Contrary to what you might believe, getting healthier with each passing week can be easier and cheaper than you think. Drinking more water, doing some exercises and breathing properly can make a lot of difference. Try these simple but very crucial practices to ease your way into the good health zone.
Drink more Water The human body is 75% water and a human brain is 85% water. This liquid is one of the key elements that ensure that our metabolic processes are going smoothly – think of the body as a vehicle that needs all of the lubricants at optimum levels. Even a mild instance of dehydration slows down the body’s metabolism by 3%! The lack of water is the single biggest contributor to daytime fatigue. So the biggest and easiest single step you could take to making yourself healthier is to consume more water. Research shows that almost 75% of people are chronically dehydrated. And almost 37% have such weak thirst perception that it is mistaken for hunger. Could you be one of them?
We have all heard the 8-12 glasses a day mantra. It is important to remember that this is the amount that the body absolutely MUST have for good functioning. For optimum replenishment, it is ideal to have 2-3 liters every day. This will ensure that all your cells are well hydrated. If you are not used to drinking these amounts, you will need to consciously enforce this on yourself for about three days. After that, your body’s natural thirst indicators will begin functioning again, and you will automatically feel thirstier.
How to do it: When you wake up in the morning, measure out 12 glasses of water, and pour it into a glass bottle or jug. (Avoid using plastics wherever possible). Make sure that you drink this water throughout the day. This way, you will be reminded of the amount of water you are drinking. Try drinking one glass of water every hour. Increase the amount to 2 or 3 litres steadily over the course of the week.
Breathe with awareness
Your breath is what keeps you alive -Oxygen is the most important nutrient that the human body needs. A few minutes of oxygen deprivation could kill you. Our breath is also the primary medium of toxin elimination. Close to 70% of toxin elimination happens through exhalation. Little wonder that pranayama practitioners usually enjoy better health than others! All of us breathe automatically, and do not use even half of our lung capacity. What results is that our bodies are forced to function on far lesser oxygen than it needs. Oxygen purifies the bloodstream, and is a major source of the energy that we utilize to stay alive. If you observe your own breathing, you may be surprised at how shallow and irregular your breath is. A lot of us even hold our breaths for long periods of time without noticing it!
Apart from throwing out toxins, breathing well can improve energy production, lower blood pressure, reduce stress, and strengthen the immune system. In fact, there are a lot of studies being done which show that the lack of oxygen could be a major cause for heart disease, stroke and cancer. It is of utmost importance that people with sedentary jobs breathe better – this can make all the difference in their metabolism, immunity and even sleep.
How to do it: First of all practice breathing correctly. When you inhale, your stomach should inflate like a balloon – this is how you know that the air is filling even the lower part of your lungs, utilizing your breathing apparatus fully. Most of us push the air into the top part of our chest – moving the shoulders or upper chest as we inhale. This limits oxygen intake. Every time you take a bathroom break, take a few seconds to place your hands on your stomach and inhale, pushing your stomach out. It should take you just a few tries, or ask anyone who practices yoga to help you figure it out.
Every time you have a glass of water, every time you sit down to eat something, or if you are watching TV and a commercial comes on – remind yourself that it is time to breathe correctly. Relax your shoulders, straighten the small of your back and focus your attention on your breath. Breathe easily, gently with long breaths into your stomach. Exhale gently. Repeat at least 5-10 times. Make it a point to do this as often as you can.
Exercise Most of us know that exercise is important to burn off extra calories, but its benefits in maintaining good blood circulation and working your heart and lungs make it an essential part of keeping your body healthy.
How to do it: Decide what you can incorporate into your schedule, and DO IT! Make sure you move your body every day – walk to the neighborhood store for the groceries, take the stairs instead of the lift (if you’re not going too far up), go for an evening or even late night walk, put on your favorite songs and dance, do some simple flexes or stretches every time you are talking on the cell phone.
Eat Dinner early Our digestive system starts winding down when the sun sets. This means that the later you eat, the more strain you are placing on your system. Most of us make it worse by eating just before we hit the bed. This means that we have lots of food in our system and a body that is asleep before it is digested – making for poor digestion and toxin accumulation. Worst of all, this practice forces our body to focus most of its energy on digesting the food, when it should actually be using the time we sleep to repair, heal and energize our complete system. This is why we wake up sluggish and lethargic most of the time.
How to do it: Eat your dinner before 8.00 p.m. Don’t worry about getting hungry later. Go to sleep only by 10 or 10.30 p.m. If you feel hungry at bed time, drink a glass of water or have some fruit. It may take you about three or four days to hold to this routine, but if you persevere, the benefits that you feel will help you to make this a welcome, even effortless shift in your nightly routine.
Studies show that the human body is basically herbivorous in nature, and functions better on an alkaline diet of primarily vegetables. When we consume non vegetarian food on a constant basis, our blood becomes more acidic than alkaline, setting up the scene for illnesses and diseases to thrive. Decreasing non-vegetarian foods also means decreasing the toxin burden on your internal organs, especially the kidneys.Toxins from a vegetarian diet are fewer and easier to expel. Overall, vegetarians enjoy better health and have lesser chances of suffering from cancer, high blood pressure and heart problems.
How to do it: A good way of improving your health is to decide that you will consume only vegetarian food on certain days of the week. This can provide radical benefits to your digestive system, sleep patterns and immunity. You can add the number of vegetarian days in the coming weeks, depending on how you feel about it.
It would be ideal to incorporate all of the things listed above into your routine, but it is important not to overwhelm yourself with change. Decide for yourself what it is you will focus on this week, stick to it and then add more things to it, if that is what works for you. The key lies in figuring out how these practices can be incorporated into your life, and also in having the perseverance to stick with a change for a few days. It is always the first few days that seem hard – this is the window period where you are resisting change from the old routine. After that, any practice that is good for your body will be welcomed by your system, and will be easy to stick to.