By Rebecca Fending
The term “holistic health” is something that conjures an array of images: yoga mats, smoldering incense, quinoa salads or essential oils. However, it’s more than just a “granola” way of living; it’s a way for you to move through life in a way that puts you completely in control of your overall health and well-being. There are several simplistic and immediate changes you can implement in your life to get you closer to a holistic state. From eating right to taking the time to meditate, here are a few ways you can invest in your health.
Clean Eating for a Clean Bill of Health
One way is to familiarize yourself with what many call “clean eating“. Essentially, this means that you focus on consuming fresher foods such as fruits, vegetables and fresh meat. Eating fresher foods helps your body produce natural happiness, or serotonin, which is made in the lining of your gastrointestinal tract. This regulates your mental health by making you feel good and helping you sleep better.
Surprisingly, it’s a lot easier than you might think to keep and cook fresh foods. Pan frying or baking fresh asparagus or green beans with a clove of fresh, minced garlic, a tablespoon of olive oil and a healthy pinch of salt and pepper is a fantastic side dish that matches any sort of meat. This paired with pan fried or baked chicken breasts seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic powder and turmeric is a deliciously simple lunch or dinner any time of year.
There are short cuts to always stocking your house with “fresh” produce; buy flash-frozen fruits and vegetables. Flash-frozen produce is the best alternative when you are unable to find the right fresh vegetables or fruits. According to Dr. Andrew Weil, flash-frozen fruits and veggies are often just as nutritious as fresh. This is because the specific freezing process is conducted after the produce is picked just before ripe. This ensures that there is little to no change between what the fresh version of the product would have been in comparison with its flash-frozen self.
Although this goes without saying, moving your body can greatly impact your mentality and quality of life. Just like eating quality foods improves your serotonin production, exercise does the same. It also helps expand the size of your hippocampus, the area of the brain that’s responsible for controlling memory retention.
Whether you move your body through smaller tasks like cleaning, gardening or even an impromptu dance number, a little movement can go a long way. For those of us that are mainly sedentary due to our jobs, hobbies or lifestyles, it’s crucial for our bodies that we make the effort to be lightly active on the regular. Many health experts recommend getting up and moving every 30 minutes or sooner. A great way to do this is by walking or stretching during every commercial break during a television program. With commercials every 15 minutes on average, you’ll benefit from this small change in no time.
Take Time for You
Possibly the most crucial part of focusing on your holistic health is by taking time for yourself. One way you can do this is through meditation. Using a few minutes of each day to meditate and quietly reflect inward has been found to have a number of benefits, including the ability to boost brain activity. In a similar way that exercise helps enlarge the hippocampus, meditation contributes to improving memory and brain function.
A study conducted in 2013 by Rebecca Erwin Wells, MD, of Wake Forest showed that meditation helps activate the portion of the brain that’s key in “daydreaming”, recalling past events and considering new ones. Since meditation is largely self-induced and self-focused, the brain is forced to entertain itself internally. For most people, this manifests as daydreams and forming hypothetical situations.
Meditation doesn’t have to be sitting on the floor with criss-crossed legs and a pinched hand gesture resting on the knees (although it absolutely can, if you prefer). It can also look like you sitting in your favorite arm chair, your head resting against the back, listening to birds through an open window, or even resting on the beach and listening to the water. Regardless of how you meditate, it’s all about enjoying the quiet and slowing down.
So, no matter how you start your journey towards holistic health, remember that it’s okay to put yourself at the center. Be mindful of your mind and body and you’ll see improvements in no time.