Will what I do today affect my health tomorrow? As I’ve learned more about the mind and body through Phytotherapi’s blogs and seminars, and my own study I’ve come to understand better the answer to this question. The answer, very simply, is YES. However, it’s more accurate to say that how we live our lives now affects our health later, meaning our lifestyles have a direct impact on our health.
Most people pay little attention to the consequences of their actions when said consequences take time to come about. As a result many people develop habits and lifestyles which negatively affect the body and lead to chronic illnesses and conditions. Chronic illnesses are diseases which take time to develop and last for months to years; some may last for the rest of someone’s life. However, the thing I want to emphasize here is that they take months and years of poor health habits to develop. Conditions include type 2 diabetes, obesity, cancer, chronic inflammation, and chronic stress. With few exceptions, these ailments come about because of our lifestyle.
Unfortunately, most people don’t realize anything is wrong until a doctor or medical professional tells them they have a sickness. This causes much heartache and stress on the part of the patient and their family. However, I hope that today’s blog might shed some light on how to prevent chronic conditions from forming through lifestyle changes.
It was difficult to write this blog at first because there is so much that can be said about the topic. However, in order to keep it concise and help get my message across, I will say very little on the physiological effects of certain lifestyles and behaviors and provide links to other blogs which cover them in more detail. We’ll be looking at some common examples of negative habits to help illustrate my point.
Getting few hours of sleep
As a college student I hear many, many times how someone only got 5, 4, or only 3 hours of sleep the previous night. Unfortunately this habit of staying up late (or waking up particularly early) can be found in teenagers and those out of school as well. There seems to be a rumor out there that sleep isn’t very important. I once heard in a motivational speech that in order to be successful you will have to lose sleep. The speaker gave an example of someone staying up for days in order to finish a project. This is something I’ve heard several times- sacrifice sleep to achieve success.
I want to emphasize one thing right now- sleep is essential for health. Without it we will grow sick. It makes the situation worse when we consider that people must drink highly caffeinated or sugary drinks or foods to stay awake with little sleep. I don’t deny that there are times when we do need to sacrifice sleep, but making it a habit always brings negative consequences.
Sleep is when our bodies perform many repairs, regenerations, and detoxification. Additionally, as we sleep, important memories and experiences from the day are stored away into long-term memory files. Many other important functions occur as we sleep which are addressed in the following blog. However, it’s important to recognize that this whole process takes about 7 hours in adults. If we’re only getting 4 hours of sleep each night, all the needed repairs and detoxifying can’t be done. Additionally, if we’re well rested we are sharper, more alert and energized, and more creative.
Every thought we have has an effect on our bodies. Negative thoughts affect many aspects of our health, especially in the brain. We may not think of negative thinking as a way of life, but it is. As an example, repeated negative thoughts of not being good enough or smart enough create an irrational fear in us. This fear not only keeps us from being proactive and taking advantages of opportunities, but it also creates stress and anxiety in us. Constant stress becomes chronic, which leads to other health issues. Additionally, these thoughts can keep us from thinking rationally. On the flip side, positive thinking provides many health benefits for the brain, and body in general.
This is something we all know is bad, but I want to address it because so few people actually get a proper diet. It’s not uncommon for people, especially those who keep themselves busy, to buy some fast food or prepackaged meals. It’s easy and convenient. However, we are kidding ourselves to assume that we can give our bodies unhealthy food all the time and not have dire consequences. The fact of the matter is that nutrition goes far beyond keeping an ideal weight or staying energized (though those are important aspects). Nutrition affects us at the cellular level. Without the right nutrients are cells starve and become weak. Sick cells don’t perform their tasks correctly and produce toxins. This leads to certain functions and systems in the body not working correctly or completely shutting down, in addition to other health issues developing.
Some people may say, “well I eat fast food often enough and I’m not overweight or sick.” Going to back to chronic illnesses, they take time to develop. Our cells do all they can to keep us alive even when illnesses are growing within us. For this reason so many people “suddenly” become ill. For the majority of them, there really is nothing sudden about it. The following blogs help illustrate this point.
Additionally we need to drink 8-10 glasses of water each day and eat 5 meals daily (3 main meals and 2 snacks; a meal every 2-3 hours).
What do I mean by an unbalanced life? I mean spending the majority of our time focused on only one or two things. It’s not uncommon in our society to focus a lot of time and energy in a particular area; whether that be work, exercise, hobbies, or spirituality. While all of these are important aspects of life, the problem is that when we don’t balance our life (in other words, use time for various areas of our life) it negatively affects the brain and creates a lot of stress. The highly successful NBA coach, Gregg Popovich, recently said about his sport, “It’s basketball. It’s not my life. It’s basketball.” I love this because too often we fall into the trap of making work, or school, etc our life.
The brain requires balance in order to maintain homeostasis. By focusing on more than one or two areas in our life, we bring balance. Now there may be people reading this asking how they could possibly fit everything in their life into everyday. I’m not suggesting we do. It’s completely unreasonable to assume we could fit work, family, sports, hobbies, projects, etc into a single day. That would just create more stress. Perhaps a personal example will help to show my point.
As a college student and husband, it’s essential for me to study and work. However, I don’t spend all my time just doing those two things. I make time for my wife everyday. Several days a week I exercise. On different days of the week I may enjoy a movie or read a book, or catch basketball highlights. Additionally, I work on other skills and areas of my life, and provide service when I can. By spreading out other activities throughout the week I find balance and it helps lessen the stresses of the day. Seek to find balance in life and stress can be reduced.
Other negative habits which affect health include, but aren’t limited to:
- Not reconciling stress
- Spending hours watching tv or browsing the internet
- Harboring grudges
- Viewing pornography
- Skipping meals
- Drinking caffeinated or highly sugary beverages
- Not exercising
Improving our lifestyle
Change is something everyone seems to want in some way, but can’t seem to figure out how to do it. It’s sad that so many people don’t feel like they have the willpower to make improvements in their life. I’ve heard too often people say, “It’s just the way I am.” I want to declare to everyone reading this that that is absolutely false! We can change! I have been able to make so many changes in my life and hope to make many more. I have seen many people change their own life for the better and live happier lives.
The first step to change however, is recognizing there is need for change. I invite you to reflect on your habits and lifestyle and see what areas need improvement. Then I want to express one more time that you can change. You can do it! Don’t give up. Even if failures occur, don’t give up. Don’t quit. Keep moving forward. I have failed time and time again in my efforts to change aspects of my life, but they only came as I persistently tried again and again, and again.
Additionally, if you have found yourself in undesirable health conditions, Phytotherapi has developed several solutions to help the body heal itself from damage.
As a final thought I want to express my awe at the amazing creation that is the body. Our minds and bodies are divinely designed to heal. As we make the necessary changes and give the body the tools it needs, an amazing healing process occurs. So don’t delay. Begin your journey for change today. It’s worth it.