This is one of those topics that I slip in a couple of times a year. It’s that important- that foundational- to good health and all the work I do with clients. (If you want to be a client, start with this yourself first, we’ll get 10x farther when we work together!)
In ‘real life’ I make presentations for my local health insurance company; ‘lunch-and-learn’ type things. And when I get the chance, I harp on these three things as much as I can, because they impact so many systems in the mind, heart, and spirit. Honestly, if you get these three working pretty well, you’ve got 90% of your health problems solved (or, at least, reduced).
Let’s dig in!
These are listed in order of importance and getting enough sleep is the number one thing you can do to improve your mental and physical health. When I was training for my Master’s in Social Work, I had to learn to diagnose mental health disorders. And one of the things you diagnose against for 80% of disorders is lack of sleep.
It could be depression…or it could be lack of sleep.
It could be schizophrenia or it could be lack of sleep.
Sleep is that important. And it’s not just important for physical health and mental health, we know that people who get adequate sleep also feel more emotionally resilient. They feel like they can meet the stress that life throws at them.
If you’re getting 7-9 hours consistently, that’s average for adult humans. But what really matters is if you feel well-rested. That should be your goal, no matter how many hours it actually adds up to.
Next in importance for health is moving. Our bodies were made to move. Back before everything got modern we moved during most of the day. We don’t even have to go to ‘cave woman’ times- we can simply consider the early 1900s. As women, we would have been working manually for our family, perhaps working alongside our partner, and moving to share in community activities. It was important then, and it remains important today.
Now, I am not about moving for weight loss or moving to attain the goal of ‘skinny.’ Women come in all shapes and sizes and I am all for that. I just want us all to move.
And, if you’re worried about weight, let me calm you: research is clear that people who are overweight, who also engage in cardiovascular exercise, mitigate the health effects of their weight by strengthening their heart. If you do cardio, if you sweat and get your heart rate up, it doesn’t end up mattering as much what you weigh.
The point is to get your heart going.
Goals for cardio are: 30 mins, 5x week. I know it sort of sounds crazy, but it can be done. Start small (2x week for 15 mins) with something you like and increase it over time. You’ll get there!
Yeah…eating. It’s actually the last on the list for achieving health. Why? Because your body can deal with poor quality food for a very long time, and even longer if you’re moving and getting your heart healthy.
In truth, the human body is not designed to eat low-quality food for more than a decade. After that time, we really start to see the body become less efficient in how it functions- and that leads to disease. If you’re eating a half-bag of Doritos once a week, that’s fine. But don’t be eating Boxed Cuisine for every weeknight meal.
Goals here? As many fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and high-quality protein and fats as you can get. The more whole (less processed) foods are, the better. And do that however it works for you. I eat pretty much all my vegetable servings at lunch: huge salad, 2 oz. of protein, and some whole carbs. I just like to get it out of the way- that’s what works for me.
Finding nourishment for yourself can be a bit of an experiment. Don’t be afraid to try new things- timing of meals, size of meals, types of meals and foods- it will help you discover what truly works for you.
Health is not a three-legged stool. It’s not as if the whole thing falls apart or becomes unusable if you miss one of these things.
Health is a foundation.
You want to set one of these in place at a time. Once you get it reasonably well integrated, move on to the next one. Eventually, they will all be settled, you’ll feel healthy (and proud, I hope!), and you’ll be ready to take on what’s next.
Stay well, fellow warriors.