The Daily Stuff

Okay, let's say you don't have all the time in the world. Maybe you are busy. Maybe you work full-time, have several children at home, aging parents, more than one job. Even if you are not quite this busy, I thought it might be useful to make a list of the daily stuff we all should be doing. Every day. Without fail.

I want to make this list easy enough that you can actually do it. Sure there are plenty of very healthy pursuits that could bring big benefits to your life, but if you are not actually going to do them, they just can't help you much. For example, I am currently driving 45 minutes to attend a 90 minute yoga class once a week. Then I drive 45 minutes back home. This one yoga class therefore takes up half of my day. I happen to be extremely lucky that I can afford to take this time for myself right now. I believe it is well worth both the time and the money. But I know most people might not have such luxury.

So what are the basics? The small stuff that you can do each day to maximize your health and fitness without breaking the bank or moving into a health spa?

1) Drink enough water. I bet you knew I was going to say that. Yup, staying well-hydrated is one of the most important things you can do for the health of all your bodily systems. How much is enough? At least 3 liters per day. If it is hot or dry where you live, if you are exercising and sweating, if you happen to be running a marathon through the desert, then please add more water! When you are drinking enough water, you will know it. You will feel better. No lie. Drinking enough water will eliminate most of those little aches and pains in the joints and muscles. Not to mention, you will feel less hungry and probably take in fewer calories just by staying hydrated.

2) Take a high quality fish oil supplement. This is another easy no-brainer. Of course, good quality fish oil is not cheap, but it is the best source of Omega-3 fatty acids. Most of us do not eat wild salmon, tuna, sardines, or other oily fish on a daily basis. The oils from these types of fish are extremely important for reducing internal inflammation in your body. And inflammation is behind literally every chronic illness and disease we might face, including cancer, heart disease, and stroke. I use Carlson's fish oil and I like the lemon flavor best, but you might want to shop around for your own favorite. Fish oil will help your joints, your brain, your blood, basically everything inside you!

3) Up your veggies. If there is one food group that should dominate your daily diet, it is definitely the veggies. I know there are people out there who claim to hate vegetables, but I find this very difficult to understand. Find a store near you that carries very fresh, very good quality vegetables.  Some possible sources of great produce are Whole Foods, Wegman's, Mom's Organic Market, Roots, Trader Joe's (also a great place to find inexpensive and high quality organic FROZEN veggies) and Costco. To get the most nutrition, choose dark leafy greens like kale, collards, spinach, watercress, etc. Then add a full rainbow of assorted other veggies to your cart, like red peppers, white onions, orange carrots, yellow squash, green peas, purple cabbage and black beans. Then choose a simple preparation for your veggies. Steam a head of broccoli and drizzle on the olive oil. Roast a head of cauliflower lightly sprayed with olive oil. Toss a bag of fresh spinach with your favorite healthy dressing and top with sliced hard boiled eggs. Or fried eggs! (I love this combo!) It is almost impossible to gain weight from eating too many vegetables, so go wild here.

4) Breathe. Okay, this probably should have been Number 1 on my list. Meditate for at least 8 minutes a day. This sounds challenging, but really it is so easy to do. You can meditate in any position: sitting, standing, lying down, or walking. Just take a few minutes to focus on your breath. You can count the number of seconds of your inhale, then count the number of seconds of your exhale. Or you can simply just feel yourself breathing. You can find meditation CD's, DVD's, or download instructions from the Internet. You can go to a class or find a local group that meditate together in your area. Many yoga studios have free meditation sessions. But most importantly, find a HEALTHY way to combat the stress in your life. There is no way to completely avoid stress. And even if you did manage to avoid it, your life would be unbelievably dull. So the only answer is to take HEALTHY steps toward reducing stress. I keep emphasizing HEALTHY because most human beings turn toward alcohol, cigarettes, or other drugs in order to fight stress. While an occasional single glass of red wine can be included in a healthy lifestyle, numerous martinis, whole bottles of wine, and 6-packs of beer would not be considered HEALTHY stress-reducers. Try breathing.

I purposely kept this list short so it doesn't feel overwhelming. If you are already so busy that the thought of doing these 4 things is making your head explode, then just start with one of them. Swami Kripalu had a lovely saying about picking up a garland of flowers: it doesn't matter which blossom you pick up first, the rest will follow. I am paraphrasing obviously. I'm sure however he said it, it was much more beautiful and profound. But the point is: start somewhere. Keep it simple. Make a single change and let it lead you down the path toward increased health and happiness.