I've learned over the years that changing habits is hard. Not only that, but when you know you need to make changes to your health you find there's just too much information out there! So how I've learned to make it easier on myself is to let the tips and habit changes come to me in bits and pieces so it's not too overwhelming. In other words, read things, listen to people, watch videos, but don't try to memorize it all. Don't try to make it all stick. Listen passively and suddenly things that will resonate and have meaning for your personal health will start to repeat and you may even start to consider trying to make those changes.
In my own experience, making these changes is easier if I do it slowly and over time. For example, I couldn't seem to get over my addiction to Diet Coke and no matter how I tried I felt like I needed that pick-me-up in the afternoon. I've read and heard over the years about how great green tea is for your health but had always been a coffee/Diet Coke drinker. I've also read and heard multiple times over the years that a small square of dark chocolate can be just as satisfying (over time) than other kinds of sweets that are way less healthy for you (like a cookie) and is actually good for you (in small doses). It took a long time, but slowly I trained myself to make a cup of tea for myself in the afternoon and found a dark chocolate that I love. I am now at a point where I'm almost 100% Diet Coke free (I treat myself once in a while when I go to a place that has fountain diet coke, but it's not very often) and almost 100% sugar free just by switching my afternoon routine to a combo of green tea (I also combine my tea with other herbal teas to get more bang for my health buck) and a small piece of dark chocolate. Sometimes, if I really need it (and ladies, you know what I mean) I'll have two small squares or a square of chocolate after dinner. I never thought I would see the day when I wouldn't crave a diet coke, a cookie or a cheap candy bar, but I really don't crave those things anymore and when there's halloween candy around, I'll grab a piece and eat it and realize I don't even like it anymore. This was not a quick process. Many stops and starts along the way, but I'm finally there!
Here are some habits I've changed/developed over time, just by keeping small tips I've heard over the years in the back of my head and slowly, I've built them in (or eliminated them) from my life!
Flossing? OK. I know this is a no-brainer for most people (or maybe non-flossing is more pervasive than I think it is), but I grew up in the Midwest in the 1970s in a family with six kids. Although I heard a million times from my dentist and at school that I should floss my teeth everyday, my mother didn't have the time (raising six kids and teaching full time) to remind all of us to brush and floss everyday. So I brushed, but was lazy and never flossed (or flossed in fits and starts). It wasn't until several years ago (yes, fast forward about 35 years) that I read that flossing daily can actually reduce inflammation in the body. Since I happened to be learning about systemic inflammation and trying to reduce it for my own health reasons, I decided it was probably a good idea to start flossing regularly. Fits and starts? Yes. BUT, I'm at a point now where if I don't floss (usually when I'm on vacation) I have an image of the inflammation in my body returning and my chronic back pain rearing its ugly head! That's enough for me to get back to my flossing routine!!! So let's be honest. Are you flossing every day?
TEA + CHOCOLATE = AFTERNOON PICK-ME-UP!
So I went over a little about my transition to afternoon green tea and chocolate, but thought I would give a tiny bit more detail. I do mix my green tea with various other herbal teas to get the most bang for my health buck. Some tea drinkers might recoil at the thought, but since I'm not a huge fan of the way green tea tastes anyway, I like to mix it adding in whatever my body seems to be calling for. Most of the time I'm trying to keep inflammation down and my tummy healthy so I use ginger tea, but for the past couple of weeks I've been using Echinacea Immune Support because my body is in the process of healing a major first degree burn. Often I feel like I need a brain boost mid-afternoon, so I throw in some Ginkgo Clarity or if I feel like my mood needs a lift, I might throw in Sweet Tangerine Positive Energy. As far as brands of tea, since I drink green tea every day and it can get expensive, I use Trader Joe's Organic Green Tea to keep the expense down, but I like supplementing with the Yogi tea brand not only because it's at my little local market but I trust the brand and even though I'm not really into daily affirmations, I do kind of like reading their tea bag tab affirmations. It usually makes me smile or take the time to contemplate life and adds a little lift to my little afternoon break. Here was today's tab:
NEW YORK TIMES SCIENTIFIC SEVEN MINUTE WORKOUT
OK. I'm always hawking this workout, but seriously. It's the EASIEST way to build a sustainable workout into your every day routine. Seriously. It's only seven minutes and works every part of your body. Excellent for maintenance - not for weight loss unless you are also reducing calories. What's nice about this if you ARE trying to reduce calories is that it won't wear you out and make your body want to consume MORE calories like a major workout would. Read about why this workout WORKS on the New York Times blog.
MAKE STOCK OR BONE BROTH AND DRINK/EAT IT OFTEN
Chris Kresser's "Paleo Recipe Generator" recipe for roasted chicken stock has not only made making chicken stock regularly so much easier, but also much more tasty than the way I used to make it (cooking the whole chicken in water!). Read my Cook-a-thon post for ideas for making and eating your chicken stock, but just today I ate such a healing and comforting lunch using the leftover chicken and stock from my (mostly) weekly chicken stock making. So simple and given I'm trying to heal my skin from the recent burn, this felt so good and healing for my body and so simple to throw together when you have it all in the fridge already:
Healthy bowl of chicken soup:
Simply warm up your stock with a little salt and pepper, cut up some of the leftover chicken and thrown it in there and add any veggies you've got floating around in the fridge. Today I added cremini mushrooms and baby kale.
I'm so looking forward to the springtime "Paleo Reset" retreat featuring Chris Kresser's "Paleo Cure" book and a whole week of eating delicious and healthy food! I'm sure we'll walk away with TONS of practical eating tips we can build into our everyday lives.
USING OIL ON YOUR SKIN EVERYDAY INSTEAD OF LOTIONS
At the recent retreat held by The Healing Farm and Marin Agricultural Land Trust I asked my speakers/practitioners for some little health tips we could send home with our participants. Of course I mentioned my dark chocolate habit and actually sent everyone home with a bar, but Patti Cocciolo of The Goodness blog who did our end of the day all-level yoga session mentioned she uses organic body oil on her skin after her shower instead of synthetic or heavy body lotion. As she put it, anything that's on your skin more than 20 minutes is absorbed into your skin and bloodstream. Good reason not to put chemicals, perfumes and anything non-organic on your body. All I had to do was read this once and make a change. I realized I had some organic mineral oil at home and have been using that ever since. Also, since I've burned my skin and have been applying vitamin E directly to the burn areas it's been REALLY top of mind how important and large this body organ is and how incredibly important it is to the whole body to keep it healthy!
CULTIVATING PRACTICAL WELLNESS!
These are just a few of the little tips and changes I've incorporated over the years into my own health routine. Super simple and small changes that have really added up to improving my overall health. I'm sure I will think of More and will post updates for more Tip by Tip and Step by Step recommendations! Remember to simply read ideas and tips and like the body oil, you will slowly absorb some of these tips into your own routine if it make sense for you and your own health!