Top 5 new perspectives to revolutionize your health
By Dr. Martin Gleixner, MSc, ND
The early days of the New Year are often a time of self-reflection. You've eaten well and celebrated your holidays and you've had your New Year's Eve party. Now, lingering in your mind, are thoughts of what this year will bring.
For many, this is the time of year that we recommit to our health in numerous ways or adopt new health goals, including making New Year resolutions.
At times, resolutions are based out of guilt of overindulging over the holidays and avoiding exercise or the 'should haves' of all the things we didn't do during 2011. This approach can provide short-term incentives, but rarely results in long-lasting lifestyle changes.
I would like to propose a new approach for resolutions. Instead of focusing on the "what change will I do this year" such as exercising more, eating less sugar, and losing 10 lbs, the emphasis is rather on strengthening the "why's" behind the change.
Let's review the Top 5 new perspectives that will revolutionize your ability to have more energy, better sleep, a more balanced mood and sense of well-being, and a healthier weight:
* Do whatever it takes to feel more in control
As mentioned in his book When the Body Says No, Dr. Gabor Mate MD, explains how the worse type of stress is the kind that causes us to feel like we have no control. Examples include health problems, work deadlines, the fluctuating stock market, mortgage rates, relationship difficulties, yet another car repair, or a sick child.
Elegantly stated by researcher Ronald De Kloet in his journal publication titled Corticosteroids, Stress and Aging (1992), "psychological factors such as uncertainty, conflict, lack of control, and lack of information are considered the most stressful stimuli...".
When we feel overwhelmed because of everything we need to do in a given day, we are often rushing from one thing to the next, feeling chronically nervous, and have thoughts that are racing like a hamster wheel in our brain. Stress hormones are secreted in large quantities and overtime wear away at the body.
Focus on eliminating stressors on the things that can be changed. Take naturopathic preventative care for your health and for your children; have more open conversations with your significant other or friends to improve your relationships; and decrease spending to lower financial stress. Taking various steps that allow us to regain control of our lives can go a long way to decrease the stress response in the body.
Most importantly, simplify your life and slow down as much as you can. Have you ever seen how incredibly slow sea turtles and tortoises swim and move. It's no wonder they can live to 100 years of age!
* Aim to spend more time doing the things you love to do
Whatever makes you smile and laugh, do more of it.
Whether it's playing cards, going bowling, walking outside, sipping a coffee (organic is possible!), chatting face to face with your friend, etc...
Think about the last time you enjoyed a workout and felt energized afterwards. Was it when you were lifting weights at the gym, in an aerobics class, a solo yoga session at home, chopping wood at the cottage, scooping snow on your driveway, moving dirt and plants around your backyard to improve the landscape, or play wrestling with your child?
When we move our bodies, we feel warmer and more energized. Even the aching muscles the next day helps us reconnect more within ourselves.
Aim to move your body every day, regardless of what type of activity is it.
* Focus on pleasure versus seeking happiness
Paul Bloom wrote an excellent article entitled "10 ways to find more pleasure every day" published in the Real Simple magazine (July 2010).
He describes how happiness can be elusive at times, but focusing on what you love and doing more of it can bring great pleasure every day.
For any hobbies or activities that we do, think about:
- Repetition nurtures pleasure. By doing things more often, it allows us to become more familiar and more connected. Whether it's a song that causes butterfly in your chest, that homemade recipe you love that was passed down from generation to generation, or watching your favourite movie year after year, certain activities bring more enjoyment with repetition.
- Deepen your knowledge. Whether it's skiing, building a train set in your basement, collecting wine or coins, gardening, knitting, painting, doing yoga, etc...learn more about the hobbies you enjoy. Buying a reference book, organizing a wine tasting, or taking a lesson/course or attending a workshop for example, will provide a refreshing way to think about the activity and will inspire you to do it more often.
If you want to increase your motivation to run for example, read running magazines, join a local running group, do research on the website, and get good running shoes. You will live and breath running, and it will become an automatic part of your life.
* Create a new vision for yourself
Feeling uncertain about your life direction? Feel like you're stuck in a rut and need new directions in your life? Start by visualizing yourself achieving your goals.
Making a vision board is one fun way to do this during the holidays. Take a poster board and fill it with images and words that represent your desires.
Make a collage from magazine photos of everything you would like to draw to you this year.
Try not to over-think this project. Take any picture or word that draws your attention and cut it out and place it on your collage.
Once completed, talk to everyone about your collage. Make it real. Hang this poster in a place where you see it frequently and where it can serve as a reminder of where you want to place your attention. You'll be amazed at this time next year how much of it actually happened.
* Adopt a new health paradigm
Too often, we focus our efforts on the problems of today's health care system: spiralling hospital costs and long wait times, side-effects and complications of pharmaceutical drugs, pros and cons of vaccinations, standardization of active ingredients in supplements, ideal vitamin daily recommendations, a biochemical explanation for homeopathy, only to name a few.
Progress in these larger scale problems can be slow. But by focusing at a more personal level, we can start now by adopting a new approach in the way we think about our health and medicine.
To take your personal health to an entirely new level, adopt the following conceptual framework: Take your health further than symptom management and address the true causes of your health condition.
The goal is to look for the reason(s) your body has developed symptoms. Within this philosophy, symptoms are used as a guide to discover the underlying imbalances in your health.
The true causes of weight gain, high blood pressure, insomnia, allergies, heartburn, respiratory illnesses as well as depression and anxiety were discussed in past columns.
In weight gain for example, numerous imbalances exists that prevent fat loss even when a superb diet and exercise program are in place.
Underlying causes includes stress, inflammation, low thyroid function, sex hormone imbalances, a disrupted pancreas and blood sugar dysregulation, poor liver function, a sluggish digestive tract and neurotransmitter imbalances. There can even be other reasons!
Bringing forth your natural state of health and an understanding of what contributes to your personal well-being is paramount.
The overall aim of this new health paradigm is to address the true cause of your medical condition while still giving relief from your primary concerns.
For a more in-depth explanation of this principle, please visit Dr. Gleixner's previous column entitled "Address underlying problems, not just symptoms" and flow chart diagram entitled "A Dual Approach".
I wish every one of you the best of health. Slow down your life, create more pleasure in your life, set positive intentions about this year and adopt new ways of thinking about your health. What counts is to start somewhere and the rest will follow.
Published by Dr. Gleixner on Tuesday January 3rd, 2012 in Times & Transcript.
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