Setting the Course to Find Health and Happiness:
How can you begin to figure out what might be the most important steps for you to take at this time and how you can be successful making those changes stick long term?
There may be some habits you have hoped to start or stop for a while, and now is the time. Perhaps you aren’t sure about exactly what to do, but you just know from the way you are feeling that some changes have to be made. Hopefully this will become more clear as you learn more about the many possible Healthy Lifestyle Steps listed below.
It may be helpful to know a few basic Personal Health Numbers. Some you can measure yourself (such as height and weight and maybe blood pressure). Others can be determined by your healthcare provider (such as laboratory tests).
Improving our Health and Happiness is something definitely worth committing to. Not only for ourselves, but for all of those around us that we love and care about. We need to realize, however, that this is not always a simple process. There can be many barriers that will need to be overcome, and we won’t get it right every time. If we have a plan in place for when we get sidetracked, it will be easier to get right back into our journey forward, perhaps with a few adjustments that will make it even better.
Below is a list of Healthy Lifestyle Steps to consider. Click on the links to learn more:
Enjoy Vegetables: 3-5 servings per day (1 cup)
- Green Leafy Veggies: 1-2 times a day (spinach, romaine lettuce)
- Cruciferous Veggies: 1-2 times a day (½ cup broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, etc)
Enjoy Beans: 2-3 servings per day (½ cup pinto, black, lentils, chickpeas, soybeans)
Enjoy Whole Grains: 2-3 servings per day (½ cup hot cereal or cooked grain like brown rice or quinoa, 1 cup cold cereal, 1 slice whole grain bread, 1 small corn or whole wheat tortilla)
Add Tree Nuts: ¼ cup each day (walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, etc)
Eat organic foods as much as possible
Drink Water: 2-3 servings per day (8-12 ounce glass)
Switch to beans (legumes) from meats 3-4 times a week
(or even stop them completely)
(**bacon, ham, sausage, hot dogs, lunch and deli meats, smoked dried or canned meats)
Limit eggs to only 1-2 times a month (or even stop eggs completely)
Limit Salt: less than 2 grams per day (even less is best)
Make sure you are taking the vitamins that you may be lacking. Vitamin D3, 2000 to 4000 units, which is 50 to 100mcg, for most people, unless you are regularly exposed to enough sunlight. 4000 units for nursing moms, 600 units for newborns, 800 to 1000 for toddlers, 1000-2000 for most kids and teens. Higher doses if you are older, overweight or have darker skin color.
Especially for those eating primarily plant-based, Vitamin B12 is essential. 50mcg daily or 2000mcg once a week for most adults, The dose is a bit different for Seniors, Pregnant Women and Kids. Seniors over 65 need at least 1000mcg a day, and over 50 likely need that much too. Pregnant Women and kids over age 10 can take basically the same as middle age and young adults. 5mcg for infants to age 4, and 25mcg for Kids 4 to 10.
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- Start at 5-15 minutes 3-4 days a week if desired
- Increase to 20-30 minutes 4-5 days a week when able
- Work up to 45-60 minutes 6-7 days a week if desired
*or other light to moderate intensity activity like yoga, light housework. Moderate activity feels like you can “talk easily, but not sing” and may cause a little perspiration
**or other moderate to strenuous activity like biking, swimming, tennis, gardening. Strenuous feels like “you can only talk a few word sentences at a time” and usually gets you sweaty
Start strength, stretching and balance exercises 2 times a week
- join a gym (or set up a home gym)
- attend a yoga, tai chi, dance or another exercise class (or do at home with DVD/Online)
Commit to not sitting for over 1 hour without getting up and moving for 5 minutes
Make time each day for mental relaxation and spiritual connection:
- meditation, mindfulness, or prayer
- time in nature
- begin with 5-10 minutes, increase to 20-30 minutes or longer as desired
- for more ideas check out the Greater Good in Action website
Encourage Joy and Avoid Negative Stress:
- journal about positive experiences. Celebrate and enjoy them. Also explore the more difficult experiences. Identify any counterproductive thoughts and feelings and try to focus on more reasonable and helpful ways to think and feel about them
- consider what ways you feel joy
- consider also what ways you feel stress
- commit to steps you can take to find more joy and less stress
- can you ask someone such as a friend or family member to join in your journey?
- would a trained counselor be helpful?
Encourage Healthy Sleep:
- less caffeine and alcohol
- more physical activity and outside or in bright light time
- slow down and dim the lights before bedtime (including TV,computer, and phone screens)
- have bedroom set up for better sleep (dark, quiet, cool)
- allow for 7-9 hours of sleep
- get checked for sleep apnea if you snore, stop breathing, find it difficult to stay awake during the day, have difficult to control insomnia or high blood pressure, or depression or memory issues
Make sure you are challenging your brain to stay sharp by doing complex tasks
- start reading a book
- schedule time for making art or playing a musical instrument
- regularly play a complex game you enjoy
- learn a new activities such as cooking, gardening, or another craft or hobby
- seek an opportunity to teach, mentor or lead
Maintain a strong social connection:
- regularly attend a club, classes, or church
- commit to strengthening an important family relationship or friendship
Take time each week to consider what gives your life meaning and purpose
Commit to stopping or minimizing harmful lifestyles:
Commit to making a safe lifestyles a priority:
- wearing seat belts and helmets, having smoke detectors in place and working, gun safety, caution when using equipment and chemicals
- eat organic foods as much as possible, and avoid being exposed to pesticides, weed killers and mold.
Click here for a printable version of Healthy Lifestyle Steps.
Click here for a printable version of Personal Health Numbers.
Here are some trustworthy resources to help guide healthy lifestyle choices:
NEURO PLAN App. Designed by Drs. Dean and Ayesha Sherzai, authors of The Alzheimer’s Solution.
From the Blue Zones website, 20 Habits For a Healthier, Happier Life.
Forks Over Knives has helped millions of people understand the power of a whole-foods, plant based diet.
The Game Changers is geared towards those looking for both peak performance and long term health.
Dr Joel Fuhrman has inspired many with his informative books and programs.
I have a few more thoughts about Health and Happiness. I look forward to sharing them on the final page, What Matters Most.
Ted Nyquist, MD.
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