Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy & Healthy Lives(or Danny's Solutions to New Year's Resolutions)

They say goldfish have no memories so their minds are much like mine. The little plastic castle is a surprise every time. 

Now is time for my yearly post on New Year's resolutions. Different year, same topic: health and happiness. Hope you can find something in here that you can use to better your and your loved ones lives.

As the New Year shines brightly upon us, we are rashly devising resolutions to live healthier lives. Typical "exercise more", "eat better" etc type vague goals that are hard to quantify and therefore easy to ignore and forget. Therefore Amber and my holiday present to you this year, is to create your New Year's Resolution for you. Go through each of the categories below and see whether you've met our minimum standards for each of these elements of healthy and happy living(the goals are bolded for your perusing pleasure). If not, make your goal the minimum standards. Make sure not to neglect any category.

  • Aerobic: The benefits of aerobic exercises have been touted by endurance athletes for years and are well known so I won't go into it here. Shoot for at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise per week. But remember: Aerobic exercise is not a panacea! If you are an oft-injured runner, MORE IS NOT BETTER! You probably have weakness in one of the other elements of fitness. Like...
  • Strength: Strength training is important for bone density, joint health, and functional mobility and has been shown to help with some of the same elements of the metabolic syndrome as with aerobic exercise. Shoot for 2-6 sets of 12-15 reps of exercises for each major muscle group twice a week. But if you're a body builder, MORE IS NOT BETTER! You probably have limitations in your aerobic conditioning or...
  • Flexibility: Stretching regularly can help prevent loss of mobility associated with aging and repetitive activities or positions(see sitting = smoking) that create body movements and posture habits that can lead to reduced mobility of joints and compromised body positions. Stretching has been shown to be most effective when done on a daily basis at tissue tension with holds of 3 minutes. Focus on muscles that become tightened throughout your day(i.e. if you sit a lot, think hamstrings, quads/hip flexors, calves, chest, neck-wow the list is endless!). But remember, you have all seen the super flexible yogi who can't hold Warrior 3 because she has no...
  • Balance: The last element of fitness. Balance is important for prevention of falls and to help coordinate dynamic functional movements. Shoot for standing on one leg for 1 minute with you eyes closed. If this is too challenging open your eyes. Still too challenging? Stand with one foot in front of the other like you're on a tight-rope.
Okay so you've got your exercise goal (or goals) covered. Now let's move on!

Diet: The trouble with this element of health is that there is so many diets and fads out there it's hard to sort through it all. However, there are some basic tenets that you should attempt to uphold.
  • First, half of each of your meals should be colorful vegetables. There you go. Already doing well.
  • Next thing. Stop eating before you're full.
  • Avoid processed sugars, diet drinks, trans-fats and pretty much anything that doesn't expire(I'm looking at you Twinkie!).
  • Drink enough water that your pee is clear to ever so slightly yellow.  
  • Try to only go out to eat(this includes drive-thru) once a week at most. If you're cooking your own meals you will have a far better idea what goes into them and likely won't be adding xanthum gum(I actually don't know if that's bad or not but I've never seen it grow on a tree).
  •  Eat slower. Practice mindful eating once a day where you focus on the taste, texture and feeling of each bite you take. You may all of a sudden notice that treat you thought you enjoyed, isn't so good after all.
  • Eat an assortment of foods. Variety is the spice of life and all the key to a healthy one.
  • Try new things. Not once but at least 10 times. That's how many times it takes to adapt to some tastes and textures that we might originally not think we like.

Sleep: Sleep has been shown to help improve memory, reduce inflammation and joint pain, promote healing, decrease fatigue, lower stress, maintain a healthy weight and reduce risk of chronic pain. And yet, it is estimated that between 50-75 million Americans, 1/5 of the population, have problems sleeping both not sleeping well and not sleeping enough. The American solution? Take a sleeping pill. Our solution? Find the cause of your sleeping problems! If you are struggling to sleep at night or wake unrested, there is a myriad of possible causes with well-documented non-medicinal solutions. You need to find the cause first though. If you think you can sleep when you're dead, you'll get there sooner. Make sure to sleep at least 7-9 hours a day and if you have teenagers it's closer to 10!

Hygiene: Do we really have to put this on the list? Well with the high occurrence of nosocomial infections related to poor hand washing habits, we figured we must. Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds each time you touch someone, do any cooking or use the bathroom. Just as important as your hands are your teeth. Brush your teeth 2x/day and and floss once/day to prevent decay and periodontal (gum) disease.

Stress: Stress has been linked to every bad thing possible from cancer to chronic pain, marital strife and hair loss. There are things in life that cause us stress that we can control and other things that we cannot. The key is to see what elements of our life are intrinsic stressors(things that we put on ourselves like expectations, perceptions etc) and work to address them. Your stress related goal is to find one element from your day that stresses you out and work to find a way to eliminate it. Have a lousy commute? Make the most of it by listening to an audio book or practicing mindfulness meditation. Financial stresses? Create a budget that will help you see where you can modify your spending. Crappy co-worker? You can't change how they act but you can change how you respond to their actions. Remember: how they act is their karma but how you react is yours.

Stress can totally disrupt your health and happy but you have to let it do that. Don't.

Happiness: Hand and hand with stress is happiness. Happiness cannot occur until we embrace change. There is nothing that we have that we won't lose eventually. But that doesn't mean we need to covet and horde. In fact, viewing happiness as a limited commodity is problematic because if we see our source(or sources) of happiness as limited we fixate upon it and by focusing on holding on to it, we end up not experiencing it. This has happened to me where I have had an amazing experience and have started fretting over its eventual end(this has happened with vacations, books, and dinner). By worrying about its end, I actually couldn't be in the moment to actually enjoy and experience it. I've always hated that song by Stephen Stills' song Love the One Your With, because I've viewed it as settling for a life(or love) less than what you have wanted. But I do like the idea of being in the moment enough to still be open to love in unexpected places so you can enjoy your life that you are living now. Life will bring us to some unexpected places, if we can engage them with an open mind there is a good chance we will find happiness there.

I am sure I have missed some elements of health and wellness that are important and I apologize to all the runners out there who thought they were healthy until they realized they only had one small facet of health covered. But I am sure that each and every one of us can find something on this list that we are struggling with. Use that to help guide your New Year's resolution to be a better you. Now.

Coming Up Next: A Happier and Healthier New Year:)

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