I have been reading a lot recently and keep coming across lists. Seven keys to happiness. Five ways to keep your partner. Ten steps to enlightenment. So I decided to write a list of my own. Twelve ways to be healthier.
- Pay attention to what you eat. While everyone needs to find a diet that suits them we all need to pay more attention to what we feed our body. Soft drinks, junk food and processed food are not the way to good health. There is still debate about the perfect human diet but as each of us is responsible for what we put in our mouth we can start to pay attention to which foods improve our wellbeing and health and which do not. For my ideas about the best diet to follow see my page on healthy diet.
- Avoid toxins. Health is about enabling our body to function at its best. It has trouble doing this if we keep letting toxic things in. Our food should be as organic as possible with minimal preservatives and additives. Our water should be as pure as possible. We should avoid using pesticides and nasty cleaning chemicals in our homes and pesticides and herbicides in our gardens. We should make sure our cosmetics and toiletries are not full of harmful chemicals. As well as this we should avoid toxic relationships and toxic interactions with others. We should minimize our exposure to toxic television, movies and computer games.
- Move more. Humans are not trees. We are made to move yet most of us lead sedentary lives and forget to move around. Movement and exercise enable us to stay young, flexible and energetic. And the best exercise is the exercise that you enjoy. I have recently taken up yoga again and find it a great way to move and get fitter. But whatever gives you pleasure is perfect.
- Meditate. I have written a recent post on meditation and I feel a little embarrassed that it has taken me so long to adopt a regular meditation practice. It has been shown to have a number of health benefits and is great for stress reduction. For me its greatest benefit is that we can get in touch with our inner or higher self much more easily when we meditate and this carries over into our everyday life so that we can live with more purpose and fulfillment. We begin to live more in alignment with our true self.
- Do more of what brings you joy. Maybe this should be number one. Too many of us do too little of those things that bring us joy. I find joy in writing and reading. In spending time with family and friends. I find much joy in spending time in nature. I am gradually discovering how to bring more joy into my life by simply doing more things that bring me joy. Treat yourself to more things that bring you joy and happiness.
- Do less of what doesn’t bring you joy. Maybe this is an obvious one but I see lots of patients whose lives are full of joyless activities that they feel they have to do. I think we need to stop doing all those things that don’t bring us joy. Or at the very least try to bring some joy to them. We can do this by trying to look at things in a different way and being mindful while we go through our daily activities. However if it is difficult to find any joy in some activities then it is healthiest to stop doing them.
- Practice gratitude. Most of us are grateful for what we have but we don’t always practice gratitude. We take things and people for granted. It sometimes helps to keep a gratitude journal and record all the things you are grateful for. Saying thanks for our food is a way to show gratitude on a daily basis. As we begin to practice being consciously grateful we begin to be more positive about our lives. We stop focusing on what we don’t have and start to focus on the abundance that we do have. As we become more positive we start to attract more positive things into our lives
- Let go of negative thoughts. I guess this is the opposite of being grateful but it bears remembering that negative thoughts tend to lead to negative feelings. Feelings generally let us know whether we are well aligned to our true self or not. When we are not well aligned we tend to feel negative feelings. We can’t change the feelings without changing our alignment. And to change our alignment we have to begin to think more positively. It takes some training of our mind but gradually we can learn to let go of negative thoughts and focus more on positive ones. This is a tricky thing and some of us will need help with this one. Finding a good psychologist is a good place to start.
- Be of service. It has been shown that volunteering and being of service to others has positive benefits for our mental and physical health. Everyone has to work out his or her own way of being of service. It might be as simple as being kind to the frazzled cashier or paying for someone else’s coffee. Be open to opportunities to be of service to others and they will appear. You don’t have to become a regular volunteer to be of service, and remember about the joy; if it doesn’t bring you joy don’t do it out of duty.
- Cultivate your relationships. Relationships are one of the reasons we are here so spend time cultivating them. We can cultivate our relationships by spending more time with people we love, being kinder to people in general, listening to others and trying to bring joy to the lives of those we care about. If we believe that people are more important than things then we might act accordingly.
- Get enough sleep. This list used to be only ten things until I remembered we need enough sleep to be healthy. Everyone needs different amounts of sleep but many of us don’t get enough because we think we are too busy and that we never have enough time to get things done. Possibly this means we are trying to do too much. Our bodies need to sleep in order to recover, heal and dream.
- Spend time in nature. This is the final one for this list but it is very important. We are part of a larger system called earth and we should not only spend time appreciating nature we should take better care of the earth. Spending time in nature is as simple as admiring the night sky or walking barefoot across the lawn. I need to walk among trees and smell the spring air. Or visit the beach and feel the sand between my toes and the water against my skin. It is ideal to spend part of each day in the natural world but if it isn’t part of your life take small steps. Buy a pot plant and pay it some attention. Or walk outside a little each day. Sit in the sun and drink your coffee.
I’m sure there are many other ways to improve our health and I welcome your feedback on what you think is important.