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10 easy paths to good health

Health is one topic that is taken so seriously, and, of course, rightly so, that the barrage of information about it has turned it into a complex to-do list which often leads to anxiety of not doing enough or the right thing.

In reality, going back to basics takes us much further than the volumes of dos and don’ts about the subject, as our body today is constitutionally very similar to our ancestors’, despite the progress and evolution along the way.

Here are 10 easy-to-follow commandments:

1. Avoid stress

You would know stress is taking its toll on you if you have the following negative responses:

  • Negative self-talk and self-criticism

  • Driving fast

  • Chewing fingernails

  • Becoming violent or hitting somebody

  • Smoking

  • Drinking alcohol

  • Yelling at your spouse, partner or children

  • Taking recreational or misusing prescription drugs

  • Avoiding family and friends

Strike a balance by:

  • Listening to music

  • Playing with a pet

  • Laughing out loud or crying

  • Going out with a friend (shopping, dinner or movie)

  • Having a relaxing bath or shower

  • Writing, painting or pursuing some other type of creative art

  • Meditating, praying or going to church or a place sacred to you

  • Move your body and get outdoors, close to nature

  • Practising deep breathing

  • Seeking counselling if you keep struggling with stress

2. Reduce stimulants

It is a known fact that caffeine causes stress and robs the body of vital nutrients such as calcium and iron. It can also alter perception of a situation negatively.

3. Get enough sleep

Lack of sleep lowers energy levels and makes us restless and irritable. People who do not sleep enough also tend to find it more difficult to lose weight due to the build up of the hormone cortisol.

4. Eat organic fruit and vegetables daily

Besides getting a plethora of vital micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) essential for health, these foods also supply phytonutrients which cannot be supplied by artificial supplements.

5. Brush teeth regularly to prevent heart disease

Many studies show a correlation between oral health and heart disease and diabetes

  • Brush teeth twice a day

  • Floss daily

  • Replace tooth brush every three months or when bristles bend

  • Have regular dental check-ups and cleanings

6. Exercise

Regular activity is important both for physical and mental well being

Adults should take at least 30 minutes of physical activity daily, irrespective of how minor the exercise is, like walking or gentle swimming.

Some form of strength training is also important because as we get older we lose muscle mass. This is important for strengthening muscle which will help us with balance, osteoporosis, independence and vitality. It can be helpful with arthritis, heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

7. Choosing good fats over bad fats

Avoid these or use sparingly:

Saturated and trans fats (bad fats)

  • Butter

  • Fried foods

  • Margarine

  • Commercially baked goods

  • Beef and pork fat

  • Processed snack food (crackers and microwave popcron)

  • Shortening

  • High fat dairy foods

Use these instead:

  • Nuts

  • Olive oil

  • Nut butters

  • Avocado

  • Oily wild fish (herring, sardines, salmon and trout)

  • Seeds

8. Go for small, achievable changes

If you’re overweight, lose the extra baggage by starting out with small changes, like substituting food with healthier options, reducing the portions, planning meals to avoid binging on the wrong food.

9. Look at the bright side

There is a silver lining in every situation and acceptance is a practice that helps us absorb realities we cannot change. Also avoid negative talk about anyone or anything. The negative things happening around you will reduce when you can tip your thinking to predominantly positive. Deliberately focus on good thoughts. You can do this through affirmations, or by looking around for the things that you appreciate. Create an inner dialogue of appreciation and ignore negative thoughts. Just let them be. The only time negative thoughts bother any of us is when we are listening to them, believing them, or interested in them, and therefore giving them importance. Don’t identify with them or believe they belong to you. Negative thoughts need your attention to empower them, and if they don’t get your energy they dissolve. They’re no different than an unwanted guest at a party. If you ignore the guest, they will leave.

10. Count your blessings

It can be very difficult to access feelings of gratitude when sick or in pain, but even the smallest bit of gratitude helps increase the magical flow of health to the body. According to Rhonda Byrne, author of The Secret, "No matter what your temperament is now, gratitude will give your more patience, understanding, compassion, and kindness, to the point where you won't even recognize yourself."

Strengthening our emotions. Gratitude reduces feelings of envy, makes our memories happier, lets us experience good feelings, and helps us bounce back from stress.

Maria Mangion is a registered nutritionist and health educator who has been guiding, educating, motivating and supporting individuals of all ages and sizes for the past 25 years. “I like to use a holistic approach to health. The individual's overall health is assessed from diet to exercise to sleeping habits. Once the lifestyle of the individual is known, a treatment plan can be formulated together based on realistic needs and goals. Progress is discussed with the individual through regular meetings.”

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