Wellness Minimalist: Four Basics to Flourish

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I don’t know about you, but I always feel like ideal health is just out of grasp. I’ve made pretty big lifestyle changes for my health over the past three years - growing in yoga, exploring more plant-based foods, nixing the alcohol, adding mindfulness to my morning and evening routine. And in LA, there are always new hip things to try. Sometimes I’m down for the trends. Like last week I had an amazing laser & light facial at Skin Laundry - a little Monday blues pick-me-up. Though it was a fun experience, usually I let the trends float by unless I read ground-breaking research.

Like going more plant-based. I wasn’t so sure about it. But then I read Dr. Joel Furhman, enlisted the advice of my own cardiologist, and continue to witness the end-stage effects of poor lifestyle choices (if you didn’t know, I’m a hospice nurse). Rarely do these things matter at the end of life - we think about relationships and memories in our lives. But when preventable risks take the life of a young person, then maybe the choices we make do matter.

But I digress. My point is, although I’ve found a handful of lifestyle changes that positively affect my health, most trends don’t make that list. It’s like an internal battle inside. On one hand I have a deep interest to learn and try new things. On the other hand, there are so many health companies - fitness programs, supplemental brands that claim to be cure-all, “nutritionists” who really have no clinical experience or accredited education. It’s exhausting trying to discern the material out there on the World Wide Web, and that’s coming from an experienced Registered Nurse!

So when in doubt, I say keep it simple. I reclaim the word basic when it comes to health because basic doesn’t have to mean dull or boring. Basic can mean strong, simple, and minimal.  Applying minimalism to my health plan has clarified and simplified life, so that I can actually be successful at health goals!

So after pondering all the confusing health information on the internet, here are my four to practices for a minimalist health plan:

1. Prioritize

Our health isn’t just the presence or absence of disease. Health is a fully integrative expression of our physical, mental, and spiritual wellbeing. Do you ever get stomachaches when you’re stressed? Or headaches when you’re tired? That’s because it’s all connected - mind, body, spirit - and one part of health usually affects all parts of health. So every few months I make a list and prioritize. What is most important for my health right now? What actions make my body and mind feel whole, or feel nourished? What areas of my health do I want to improve? The answers to these questions may change. But I make a list of what affects me most. Today it’s nutrition, rest, mindfulness, then movement. So when my day gets busy I know to put a healthy meal before movement, but movement only after I’ve rested. 

2. Drink more water

You will get tired of me saying this. Staying hydrated is so important, for your whole body, for the individual organs, and even for your cells! On average, our bodies are made of about 60% water. So it’s no surprise that drinking adequate water reduces fatigue, flushes toxins, and restores balance to our muscles. And this is one area where I can feel the difference right away! Because of my cardiac medications, my blood pressure drops very easily. I’ve found the best, healthiest, most natural way to boost my alertness and reduce dizziness is to keep water accessible at all times. 

3. Skip the short cuts

When it comes to real, bone-deep health, there are no short cuts. I often see patients who ask if there is one pill that can help all nutrition. My answer is always no. Of course there are supplements that contain vitamins, anti-inflammatory properties, etc. But nothing will replace the nutrition of good, whole food items in the diet. It’s not that supplements don’t have a place or purpose. But taking turmeric capsules after you’ve gorged on pizza and beer (even though you’re lactose and gluten intolerant) will likely not help your inflammation. The food you put in your mouth is always more important than the supplements you take. In fact, that’s what supplement means - it’s not the primary source of nutrition and wellbeing, it’s just a supplemental addition. So instead of agonizing over which fancy superfood pills to take, focus on your food first. Focus on lots of fresh veggies and fruits, lean proteins, and avoiding any food that your body doesn’t digest well. Then graduate to the supplements. 

4. Find a reason

Just like any habit change, taking care of the body takes time and commitment. I find it’s easy to start healthy habits. What’s hard is maintaining the healthy habit after one or two weeks. When it gets tough to keep up with my daily meditation or personal ban on gluten, I need to dig deep. What I need is an anchor to remind me exactly why I’m choosing health over the momentary alternative. Oftentimes the healthy choice appears surface layer, but the reason behind the healthy choice is much deeper. That’s because our reasons for choices can and should reflect our values. If we can identify the values behind our choices, it becomes much easier to stick with the long-term health goals we desire.

The more that I learn about wellness, and all of the innovative products and services available, the more I love it. But when I feel overwhelmed by the options, I return to my four basic principles to flourish. Once I refocus and regroup, I often know the next area of health to explore.