As we approach the new year, this week is a great time to start thinking about what to do to ensure you are the healthiest you can be for the year. An ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure. So in the spirit of prevention I've listed 7 easy to steps toward ensuring that this year is the first step toward a healthier and happier you.
1. Sleep: I would say that this is the most important task you should focus on. If this is no problem for you then move to step 2. If you have trouble falling asleep, consider optimizing your sleep schedule and get into the habit of getting to bed and winding down between 10pm and 12am. If you can't fall asleep within 20 minutes of getting to bed then try 1-3 mg of Melatonin about an hour before your desired sleep time. If you can fall asleep but wake early, or frequently, have someone evaluate your adrenal glands. Eat a protein snack before bed will really help you stay asleep and forgo any stimulants like tea or coffee after lunchtime. For more tips on natural cures for insomnia, read my post on Insomnia and the Adrenal Gland. Nothing can deteriorate an immune system faster than poor or restless sleep. Make sure you wake refreshed and try to get a minimum of 6 hours of good solid zzzz's.
2. Stress: Now that you have the sleep think down, manage your stress by getting rid of unnecessary stressful tasks and actions. Try meditation and get into the habit of meditation 30 minutes a day. Deep breathing exercises are highly useful as well. Instructions are here.
3. Reducing Daily Exposure to Toxins: Try to buy organic when possible. Here is the list of priorities for buying fruits and vegetables organically. Meats like beef, chicken and pork if not organic should be antibiotic and hormone free at the very least. Dairy products like milk, cheese and ice cream should too be antibiotic and hormone free. Eggs should be, and are easily found, to be organic.
4. Around the house: Soaps, personal care products, detergents, fabric softeners etc. should be as fragrance free and paraben free as possible. These affect hormonal balance for you and especially your children. Try and go fluoride free for your toothpaste and tap water. Many municipal water systems add fluoride into the water so care should be taken about this. Some info on the dark side of toothpaste Part 1 and part 2.
5. Around the house 2: Pots, pans and furniture. Make a commitment this year to change your pots and pans to stainless steel or ceramic or cast iron without non-stick coating. Here is why. Think twice about new furniture choices as well as their off-gassing can affect your family for years. Choosing the right kind of furniture is imperative to keeping a healthy home. Make sure your home gets plenty of fresh air to reduce the build up of toxic off-gassing from furniture, mattresses and wall to wall carpeting.
6. Know your water: Get your water tested for heavy metals and other contaminants. Heavy metals like lead, mercury, arsenic and cadmium are highly toxic to your immune system, nervous system and endocrine system like your thyroid. Knowing what is coming through your water pipes will help you figure out what drinking water choices you should make. More info on your tap water.
7. Hobbies: This is actually a surprising place for us to be exposed to toxins. Photography (in a dark room) or printer inks, oil painting and solvents, auto maintenance or restoration, stained glass making etc. all have the potential for large exposures to toxins like asbestos, solvents, lead and other heavy metals. Know what the non-toxic or less toxic choices are for your hobbies and make steps toward using gloves, good ventilation and masks with an appropriate filter for what you are doing.
Whew, lots of good suggestions to get you started. Obviously, this is not an exhaustive list but it's a great start. Make comments to this post and let me know what other suggestions you might make too. I'm really interested. Meantime, have a tremendously healthy New Year in 2011.