As a nurse anesthetist and an acupuncturist, I treat patients with a balance of traditional Western and Chinese medicine. Besides acupuncture needles, I use techniques like massage, prescribe herbs, and offer dietary, health and lifestyle change advice. In addition, I take blood pressure, interpret blood tests, and get people to the doctor when needed. From my many years of experience in both healing realms, I would like to give you the following list of things that I think would greatly improve your health.
Drink more water
Our bodies are 80% water—we need it all day, every day, for every bodily process, from large to microscopic. Depending on the climate, the average person can handle drinking 1-2 liters per day. Water hydrates tissue, helps clear toxins, and keeps the body at maximum function. If you don’t like plain water, mix a cup of any herbal tea into a liter bottle—it makes water tastier, and it will be gone in a flash.
Engage in Deep Breathing
Most people don’t realize that their general breathing is too shallow. When we feel stress, our breath automatically becomes more shallow and rapid. By paying attention to our breathing—and training it to be slow, deep, easy and gentle—we temper the stress we are experiencing, protect our adrenals from exhaustion, and activate our body’s own self-healing systems.
We are meant to move! Our bodies are not designed to be stationary. They are meant be fairly active, except while sleeping or resting. Too much sitting, or a more sedentary lifestyle, can be damaging to the spleen and digestive system. Chronic inactivity causes weight gain, lethargy, and painful joints and muscles, due to blood stagnation. Daily exercise, like walking and dancing, aerobics, and swimming, will improve all of your bodily functions. Exercise increases happy hormones like endorphins–so do it to boost your mood too!
Meditation is a method of creating self-awareness. It creates calm, and even improves healing. Stress reduction is one of the most common reasons people try meditation. Daily (or even weekly) meditation—for even a few minutes every day—can decrease anxiety, lengthen your attention span, and promote your emotional health. It is a wonder everyone isn’t practicing meditation every day!
Stretch before Bed
We often do morning stretches, but it is equally important to have a nighttime stretching routine—even just a few minutes of stretching can break up stagnation, loosen the muscles, and get circulation to the places that really need it. Stretching only in the morning doesn’t help much if one sits at a desk for the rest of the day. Try to incorporate night stretching to help prevent joint stiffness and pains.
Get to bed earlier
We know that our body rests and rejuvenates with a good night’s sleep. The Chinese teach that each organ system has a specific time of the day that it needs to rest and replenish itself. For instance, the liver’s time for optimal body-detoxing is between 1-3 am (although it works at detoxifying the body all day long). It is at this time that the liver not only cleanses our entire bodies, but actually cleanses itself. If we get too little sleep or are awake during these times, the liver can’t do its job, and we don’t wake up adequately cleansed and refreshed. We feel better rested after at least 6 hours of restful sleep, and our organs have had the opportunity to rest too.
Connect with your spiritual self
Spiritual nourishment is just as important as physical nourishment. If we ignore the spiritual side of ourselves, emotions of stress, grief, depression or anxiety build and create physical imbalances like pain and disease. Engaging in prayer and religious practices is extremely nourishing to the soul, but even practices as simple as journaling, yoga, and meditation go a long way in setting the stage for a peaceful existence, despite how hectic or stressful our lives may get.
Drink healthy teas
Choose healthy teas over soda! Soda contains phosphoric acid that harms bone health and sugars that create and aggravate inflammation of the digestive system and muscles. Warm mild teas are known to be more supportive to the digestive system, and adding a bitter flavor can clear excess heat and dampness in the body like fungus, yeast and Candida infections. Drinking teas can detox the liver and hydrate the body as well.
Begin conscious eating
Mindfulness is a new buzzword when it comes to healthy living these days—but it is exactly what we need to keep healthy in all areas of our lives. Mindful eating means being sensitive to the portions we eat, the type of food we eat, the way we eat, as well as where we eat. Eating on the run, in the car, and late at night doesn’t allow for the body to digest properly. Too much or too little food won’t give us the nourishment we need. When we don’t bring consciousness into our eating habits, our digestive system becomes overwhelmed and slows down, we don’t sleep well, and we may have menstrual difficulties or mood disorders.
Listen to your body
When in balance, our bodies have the amazing ability to self-heal. When we are out of balance, physical alarms may go off in the form of fatigue, depression, or pain. It is important for us to listen to early warning signals that clue us in on an imbalance we need to address and correct, before it becomes a bigger problem. Part of self-care and improved health is listening to what our bodies are telling us. We need to learn to listen to our bodies, in addition to making lifestyle and dietary changes, reducing stress, drinking more water, eating better, and getting more sleep. These are all simple—yet extremely important—ways of taking care of ourselves so we can live long, healthy lives, G-d willing!