I said to my soul, be still and wait without hope, for hope would be hope for the wrong thing.—T. S. Eliot
Close your eyes, put your hand on your chest, and feel your heartbeat. Focus on slowing down your breath and relaxing every part of your body, beginning at your head, down through your jaw, shoulders, chest, arms, legs, and toes. Imagine that every cell in your body is operating at its utmost potential. Envision every muscle and bone healthy and strong. Bring your awareness to your breath. Pretend you’re breathing through a straw slowly. Inhale to the count of ten and exhale even more slowly. Try to slow your heartbeat.
Studies show that we can reduce stress, lower blood pressure and the risk of heart attacks and strokes, and diminish anxiety just by being still and calming our bodies and minds. Meditation helps the mind find a happy ground where it’s not working so hard and spinning out of control. It helps control anxious and negative thoughts.
Have you been ignoring minor or major aches and pains? Is your body trying to tell you something? Unfortunately, I didn’t listen to my body and became deathly ill.
I have been a group fitness instructor since 1980. I’ve appeared in exercise videos and cable TV shows. I know my body, and I know when something doesn’t feel right. Around 2002, I began to have flu-like symptoms and debilitating migraines. I knew something was wrong. I went to several doctors. One of them told me I might be too healthy and I should try eating at McDonalds!
I was constantly tired and hadn’t had a good night’s sleep in years. Ten minutes into the exercise classes I was instructing, I couldn’t get enough air, and I was scared. I knew something was terribly wrong but I couldn’t figure it out.
Let food be thy medicine; thy medicine shall be thy food. —Hippocrates
Calling sugar the devil might be a little drastic, but the graphic above gets your attention, doesn’t it? Sugar lurks in many foods and is labeled as sucrose, fructose, and other natural-sounding ingredients, but it contributes to weight gain, diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity and many health problems. Sadly, my friends, sugar is the new tobacco. It can even be more addictive than cocaine.
I love sleep. My life has the tendency to fall apart when I’m awake, you know? —Ernest Hemingway
Getting enough sleep is an important part of being healthy. Adequate sleep makes you look and feel better. It helps boost your metabolism and immune function, and helps your memory. The older I get, the more I appreciate a successful slumber. But getting good, restful sleep can often be difficult.
You probably won’t function at your best if you don’t get enough quality sleep. “Losing four hours of sleep is comparable to drinking a six-pack of beer,” says Tom Rath, Author of the New York Times bestselling book, Eat Move Sleep.
Here are some things you can do to improve your sleep:
- Try organic bedding, mattresses, and even pillows.
- Unplug any electrical appliances, including alarm clocks, and put them seven feet from your bed, or even move them to another area.
- Avoid cell phone and computer use at least two hours before bedtime.
- Stop caffeinated drinks at least eight hours before bedtime.
- Take a few minutes to meditate, relax, and stretch before you jump into bed.
- Make sure your bed and pillows are clean and comfortable.
When we don’t sleep well, we’re worthless and tired the next day. Taking prescription drugs to stay awake or go to sleep adds more chemicals to your body and can contribute to lethargy the next day. Sometimes we overthink problems causing our brain to be on a constantly repeating soundtrack. Create a bedtime routine that includes all of the things listed above and sleep well!