Optimizing your health

part 1-exercise image

I believe we all have an obligation to improve our health so we can have a strong, resilient immune system. As a holistic therapist, when I work with my clients, I use an integrated approach to help them improve their health and wellbeing in the body, mind, and soul.  In the foundation of this approach, I work with the 6 Pillars of Health model.

 Over the next two issues I will give you a brief overview of each of the pillar, namely Movement, Sleep, Breathwork, Mindfulness, Nutrition, and Emotional Health.  Viruses have variants, rather than living in fear of the next variant, let us take empowering steps to create healthy, vital, and joyous lives, secure that our immune system will do what it was designed to do- keep us fighting fit and alive!

Each person’s body is different and may require a different recipe to unlock their health, and so it becomes important to explore which are the right ingredients for you to maximise your health, vitality, and energy. The long-term goal is to optimise all 6 pillars. To help you get there take time to focus on one or two pillars at a time, then sustain those pillars, as you bring onboard more pillars.

1. Movement

We should be moving our bodies daily. Find the movement that best fits you, i.e. walking, running, yoga, cycling, tennis, dancing, etc. Our modern lifestyles, not to mention the pandemic, have made our lives far too sedentary, increasing the risk for several diseases as well as musculoskeletal problems. One of the biggest obstacles to movement is, “not enough time”. The average person spends 2 hours day on their gadgets. Movement does not have to mean 1 hour of movement 5-6 days a week. Even a daily commitment of 20 minutes a day is beneficial.

Movement is important for two main reasons,

1-Improves circulation- your circulatory system floods your cells with oxygen and nutrients which we need for cellular regeneration and repair. It also assists in the draining of toxins from organs and tissues. When this system is working optimally your body feels strong, you feel vital and mentally clear and have a strong sense of feeling well, allowing you to perform at your best. When this system is working poorly, you will notice reduced energy levels, lowered immunity, inflammatory conditions, and pain through the body with longer recovery periods from injury and illness. Lack of movement affects your mental health too. A stagnant body creates a stagnant mind, bringing about low mood, low motivation, lack of interest, and even reclusive behaviour.

2- Stress reduction We have all heard the saying that exercise is good for you. When you move your body releases chemicals called endorphins. Endorphins reduce your perception of pain as well as trigger sensations of feeling positive and energized. Exercise also reduces stress (the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol)”. 

2. Sleep

Sleep is becoming a problem, and it is not just an age thing. We are increasingly seeing reports of younger patients complaining of lack of sleep.  Lack of sleep can raise your risk of heart disease, diabetes, mental health problems, infertility and more. A recent UK Insomnia study found that: 

  • Almost 1 in 5 have trouble falling asleep every single night 
  • Nearly half of the UK have trouble falling asleep at least once a month 

The latest research, from studies in Cambridge, show that a single night of healthy rejuvenating sleep can result in:

  • A more resilient immune system
  • Better mental clarity
  • Reduced stress and anxiety
  • Boosts in your energy levels
  • Better productivity at work
  • Rapid healing

To improve the quality of sleep it’s important to improve your sleep hygiene habits. Here are a few sleep hygiene tips that I always recommend:

  • Stick to a regular sleep/wake schedule.
  • Get some natural light as soon as possible after waking up.
  • Make sure to exercise regularly, preferably during daylight hours.
  • Stop electronic usage minimum of 2 hour before bedtime.
  • 30mins-1hr before bed, do something relaxing, i.e.- read a book, practice breathwork or meditation, try some gentle stretching or relaxation yoga.

3. Breathwork

We do not have to look very far to find information on the benefits of breathwork. Breathwork has been used in ancient traditions for thousands of years. From pranayama in yoga, to breath focused meditations in Buddhism, Sufism, Taoism, Shamanism, Christianity, and martial arts. We have seen a big revolution in breathwork therapies spurred on by research, studies and breathwork programs in the recent 60 years. The list of benefits to practicing breathwork is exhaustive, and for the purpose of this article, I am just going to focus on a few points:

  • Breath improves the respiratory systemBreathing deeply helps to release tension in the diaphragm and primary breathing muscles, relieving many long-term respiratory issues such as asthma and breathlessness. Many breathwork practitioners are using breathwork to support patient with Long-Covid symptoms.
  • Deep breathing down-regulates our sympathetic nervous system, this is our stress (flight and flight) response. By activating the parasympathetic nervous system, it brings us into a relaxed state. We all know by now that stress is one of the main culprits for disease and mental health conditions.
  • Breath strengthens the lymphatic system-The lymphatic system simply put, keeps flowing so that the body can be cleansed. Deep breathing can play an important role in protecting the body from bacteria, viruses, and other threats to our health.

Make sure to catch the next issue, where I talk about the remaining Pillars of health- Mindfulness, Nutrition and Emotional Health.

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