There Is No Life-Hack To Health
I want you to get used to this concept. More importantly, I want you to become comfortable being uncomfortable. I don’t think I need to rant about the downward spiral that manliness in our culture has been stuck in for several decades. The point is that we’ve lost the ability to muscle through things. Even if toughing it through a challenge or enduring a difficult task would reap huge rewards, it seems to be an ever-decreasing way of doing things. Repairing a marriage takes intentionality and dedication over time, divorce seems easier. A master’s degree seems impossibly far away when you’re in high school, it’s easier to just stop after an associate’s or bachelor’s degree. Both of these examples are perfect illustrations for the point I’m trying to make: anything worth doing can be intimidating until it’s broken down into its small, practical steps. A shattered marriage needs consistent inputs of trust and communication. A master’s degree is nothing more than a series of bite-sized assignments strung together. The things you do daily get you one step closer to the goal.
How often do you hear people bragging about how much they work? “Dude, I worked like 70 hours last week”. Gross. People wear it like a badge of honor. Now, I’m all for productivity and doing your work as best as you can and seeking constant growth in everything you do. But consumerism has warped our priorities into a race of drones who work so that we can buy things fast enough to keep up with our ability to import and create new goods. We will get into the concepts of escaping the rat race in the next post, but right now the important thing is to acknowledge that we do not rest enough! I’m talking about allowing our mind to wander the scenery described in a good book. Or turning your phone on silent and sitting on your patio, enjoying the fresh air. I rest by walking through the woods with my family. You might find rest building a puzzle. Rest is any decompressing activity that lets you manage the stresses in your life. This means actively and regularly blocking out times that allow you to flush out stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol from your body. While good in small doses, these chemicals will hurt you longterm. Find what works for you, but if you live under the stress of an intense job or environment, you’re on a freight train to trouble. Try journaling, talking to someone who cares, or just thinking out loud as you get in touch with nature. Rest literally made the list of the ten commandments, don’t ignore this.
A close kin to rest, the word sleep carries a differing emotional response in every one of us for a wide variety of reasons. A mother with a newborn might long for sleep like a prisoner longs for freedom. A 20-something single might avoid it until crashing for 13 hours straight. The workaholic will view it as a necessary evil. All of these are not sustainable trends for sleep. Sleep allows restoration, it balances hormones that allow proper hunger control and cell generation for healing, it allows the brain to recuperate and reset. Sleep is far from a state of inactivity. Everyone’s minimum amount of sleep varies, but if you think you can run on five hours or less a night, I predict that you will develop health or mental disorders that will force you to correct your habit. I’ve found that when I’m getting enough exercise and I’m eating right consistently, I become fairly in tune with my body’s sleep needs. I can feel it when I haven’t had enough. I’ve found that shorting sleep has a cumulative effect though and I can’t reverse it with one long nap. I have to just sleep the right amount, seven to eight hours a night, for a consistent while to make up for shortages.
As most of us know, our bodies are made mostly of water. You need water to exist. If you don’t drink water your body has to somehow extract water from whatever it is you are drinking and eating. Here’s a common sense thought: soda, coffee, and even sports drinks do not support healthy hydration. In very simple terms, hydration helps your body do its various functions properly. Having proper levels of hydration allows you to moderate appetite, balance your weight, heal injuries and recover faster, your brain will work better, and sudden thirst won’t drive you to reach for that energy drink. Every one of the benefits of drinking water ties directly into your ability to perform the amount of exercise we’ve talked about and manage your diet successfully as well. Six to eight (8 oz) glasses is a pretty consistent benchmark set by physicians and researchers, but a good place to start is to replace sugary or sodium heavy drinks for water. Work your way toward a healthy level of water intake and it will literally change your life.
BONUS: Healthy People’s Secret Weapons
Your body was created with the very special ability to heal itself and self-regulate its functions. The way things like digestion, hormone regulation, and heart rate regulation happen is by the brain communicating and directing every area of the body. The central nervous system is kind of like the highway those signals move on. We cause roadblocks that corrupt and slow that free flowing traffic with poor posture, extended sitting, or through misalignments caused by injury. Chiropractic care isn’t just for repairing damage or finding pain relief after injury, it’s one of the most powerful forms of maintenance and preventative care that I know of because a good chiropractor will help restore the flow of the nervous system. I walk upright and pain free because of ongoing corrective and preventative chiropractic care that has undone damage caused by years of abusing my spine as a paratrooper.
Laughing and Humor
Go ahead and watch that funny online cat video, it’s good for you! Allowing yourself to laugh and enjoy things also increases your likelihood of being happy. Who knew?! I won’t get all scientific on you here because it’s common sense! I tend to be very driven and focused when I’m working on something, but when I remember to take breaks and have a chuckle with someone or pull a prank on my wife or kids, I always go back to my task with renewed energy and a smile. Give it a try, Scrooge! You might like it.
No surprise here, right? A good massage (monthly?) will help relieve stress, anxiety, tension, depression, chronic pain, and the list goes on. This doesn’t even have to be a full day at the spa, even a shoulder massage or foot rub from your spouse can work wonders. This would be one of those activities for finding the rest we talked about at the beginning of this post. The key is making the time and budgeting for it.
Surround Yourself with Healthy People
That’s right, it encourages the right behavior and instead of a “one-up” contest of who has the most ailments, you’re comparing notes on what works and what doesn’t on your journey to health. When you hang out with people who are on the same journey or ahead of you on a path you cannot help but be encouraged and learn from them. Like we talked about in the relationships post on choosing your crowd wisely, this is the practical way of doing that.
Get Results That Last
Yup, we’re back to that original bit of bad news: there’s no pill, magic formula, or life hack that will give you long term health. The only secret is turning basic knowledge into habits and keeping those up indefinitely. Your knowledge on health will consistently grow once you start implementing the fundamentals of healthy eating, exercise, and recovery. Start now and allow the compound interest of healthy behavior to work its magic.
Average behavior is to ignore these basics and pretend like you’re immune from bad choices catching up to you. Doing the right things habitually becomes the new normal and it really is easy! Fix yourself and become the example your kids and those around you need.
Let’s end average together.