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It’s the new year, as you very well know, and like most people on the path of constant improvement, you’ve probably created a mile-long list of the dreams you want to achieve and the goals you want to accomplish in 2019. That’s great. Go for it. Go get it, all of it. But before you do, before you step too far into the new year, answer this question: how is your base?
Exactly what am I talkin’ about? You know, the fundamental areas of your life that make the higher-level stuff possible? The four sturdy legs that stabilize your chair, the four stout walls that keep your fortress strong, you know, your base. The four components of our base are:
- Eating the right foods
- Drinking enough pure, mineral-rich water
- Getting enough restorative sleep
- Managing stress
Now that you know what I mean by base, second question: are you nurturing your base so it can support you?
Unfortunately, because our base items are so “simple” and part of our day in, day out experience, they’re too easily taken for granted and neglected. It should go without saying, when our base is weak, our life will be out of balance, and it will be much more difficult, if not impossible, to thrive and to maximize one’s potential. It’s like trying to build a massive skyscraper on a soft sandbox foundation; it can’t be done. The bigger your goals, the stronger your base must be, and the deeper your base must go.
When it comes to fitness, think about it this way: if your goal is to increase your bench press max by 100 pounds over the next several months, or run a marathon, or compete in a martial arts tournament, but your diet consists mainly of potato chips, beer, and candy bars, well…good luck with that.
Your base not only influences your physical fitness, but your mental, emotional, and even spiritual well-being. Since this is the case, focusing on our base should take top priority, because if we take care of first things first, everything else miraculously, almost magically falls into place.
Let’s take a quick look at each area of our base. Nothing I present here is new, just a good reminder that I hope will be helpful to you.
Whether you follow a Paleo, Primal, Vegan, Vegetarian, Low Carb, High Carb, Carnivore, Keto, or one of the many other dietary lifestyles, eating the right foods for you should be a priority. Everyone is different, so just because a Vegan lifestyle has helped your dear Aunt Sally, doesn’t mean it will benefit you in the same manner. So, I won’t tell you which plan to follow but I will present the following suggestions:
- Cut / reduce excess sugar. It’s very addictive and potentially very damaging, biochemically. (video: WHY Sugar is as Bad as Alcohol)
- Add more healthy fats such as avocado oil, olive oil, ghee, etc.
- Choose Non-GMO and organic whenever possible.
- Perform a serious audit of your shopping cart. What’s in it that shouldn’t be? What’s not in it that should be?
- Check the timing of your meals and snacks. Are you eating too often, or not often enough? Are you eating too much too close to bedtime?
- Try to avoid eating an excess of anything, even if it’s good for you.
I’d also suggest reading and following the 28-day Clean Gut program by Dr. Alejandro Junger. Even if you feel your gut is working well, this protocol will help it work so much better you won’t believe it. Check out my entry, Need to FIX Your Gut, and then, just get the book; you’ll be glad you did.
Drinking enough pure, mineral-rich water is vital for overall health. You know this, but do you drink enough water? Did you know most of us suffer from chronic low-grade dehydration? Some of the many symptoms* include:
- Brain fog or mental fatigue
- Physical fatigue
- Drowsy or sleepy even after a good night’s rest
- Muscle aches
- Decreased mental and physical performance
If you experience any of the above on a daily basis, and you know you are not drinking enough, read or scan this post for more information and ideas for staying hydrated: The Subtle Epidemic Affecting Your Mind & Body.
Getting enough restorative sleep is not just about the number of hours you are able to squeeze in each night, but it’s also about the quality of the sleep within those hours. We need both quality and quantity, and, like each of the above base components, the number of hours per night and what constitutes quality varies from person to person. It’s important to understand that sleep is an integral to our body’s ability to regenerate, manage proper hormone balance, etc, and it in turn affects the mind either in positive or negative ways*. In general, consider:
- How much sleep you need and how much you actually get. Some people feel better and thrive on 5 hours, while others need as much as 9. One way to gauge how much you need is how you feel when you wake up after X-number of hours, and how you perform mentally and physically throughout the day.
- Your mattress matters. Review this guest post for more information: Mattress Maintenance, Restful Sleep: How a Mattress Affects Your Health.
- Let the main purpose of your bed be sleep. Avoid eating in bed, working in bed, checking email, texting, etc.
- Set up a nightly routine that allows for a minimum of 30 minutes of wind-down time where you prepare your mind and body for sleep. For example: turn off the TV, put the phone, tables, and laptop away, and do a simple stretching routine with deep, mindful breathing.
- Make your bedroom as dark as possible, and also keep the temperature comfortably cool.
We all know from personal experience how stress affects our hormone balance, digestion, and our overall mental / emotional and physical health, but most of us don’t do anything about it until our minds or bodies breakdown or rebel. While some stress is good, helpful, even desirable for our growth, chronic or high stress that leads to strain is not. Such stress has been linked to inflammation, and inflammation is thought to be at the root of most diseases.
Note that if the other three components of our base are out of whack, our ability to handle stress, to flow with it, is greatly diminished. This creates a vicious cycle whereby the unmanaged stress (strain) disrupts our sleeping patterns and eating habits, and that only serves to increase our stress; one thing, affects all things, affects each thing.
Yes, managing stress is more important than ever, but thankfully, the resources for doing so are more plentiful than ever. You have to find what works for you. Here are a few suggestions:
- Daily, gut-wrenching, tear-inducing, laughter
- Practice gratefulness
- Massage therapy
- Zhan Zhuang or other qigong
- Spend time in nature getting grounded
So, how’s your base? Take a hard, objective look at your base and then answer that question.
Because its so interconnected, each part of our base pushes and pulls, strengthens or weakens, the other components. When all components are appropriately balanced, our base will support us in all of our goals, dreams, and endeavors, grand and small.
Over these first days or weeks of the new year, spend some time examining your base, fixing what needs attention. Your base is of utmost importance if you truly desire to thrive!
Wishing you the very best in 2019–go get it!