I wanted to start the year by offering a few healthy thoughts and pieces of advice that might help to get the year off to a fresher, healthier start. They’re all things that I think/do personally.
Scientists around the world agree that free radicals accelerate the aging process. They are small molecules that are incomplete and so pinch energy from anything nearby, which might be important cells and even DNA, thus degrading the body.
Antioxidants mop up free radicals by supplying them with energy. Drinks like green tea, fruits like blueberries, spices like cinnamon, and even vitamin C are excellent antioxidants.
Practices like yoga, tai-chi, and meditation also mop up free radicals from the inside. Research at Harvard in 2008 showed that a short course in either of these practices activated genes that produced the body’s own antioxidants. A daily practice can definitely keep you younger.
Boost Your Immune System
Studies of cultures who live longest often reveals that they eat more than us. Well, not exactly more, but more ingredients.
As we increase the number of ingredients on our plate, we introduce a greater range of bacteria to our immune system. I know it sounds gross to talk about introducing bacteria, but our immune systems respond by developing immunity.
It works on a similar principle to how puppies and dogs can boost our immune systems. They bring in so much dirt on their paws that it exposes us to a wider spectrum of bacteria.
In time, our immune system becomes broader ranging and more robust. In some ways, it’s the opposite to living in an overly sterile environment, where the immune system doesn’t get a chance to build up because there’s not a diverse enough range of bacteria and other pathogens for it to tackle.
You want to protect yourself from getting the cold? Eat more…..ingredients.
A simple relaxation technique that I personally use when I feel stressed is that I interrupt the effect on my mind and nervous system by taking a few deep breaths. Sometimes I even take a sharp intake of breath, to interrupt the train of though that is producing the stress. This is a bit of a no brainer and most people know about it, but you’ll be surprised at how many people do know it but almost never do it.
Another thing I do is to picture the stress as an inflated balloon. Then I take a deep breath and as I exhale I imagine letting the air out of the balloon. The does 2 things to the body:
The first is that the breathing activates the vagus nerve, which controls the heart. As we exhale, the vagus nerve causes the heart rate to slow and blood pressure to drop, and our physiology moves toward the ‘rest and relax’ mode.
Secondly, the symbolic picture of the inflated balloon deflating represents the stress reducing. It tells our brain that we are feeling better. Psychologically, this eases our emotions.
I do this until I no longer feel uptight. It usually only takes a few breaths.
Gratitude to improve happiness
When life leaves us feeling frazzled, few of us realise that the ability to turn ourselves around lie within ourselves.
Research shows that a powerful antidote to feeling the blues is called a ‘gratitude intervention’. Many find it works even better than an antidepressant.
All you have to do is make a small list every day, preferably before going to bed at night, of 5-10 things that you are grateful for that happened in the last 24 hours.
And other studies have shown that a ‘kindness intervention’ can make us happier. The rules, here, are to choose one day of the week and commit 3-5 acts of kindness on it. Some people find it to be life changing.
Well, I hope those few simple thoughts are useful for you this month, and perhaps are also things you can recall from time to time throughout the year.
Copyright 2013 David R. Hamilton PhD.