2017 is almost a wrap. 2018 is mere days away. Are you happy with the way your 2017 turned out, health-wise? Did you have more energy, more vitality and more health this year than you've ever had before? If you did, then congratulations! Keep up the great work and keep up the momentum for 2018.
If 2017 wasn't your best year yet, don't fret. A fresh start is here. If you are looking for some inspiration on how to start 2018 with energy and vitality, here are three ideas to get you started:
- Get more sleep. We all know the importance of enough sleep. But how many of us actually get enough sleep on a regular basis? Here are simple tips to get more sleep starting tonight:
- Eliminate blue light after sundown. Blue light from electronic devices severely decreases melatonin production. Turn off the screens at least an hour before bed time. Make a plan to sleep 8 hours every night. Let’s say 10 pm to 6 am fits your schedule. Turn off all screens at 9 pm and cozy up with a good (relaxing!) book. Or do some light stretching and meditate. Write in your gratitude journal, trade foot rubs with your sweetie, or take a warm bath. Screen time not only disrupts melatonin production, it also makes our mind too active at a time when it should be winding down. And while there are blue-light blocking glasses and screen apps to reduce the blue light, I suggest you just turn off the screens and go to bed. Your body and mind will thank you.
- Have a sleep routine. Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day (yes, even on weekends!) helps your body know when to pump out the melatonin.
- Get outdoors every day, even for just a half hour every day. Morning time is ideal for outdoor light exposure. Our bodies’ circadian rhythms, the body clock that tells us when to sleep, eat, wake up, make melatonin and regulates many other bodily processes, is set by things like sunlight and temperature. Most people spend a lot of time indoors, and don’t get enough bright light to help set their body clocks every day. We don’t get enough bright light exposure (ie, outdoors light) during the day and too much at night. Even a cloudy day is brighter, as measured in lumens, than indoor lighting. This lack of outdoor light throws off our melatonin production and throws our circadian rhythm into disarray. Get out at lunch time and take a walk – you get to move your body (exercise helps you produce melatonin too!) and get light to help keep your circadian rhythm humming.
- Keep your room pitch black when sleeping. No night lights and no screens. Watch out for blinking lights or green “on” lights on all sorts of electronic devices, and cover them with a small piece of electrical tape. Better yet, get them all out of your bedroom, including phones. If you have an alarm clock, drape an old t-shirt or some other fabric over the digital numbers so the light doesn’t disturb your sleep, but the sound of the alarm will still wake you up. Use black-out curtains to keep outside light from leaking in.
- Chill out. Chronic stress affects our health in some seriously negative ways. Here's a short list of some of the serious effects of stress:
- Contributes to weight gain and digestive stress.
- Stress damages your brain.
- Increases risk of heart disease and stroke.
- It reduces, or over-activates, your immune system.
- It contributes to aging.
- Increases pain.
So what can we do to alleviate these negative effects?
1) Daily exercise. Exercise increases circulation, heart rate and breathing. All of these help clear the toxins from chronic stress out of your body. Please exercise releases endorphins, which are our bodies’ internal “feel-good” chemicals.
2) Schedule relaxation time. Put it in your calendar and stick to it. Maybe it’s tea time with a friend, a long soak in a hot bath, take a yoga class, curl up with a good book.
3) Learn to say no. Spreading yourself too thin doesn’t help anyone.
4) Sleep. We need 8 – 9 hours of sleep every night. It’s the time when our bodies get to rest and renew.
5) Meditate. Five minutes, every day. Sit and focus on your breath for the first two minutes. Then spend the next three minutes focusing on all the things in your life have to be grateful for, no matter how small.
6) Eat nutrient-dense foods. A well-nourished body is better able to withstand the damaging effects of the stressful world we live in.
7) Eat Mindfully. No distractions: No TV, computer, phone etc. Not in the car or on the run. Eat sitting down. Really taste your food. Create a calm inviting atmosphere for you to enjoy your meal. This helps the PNS keep the body relaxed and in the best situation to “rest and digest”.
8) Connect with others. Social connection is critical for us to be happy and healthy.
9) Serve someone else. Related to connection, volunteering for a cause you believe in is a wonderful way to gain perspective and stay grounded.
10) Ask “Why?” Why are you racing around trying to accomplish too much in too little time? Who does it serve? Who benefits from it? Is this rushed never-enough-time feeling what you really want in your life? If not, only you can choose differently.
3. Eat Nutrient Dense Foods. I am asked frequently "What should I eat"? There is so much confusion, conflicting research and contradictory advice around what constitutes a healthy diet. Here are the foods that I believe create the foundation of a healthy nutrition habit:
Healthy fats: Avocados, butter from pastured cows, cream, Extra Virgin Olive Oil (never cook with it!), coconut in its many forms - milk, oil, flakes, and whole -,lard, tallow, and duck fat (the last three from pastured animals only) are great choices. .
Bone broth: This is an abundant source of many nutrients, collagen, amino acids and minerals that enhance digestion and the health of the digestive tract, and support liver health and detoxification. The nutrients in bone broth also help skin stay youthful and supple, and joints to stay strong and healthy. Beef and chicken are both excellent choices for bone broth. Read more about the healing properties of bone broth HERE.
Eggs from pastured chickens: Eggs are one of the most perfect foods. Getting eggs from chickens allowed to truly roam around outside, scratching in the dirt and eating insects and worms, is crucial. Don’t be fooled by the claims of “cage-free” or “free-range” on egg cartons. These are mostly meaningless marketing terms.
Raw, grass-fed milk: Raw milk produced by cows grazing on fields that have not been sprayed by toxic pesticides is an incredibly good source of fat-soluble vitamins A and D. When cows are fed commercial feed, shut in small stalls and deprived of sunlight, these vitamins are diminished. Because pasteurization destroys enzymes, denatures proteins, and lowers the vitamin content of the milk, raw milk is a truly nutrient-dense food. Pasteurized milk (even organic) is best avoided.
Meat from grass-fed cows, chickens, goats, lamb, pigs, ducks etc...: Meat from pastured animals is higher in CLA, Omega 3 Essential Fatty Acids, and Vitamin E. It also does not contain antibiotics or artificial hormones, which are endocrine disruptors in our bodies. Plus, it’s far better for the environment.
Wild-Caught fish, such as salmon and tuna: Wild-caught, not farmed, fish, particularly salmon, is high in Vitamin D, Omega 3 EFAs, and an important antioxidant called astaxanthin, as well as a source of healthy fats.
Fermented vegetables: Sauerkraut and kimchi are traditional foods that provide ample amounts of vitamins, enzymes, and probiotics. All of these are important factors in healthy digestion which is crucial for overall health and wellbeing. Read more about the many benefits of fermented vegetables HERE.
Organic fruits and vegetables: “But I can’t afford to eat organic!”(Read my post about why organic food is so important HERE.) The first step here is to ask “Why is cheap food so cheap?” rather than complaining about the cost of food that is actually good for you and the environment. The best way to stay healthy is to avoid the toxins in the first place, and numerous studies have shown that organic fruits and vegetables are significantly lower in such toxins. That said, here is a list of fruits and veggies that are less-highly pesticide and herbicide laden that are okay to buy non-organic versions of. And here is a list of fruits and veggies that are worth paying the extra money to get organic to avoid the heavy load of environmental toxins. Buying local when possible is an added bonus because it helps to support local farmers and usually provides fresher, seasonal, and therefore more nutrient-rich, food.
Grains that have been traditionally prepared. Heritage grains (emmer farro, Einkorn, Spelt and kamut are good choices) that are soaked, fermented and/or sprouted are good choices.
Cheese made from pastured milk: Cheese, from cow's or goat milk, is a good source of healthy fats, calcium, and importantly, Vitamins D and K.
There you have it. Three simple ideas to start your 2018 with energy and vitality. If you want more guidance on creating the habits in the areas of lifestyle, nutrition, mindset and movement that will ensure you live your most energized and vital life in 2018, sign up for my 6 week ecourse "6 Weeks to Abundant Energy" HERE.