Sometimes people want to make a change, but they don’t know where to start. Before the journey starts it can look like an enormous undertaking and just overwhelming enough to cause a “freeze-or-flight” response. Rather than take that first step, sometimes people tell themselves they’re “too busy” and later would be a better time to start living a better life. I’m telling you there is no better time than the present for a 30 day challenge and the first step is not the leap of faith you might think it is if you pay attention to these five things:
Rest as the best medicine seems common folklore, but sleep seems to be the first thing everyone is willing to sacrifice. We have become a 24-7 culture, always on the go and never enough time to turn off and tune out. However, chronic sleep deprivation has been shown to increase the risk of serious health conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, unhealthy weight, and depression.
Adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep for optimum health. Children need more. Enough quality sleep improves body function and mental function. Sleep is every bit as important to good health as food and water.
No single item on this list is more important than another, but if one were taken for granted more than the others, I’d guess proper hydration probably floats to the top of the list. Dehydration leads to health problems such as high blood pressure, kidney stones, and contributes to headaches, not to mention constipation.
Active adults need at least 2 liters of water every day, if not more. And everybody’s water needs can vary because of age, size, and other health factors. Proper hydration is critical for every function of our body; don’t forget, our bodies are made of mostly water. Water is how our body regulates its temperature and the number one way we clean toxins and pathogens from our bodies (inside and out). I challenge you to drink more water!
There is probably no other topic on this list that is more contentious than a diet. In fact, common sense dictates the three topics to steer away from in mixed company is politics, religion, and diet. Rather than taking a position on what one should eat or not eat, let’s first scrub this issue down very narrowly so there is no room for misunderstanding.
For the purpose of this conversation, let’s draw an analogy between our bodies being like an engine and the fact that every engine needs a source of fuel. There are all kinds of sources of fuel – gas, electric, solar, biomass, etc. And where we should leave it today is asking what is your source of fuel and how much of it are you consuming? In other words, do you know what kind of fuel you are putting in the gas-tank and what kind of gas mileage you are getting?
There is something hypnotic about a big comfy chair. It’s no surprise that Americans love our “Lazyboy” culture with bigger screens and fast food delivered right to our armchair. In fact, I’m quite convinced when I tell people rest is good medicine, this is what they imagine and not more sleep. A lack of physical activity in one’s life contributes to difficulties in managing metabolism, body weight, appetite, and sleep cycles. People who have a sedentary lifestyle are at higher risk of cancer and heart disease. The amount we move even effects the way we think and our mood.
Often people need an excuse to get moving. They think they need to join a gym, take a class, or buy some fitness equipment to get healthy. These can all be great if those get you on your feet, but it can be as simple as taking a walk and that’s where I ask (challenge!) everyone to start. Aside from shoes, there is really no investment necessary to walk around. Whether one walks the dog or takes a hike, doesn’t really matter. And as far as time, one really can’t afford not to get moving, so start paying attention to things like:
- Move ten minutes for every hour you sit
- Don’t waste time looking for the closest parking space… walk
- If there is an elevator, there are stairs; find them and use them
Psychologists define motivation as one’s general willingness to do something; a force that compels action. I think a better definition is the pain one feels from not doing something starts to outweigh the pain of doing something different. The word itself comes from a Latin root that means to move, so what happens is occasionally people have the epiphany that they need a change in their life.
When people are active their mood and attitude improve so it’s not surprising to learn happy people tend to be active people. They also get more done and have more success in life as well. I’m sure that helps their motivation.
So, this is where we will draw our line in the sand, and I will ask you if you are ready for a change? I am proposing a challenge for you. I’m not asking you to change your life overnight. I’m asking you to be more conscientious about these five things for 30 days.
I’ve done this exercise myself and it helped me immensely. In fact, I didn’t just do thirty days. I journaled daily for years with pen and paper, but this was before we had apps and iPhones. Today, there are any number of free apps we can use on our smartphones that can help us keep track and guide our choices in these five categories: Sleep, Hydration (water), Fuel (calories), movement (pedometer) and motivation. MyFitnessPal is just one that comes to mind. I’m sure you can tell me about others. Please do let me know if you accepted my 30 day challenge. My email is below. I’d love to hear from you.