Your body runs on cycles, and it naturally desires to be in sync – regular, routine, rhythmic. Many things can cause your life (and body) to fall out of sync, and suffer a number of consequences such as sleep deprivation, irritability, tearfulness, and physical ailments. I am a big believer in the major positive impact basic necessities such as exercise, sleep, and healthy eating can make in one’s overall well-being.
Updated research continues to prove that a moderate level of exercise (even 30-40 minutes a couple times a week) releases that natural happy chemical, serotonin, into your body to boost mood and energy levels. If you add exercise with nature, you have a double boost! Research has consistently linked spending time outdoors with lower levels of stress and decrease of thought rumination (sticky thinking) – not to mention the physical effects of lower blood pressure and weight management.
Feeling stretched thin, out of control, and in emotional turmoil fuels a stress-produced hormone called cortisol. If you haven’t had a good night’s sleep, it can cause even the most emotionally stable person to be knocked off kilter. Set a goal of going to bed at the same time every night. When your body cycles don’t have a set rhythm, your body clashes with itself. Yes, even on the weekends!
The adage is also true that you are what you eat. If you feel low from life stressors, prolonged anxiety or depression, and top it off with eating junk – it does no good. The United States, on average, consumes twice as much sugar compared to other nations. Even when it temporarily “feels good” to take down a pile of nachos or ice cream sundae, sugar spikes cause (again with the body rhythms) an imbalance your body has to adjust to. No wonder you feel like you need a nap after overeating. The sugar high brings a crash, which gets in the way of any desire to exercise or conquer daily tasks. On the contrary, if you feed yourself healthy fruits and veggies, good fats, and whole grains, you will have the energy needed to make it through that difficult work venture or have the presence of mind to tackle negative emotions. When you make short-term sacrifices for longer-term benefits, you feel better in the long run.
It’s also important to plan ahead. If you are starving after classes or work, it’s late and you don’t have anything planned for dinner, you are significantly more likely to run through the drive-through as opposed to eating a healthier crock-pot meal.
The overall goal is to increase the happy serotonin, and decrease the negative cortisol. Of course another helpful and important aspect of setting healthy rhythms is setting realistic goals. Manageable, specific goals are significantly more achievable. If you aren’t willing to cut out all desserts after meals, don’t set that as your goal. Instead be aware and limit the portion of your desert or high-carb snacks. If you don’t believe it’s possible to run a marathon by next month (or even next year) don’t set it; instead, find something reachable, whether it’s a zumba class or a hike in the woods with friends this weekend. If you can’t commit to going to bed at the same time each night, make it a point to sleep in only one extra hour on Saturday. Chances are, when you start to make some small healthy choices, you will notice an improvement in your well-being and it will motivate you to make one more healthy decision next week.