Over the years, I’ve helped thousands of people make better choices for their life and their health. People from all backgrounds say they feel sick, tired, and depressed. What’s truly scary is that people begin to accept that feeling as normal.
It doesn’t have to be that way. You don’t have to, nor should you, resign yourself to feeling perpetually run-down and exhausted. Some of the most effective ways to improve your health are simple and accessible to almost everyone. You don’t need a lot of money; you just need the drive to cultivate healthy habits. When people ask me what the best medicine is, do you know what I tell them? The best medicine is a prevention-based lifestyle.
6 Tips for a Healthy Lifestyle
The six simplest things you can incorporate in your life are sunshine, clean air, fresh water, sleep, exercise, and, most of all — a clean, healthy diet. That’s it. Improving these six things can improve anyone’s health. They require no fancy equipment, special training, 16-disc instructional DVD set, or payment plan. You can start improving your life today!
1. Get Some Sunshine
Soaking up the sun has received a lot of bad press in recent years, and everyone now associates the sun’s UV rays with wrinkles and skin cancer. While it’s true that you shouldn’t spend all day in the sun, we’ve swung too far in the other direction, and people are quick to reach for chemically-suspect sunscreen or avoid the sun entirely. In reality, UV rays contribute to a small fraction of the total global disease burden. You’re far more likely to get sick from too little sunlight.
Moderate exposure to direct sunshine boosts the health of both your mind and body. In addition to enhancing your mental state, exposure to sunlight directly affects the body’s production of melatonin and can promote more restful sleep. Sunlight is also vital to the body’s ability to produce vitamin D, an incredibly important nutrient that supports cardiovascular health, bone health, and the immune system. In fact, sunlight is the best source of vitamin D, as the nutrient is relatively uncommon in food.
That’s not to say you should ignore the risk of UV-related cancer. As with all things, you must find the right balance. Be smart about your level of sunshine exposure. Try to get at least 15 to 30 minutes of direct sunlight every day. Skip the sunscreen. At best, it prevents vitamin D production, but many sunscreens contain harsh chemicals that are absorbed through the skin and cause health concerns. If you are out in the glaring sun all day, make use of shade. Also, wear sunglasses, wide-brimmed hats, and loose-fitting, long-sleeved clothing to avoid sunburn. If you must use sunscreen, make sure it's an organic, mineral- or plant-based variety.
2. Breathe Clean Air
As the old saying goes, you can survive weeks without food, days without water, but only a few minutes without air. Given its extreme importance, it almost goes without saying that the best air is fresh and clean.
Clean air helps prevent respiratory ailments like asthma or allergies and it supplies your body with the oxygen that all living cells need. Breathing dirty air can lead to big concerns.
People associate poor air quality with smog or industrial pollution. However, you may be surprised to learn that, according to the EPA, indoor air quality is usually two to five times worse than outside. And that may be the best-case scenario! In the worst cases, indoor air is up to 100 times more toxic.
Oddly, efficient construction may be to blame. It’s energy-efficient for a building to be sealed tight, but it also allows for the accumulation and concentration of air pollutants. These pollutants include the VOCs and chemical fumes that off-gas from furniture, paint, flooring materials, and other indoor building materials.
Don’t think an air freshener is going to “clean” the air. Most air fresheners just release an equally toxic chemical fragrance to mask odors. Instead, get an air purification device for your home, preferably one that uses both HEPA and UV filters. You can also open the windows and get a few houseplants; they’re excellent, natural air filters that release clean oxygen. Better yet, go outside in nature and enjoy the fresh air first hand.
3. Stay Hydrated
By some estimates, 75 percent of people suffer from chronic mild dehydration. This affects your health in more ways than just feeling a bit thirsty. At a minimum, chronic dehydration causes a severe drop in your energy levels. Worse, since 70 percent of your body is water, dehydration can negatively affect every process in your body, including bone and tissue regeneration, natural detoxification abilities, and immune function. Even blinking your eyes and the beating of your heart requires water.
Madison Avenue marketing wizards spend millions of dollars trying to convince us that water is plain and boring. They say we should quench our thirst with overpriced, carbonated, liquid candy-like soda and energy drinks. Don’t listen to those messages. You need fresh water to function; there is no substitute. Coffee, soda, and energy drinks are not good sources of hydration. In fact, caffeine and sugar are diuretics that cause dehydration.
How much water do you need? Eight glasses a day is the standard recommendation. That’s a fairly good rule of thumb, but it doesn’t account for body size or activity level. A better guideline is to drink half your body weight in ounces. For example, if you weigh 180 pounds, drink 90 ounces of water per day. Of course, people’s needs differ. Body size, physical activity, external temperature, sweatiness, health, and dozens of other factors all affect how much water you need. Start with the half-your-weight rule as a base and add more water as needed.
4. Get Enough Rest
Have you noticed that in some circles, missing several hours of sleep a night is considered a badge of honor, while sleeping the full, recommended eight hours is seen as a weakness? This thinking is completely backward.
Adequate sleep — about seven to eight hours a night — is absolutely necessary for a healthy body and mind. Rest promotes normal hormone levels and neurotransmitter responses. Skipping sleep can lead to poor work performance, car accidents, relationship concerns, anger, and depression.
Why are so many people walking around completely exhausted? For many, the concern isn’t that they’re too busy, it’s that they just need to turn off the TV or put down the phone and close their eyes. Trying to fall asleep with the TV or other gadgets will only derail your natural circadian rhythm.
Just put away the smartphone and go to bed. Make your sleeping space as dark as possible. If that’s not feasible, try wearing a sleep mask! It’s a great strategy for blocking out light. And, just as you’ve always heard, aim for about eight hours of sleep every night.
5. Exercise Often
Exercise is vital to your health and mood. Unequivocally, research shows that your chances of living a long, healthy life are better if you exercise regularly. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services advises that regular physical activity reduces mortality rates of many chronic diseases and helps improve or prevent many illnesses and conditions.
You don’t need to have the physique of an Olympian to see health benefits. Even light to moderate exercise can offer tremendous results. Although forty-five minutes to an hour is better for most people, just 30 minutes of moderate activity a few times a week can boost energy levels, help you sleep better, sharpen your mind, and strengthen your immune system.
To maximize the benefits, exercise outdoors. Exercising outside promotes endurance, enthusiasm, pleasure, and self-esteem. It also helps reduce depression and fatigue. People who exercise outside tend to exercise longer and more frequently. Not to mention that exercising outdoors can also help you get your daily dose of sunshine.
6. Follow a Clean Diet
Good nutrition is vital to your health. You can exercise and sleep twice as much as anyone else, but without a clean and balanced diet, you will feel slow and fatigued.
There are many, many schools of thought on what type of diet is the best. Although there are a few unshakeable principles, it has to be an individual choice. Personally, I both follow and recommend a plant-based diet.
Most of the animals raised for mass production live in squalid conditions and get treated inhumanely. Not only is this unnecessarily cruel, but it also makes for diseased animals that yield toxic animal products. A plant-based diet avoids these dangers, but if you decide to consume meat and dairy, at least avoid the worst of it. Only consume animal products that are produced organically, in a free-range environment, with ethical standards in place.
And, while it’s a contentious topic, I believe there’s more than sufficient evidence to avoid genetically modified food, AKA GMOs. Italy, France, Germany, Greece, and dozens of other countries have limited or outright banned these foods. In the United States, however, they are everywhere. Buying organic food is the easiest way to avoid GMOs. According to both U.S. and Canadian law, a product with a "Certified Organic" label cannot contain any genetically modified ingredients.
Finally, get in the habit of making your own food and avoid the mass-produced food products that are loaded with unhealthy ingredients like refined sugar. When you consider that, a few years ago, researchers at Princeton confirmed that sugar is addictive, it’s no surprise Americans buy more soda than water.
Most of your grocery shopping should consist of whole, raw foods. Vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. I won’t say all prepackaged food is terrible for you, but the vast majority of them contain a minefield of suspect ingredients.
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†Results may vary. Information and statements made are for education purposes and are not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. If you have a severe medical condition or health concern, see your physician.