We live in a superficial society. In the age of social media, it’s not enough to be living a good life, we need to appear to be leading a good life. As such, we’ve fallen into the habit of assuming that we’re leading a healthy life because we’re doing the things that give us the appearance of health. We go to the gym regularly and eat healthily because these are the things that affect our physical appearance, and make us feel good about ourselves, rather than thinking about what will keep the machinery of our bodies ticking over beneath the surface.
While diet and exercise are undoubtedly two important pillars that prop up our overall health, they are by no means the only things we need to keep a close eye on to keep our bodies (and minds) healthy. If you truly want to adopt a holistic approach to your health, take a moment to consider…
Are you drinking enough water?
It’s astonishing how many people apply absolute scrutiny to the food they put on their plate, yet chug a constant stream of coffee and energy drinks, with nary a glass of water passing their lips for weeks. Our bodies are around 60% water and if we don’t get it for 3-4 days we die. Thus, it’s important that we drink at least 2-3 liters of water a day. Not coffee, not tea, not soda or milk. Water. Drinking plenty of water helps your body in a number of ways. It keeps everything from your skin to your liver to your kidneys healthy, flushing out the toxins our bodies absorb every day and ensuring that our bodies operate at peak efficiency.
If you’re struggling to put away this much water every day, the best thing to do is keep a big bottle at your desk and just keep on sipping.
Are you really eating healthily?
It’s an honest question. We live in an era where so many pre-packaged and heavily processed foods are marketed at health-conscious consumers it’s hard to know what healthy food even is any more. Especially with the wealth of contradictory information and fad diets found online. One minute fats are the source of all evil, the next minute it’s carbs that are the food of the devil. We’re constantly told what foods we should be avoiding and what foods are the answer to all our problems.
If you want to simplify the increasingly complicated keep this rule of thumb in mind;
- Eat real food.
- Eat more plants.
- Eat less of everything else.
Only fresh whole fruits, veggies, grains and legumes have the vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals you need to stay healthy and keep illness at bay. And don’t worry about protein. Most plants either contain their own complete proteins or high concentrations of amino acids, the building blocks of protein. We’ve been led to believe that we need to be eating our body weight in red meat every day and it just isn’t true. That’s not good for us or the planet.
Are you getting enough sleep?
It’s a sad fact that today’s fast-paced and hectic modern lifestyle rarely affords us an opportunity to get the healthy, restful sleep we need. Most adults need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep every single day to operate at peak efficiency both physically and mentally. And most adults in the US struggle to get much more than 6 hours. When we don’t get enough sleep it can lead to a range of unfortunate outcomes including;
- Weight gain
- Puffy eyes and bad skin
- Emotional volatility, irritability and mood swings
- Loss of concentration and focus
- Loss of fine motor skills
- Loss of libido and sexual function
- Slowed metabolism
- Slower healing of injuries and longer recovery times after strenuous exercise
If you’re not getting enough sleep, even if you’re doing everything else right, you’re building on a shaky foundation.
How healthy is your gut?
Inside your gut there’s an entire ecosystem of flora and bacteria like a tiny rainforest in your belly. This ecosystem is so sophisticated that it is referred to as the “second brain” and this has a profound influence on your physical and mental health. Without good digestive health, at the very least you can’t be sure that you’re getting optimal nutrition from the food you eat.
Are you taking proper care of your teeth?
Dental health is an extremely important part of our health. And bleaching your teeth every three months is no substitute for a regular checkup with your dentist. Not only can regular cleaning from your dentist keep tartar and gum disease at bay, your dentist is often the first to know if you have a serious illness as many manifest in the mouth, teeth and gums before they can be spotted elsewhere in the body.
Are you giving your naughty bits the attention they deserve?
It’s weird that in an age where sex is everywhere from social media to advertising, that so few of us give our sexual and genital health the consideration it deserves. If you are regularly affected by bacterial vaginosis, thrush, and other yeast / fungal infections it’s time to take steps to improve your vaginal health.
And while this starts with good hygiene remember that there’s a right and a wrong way to clan the intimate area. Douching, for example, can lead to an overgrowth of harmful bacteria.
Are you taking steps to relieve stress?
Finally, if you’re serious about safeguarding your mental health, it’s important to have measures in place to deal effectively with stress. We’ve been conditioned to accept and embrace stress, especially in the workplace. But while stress can bring out the best in us at times, it can also be extremely detrimental to our health and cause us to live in a near-constant state of anxiety. Whether your stress comes from your job, your money troubles or the myriad factors that come with juggling work and family, it’s important to have safeguards in place to relieve stress. Some good examples include;
- Start your day with a jog or a brisk walk
- Take a 5 minute mindfulness meditation break every day
- Hit the gym on your way back from work
- Take a long soak in a hot bath
No matter how busy you are, it’s essential to make time for the things that bring you relaxation and happiness!