8 Ways to be Healthy and Happy from the Inside Out
By Laura Warf
Over the decades I have worked in the fitness and wellness industry, I have received questions, comments and inquiries from students regarding how to feel better or look better.
Many have expressed their perception that it must somehow be easy for me since I work in the field surrounded by people and methods promoting self-care. My response to this idea is that being well is a daily commitment. I also have my days when I don’t feel like working out, take the time to cut veggies, prep meals or get to bed early enough to feel rested and productive the next day. When that happens, I remember why I make healthier lifestyle choices. This is not to say I don’t enjoy munching on Kettle chips from time to time or skip a workout day if my body feels tired.
I follow to 80-20 rule. Make correct choices leading to my desired outcome 80% of the time and enjoy yummy home-made cookies, a lazy sleep in day and watch Netflix the other 20%! I would much prefer to feel energized, uplifted, empowered, clear headed, positive and fit rather than tired, cranky, sluggish, unmotivated, negative and out of shape. So, there is a formula to move towards what I DO want rather than be unfocused and get what I DON’T want as a result of not taking consistent action.
Being healthy and happy is a daily re-commitment. Every day I wake up I create an intention of how I want to show up in the world. These habits are ones I follow regularly.
1.Start each day with gratitude.
Gratitude helps us to focus on the good in our life to help re-wire our brain and to strengthen new neural pathways.
Recall a moment when you were feeling grateful. You may have received help from someone, felt intense love for someone in your life, or simply been touched by the beauty and warmth of a beautiful summer’s day. Rather than focusing on all the things that are going wrong, remember the many blessings that surround you. Once we begin to appreciate what we have in our lives, we are less insecure about what we don’t have and may have less need to grasp for more.
2.Have daily purpose & passion
What is your reason for getting up in the morning? Our culture tends to focus on two phases: work and retirement. In Okinawan language, there is no word for retirement. There is one word that encompasses everything: Ikigai (eek-y-guy) which means, “the reason for which you wake up in the morning.” or, your “sense of purpose”: caring for family, cultivating gardens to feed a community, teachers who are committed to education, etc. People with a keen sense of purpose have boosted immune systems and enjoy lower stress hormones. What is your ikigai?
3.Move your Body!
According to research from Harvard university, just 15 minutes of rhythmic activity per day is like taking an anti-depressant and lifts your spirits.
Movement is good for your brain and your body. Go for a brisk walk, practice several rounds of sun salutations, go for a swim, do a circuit that includes a weight bearing exercises; keep it varied for balance. Seek out a buddy or a coach for an added boost. With over 600 muscles in our body, we are built for movement, so get up and go!
Did you know that your gut health may affect your mood and your behaviour? Include fermented foods that are natural sources of probiotics. Leaf through a healthy cook book and write out a grocery list to be armed with foods that fuel you well.
Base your diet on fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes and lean protein sources that are locally raised. Choose foods in their most natural state, avoid processed or prepared foods. Sit down, slow down and savour each bite! Nourish your body to stay leaner, healthier and more energized.
5.Allow time for R&R
Relaxation relieves stress, which is known to contribute to disease. Learn relaxation techniques and stress-releasing strategies such as; focused breathing styles like the cardiac coherence method, visualization to create scenes that invoke well-being, yin or restorative yoga and meditation. By resting and relaxing, you’ll improve your mood, be able to focus better, get higher quality sleep, increase vital energy, and reduce anxiety, and fluctuating emotions. My granny would often say to me “put your feet up dear” as she prepared for an afternoon siesta. And she lived to be 106 years old!
6.Cultivate Healthy Relationships
People who feel a sense of belonging and have a support network from friends, family and community tend to lead longer, happier, healthier lives. Playing with your pet or loved one for just a few minutes will result in a better mood. Invite a friend to share time over a warm cup of tea or coffee. Laughter with others can increase your overall sense of well-being. Doctors have found that people who have a positive outlook on life tend to fight diseases better than people who tend to be more negative. So, smile, laugh, and live longer.
7.Connect to Nature
Connecting to nature has a positive influence on our health and vitality. Spending more time near trees and large bodies of water also promotes our antioxidant defence system leading us back into a state of inner harmony. Nature helps counterbalance prolonged exposure to our indoor electronic devices, along with wifi signals and other electromagnetic frequencies, which can have damaging effects on our health. Walk barefoot on the grass, hug a tree or simply enjoy the daily sunrise or sunset. I am reminded of my mother’s maternal wisdom “go outside and play!” Her instinct was right on.
8.Bring Play into your Day!
According to the National Institute for Play, play is the gateway to vitality. It is essential for kids and adults alike. Playing with your romantic partner, co-workers, pets, friends, and children is a sure and fun way to fuel your imagination, creativity and problem-solving abilities. Actively playing will improve your mood and make you smarter and less stressed. Take time out from the “busy-ness” of work and life-commitments to simply enjoy some play time. What was your favourite activity as a kid? Engage in it again.
Laura Warf is the founder of the School of Happiness holistic wellness center whose methods are based on tools from ancient teachings to today’s current research to inspire others to take charge of their complete well-being by following her 8 essential elements to health and happiness. She is a healthy living advocate, passionate wellness educator and mind-body specialist offering services in corporate wellness, yoga, meditation, energetic balancing, and fitness conditioning. Visit www.LauraWarf.comwww.SchoolofHappiness.ca