I consider myself a pretty healthy person. I’m not just talking in the physical sense (although I think I do well there too), but in the well-balanced, all around “holistic” sense (although I’m not really a fan of that term). And yet, going to the doctor is not my most favourite things.
I’m definitely not against conventional medicine by any means, and I’m not in the “crunchy granola, naturopath or bust” camp (if you are, no offence meant – love ya). But I do think that there are lot of things you can do to make health (physical, mental, emotional, spiritual) happen – from the more obvious and conventional (diet, exercise) to the less obvious.
What are these things? So glad you asked (bet you didn’t see that one coming)…
I intentionally cultivate community. I don’t often go quoting studies on here (it’s a lot of work to find, that’s not what I’m about, and you can look them up elsewhere if you want), but there are a ton that state that being involved in community increases lifespan, quality of life, etc. And I totally believe it. Knowing that you have friends who have your back, are looking out for you, will miss you when you’re gone, and maybe have a few common interests is huge.
I am involved in communities at my gym, my church, and even through my workplace. So much so that I now can’t imagine life without any of these people. If I miss a day or two at the gym, I guarantee that I’ll get a text. And, after being on vacation for a week (which was awesome), I actually found myself missing my gym peeps (it’s true!). A solid and supportive community (or three) has been a huge quality of life booster for me to be sure.
I move around a lot. Speaking of the gym, that’s another (obvious) thing I do for health. You don’t have to CrossFit, just find something that keeps you moving, you enjoy, and do it as much as you can. Again, you don’t need me to quote you studies – you already know that exercise has a crap ton of benefits. To be sure, the physical benefits of my CrossFit habit are amazing, but also can’t say enough about what it does for me mentally. There’s the aspect of de-stressing after a tough day, or just the mental toughness that CrossFit has given me which empowers me to see that I can totally power through any challenge life throws at me. Seriously – if you’re not doing some regular form of physical activity – what are you waiting for?
I get outside. Yes, this is way easier right now when it’s summertime and the weather is gorgeous. These days, I’m spending as much time in my backyard as I can (gardening, reading, eating meals…). But I do try, year round, to walk somewhere instead of driving if I can. And I’m fortunate enough to have a job that gets me outside pretty regularly. There is just something about nature that can’t be beat or re-created indoors. Try and tell me that being outside more doesn’t improve your mood (unless you have seasonal allergies. Then maybe take some Benadryl first…).
I train my brain. My body is not the only thing I workout. Reading is one of my favourite hobbies (for summer bonus points I often read outside) and I make good use of my library card. I also enjoy reading magazines (via the Texture app on my iPad). And I’m lucky enough to have a job (teaching at a French immersion school) that enables me to exercise my brain even more by using my degree and working in another language. Plus, reading makes you a more interesting person, thus making it easier to carry on new conversations, thus facilitating building relationships/community (see above). I also flex my memory muscles by memorizing various passages of the Bible. It doesn’t have to be Bible verses, but you’d be surprised how challenging/stimulating memorizing a portion of literature can be.
I love vegetables and fruit. There are so so many diets and eating plans out there (paleo! macro counting! weight watchers! And on. And on. And on). While they differ greatly, there is one thing that they almost universally agree on – fruits and veggies are a
good very good thing! I am a big believer that it’s hard to overdo it on vegetables (fruit is great – just watch the sugar). I try and base my meals around large portions of fresh veggies, and then build from there. Not only am I getting a crap ton (*not an official measurement) of fibre and vitamins, I also find these veggies fill me up and allow me to eat bigger portions (more food = always a good thing).
I have a lot of hobbies. Those veggies I was talking about? I grow as many of them as I can during the summer. And, as of last year, I’ve started canning them. I also love to cook and bake. I play music at church and am involved in the ministries there. There’s the previously mentioned CrossFit, and, most recently, I’ve been dabbling in Ultimate Frisbee. Similar to exercise, it doesn’t really matter what your hobby/hobbies are. Just find something you enjoy, and keep doing it. If your hobby involves other people, it will also inherently lead to some friendships, AKA community.
I try new (and scary) things. Once upon a time, I moved to a new city. I didn’t know anyone, I had heard about CrossFit, and decided to give it a go. Safe to say this risk payed off hugely (community. hobby. exercise). More recently, I decided to get totally out of my comfort zone and joined my friend’s ultimate frisbee team (this is HUGE for me as I am decidedly unathletic and have never played a team sport other than a season of tee ball as a kid). Constantly getting out of your comfort zone, while it can feel exhausting at times, is a big self confidence booster, and also trains your brain as it has to adapt to all these new things and challenges you throw at it.
I talk it out. I said that I’m not a fan of visiting the doctor. Which is true. What I am a fan of? Visiting a therapist on a regular basis. I’m becoming less and less scared to talk about it, and am absolutely thrilled that the stigma surrounding mental health is slowly getting less these days (as it should be). I’ve been seeing a psychotherapist (sounds scary/intimidating/intense but it’s not, I swear. All it means is that this professional is also an M.D., thus covered by my provincial healthcare…go Ontario/Canada!) on a regular basis for about 5 years now. It has been greatly helpful in my struggles with anxiety, and also just to get some much needed perspective on issues I face in life in general.
If you, or someone you know is struggling with mental health, I strongly, STRONGLY encourage you to seek someone out. You’d be surprised at how much of a difference it can make. And, in addition to my therapist, all those friendships I’ve developed while building community has given me a pretty solid network of people I can reach out to if I need a shoulder to cry on/a listening ear.
So, there you have it. Health is SO much more than a visit to the doctor (or not), a number on a scale (hey did you notice I did a whole post about health without once mentioning your weight? NOT an accident), or just the presence or absence of disease (although these things are also important/legitimate). I’d love to hear from you too. How do you handle your health? What did I miss?
Don’t be a stranger…give me a shout in the comments… Wait – did I just use another hobby (blogging) to build community? How healthy of me! 😉