Why is optimum health so important? Without good health, we don’t have the energy to enjoy all the things that give us pleasure and fulfillment in life, such as our relationships, work and leisure. Everything extends from a healthy body, including a healthy state of mind, as well as our emotional and spiritual health. To be able to connect with a healthy state of being is essential to avoiding stress and disease, the pitfalls of not prioritizing healthy living. Think of a fit and healthy body as being your ammunition against illness and disease or as your assurance of a life fulfilled with unparalleled joy and energy.
With such promise of happiness and fulfillment that comes from healthy living, why do so many of us procrastinate starting an exercise regime, neglect our nutrition, or overwork until our stress levels skyrocket? One reason is that we don’t make health a priority. Know that you and only you are in charge of your destiny. Now is the time to start making your health your number one priority.
Another obstacle is that we perceive change as an insurmountable hurdle. The idea of beginning an exercise program or making changes to our diet can be daunting! With so much (often conflicting) information available to us we are not sure where to begin. It’s easier to maintain the status quo; after all, it’s human nature to resist change! Instead, imagine awakening to a life in which you have energy and vitality to enjoy every day, in which your state of mind is calm instead of harried, and the food you eat and enjoy fuels your mind and body. So, if you are looking to start the New Year with the goal of becoming healthier, let us show you how to live with health, confidence and energy. With the following simple steps, learn how to springboard your plan towards a more fulfilling, stress-free life.
The first step in creating a plan for change is to set an intention and define your goals. Without this important step, we are all good intention and no action. Canadian yogi Eoin Finn aptly phrased the importance of goal setting when he said, “Why bob in life when you can surf?”
First, set an intention for 2014. Similar to setting a New Year’s resolution, an intention asks what you want to cultivate in your life. However, an intention is softer than a resolution. Instead of a “resolution” to loose ten pounds, set an intention to have a healthier relationship with your weight. An intention is more global than a resolution and honors our imperfections and humanity. Since 83% of New Year’s goal-oriented, guilt-fueled “resolutions” fail; an intention is something that makes your new journey more joyful and meaningful. You still have to do the work, but your focus shifts from sacrifice and self-control to one of acceptance.
“We were meant to move. And when we don’t, we increase our risk of virtually every known ailment,” says Bob Greene, author of “The Life You Want.” Illnesses associated with a sedentary lifestyle include diabetes, coronary heart disease, hypertension, osteoporosis and stroke among others. It is well documented that exercise strengthens the immune system in ways that can help fight everything from small infections to cancer.
The Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology recommends that adults ages 18-64 accumulate at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity per week (20 minutes per day) and include muscle and bone strengthening activities using major muscle groups at least two days per week. Moderate activity is defined as walking or bike riding and vigorous activity is defined as jogging or cross-country skiing.
Many of us know what to do to get moving, but don’t have the motivation to stick to an exercise program. What is of utmost importance for your success is that you find a deeper emotional or psychological motivation to exercise. This is something that inspires you and only you, such as you want the energy to play with your children or grandchildren or you are always feeling low energy and it is impacting your work and relationships or you want to feel more self-confident.
Get in touch with what your individual barriers are to exercise, such as “I don’t have time to workout,” or “I can’t afford a gym membership” or “I don’t know where to start” and counter your known objections with doable steps to overcome these “excuses.” Start putting yourself first, start scheduling exercise into your life and be consistent.
Exercise is so vital to your health and happiness and if you can make this one change to your lifestyle, you will probably find that the other steps will easily follow suit. You will sleep better, be less stressed, more confident and you will want to fuel your body better and so you will naturally want to eat better, too.
Put aside all of your diet, “lose weight fast” books that you have collected over the years and instead get back to basics. Eating better and maintaining a healthy weight is about making healthy eating a lifestyle change. In the United States, spending on diets and self-help books is an average of $60 billion per year. Save your money because diets don’t work! In fact, 98% of diets fail. Instead, try changing your eating patterns by including more unprocessed, whole foods and including Mother Nature’s healthiest offerings, such as whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables. This simple change will help create enormous improvements in your energy level, weight and health.
“Having a healthy approach to food, and eating better is about achieving that sense of balance; lots of the good stuff, loads of variety, and the odd indulgence every now and then,” says Jamie Oliver, author of numerous cookbooks on healthy eating, including The Food Revolution.
For more information on eating healthy, go to the Health Canada website, www.hc-sc.gc.ca, where you can find a link to Canada’s Food Guide, which offers information on food groups, portion sizes and how to read labels at the grocery store. Or, consider hiring a dietitian. To find a registered dietitian in your area, visit www.dietitians.ca/find.
According to Stats Canada, more than a quarter (27%) of Canadian working adults, roughly 3.7 million people, described their lives on most days as ‘quite a bit’ or ‘extremely’ stressful, meaning that they go through a regular day feeling a high level of stress. Stress is becoming a major health concern, responsible for a multitude of illnesses, including heart disease, high blood pressure and strokes. Stress also impacts our immune system, which protects us from many serious diseases. Sadly, stress is a known contributor to the development of alcoholism, diabetes, drug addiction, suicide and other harmful behaviors.
The majority of us are living day to day in a constant state of low-grade stress, where adrenaline is constantly being released into our bodies and has become our main form of fuel. To keep up with our harried pace, we consume processed foods, sugar and caffeine. Living life in this state of “overdrive” is coming at a cost to our health and well being. Our current behavior, if not checked, will continue to result in a host of health related problems, unrestrained stress and resulting unhappiness.
It’s time for a shift in our values and perspective, starting by slowing down! It is a conscious choice that many are adopting through exercise, yoga, meditation and deep breathing exercises. Giving yourself permission to check out and hang out in a hammock may be life changing. So, take time for life! Decide today that you won’t let work and stress overwhelm you.
Self-esteem and confidence are key to our happiness and yet 80% of American women are dissatisfied with their appearance. Americans had 11 million plastic surgery procedures in 2006 and 333, 000 of those were performed in the U.S. on women 18 years of age and younger! How did our definition of beauty get so warped? Today’s epidemic of plastic surgery is a barometer of women undervaluing their inner and outer beauty and it’s time for a change.
We have it all backwards! Instead of focusing on plastic surgery and dieting to achieve a healthy body, we need to focus on healthy living. A fit and healthy body is a by-product of a balanced, healthy lifestyle.
And, what happened to valuing inner beauty? Instead of trying to repair our broken confidence with this band-aid approach, we need to look deeper and search for personal strength and beauty within ourselves. Women need to return to a “girl state of mind,” meaning we need to be happy in our own skin, not influenced by the media and confident with our inner beauty. We need to pay attention to negative self-talk and turn any negatives into a positive, soul-nourishing inner dialogue.
According to psychologist Abraham Maslov’s hierarchy of needs, creativity, along with morality and spontaneity is among our highest human needs and leads us to self-actualization. To achieve happiness and tap into our deepest human needs, we need to express our creativity. Tapping into your creativity through art, photography, dance, writing or music can help alleviate stress and help you connect with your higher self. Think of an activity that allows you to completely lose track of time and this is probably your go-to creative pastime. For many, work may offer creative expression. Perhaps you are a marketer or entrepreneur, a writer or fashion designer and are doing what you love for a living. For others, choosing a pastime that allows you to rediscover your creative energy through wood working, scrapbooking or belly dancing class will go a long way towards bringing you joy, vitality and a sense of pride.
It’s never too late to improve your health and well-being. The small steps you take today can become huge strides in protecting your health in the future. In not much time at all, you can lose weight, strengthen and tone your muscles, reduce stress, tap into your creative energy and improve your self-esteem.
It’s a new year and a great time to begin making changes towards healthier living. “You have the power to change anything, because you are the one who chooses your thoughts and you are the one who feels your feelings,” says Michael Bernard Beckwith, minister, author, and founder of the Agape International Spiritual Center in the U.S. Try incorporating these five steps towards change and you will bring vitality, wellness and happiness into your life and awaken to health, confidence and the power of you!
Tiffany Moffatt is a certified Personal Trainer Specialist, Fitness Instructor Specialist, Pre and Postnatal Specialist (Canfitpro certified) and freelance writer who has worked in the fitness industry for 25 years. tiffanysbeyourbest.blogspot.com.