Since last year’s personal health discovery, I’ve had fits and starts with making permanent – and hopefully beneficial – changes to my lifestyle. While I’m still not 100% there, I’ve already made several small adjustments and have begun to see noticeable benefits. Those results are encouraging. They’re also evidence that I don’t have to make this ‘reclaiming health’ thing overly complicated. I just need to exercise some common sense and a little bit of commitment. Since I know that I’ll occasionally need a reminder of what it is I should be focusing on, I decided to pen my own personal health manifesto.
Wanna hear it? Hear it goes….
- I have to be my own health advocate. A doctor is not an all-knowing source of medical wisdom. He/she is a practitioner. And practitioners of any craft are as much students as they are adepts. I have the responsibility to educate myself on my own body and conditions so that when I meet with the practitioner, I can engage in thoughtful dialogue and Q&A with him or her and challenge (respectfully) the info he/she provides. We are a team. I should not just take what is said or prescribed as Bible truth. I should use that as a launching point for further investigation, so that when I next meet with him / her, we can continue to plot a course to optimal health for me together. If my chosen practitioner is not open to this type of relationship with me, I should choose another.
- My body is itself a store of wisdom. If I quiet myself and listen, really pay attention to it, I will receive tons of clues about what might be causing dis-ease or imbalance within me. I was gifted with intuition to do this work, and I should make a conscious effort to strengthen this gift by paying attention to outward signs of inner distress or well-being. My skin, hair, nails, weight, emotions, eyes, teeth, gums, bowel movements, and menstrual periods are all readily accessible and easily observable external signs that give me clear clues as to how I am doing inside. I should not ignore these things or think of them as yucky, messy, gross, or inconsequential. I should pay attention and note any significant changes in them. I should seek out tools and reliable educational materials that allow me to accurately interpret what these changes could be saying about my overall health.
- Diet (i.e., what I put in my body as food, fuel, or sustenance) is of paramount importance. The KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid) method applies here. The simpler the food, the more beneficial it is to me. The more the food looks like it did in its original state, the better it is for me. If it comes wrapped in plastic, encased in cardboard, Styrofoam, cellophane, aluminum, or glass, it is probably less beneficial than things that don’t. I should avoid those types of food as much as possible, but where I can’t or don’t want to, I should both: be very aware (by reading labels) of what extra / unnecessary / unhealthy ingredients are coming inside that package; and be sure to balance consumption of those foods with other, healthier choices. I will limit my consumption of foods prepared by strangers. It is my belief that the closer my relationship to the preparer of the food, the more likely that food is to be good (or at least not bad) for me. I will prepare my own meals as much as possible. I will plan ahead by stocking my fridge / cabinets / workspace with foods that are good for me, so I am not forced to make bad decisions due to limited options.
ExerciseMovement is essential. Because I am not an athlete and never plan to be, nor am I a supermodel (though I could be… lol!), I refuse to become obsessed with points, pounds, number of reps, number of calories burned, miles logged, etc. My only obsession will be making time daily or at least 4 out of 7 days to get in the movement that I enjoy, that brings me pleasure, and preferably, that causes me to break a sweat. For me, this includes: dancing, gardening, stretching, dancing, swimming, hiking, biking, stretching, dancing, and stretching. Also – sex is exercise. Especially when done with a partner, and especially when done right.
- Nature is a source of regenerative energy and healing for me. Its cycles mirror my own internal cycles of birth, growth, death, and rebirth. I must dedicate time to interact with nature on a daily basis, whether by combining it with my physical activity (e.g., hiking, gardening, walking), by meditating on some aspect of nature (e.g., a tree, squirrels playing in the yard, a vase of fresh cut flowers), or incorporating nature into or acknowledging it as I go about my daily routines (e.g., taking lunch outside, touching a leaf as I pass, observing the movement of the clouds overhead).
- My mental diet is as important as my physical diet. The information and ideas I consume have a direct impact on the health of my mind and emotions. I will make conscious decisions about the books and magazines I read, the websites I visit, the TV programs and movies I watch, and the conversations and friendships I enter into and foster. This does not mean that I will only consume info or ideas that I agree with, but that I will limit intake of such info that leaves me feeling distressed, anxious, uneasy, or causes an uptick of negative emotions or associations about myself, others, or the world around me.
- Vices. I like to stay up late. I like to drink. I occasionally like to smoke. I like to drive over the speed limit. I tend to stress. I recognize that none of these things are beneficial to my health, especially if done to a level of excess or overindulgence. At this point, I don’t think I can or want to eliminate any of these behaviors 100%. I accept the inherent risk I am assuming by not being able to do this, and plan to at least minimize / mitigate that risk in the following ways:
- If I stay up late (or don’t get enough sleep) one night, I will go to bed early the following night and/or sleep in late the following morning, and/or incorporate a nap the following day or days.
- I will not drink during the week. If I find myself at a weekday event or occasion where alcohol is a factor, I will opt for my non-alcoholic beverage of choice (grapefruit juice and tonic water).
- I will try to limit smoking to ‘special occasions’ (e.g., 2-3 times / year). Since I’m especially tempted to smoke either when stressed or when drinking, I will ask myself these 3 questions when the temptation arises: 1) is this worth a new wrinkle? 2) is this worth an increase in blood pressure? 3) is this worth dying for?
- When I recognize stress in myself, I will either: remove myself from the stressful situation, reframe the situation in a more positive light, or focus on my breathing (i.e., taking several deep breaths until I feel the stress is reduced or eliminated.
- I will practice self-acceptance and self-forgiveness. Not beating myself up for falling off the wagon or experiencing setbacks, but using such experiences to reflect on what caused the setback and what I need to adjust to get back on track.
Do you have any healthy reminders for yourself? How do you keep yourself on track with your health and wellness goals?