A few years back, I received a question during an evening seminar: “Besides good nutrition, what do you do to maintain your health?”
What a great question, especially at the beginning of a new year! As I continue to grow older, I’m proud to report that my high energy levels are relentless. From early until late, day in and day out I stay energized virtually 100% of the time, with very good health and very few symptoms or diagnoses.
Of course what we talk about most, on this blog, is the critical role of a consistent, three-meals-a-day healthy diet.
Whole, plant-based, clean food is the bulk (90-95%) of what I eat. My core value, when it comes to food, is to be disciplined without being obsessive. I eat in restaurants. I eat “fun” food. I don’t consider it “cheating,” because that’s diet-think!
But there is much more that I do to maintain my health, besides eating good food. The steps I’m about to explain are some common practices from my own life. But it’s more: it’s observations of people late in life who are in optimal health—compared to most of their peers, whose main focus in life is surviving their many disease states.
Most of the practices on this list don’t even take much time, and they can be done while doing the dishes or driving in the car. Many of them are more about emotional than physical health—but is there any differentiating them, really?
Both my academic training, and my life experience, tells me that these 14 things are game-changers. Every single one is important.
It changed my life. I’m more flexible now than I was as a teen. But yoga has done more for me than that. It has helped me quiet my mind and tune in to the most elemental things: breathing, and just “being.” I have also seen improvements in spinal, joint, ligament flexibility and dexterity.
Yoga opens energy meridians, improves brain function, decreases risk of injury, and elevates mood. It makes you feel youthful, more athletic, more sexual, and more joyous!
I don’t just do an hour-long yoga practice with an instructor, three times a week. I do it in airports and on airplanes, too. Just for a few minutes. I’m often upside down in an inversion, when I’m talking on the phone. My work philosophy is: sit less, do yoga more.
There are more ways than just yoga to connect your body, mind, and spirit, including Tai Chi, Pilates, meditation, and many other practices. My favorite, when I take the time and am willing to stand in a puddle of my own sweat for 90 minutes, is Bikram Yoga (“hot yoga”). You’ll never feel more amazing than you do after Bikram Yoga.
2. CONTROL MY THOUGHTS AND SPEECH.
Emotionally healthy people are physically healthy people. They stay in high-vibration emotions and thoughts. They don’t nurse grudges, don’t spend their social time with people cataloging the ways others have wronged them or the hurts of the past. I’m not saying I—or any emotionally healthy person—doesn’t ever feel, or act, negatively.
If I am feeling troubled, I use a thought process to work through it. I remind myself, “It’s just a feeling and all feelings are temporary.” I dig, to find out out why I’m having the negative or intense feeling or thought. I give it some space, sit with it if it’s demanding attention, without judgment. If I’m having trouble figuring it out, I talk with someone who knows me well, and they help me to decode it.
(Check out episodes 6 and 7, of my Your High Vibration Life podcast, on How to Metabolize, Reframe, and Release Any Negative Emotion in 90 Seconds.)
I actively cultivate happiness and hope with the music I listen to and activities I devote my time to. My favorite is Michael Tyrell’s 7 “Whole Tones” musical pieces, which were written around the 7 most healing frequencies for human beings!
If I have a bad day, I don’t climb in bed and brood. I work—solve problems, write, collaborate with others.
Or I go skiing, or for a bike ride, or do yoga in my back yard in the grass, because in the great outdoors, I’ve learned I find more clarity of thought, and more joy. I’m a fan of MOVING ON.
I’m careful with controlling my mind. I don’t let it go to low places, not often, and not for long. I haven’t watched TV in 8 years. I don’t look at pornography or watch dark or scary movies. I do read books, both fiction and non-fiction.
I take on challenges, spend time with and talk to people I love, discipline my thoughts and feelings away from pointlessly “spinning in circles.”
3. CLEAN WATER—HAVE IT EVERYWHERE.
I had a water feature in the entry of my last home. I love oceans, and rain, and putting my feet in rivers, and taking a bath after a hard workout, as well as gliding through frozen snow on skis.
Just like all of us, I am made up of more than 70 percent water, so I drink it all day long to bathe my cells and flush out my kidneys, liver, and colon. I always drink two glasses of water when I wake up dehydrated in the morning. I do not drink it with meals, where it dilutes gastric juices, but rather, between meals.
I try to drink clean, alkaline water, and have it with me everywhere I go. People who drink lots of water are much less likely to overeat.
4. DETOXIFY REGULARLY.
When I come back from a vacation trip, or if I had a not-so-great Saturday night restaurant meal with friends, I spend a day, or several, letting my body rest and clean itself. That is, I drink mostly green smoothies and fresh vegetable juices.
I skip a meal fairly often, but I never skip breakfast. I often skip dinner and I never eat late at night. Sometimes I’ll eat all raw plant food for several days. Sometimes a whole day of nothing but watermelon. Or a whole day of nothing but green smoothies.
I try to pay attention to my body’s need to repair, from any insult or injury or overwork. Horse owners know that it is unwise to ride their animals hard and then put them away without sufficient cooling down and some aftercare.
If I have an extreme workout, which I occasionally do, I slow down afterward to help my body recover properly.
5. SURROUND YOURSELF WITH EXTRAORDINARY PEOPLE.
Have you heard that you tend to have the average income of the 5 people you hang around with most? I believe, too, that we eat similarly to those we are closest to. We think similar thoughts and have similar feelings. We are either lifted up, or pulled down, by those we allow to be closest to us. Who are the five people closest to you—and do they add energy, or drain it?
I’m protective of my physical and emotional health, so I seek out people who make me want to be my best self, and try to give that to them. I love to be around people who are trying to be THEIR best selves by growing, learning and reading every day. I enjoy exploring principles, goals, science, faith, questions, and new knowledge with my friends, rather than indulging in gossip and idle small talk.
And, although I have friends who struggle, whom I try to help—I minimize contact with people who consistently bleed energy and don’t choose to progress. I don’t avoid people going through challenges, but I recognize people who, like me, are committed to growth and progress, even and especially in their challenges, and I nurture those relationships. We need each other. And we’re best not in dependence, or independence, but rather–interdependence.
6. GET REGULAR PHYSICAL TOUCH.
Sex is an important part of a healthy life, and people with good, monogamous sexual relationships are more likely to have good emotional and physical health. But part of the reason why might surprise you: it’s due to the fact that their need for physical touch is being met.
Everyone has read about how babies and young children need touch almost as much as they need food and water. It is actually critical to our survival. Babies in orphanages who are never touched wither away, do not develop normally, and sometimes die or have severe personality disorders.
One way I have met this need, since becoming single years ago, is with massage. That’s right. I’m not afraid to admit it. When I’m not in an intimate relationship, I pay for appropriate physical touch! It accomplishes some of the same benefits.
7. GIVE AND SERVE EVERY DAY.
To people who least expect it. When no one is looking. To people who don’t deserve it from you. And especially to people who do! Expect nothing in return. Little is more satisfying and more conducive to your own good health, than service. Serve when it’s inconvenient, when you don’t feel like it, when you’re tired. Not always—it’s okay to say no—but sometimes.
Smile and wave at someone who flips you off, when you’re driving. Love better, love more, find new ways to love. Observe the ways your family and friends want to be loved, and meet them there–rather than giving love your own preferred way. Spend a whole day in service. Find a custodian or a server or a bus driver and tell them how much you appreciate their work.
Acknowledge your innate selfishness. And then feel the full measure of your humanity—what differentiates us from animals—when you do the right thing for someone else even though you had 20 pressing things on your to-do list and the personal sacrifice feels significant.
8. BREAK A SWEAT EVERY DAY.
Maybe you’re like me and it doesn’t feel like a workout unless you’ve done it for 60 minutes. Or maybe you spend only 20 minutes in high-intensity workout like my very fit friends Dr. Jared Nielsen and JJ Virgin, too (I’ve recently adopted this method of working out and I love it).
Whatever method you wish! As the actor Matthew McConaughey said, “break one sweat a day.”
Take one or two rest days, per week, but not more. Do something you like, at least some of the time. (I admit, I put my time in with running, which I don’t particularly enjoy. But I also do things I love, like cycling, tennis, and Zumba.)
The body wants to sweat, it wants to move, it wants to be outdoors. Breaking a sweat is key to getting on top of mood disorders. Sex and exercise yield the best endorphins, and even single people can get those endorphins with the latter activity, anytime!
9. GET IN THE SUN.
There is no substitute. Take your Vitamin D3 + K2 in the winter, great idea—but we still need sunshine. Human beings had no problem getting regular sunshine until the past few generations. With the shift away from an agricultural society, populations, in general, now spend the majority of their time indoors.
Turns out, it is a misconception that people should stay out of the sun and/or slather themselves with sunscreen. In fact, the #1 correlate for cancer risk is how far from the Equator you are! The further away, the less sun, the higher the cancer risk. High Vitamin D levels actually correlate to low cancer risk.
Lack of sunshine is also a perfect recipe for depression. In the last two decades, a diagnosis of “Seasonal Affective Disorder” is practically an epidemic. That’s because people who live far from the Equator, with long, overcast winters, are living in conditions that few humans ever have—totally indoors. Our biology demands sunshine and everything that comes with it—hands in the black dirt, grounding us, feet in the grass, breathing clean air, and feeling the warm sun on our skin.
Don’t wash that Vitamin D off when you come inside. It takes hours for it to internalize, as hormone, and work with calcium to build bone.
10. CULTIVATE GRATITUDE.
Feeling resentful and oppressed is easy. It takes just a bit of effort, discipline, and purpose to spend a few minutes daily shifting into a mindset of gratitude. But choosing gratitude quickly transforms a bleak mood. Every day I try to marvel at the cool things in my life. Usually it happens organically, but occasionally I just push my mind there. Fake it until you make it!
Do gratitude exercises even when you’re not in the mood, and suddenly you will find you ARE in the mood.
I list the amazing stuff in my life. I sit in wonder. Try to apply words to the amazing catalog of blessings that have been laid at your feet—in counterpoint to some significant challenges, too. Sometimes, most days, I say out loud to myself, spontaneously,
“I love my life!”
Not often enough, I send texts to people to thank them for small things that mean something to me, or better yet, tell them to their face. I’ve decided that while I’m great at expressing gratitude via email and text, an in-person compliment, or thank-you, is worth twice as much.
I try to make compliments and thank-you’s as specific and authentic as possible.
Be like a child for five minutes a day—as if everything amazing around you is BRAND NEW!
11. TAKE 30 DEEP BREATHS A DAY.
Do it outside, in clean air, if possible.
Heart attack survivors who learned how to breathe deeply, using the diaphragm, had fewer subsequent cardiac events, in one research study. Some years ago I read, “Breath turns fear to excitement,” and I’ve found this to be true. You can’t help deep breathing from calming you. Moods lifting and calming down are natural products of oxygenation.
I love to enhance this exercise with a drop of essential oil rubbed into my hands, cupped around my mouth and nose as I inhale. My energy changes radically and I feel calm and peaceful.
Did you know that an hour of sleep before midnight is worth two hours after midnight? Getting enough sleep doesn’t mean getting 8 hours—not for everyone, and not every night. The most important thing may be to complete sleep cycles.
The body sleeps in 90-minute cycles, regulated by your circadian hormones. If you wake up naturally, after 4.5 hours, having completed three full cycles, you may be more rested than if you slept 8 hours and were awakened by your alarm clock while you’re in one of the deep, restorative stages of sleep! I think alarm clocks are terrible for our health.
So, go to bed early. And, try to go to bed at the same time every night. You’re training your brain and body when to shut down. Then you’ll wake up naturally, rather than to the alarm. If you wake up at 4 a.m., no big deal, if you went to bed at 10 p.m. You might be surprised at how rested you are all day.
Sometimes hormonal imbalances disrupt your circadian rhythms. Because minerals are key to regulating hormones, try an organic, plant-based trace mineral supplement (like our Ultimate Minerals, the #1 supplement in my life I will take till the day I die) to help. This was key to solving years of insomnia for me. Even eating organic, raw plant foods in abundance, you may be mineral deficient–and Ultimate Minerals has all 90 minerals and trace minerals, in fulvic and humic acid, the most bioavailable source for humans.
If you still need some help falling asleep, the occasional use of valerian supplements or melatonin can help.
13. ALWAYS HAVE THINGS TO LOOK FORWARD TO.
I don’t know if this one is important to everyone. But it keeps me happy when working long hours, to think that I have something to look forward to.
I like to have a short-term reinforcer, as a reward for getting everything done in my day (like a healthy treat, or Zumba at 9 pm). And a mid-term reinforcer (every Saturday night doing something fun with my girlfriends—I start planning it with them mid-week).
And don’t forget the long-term reinforcer. (When is that next vacation? It always has to be on my calendar!) Depressed people often say, “I have nothing to live for.” We can create things to live for, and put them on the calendar or vision board.
14. FIND OUT “WHY”—ALWAYS BE LEARNING AND GROWING.
I read instead of watching TV. Did you know TV requires only your very lowest brain waves? Reading helps to keep your mind nimble and healthy.
Knowledge is always ahead of habit. Plenty of us know more than we actually put into practice. So we need our knowledge to be way out in front—and then our messy human foibles, that get in the way of good self-discipline, can keep scrambling to keep up with our information databank.
Always ask “why?” and then when you find what looks like an answer, remain open, and ask yourself, “And what else?”
These 15 practices may seem like a long list that takes lots of time. It’s not actually true, though, because these habits increase my health and vitality and make me more productive, happier, and in tune.
And, many of them can be done simultaneously. For instance, I practice gratitude, and deep breathing while I’m getting my endorphin fix running outside. I am also getting my Vitamin D, the “natural Prozac” in the sunshine, too! That’s four tasks in one—and I feel great, rather than stressed out, when I’m done!
If you have other daily practices that contribute to your own super-crazy-health, tell me in the comments!