When looking to functional medicine as a way to improve health, the first thing many people think of is dietary changes. While adjustments in our eating habits play a key role in helping our bodies heal naturally, there are environmental and behavioral shifts that need to take place in order to optimise the nutritional benefits. Here’s some action steps to consider when working to promote wellness in your day-to-day life!
1. Reducing Stress
Stress is the body’s way of coping with an action that is contrary to what is normal. Without this mechanism, our chances of survival would be reduced drastically. Good stress, like learning a new skill or traveling in a foreign country, can be a good thing. However, prolonged exposure to bad stress–the kind that we feel the weight of in our demanding jobs, lack of finances, or strained relationships–can be detrimental to our health. Our body’s response to stress can manifest in headaches, high blood pressure, sleep disorders, or intensify symptoms in already existing diseases. While there is no on/off switch to removing stress from our lives, there are things we can do to “dim the lights” on the worst types. Carving out time for meditation or deep breathing exercises can give us time to quiet ourselves and assess our situations calmly. Something as simple as a stress ball can divert our attentions while engaging the pressure points in our hands. A brisk walk or belly laugh can release a surge of endorphins in the brain, nature’s own anti-depressant. Becoming aware of our triggers and how to be proactive can help us get a better handle on the stressors in our lives.
2. Poop Every Day
Let’s take a minute to talk about “Number 2”. Imagine what happens when you leave food to rot in a trash can for a couple days. It stinks. It’s messy. It attracts bacteria. Now imagine that same food swishing around in your body for an extra day (or worse, longer). Pooping is the body’s way of taking out the trash by removing toxins that contribute to decreased energy and a swarm of other health issues. While there are many factors that can work to clog our systems like changes to our daily routine or frequent travel, the main offender is in our consumption. Eating foods rich in fiber will make them easier to digest while increasing water intake will help you do it more often. So be sure you get your fill on the good stuff like plenty of H20, almonds, broccoli, and heart-healthy fats.
3. Getting enough rest
Sleep allows our brains to function properly as well as giving our hearts and blood vessels the opportunity to repair themselves while we rest. It is necessary for all, yet many don’t get enough of it. Sleep deprivation can be a contributor to hormone imbalances, compromised immune function, infertility, and weight gain to name a few. In order to protect our sleep, we need to prioritize getting enough of it and do whatever it takes to ensure the quality of it. Waking up and going to bed at the same time each day will help make a habit of it. Cutting out caffeine and reducing your exposure to blue light (emitted from electronics) in the hours leading up to bedtime will help you fall asleep faster. Integrating earplugs, a sleep mask, or blackout curtains can help you sustain a deeper sleep for longer.
4. Exercising regularly
Getting our bodies in motion seems like a no-brainer when it comes to improving our health, yet it is the last thing on many people’s to-do lists. Not only does exercise promote a healthy weight and build, it increases your energy levels, contributes to your mental wellbeing, and can extend your lifespan. You don’t need a gym membership to stay fit, but getting a good 30 minutes of physical activity is recommended for optimal health. This can include walks on your work breaks, taking the stairs more frequently, or giving your house a good cleaning. There are loads of apps and devices that can help chart your movement and encourage you in your progress!