Little Steps. Healthy Results

Words: Dr Rajgopal NIDAMBOOR

You don’t need to think in terms of a huge investment of time, energy, and an extended plan for good-for-your-body lifestyle changes. Simple, but important, health solutions don’t cost you anything. It is all a question of adding a banana to your morning bowl of cereal breakfast, keeping your car farther away from the parking lot, walking 250 feet to office, climbing the staircase to reach your desk etc. This completed, you are already making modifications, and getting better and healthier.

However, if you think it sounds difficult, there is no need to fret, or frown. Here’s a practical plan you can easily embark upon — for better health and a healthier you. In simple terms, they are easy-to-achieving, no-nonsense ways to better your mind, body, and spirit, right away.

You should, to begin with, not only think of physical-health plans, but also mental-health, and nutritional-health parameters. This is not as complex as it sounds; it’s an achievable prospect. All you need to do is provide, not actually invest, just a little bit of time and focused attention.

Lifestyle changes and the advantages derived therefrom have been best evidenced, for example, in the work of the pioneering physician Dr Dean Ornish, MD, and his successful ‘Reversing Heart Disease Programme.’ Dr Ornish’s comprehensive plan combines dietary changes, stress management, exercise, cessation of smoking, and group support. It also combines yoga, relaxation, meditation, and visualisation, not to speak of spiritual elements in life.

The plan’s overall theme is simple — dietary changes may be crucial for someone with a history of poor eating habits. Stress management, likewise, may be equally important for someone with a highly stressed, or stressful, life. In its general form, Ornish’s programme takes a multi-factorial perspective of health and well-being — it helps you to be you, in word and deed.

Hygiene

The first and primary objective of any health plan is hygiene. The introductory point is taking care. How you do this — simply stop sharing basic items, your towels, napkins etc., with others. Towels and napkins remove mucous and germs from the body — they make perfect carriers for colds, eye infections, and other transmissible ailments. You should allocate a different coloured towel and napkin set to each member of your family. This will not only lead to better hygiene and health, but will also help avoid the use of towels not meant for the other person.

Common Cold

Cold is one the most annoying and stressing of ailments. One great way of preventing colds is by washing your hands thoroughly. Use a mild, antiseptic soap. Rinse thoroughly with a dry cloth, or paper napkin. Don’t use the dryer — dryers carry germs when you switch them on. Alternately, you can use a lotion. Lotions, unlike soap are better; they don’t dry out and/or crack your hands. Your hands will also stay soft and be less susceptible to infection — fewer cracks in your skin means fewer hiding places for bacteria.

One more important thing is you should keep your hands away from your face and nose — to the best extent possible. Don’t rub your face with your hands — a common practice. Use your hands only when you are washing your face with soap and water.

Remember — when you touch your face often, or even on occasions, the more dirt and germs you attract on to your skin and pores. This results in breakouts of infection-induced problems, including common cold, a disconcerting malady.

You should always challenge your mind with simple things in life. If you are a right-hander, try doing a few things like writing with your left-hand [it’s difficult, though], as and when you can. This indirectly helps you get a confidence boost. Try also to eat sometimes with your less dominant hand. You will think it is funny — but, it helps.

Food 

Most people don’t have time for themselves, even when they eat food. One easy and best way of giving time to oneself is by making lunchtime your own personal time. To think of yourself as a person as you chew your food. It helps you connect with yourself. It also gives you the room to unwind yourself and provides you the time to make personal phone calls, may be go for a quick stroll, or window shopping. In other words, it endows you with a few simple tricks — tricks that help you ‘pump-in’ more energy into your post-lunch session work and, thereafter, at home.

Sunlight

Savour the warmth of the sun — go out and face the sun for a few minutes each day — not for too long. Do not look at the sun directly. The warm rays of the sun are a natural mood-booster. They lead to the channelling of vitamin D. The nutrient, as you know, not only prevents but also treats major health affections, including bone disorders and breast cancer, diabetes and psoriasis, to mention just a few. The worst part — most of us may be grossly, but alarmingly, deficient of the nutrient. Go for a simple test, and you will know.

Relationships

Try to maintain healthy relationships, especially with people you get along well with. A warm smile, or a hug, from friends are essential for happiness — not the sharp words — overt, or covert — of those who have an open or closed agenda to bring you down in front of others. Unwanted verbal skirmishes have a deleterious effect on your emotional well-being. Though it may sound forceful, it is often worthwhile for you to break off from relationships with people who deplete your energy levels. This is actually a big step to optimal health and well-being.

Gadgets

When you reach home, don’t you allow yourself to be a slave of technological glitz. You need to unplug yourself — unless you’re aware of something urgent in the offing. When you keep yourself away from your laptop, TV, or PC, and also the ubiquitous cell phone, or telephone, you are better able to relax in your psyche, and enjoy the calm of your home. Most of us have an addiction for E-mail — to quickly check if there is any message, even late at night. This is an ‘unknown’ invite to stress. You don’t think so, but it is. When you avoid the urge, and get on with something more comforting, you will sure feel serene and family-centred.

Smoking 

Avoid smoking for your health’s sake and your family. This includes passive, or second-hand, smoke. For non-smokers, sharing a home, or living with a smoker is harmful. This is also damaging to your eating habits. Research testifies that non-smoking women who live with smokers consume more total and saturated fat. They also consume less fibre, vitamin A and folates, than do co-habiting non-smokers. 

Coffee & Tea

Enjoy your coffee, but avoid your plentiful cups of it. Drink green tea, without sugar and milk. Several studies suggest that drinking green tea improves the functioning of cells that line the blood vessels; it reduces your levels of stress, blood sugar [especially, in diabetics], high blood pressure and cholesterol and, therefore, the risk of heart disease. Green tea is also said to be a nourishing phytonutrient, nutraceutical, or functional food, that has anti-cancer properties.

Other Things To Do

You can also experiment, and with good effect. Try a substitution diet — by not doing away with flavour, and improving your diet. Use lemon juice instead of salt on rice, or pasta. Substitute low-fat yogurt for mayonnaise, and applesauce, or mashed bananas, for butter, or oil, especially in baked foods.

Go Green & Supplement Well

Add a lot of greens in your salad. Introduce a good, natural dietary supplement into your diet. Take spirulina, one capsule, or tablet, a day, with a meal, along with a multivitamin-mineral pill.

Take two teaspoonfuls of Chyavanaprasha, the Ayurvedic anti-aging tonic, on an empty stomach every morning.

You may also take Ashwagandha [Withania somnifera], one capsule [500mg], preferably 45 minutes before bedtime, with a glass of lukewarm milk, in conjunction with more than a dash of turmeric in it. Ashwagandha is a great anti-stress herb. It not only helps you to reduce your stress and anxiety levels, it also promotes good, natural sleep, which is therapeutic.

You could also think of brahmi [Bacopa monnieri], a nootropic, just as well, for the purpose.

Be that as it may, it is imperative that you consult your wellness physician, or therapist, before taking any food, dietary, nutraceutical, or herbal supplement — including appropriate dosages, among other things.

Dr RAJGOPAL NIDAMBOOR, PhD, is a wellness physician-writer-editor, independent researcher, critic, columnist, author and publisher. His published work includes hundreds of newspaper, magazine, web articles, essays, meditations, columns, and critiques on a host of subjects, eight books on natural health, two coffee table tomes and an encyclopaedic treatise on Indian philosophy. He is Chief Wellness Officer, Docco360 — a mobile health application/platform connecting patients with Ayurveda, homeopathic and Unani physicians, and nutrition therapists, among others, from the comfort of their home — and, Editor-in-Chief, ThinkWellness360. 

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