If you ever read any Dr. Seuss books as a child, or perhaps if you have children of your own, you may be familiar with the excerpt “You have brains in your head, and feet in your shoes, you can steer yourself any direction you choose.” In his simplified language, Dr. Seuss perfectly describes the way in which we are all responsible for the directions we take in life. We are the architects of our own future and the actions and choices we make for today, ultimately shape and guide our future. For this reason, being proactive in optimizing your health and well-being today will help ensure your future health and well-being, creating a solid foundation for your happiness and fulfillment as you progress in life.
Here are 5 ways in which you can take the driver's seat in being proactive in your health and well-being:
Nourish Your Body
The expression “you are what you eat” is actually quite accurate. Not only is the food you eat each day responsible for fueling your body and mind with the energy needed to seize each day, food also provides the very building blocks from which all the different cells in your body are rebuilt and replaced with on a daily basis. So it stands to reason that if you opt to eat foods that provide little to no nutritional value, then your body and mind are not going function at their optimal level, let alone look or feel their best.
Here are 3 tips on ensuring you are eating a wholesome diet:
Balance your macro-nutrients - Enjoying a healthy and balanced diet that contains complex carbohydrates, complete or combination proteins, as well as essential fatty acids, are all integral for optimizing health and well-being. Aim for 50% carbohydrates (which includes fruits and vegetables), 25-30% protein, and 20-25% healthy fats.
Fresh is always best - Whenever possible, opt to cook meals from scratch using fresh vegetables, fruits, and lean protein sources as often as possible to optimize your nutrient intake.
Avoid processed foods - Processed foods are usually packed full of sodium and processed sugars, not to mention a wide range of preservatives and additives that are detrimental to your health.
Keep Yourself Active
Being active and exercising on a regular basis does more for your health than just help regulate your weight and tone and strengthen your body. It also plays an important role in stimulating the many different internal systems that work to sustain your life, such as your cardiovascular, respiratory, digestive, endocrine, and nervous systems. Your endocrine and nervous systems, for example, both need exercise to help stimulate the secretion of hormones and neurotransmitters that not only regulate how you feel physically and energetically but also how you are feeling emotionally. Exercises fall into two main categories:
Resistance training - Resistance training refers to any exercise that involves using your muscles to work against an opposing force, such as weights, resistance bands or even the weight of your own body. This style of exercise is important because it helps strengthen and tone the different muscles of your body. The stronger you keep your body today, the more independent you will remain as you progress into your twilight years. Another compelling reason to incorporate resistance training into your weekly workout schedule is that it helps you maintain a healthy body weight. The more lean muscle mass you have, the more calories you will be burning doing simple everyday activities such as getting up off the couch, or even walking to the fridge for a healthy snack!
Cardiovascular endurance training - This style of exercise focuses more on increasing the strength and endurance of your heart and lungs to improve your overall fitness. Endurance training includes activities such as jogging, cycling, swimming and boxing, or basically any exercise that gets your heart and breathing rate up and keeps it up for an extended period of time. Endurance training is an excellent way of burning calories, increasing your overall fitness and keeping your heart strong and healthy.
A balanced workout program focused on optimizing your health and well-being, will incorporate both resistance and cardiovascular training into your week.
Stimulate Your Mind
It isn’t just your body that needs regular exercise, your brain also requires regular stimulation to keep it in peak condition. If you neglect to use it, then it becomes sluggish and slow and you put yourself at a higher risk of developing dementia in later life. By engaging your brain with activities that require focus and concentration, you're exercising your brain and helping keep it keeping active and healthy. Some excellent brain-stimulating activities include:
Games like chess, sudoku and crossword puzzles
Reading educational literature
Meeting new people
Nurture Your Soul
Stress is something we all experience at some level, however chronic stress can cause significant damage to your physical body in addition to having an impact on your mental health and well-being. Life is for living, and if you don't feel that you get any time for the simple pleasures in life, then it might be time for you to step back and reassess how you are approaching each day. It's important to make time to participate in activities that bring you a sense of joy, peace and relaxation, as well as activities that you feel challenge and excite you. Keep in mind that we are all unique ... what's nourishing for you might not be the same as the person next to you, and vise-a-versa.
Cultivate Mindfulness And Gratitude
Last, but certainly not least is the attitude with which you face each day. One of the important aspects of proactively working towards nurturing your health and well-being is cultivating a sense of mindfulness and gratitude towards what is happening in your life in this present moment.
It's wonderful to have goals in life to work towards, as these are what drive us to learn and grow. However, it's easy to become lost in thoughts of the future and end up missing out on all the wonderful things that are happening in the here and now. The more you can recognize and appreciate the things you have in your life to be grateful for, such as family, friends, health, and things that make you happy, the more fulfilling each moment of life becomes.
Ways in which you can actively work on cultivating mindfulness and gratitude include:
Meditations - There are numerous types of meditations available that work to develop mindfulness and a sense of gratitude for all the gifts in your life. Meditation is not only an excellent way of cultivating mindfulness, it is also a useful relaxation tool that helps alleviate stress.
Daily positive affirmations - By reaffirming to yourself each morning how you would like to approach your day, for example with mindfulness and enthusiasm, you can help steer your thoughts and energy into a positive direction from the moment you wake up.
Stop and smell the roses - Take the time to pause and reflect on your surroundings and take note of something you have to be grateful for. Whether it be the sun shining, the time to stop and enjoy a coffee, or something that has made you smile.
Mindfulness and gratitude are much like other acquired skills. The more you practice them the easier and more natural they become. What better way to live life than with a feeling of gratitude for each and every moment!?