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Take care of the whole you

Did you know that what we eat is key to how we feel? Did you know that what we choose to do with our time, our thoughts and our bodies are all equally important parts of the equation to our overall health? Food and movement are important parts of the equation, we’ve all been told to “eat right and exercise,” but what about those other aspects of our best health?

When I ask a client what they do to take care of themselves, they more often than not make a joke like, “What does that mean?” When I gently probe deeper I hear a lot of things that people would like to do, but they don’t have the time, money and/or energy. Does this sound familiar?

I’m not here to argue how many hours a person needs to work to pay the bills, or how many bills there are, or about the cost of food, or how people don’t have time to take a yoga class, or a walk, or sit in silent contemplation.

The truth is that we always have choices and I propose that we look at the choices we do make to see if we can make any changes to feel more satisfied and gratified at the end of the day.

For instance, how much time do you spend in front of a screen each day, not counting time doing work? This includes TV, video games, any handheld device and computers. Isn’t it remarkable how time seems to fly by when we are engaged in any kind of electronic activity?

Here’s a thought: What if you were to reduce the voluntary time you spend with screens by half? How much free time would you suddenly have then? In that time, could you take that walk, class, or meditate? What about using that time to shop for, prepare and enjoy a delicious and nourishing meal for those you love (even if it’s just for you)? How about taking 2 minutes to go out in the sunshine, close your eyes, take some slow, deep breaths and tell yourself something wonderful.

We tell ourselves we are so busy, and many of us are truly juggling amazing amounts of activities. I propose that we each take six minutes every day, to tune everything out, tune into ourselves, and just breathe. I’m not even talking about six minutes in a row! I’m suggesting taking two minutes in the morning, two minutes in the afternoon and two minutes in the evening to sit still, close your eyes, take five deep, slow breaths and make a simple statement to yourself. Something like, “I am relaxed. I am focused. I have everything I need.” Try it now. How do you feel? Taking just a few moments like this helps to switch our autonomic nervous system from sympathetic (tense, ready for “fight or flight”) to parasympathetic, which is relaxed and calm. It is in the parasympathetic state that we are able to be most productive, effective, happy, and to properly digest our food. Since our overall health depends on the proper digestion of the food we eat to break it down into the nutrients we need to function, being in a calm, relaxed state when you eat is really important.

I offer this friendly challenge to you: For the next week, take those couple of minutes to slow down and breathe deeply. If you forget, that’s OK. The beauty of this is that you can literally do this anytime, anywhere. While you’re lying in bed in the morning, in the shower, while making breakfast, sitting in traffic, walking the dog, these are all great times to consciously stop and focus on breathing. You can even do this while driving but of course keep your eyes open while driving, please! Whenever you think of it, just stop and breathe. Tell yourself something wonderful, like you would tell a beloved child, and see if that doesn’t shift your mood. If you continue to practice this, you will notice that your body will instinctively pause and breathe deeply without your having to think about it. This means that this practice has become part of your daily life and you can trust that it is there when you need it.

You may notice that there is no specific mention of food or nutrition, with the exception of how important it is to be relaxed while eating. I fully believe that taking just a few minutes each day, or whenever you think to, goes a very long way towards our whole health — physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. They are all connected. The food we eat affects how we feel. The amount of sleep, screen time, play time, work and connections we make create how we live our lives. When we feel better, we eat better and we do better.

Jeni Hall of Dublin is a board certified nutritional therapist practicing in the Monadnock region. Her mission is to empower you to heal your own body and keep it healthy. See, for more information.

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