Turn on the television or stand in the checkout line at the grocery store, and you can’t miss it. Health is important. If you’ve heard it once, then you’ve heard it a thousand times, right? Yea, yea, but what does that mean anyway?
Health and wellness can be incredibly overwhelming, and we are all juggling more balls than we can seemingly handle already. It can make you want to leave your overflowing cart right in the checkout line and run to the parking lot pulling out your hair and screaming at the ridiculousness of it all. Does it even really matter? Does the Lord care if I am healthy? What is “healthy” anyway?
In Mark’s gospel we are called to love God with our hearts, minds, souls, and strength. This means that health must involve all aspects, and indeed good self-care does. You can’t maintain a healthy body without a healthy mind and vice-versa. A healthy heart and soul are also interconnected to these.
It’s a lot! Be patient and know that together we will walk through how this plays out in our lives, but for starting, let’s look at a healthy body—the strength with which we honor God. And to curtail the overwhelm, let’s simply look at five habits that generally define what being physically healthy looks like, and from that you can start to formulate your own individual plan for health.
You can take this general overview as a place to start your thinking toward living a healthier life. Relax, take a deep breath and remember that you don’t have to have this figured out by tomorrow!
When it comes to health and wellness, there are generally two philosophies of approach. One of addition and one of subtraction. I believe in positivity and half-full glasses, so I will always try this approach first. This means adding to your health things that are beneficial for you as opposed to taking out the things that are less ideal. At some point, if you are appropriately adding in the positives, you will no longer have time, space, or appetite for the others.
Below we can dive in VERY GENERALLY to basic habits, and we will dig deeper, way deeper, in posts to follow. So grab your positive attitude and let’s do this!
Habit 1: Sleep
I think most people would be surprised to hear me say that if they can only pick one thing to focus on for their health, I would say sleep. HANDS DOWN. Your attitude, your decisions, your available time, and your general well-being are all immediately affected by the amount of hours you spend sleeping soundly, not to mention your hormones, your appetite, your weight, your energy as well as your ability to fight off infection. Our goal will be to get 7-9 hours of restful sleep each night.
Habit 2: Fuel
No no, not gas, but food. The food we put into our bodies serves one singular purpose--to fuel our bodies to carry out the daily tasks pulling us in all directions. I know you can each relate to the idea that we do not each do the same thing as our friends or family each day so hopefully, this will help you grasp the idea that what you put into your body may not look like what someone else does. Nutrition is a very individual decision based not only on preferences, but on bodily demands and responses. Regardless of what this ends up looking like for you, one thing is certain for each and every person that eats: WHOLE, REAL FOODS are always best.
Habit 3: Movement
Dang it, I said it; you have to move. You know you either love to hear this or you hate (loathe, really) to hear it, but I think deep down we all know it’s true. Physical activity is not only good for your heart, but it’s amazing for your mind and soul and spirit too.
The feel-good chemicals that can be released in your body from exercise have the capacity to change not only the way you look, but more importantly, the way you think and feel. But some of you just can’t stand the thought of exercise. I get it. Here’s the great news: movement does not equal exercise!
Just be active.
Get out and do what you love. Walk when you can, take the stairs when you can, stand when you can, and just MOVE your body. Start doing more of what you love- garden, cook, enjoy nature- whatever it is that brings you joy our used to bring you joy, DO IT. Soul search if you must, but find your JOY. If you hate the gym, but you love eating fresh fruits and vegetables, start and work a small garden. If you hate the gym, but love playing golf, walk nine holes instead of riding in a cart. If you hate the gym but you love catching up with your family at the end of a long day, take an after dinner walk to talk about your day. Be creative. MOVE!
Habit 4: Drink Water
But Coke Zero tastes soooooo good! Listen, here is where I start stepping on my own toes. I heart Coke Zero! But Diet Soda is quite possibly the WORST thing you can put into your body, and fruit juices and smoothies, sweet tea, and sodas are not much better.
But I get it, they are everywhere! Not to mention they are mighty tasty. Before you go and beat yourself up for drinking some of the above, here’s where positive actions can overrule the less than great choices. Make it a goal to drink about 8-10 glasses of water a day. That is a completely arbitrary number, by the way. Each of our needs for water varies and, so part of this journey will be learning to listen to your body.
Start with having a full glass of water FIRST before you drink whatever it is you would “normally” have. For example, if coffee is your drink of choice, start your morning with a glass of water BEFORE you have your coffee. Want to know a little “secret?” Make it a glass of warm water with fresh squeezed lemon and you are jump starting all kinds of awesomeness! (But more on that to come.)
JUST. DRINK. some WATER.
Habit 5: Sunshine and Fresh Air
What? Did I just say sunshine? Wait, what about skin cancer and sunscreen and hats and stay out of the sun? I know, I know, being healthy can be so confusing. Vitamin D is a crucial vitamin in the human body, and we are learning it is far more important that we realized or gave it credit for in the past.
Our ability to fight off infection as well as our body's ability to heal and regenerate are all tied to our vitamin D levels. Even our moods are linked to vitamin D! Wait, why are we talking about vitamin D, I thought we were talking about the sun? We are! Sunlight is absorbed through our skin and produces the active form of vitamin D that our body's use. Prudence, my friend, must play a role here though. Aim for 5-15 minutes of sunlight exposure a day and spend some time in fresh air areas when you can. Otherwise, slather on the sunscreen and protect yourself from skin cancer and, a-hem, wrinkles!
So let’s look at what we are going to focus on trying to do more of that will get us started on the path to physical health.
- Sleep 7-9 hours each night.
- Eat more whole, real foods and less fake, processed ones.
- Move. Move. Move more.
- Drink water first.
- Enjoy God’s creation by getting some fresh air and sunshine.
Friend, I know you can do this! We will need one another and our Lord’s strength to get it done, but He shares his power in our weakness. You are totally worthy! I’d love to hear from you the easiest habit and the absolute hardest so that we can lift each other up on this journey. I love living this out with you; we were not meant to do it alone!