Five Ways To Reclaim Your Health and Vitality (for free)!
I’m not sick, but I’m Not well.
As the wise words of 90’s rock band, Harvey Danger, puts so well, I think it’s safe to agree that many of this feel this way. Not sick, but not thriving either.
I think we can all admit that we are stressed the f*ck out. It’s our culture, after all. Let’s just take a look at the grim statistics of the United States population, provided by the National Alliance on Mental Illness on mental health and wellness.
Psychiatric disorders affect 26% of our adult population (that’s over 70 million Americans).
Over 20% of American children have some type of psychiatric problem.
Over 40 million Americans have anxiety.
Over 20 million Americans have depression.
One in 10 Americans takes an antidepressant. In fact, antidepression prescriptions have tripled over the last 30 years.
Alzheimer’s disease is expected to affect 30% of the population, and 50% of the population aged 85 and older, by 2050.
Dr. Mark Hymn, a leading integrative neuroscientist, claims that as a society, our brains are broken. These sick, overly stressed out brains are leading us into mass unproductivity, depression, anxiety, dementia, and a whole slew of physical disorders and ailments.
So what do we do? Besides eating better and taking supplements, of course, which can be pretty costly and at times confusing, I’ve cleared the path into what I believe are five profound yet straightforward actionable steps to help us reduce stress and become clear-headed and robust again. And none of these cost you any money.
Unfortunately, about 42% of the American population is Vitamin D deficient, which means chronic fatigue, weakness, and depression.
Sunbathing, the free act of basking in direct sunlight for at least 10-20 minutes a day, has been shown to increase Vitamin D uptake, clear skin, boost immune and mood, decrease depression, and help you sleep more soundly.
I believe the sunscreen industry has done a fantastic job at keeping us afraid of the sun, and studies shown that being in direct sunlight, without any sunscreen, is the best way to activate your Vitamin D production. Of course, if you are spending more than 20 minutes in the sun, SPF lotion is a must!
Also called shinrin-yoku, forest bathing is a simple and easily accessible act of surrounding yourself in trees. Some call this tree bathing and has even been coined nature therapy, as its most important benefit is its ability to reduce stress. According to the American Psychological Association, chronic stress is linked to the six leading causes of death: heart disease, cancer, lung ailments, accidents, cirrhosis of the liver and suicide. So pay attention if you feel yourself heading down that stress-induced path and be sure to find yourself some trees.
Forest bathing has been shown to rejuvenate your energy levels, lower blood pressure and cortisol levels, boost immune functions, and decrease feelings of anxiety and depression. If this free therapy isn’t appealing to you, then I don’t know what is!
One of the most important, yet often highly ignored factor to thriving health- drinking enough water. Did you know that 75% of Americans are chronically dehydrated? Yeah. F*cking astonishing. Dehydration is the most preventable medical conditions in the world, yet us humans just can’t seem to keep up with our unquenchable thirst.
In my opinion, just being aware that we need SO MUCH water is what helps me keep it up. That and not wanting to deal with fatigue, brain fog, irritability, constipation, and headaches all the time.
It is recommended to have 8 servings of 8 fl oz filtered water per day (totally to 32 fl oz/day). Also, keep in mind that caffeine, alcohol, and a diet high in sodium can offset your seemingly adequate intake of water. A more intuitive approach is to keep water around you, especially in the car when water isn’t as accessible, and sip all day to prevent the feeling of thirst. Thirst is the number one sign of dehydration, and you want to avoid that.
Negative thoughts and stress do awful things to your body. Your body actually governs your stress response and your relaxation response through what is called the autonomic nervous system. There are two parts to this system- the sympathetic nervous system, the one responsible for your stress response, and your parasympathetic system, the one responsible for your relaxation. We need them both, but when out of balance, our bodies spin out of control.
In America, we tend to live a high-stress lifestyle. Long commutes in traffic, overcaffeinated, overworked, too much screen time, stressful kinds of exercise, not enough sunshine, diets high in refined sugars and fake stuff, you name the stressor, and we’ve got it. These two systems are controlled by the command and control center of the brain, the hypothalamus, the tiny yet extremely powerful gland that sits in the center of the brain. When we are stressed out, the hypothalamus alerts all parts of our body through the sympathetic nervous system, this is known as our “fight or flight” response. Again, a beautifully necessary part of the human body, but too much can be an awful thing.
What was once meant as the alertness and energy-releasing system we needed to survive the lion’s den, is now an unremitting, unrelenting stress alert thanks to stressful inputs that attack our systems. The lion is now work deadlines, nutrient-depleted diets, our processed diet, environmental toxins, gut problems, electro-pollutants, and a lost sense of control and community.
Reducing the stressful response and flowing into the relaxation state will wake you up and allow you to be present in your life.
So, how to actively relax? Ancient techniques like deep breathing, dancing, journaling, prayer, and daily meditation.
I will be honest, I was the worst at mediating when I first started. And I’m still learning. But I tell myself this, the harder it is to quiet my mind, the more necessary it is for me to ease my mind through meditation and breathing. First and foremost.
A great way to get started with meditation is by starting with 1-3 minutes each morning. All you do is sit in a comfortable position, align your posture, and focus on your breathing. Gently let go of the thoughts that wander through your mind. Remember, this is a practice, not a destination.
Mentioned above is what I will reiterate here, we are too darn stressed out! Socializing- in real life- is a beautiful way to de-stress, elevate your mood, and may even boost your creativity and inspiration!. And this too can be free.
Some ways I like to socialize for free is sparking up a conversation in line, at the cafe, the park, by playing with my son and asking him questions that spark conversation, have slumber parties or dinner nights with my girlfriends, and by talking on the phone with my mom.
These five profound and generally free things are what will indeed propel your mental, physical, and spiritual wellbeing. Remember that human IS nature, and when we simply just be with and celebrate nature (and ourselves), our functions start to heal and thrive.
Stress is good to have, it’s what keeps us alert and alive. But too much pressure, as we can see, is detrimental. Remember to care for yourself through relaxation and ease.
The simplest things in life are free, and always seem to be the best medicine.