Hello, and happy 2022! Today I’d like to share with you a few tips for how to have a vibrantly healthy year. I write a lot about healthy recipes and why eating a nutrient dense diet is important, but today I’d like to focus on some other healthy habits that are essential if we want to feel our best and be disease free.
Have you heard of pillars of human health? They refer to basic tenants of what we need to do in order to be healthy. Most people think of diet and exercise (which are absolutely important), but there is more. Things like sleep, community, and sunlight all play a role in helping us to become and stay vibrantly healthy. So, without going into exhaustive detail about every single pillar of human health, I’d like to share with you some of my favorites. They are:
- Get enough sleep
- Get some sunlight
- Stay connected
- Read a health book (or many)
Let’s look at each “pillar” in more detail below. And I’d like to know before you go, which of these habits will you focus on this year? Leave me a comment below.
Get Enough Sleep
I absolutely love my bedroom. It is the most peaceful room in my house. It’s nothing fancy, just a small room with a comfortable bed, a rocking chair, a tiny closet, and some plants. Just about every morning I make my bed and tuck it in for the day. Clothes don’t get left out, and laundry is put away within 24 hours. You can see in the photo above the depression where my dog had just been laying moments before. Can you picture it? A sweet, long-haired German Shepherd curled up at the foot of the bed?
I paint you that picture to show that I keep my bedroom clean, simple, and uncluttered for one main purpose: sleep. I love sleeping. Getting in between my flannel sheets in the winter (and cotton in the summer) is one of the best feelings in the world to me. I feel tucked in and cared for and like I’m doing a ridiculously easy healthy habit (which I am) every single night.
I keep my room uncluttered and simple because I don’t want any reminders of unfinished work. I don’t use electronics in my room, because the bright light would keep me from falling asleep easily. I read a book before falling asleep, and that’s about it.
I use a mask over my eyes to block out streetlights. Eventually I would like to get blackout curtains, but the eye mask works for now.
I aim to go to bed at 9 pm (I know) but often it’s more like 9:30. This enables me to get up early in the morning and start my day with prayer, Bible reading, and exercise (all healthy habits).
In order to go to bed on time (and you can choose when your “on time” should be – it doesn’t have to be 9!) it’s important to get up on time. Sleeping in will naturally push your bedtime later. It’s also important to get daylight in the morning. The sunlight hits your eyes and sets your natural circadian rhythms, which helps you to feel tired later on when it’s time for bed.
This interesting article looks at the relationship between the hormones ghrelin and leptin, and how a lack of sleep increases appetite and can lead to obesity. I know that just one bad night of sleep leads me to feel ravenous the following day, usually for carb heavy snacks and sweets. Getting a good night’s sleep is my best defense against overeating.
Get Some Sunlight
It’s important to get sunlight every day, all year round, even in winter. What if it’s raining? I would argue it is still important, as the light that comes through on a rainy day is different than the artificial lights in your home.
Sunlight boosts vitamin D levels and makes us happy. Going for a walk outside has so many health benefits, but one of the most important ones to me is sunlight.
Some people suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and benefit from light therapy. While I believe that this is legit, I wonder how many SAD sufferers would need light therapy if they made a point to spend time outside all year round? I would guess the number would drop significantly. Because the truth is, when the weather is not as warm, we don’t go out as much.
I think that in addition to going outside and getting sunlight, it’s important to play. Go sledding. Hike in the woods. Play tag, or try to do the monkey bars when your kids do. Turn cartwheels, ride your bike, walk with a friend, sit on the porch for breakfast. So many ideas! Pick one and turn it into a habit, Then add another.
Thankfully I’m forced to go for an average of two walks, every day, to walk my dog. She is a wonderful health benefit – she keeps me active, makes me get sunlight, and connects me to my neighbors! Sometimes we play keep away, and it’s just plain fun to laugh.
As technology makes us more and more virtual, it’s important to stay connected to community. I have these good friends, and years ago, before we had kids, we started a meal share group. There were four couples, and each couple cooked enough food for the eight of us. We kept two portions for ourselves, and shared the remaining six portions with each other. Occasionally we would get together for potlucks. We did this for years. During that time, we got so close.
Now we are far flung in different places around the country and globe. But many summers we meet up at a favorite campground for a week. We cook. We hike. We play in the sand. We do music. And it’s just amazing to still remain connected after all these years.
There are other ways to stay connected. Call a friend instead of text. Send a letter to someone you are thinking of. Say hello to your neighbors and get to know them. Go to church and search for God. Pray for someone. Find a running buddy. Start a playgroup. These are all ways I have been or am connected to others.
I liked reading through this article on the importance of being part of a community. Community gives us a sense of belonging, purpose, and support. I feel that in multiple ways through my church, my friends, and my family.
Read a Health Book (or Many)
So maybe this last one isn’t absolutely essential to human health. I mean, you could pick up healthy habits from friends, family, podcasts, and YouTube. But I love my books, and I believe that knowledge is power. The more you are able to read about what health is and how to achieve it, the more you can put it into practice and see change in your own life.
One of the first books I read when I was still a sugar addict was The Case Against Sugar by Gary Taubes. I knew, without a doubt, that if I read that book I would have to change my ways. I didn’t really want to read it, but I felt absolutely compelled to. So I did. And you know what? I didn’t change overnight, but knowing exactly what was happening in my body whenever I ate sugar led me to make lasting, healthy changes to my diet over time.
Some other favorite books I have read that educated me on the ins and outs of healthy diets and lifestyles are:
- Eat Smarter, by Shawn Stevenson
- Deep Nutrition, by Catherine Shanahan
- Nourishing Traditions, by Sally Fallon
- The Gut Makeover, by Jeannette Hyde
- The Wellness Mama Cookbook, by Katie Wells
- The Perfect Health Diet, by Paul Jaminet and Shou-Ching Jaminet
This is not an exhaustive list of books. I like to read a variety of health and diet books and look for the overlap. If there are overlapping nutrition and diet recommendations (with studies to back them up) then it’s probably a good idea to implement them.
Favorite Recipes to Keep You Vibrantly Healthy
Obviously my entire blog is devoted to healthy eating, but below are a few recipes that really shine.
- Easy Oven Roasted Paleo Beef Short Ribs: Eating meat on the bone provides vital nutrients that are otherwise lost when the meat is removed from the bone and cooked separately. I like that this recipe is easy (because if it’s too difficult to make good food, it’s not going to become a habit!), and it tastes amazing.
- Pan Fried Liver and Garlicky Kale: Organ meats provide essential nutrients that muscle meats lack. Chicken liver is easy to get and palatable when prepared correctly. I love the instant energy, strength, and clarity of mind I get from eating it a few times a month.
- Chocolate Nut Butter Keto/Paleo Fudge: I feel very happy when I eat these. Not just because they taste good, but because the healthy fats from coconut oil and nuts make my brain happy. Other sources of healthy fats are avocado, olive oil, and pasture-raised animal fats.
- Winter Cobb Salad: Eat the rainbow! After being sure to get healthy fats, proteins, and organ meats in your diet, you’ll want to stay on top of your gut health by eating a variety of fruits and vegetables. This salad gives an extra dose of gut-friendly probiotics from the raw blue cheese.
And that’s it, my friends! Here’s to a healthy year for you. Leave me a comment below which of these tips you found the most helpful, and which you plan to implement!
Until next time,