Now almost two weeks into my Month of Health, I am feeling great. So far, I have been eating well every day (fresh fruits and vegetables) and drinking plenty of water. No alcohol, nicotine, caffeine, chemicals, drugs or processed sugar. I can feel the difference already. But just water and food is not enough for full health. There are three other keys to my physical health: sleep, exercise and low stress.
Last year I got really sick. My immune system crashed, I felt tired by 4pm every day and I had terrible allergies. There were many factors, but the greatest were sleep and stress. I was not sleeping enough, and my body was telling me it was tired. For me, 4-6 hours each night is not enough. Going to bed at 1am and getting up at 6am (like I often did in Ghana) is just not sustainable. Add to this an enormous amount of work pressure, often working 12-15 hours per day, and I hit rock bottom with shingles. Not something that a healthy 27-year-old should be dealing with.
Now, one year later, I am feeling great. In a large part, I believe this is directly linked to sleep (getting 7-8 hours per night at least) and much lower stress levels (unemployment aka “funemployment” certainly helps). 🙂
However just sleeping, eating and relaxing is unfortunately not the only prescription to health. As we all know, sleeping 10 hours each night and sitting on the couch all day while we eat does not result in great physical shape. We continue to feel tired and often even apathetic, uninspired and lazy. Staying active with exercise is absolutely key to both physical and mental health in every way.
This month, I have focused my exercise in 3 areas: gardening, biking and yoga. I additionally play soccer, frisbee and hike on occasion, but not with regularity. Without this exercise, I know I would not have the energy to be fully engaged throughout the day, and I could easily end up watching TV or laying around. It is ironic that exercising actually gives us more energy, but it is the truth. Finding time to exercise is easy when I have all day, but for many of us we work all day long in an office setting and getting the chance to be active can be hard. Katt, my partner, sits in a classroom most days for 6-8 hours and then drives an hour home. When she arrives at the house around 7pm it can feel too late to exercise. Still, we push our way out the door on our bikes and ride along the waves of the Pacific Ocean.
Yoga is also a central component of my weekly exercise. It not only stretches and strengthens my muscles, but it makes me conscious of my body and puts me in touch with how I feel in body, mind and spirit. The importance of keeping mental and emotional health is a topic for the final One Month to Health blog (coming soon), but for physical health nothing is better for me than consistent yoga practice. Long Beach offers free yoga every day at the park overlooking the ocean (http://yogalutionmovement.com/about/bluff/) which makes it an easy practice to sustain.
With good food, plenty of water, sleep, exercise and a manageable stress level, I have all of the components of my personal physical health in action. Did I miss anything? Good luck in your own personal practices, and may you keep feeling healthier and happier in each day.