether it’s walking the dog or a spin class – just do something!
In a nutshell, it matters and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Sleep is not a luxury but a necessity. It is often the only time our body and mind ever have to heal and repair. It’s like meditation. Plenty of fancy studies all boil down to this – we need to sleep. Tiredness is a call to action i.e. it’s time to go to bed. Sleeping is as important as eating, drinking and moving but it’s often overlooked. Many studies even seem to support a possible link between lack of sleep and many chronic diseases like diabetes, cancer and obesity and there’s plenty of research still ongoing. So prioritize sleep, get yourself to bed and do tomorrow what you don’t need to do today!
We used to spend our days hunting and gathering, farming land, eating fresh produce and carrying water for miles. We went to bed when it got dark and rose with the sun. There’s an opportunity cost for everything and there’s a lot we’ve given up to become commodity rich. But this is not me mourning ‘the good old days’ – I just believe we really can have it all.
If we want it all then we need to start re-building our houses pretty quickly as our foundations are sinking, walls are crumbling and the roof is leaking. But always remember, the rebuilding process doesn’t have to be boring, difficult and exhausting – it can be fun, simple and energizing right from the start. So help uncomplicate your life by changing your view of healthy living, getting back to basics and making real changes.
Dr Yasmin Ohlsson MBChB MRCGP is a UK trained family doctor with a specialist interest in Preventive and Lifestyle Medicine, and an accredited coach. She is a member of the Royal College of General Practitioners and the International Coach Federation and is a country representative for the European Society of Lifestyle Medicine. Yasmin splits her time between the UK and the sunny island of Cyprus.
You can follow her on Twitter @NEAMEDICA or drop by http://www.neamedica.com/ for ideas, information and inspiration (or just to say hello!)