In my last trip around these parts, I rambled (in?)coherently [is it possible to ramble coherently?] about self-esteem.
This time around, I’d like to ramble coherently about healthy lifestyles. Maybe it’s not the most profound topic for readers of elephant journal, who just as surely as I am writing right now have never made an unhealthy decision in their lives. (For the record, I did not eat a maple bacon sandwich—substitute glazed donuts for bread—for breakfast this morning. Probably. There’s no evidence to suggest anything to the contrary . . . no evidence at all to suggest I did anything so disgusting and delicious.)
And yet, we’re all striving for that ever-important ideal of a healthy lifestyle, so I figure you’ll forgive me if I write the millionth article on how exactly one can attain a healthy lifestyle.
In lieu of more rambling, I guess I’ll jump right in.
If you’re saying, “That’s it?” You’re on the right track—it’s supposed to be simple. I’m not implying that I’ve gone the misguided way of Kramer from Seinfeld and turned to daily trips to the grocer for fresh food to be prepared that day.
But I have taken to twice-weekly trips to the grocery store to make sure I have all the proper accoutrements for delicious home-cooked meals. I have experimented—successfully, on a number of occasions—with home-blended curry powder. And, I have discovered how easy it is to make a home-cooked meal with a slow-cooker, so that makes my life 6000% percent better.
My culinary imagination is limited, possibly stunted, but there are literally hundreds of thousands of recipes out there on the internet; it’s incredibly easy for me to hop online over the weekend, find five recipes for the week, shop for the required ingredients and then get up 20 minutes earlier to set things up in the slow-cooker.
In other words, I had Moroccan lentil soup yesterday, and it was delicious. What did you have?
I run. A lot. I run most mornings and some evenings. I run through the foothills, and occasionally through the suburbs. I run by myself, and often with friends. Aside from my pedometer, about the only constant in my running is my water bottle. It shouldn’t come as news that we humans need plenty of water. Even when we’re not particularly active, we need around three liters of fluid every day.
By the way, “fluid” does not mean “alcohol,” despite what many a former college buddy of mine would insist. “Fluid” can refer to more than just water, however: milk, juice, certain vegetables and fruits (really, the water content in said vegetables and fruits).
I hit two birds with one stone when I replenish my body’s water stores: I drink the water with various health supplements. I add in electrolytes, and red pine oil for a boost to my immune system. You obviously don’t have to add anything to yours, but it’s a simple way for me to maximize my gains.
With a little lemon, it’s the perfect refresher after a long run.
I like the way the French think. Their emotional maturity and ability to see fine distinctions in love and relationships. Heck, their practice of eating wine with cheese alone warrants inclusion into some world annals.
But, I like the way the Spanish think when it comes to sleep. Spaniards know what’s what when it comes to sleep. Stay up late, enjoy the evening with a stroll and a meal (not necessarily in that order), sleep a while, do some work, and then siesta.
I used to scoff at nap-taking. But I’ve given into the practice, and I tell you there’s nothing better than shaking off drowsiness and waking up to a home-cooked meal (thanks to the aforementioned slow-cooker). The average adult needs more than eight hours of sleep in a 24-hour period, and the average American averages fewer than seven. You would be amazed by the miraculous effects of adequate sleep, and I guarantee you’ll be palpably closer to a healthy lifestyle if you nab yourself a nap.
4. Be Active
Join me for a run. Or not. I’ll be out there whether or not you join me. And do you know why? Well, yes, I want to be healthy and fit, but that’s not why I do it. And, yes, I get runner’s high, but even that isn’t why I do it.
I run because I can no longer stand to be inactive. I can’t sit on the couch and watch television for three hours. (Unless the movie I’m watching is spectacular, I have trouble even sitting for the couple hours it takes to watch it.) Now, we can reasonably assume I’ve been blessed (or cursed) with the need to be active, but I’ve seen an increase in my need to move.
I’ve trained my body to be active. It’s far easier to stay active once you’re active than it is to become active in the first place. So, if you’re freaking out because you could never keep it up, rest assured that you can.
If you don’t like running, that’s fine. Play basketball. Heck, golf is a more than decent workout as long as you’re walking the course. Even if you’re only taking the stairs at work, you’re doing something active. You can perform squats during commercial breaks. Start today with whatever you can manage and soon your body will happily force you to be active.
5. Set Goals
Do you know how I managed to stay active before my body started craving activity? I set goals. I told myself—and then I wrote it down—that I would run the next mile in under 9 minutes. And then 8.5. And then 8. And then 7.5. And then seven. I haven’t broken the six-minute barrier yet, but I’m more of a long-distance runner anyway. (I recently finished a half-marathon in 1:40, which is just over 7.5 minutes for each mile; Yay! for me.)
The point is that we all need goals to drive us and to keep us honest. We all have nebulous goals floating around inside us all the time, but it’s time to get those down on paper, so that we can look at them and say, “Yeah, I want this.” And later, “I did this—and I’m happy about it.”
That’s not all I want to say about goals. To be healthy—both body and mind—requires a different sort of goal: a life-purpose sort of goal. What brings meaning and purpose to your life? It’s probably not “I live for running after a maple bacon sandwich.” Maybe it’s to help others, even strangers (or, especially, strangers). Maybe it’s to come to God. Maybe it’s to come to an awareness of man’s unity with Nature. I don’t care. (Actually, I care greatly; I don’t care what form it takes.)
For me, my goal is to leave each person I meet a little happier than they were before. And that’s enough for me. It drives all my actions (I hope). It puts all my actions into perspective. It’s easy to recover from a maple bacon sandwich with glazed donuts instead of bread when you look at things from a broad perspective.
And, you know what? It makes me happy. Seeing other people made a little happier by my actions makes me happier too.
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Ed: Bryonie Wise