In a world where you are increasingly likely to hear the word “oat milk matcha latte,” it can be difficult to determine which health trends are actually beneficial for you. As we redefined it in part one of this series “Re-defining “health and wellness”, lasting health comes from the interaction of our genes with our lifestyle and environment. We are not prescribed a health profile upon birth, but rather, manifest our potential for health based on the lifestyle behaviors we choose to engage and participate in. This multi-faceted approach towards understanding the key factors of health makes room for the possibility of empowered decisions that contribute to the positive outcomes you are seeking in your health and wellness. Although, I do appreciate an oat milk matcha latte, it is not the answer to your health qualms.
As you can see, the determinants of our health can be considered in two categories:
• The choices we make that are within our control
• The environmental factors that are not within our control
Let’s take sleep for example. We are biologically limited to 24 hours in a day. We have to work for a living, take care of ourselves and our families, eat, exercise, and engage in personally fulfilling activities within this time frame. 24 hours in a day is NOT within our control. Therefore, allowing for 8 hours in bed is a difficult challenge that we all face.
Yet, many high performing people do it. The difference is, people who consistently allow for 8 hours in bed make choices that improve sleep outcomes. These high performers perceive the actions that lead to great sleep as choices that are within their control.
In Part II of this blog, let me introduce a few tactics which will allow you to take actions that are within your control. All the while, considering the universal constraints of our environment. By doing so, I hope to delineate which determinants of health to actually focus on and allow you to recognize and block out the confusing and contradicting noise of ever-evolving health trends. So, consider the following tactics or life hacks (if you will) in manifesting your potential for optimal health.
Constraint: 24 hours in a day to do all of the things that are important to us.
Benefits: Sleep “enhances your memory and makes you more creative. It protects you from cancer and dementia. It wards off colds and the flu. It lowers your risk of heart attacks and stroke, not to mention diabetes. You’ll even feel happier, less depressed, and less anxious.” ~Matthew Walker, PhD
Control: Your sleep wake rhythms play a large part in determining your sleep quality. Go to bed and wake up at the same time as consistently as possible! Set a time to get into bed at least 8 hours before you have to wake up. Stick to this bedtime and wake up time by creating a sleep ritual that helps you wind down while avoiding the sleep inhibiting exposure to screened devices at least 30 minutes before bed.
Consume Real Food
Constraint: Eating healthy all of the time is inconvenient, boring, and difficult.
Benefit: What you eat impacts every physiological system in your body and is a primary determinant of your long-term health, body-composition, life performance, mood, and sense of self-efficacy.
Control: Eating healthy food all of the time is an ineffective approach. Aim for an 80/20 balance of eating really healthy foods and foods that you enjoy. Consider minimally processed, whole food sources of protein, carbohydrate, healthy fat, vegetables and fruits all part of an 80% healthy diet. Eat these as often as possible by allowing for 2 hours of grocery shopping and 2 hours of home food preparation per week. Scheduling this time allotment pays for itself a billion times over!
Constraint: Fitness is hard and time consuming.
Benefit: Besides the obvious physical benefits of exercise, moving even for just 30 minutes per day has incredible benefits for your mental health.
Control: Engage in a minimum of 30 minutes of physical activity per day. Start with something you enjoy! In fact, simply walking for 30 minutes per day is one of the best ways to control your blood sugar and enable long-term mental health and physical health improvements.
Constraint: You may gain or lose energy from being around others, but regardless, like all health habits, nourishing healthy relationships takes time, patience, and consistency.
Benefit: Humans evolved to thrive in societies! We need to feel part of a community to gain any fulfillment in life.
Control: Schedule for quality time with loved ones ahead of time, just like you would for a work meeting. Having a genuine conversation with loved ones is a great way to wind down without electronics before bed! One two punch. Do your best to be vulnerable and transparent with the people you care about, no matter what else is going on around you in your life.
Constraint: With all of the things to pay attention to these days, it can be nearly impossible to focus on what really matters.
Benefit: Aiming for a consistent balance of stress allows you to process information more clearly, enabling you to make the best possible decisions for your health and your life.
Control: We are consistently bombarded with the latest news, hottest trends, and intrapersonal issues via ever more accessible and creative means of communication. Filter the incoming information by intelligently paying attention to the most important things in your life. Prioritize your inputs, starting with the key determinants of your health which are outlined in this post! Embrace a selective bias for the things that make you feel best. You can start to gain the level of awareness that will allow you to accurately notice the way things make you think or feel by beginning a simple meditation practice. Start with just 10 minutes a day utilizing any of the well-studied meditation techniques.