Thursday, February 19, 2009

13 Things That Improved My Health...

Mom gave me these flowers on Valentine's Day.

This is mostly for Joanna and "
Hill," who asked about my health and what kinds of things I did to improve it. Hill, I appreciate your sensitivity in not wanting to pry, but I don't mind answering your questions. I'd already written this post before I read your comment, so let me know if there's something more specific I can say, okay?

I actually prefer not to focus on the ups and downs and ins and outs of my old health problems (thank you for understanding that!). Sure, I felt a whole long list of rotten sometimes. I'd hurt all over, and my brain was foggy, and I was fatigued beyond belief, but, even when I was going through it wasn't helpful or encouraging for me to discuss it.

So. How did I start getting better?

I think there were lots of factors. I thought about how I might improve my health, and I worked really hard at it. I thought about modern life and how unnatural much of it is, and it made sense to me that to live as naturally as possible couldn't hurt, so I aimed to do that.

I'm not prescribing anything I've chosen to do as a remedy for what ails anyone else. I just knew that I needed to make changes, and I figured the ones I was choosing to make couldn't hurt. I honestly think that each of the following made a definite difference in my actual physical health, but the choices were not only about physical health. They were about living a life that felt coherent, whole, and healthy in every way.

I also don't make any judgments about these points. It's just the path I chose to walk in my search for good health. Some of my friends and family do almost none of the following, which is perfectly fine by me. I don't even tell most people my feelings about this stuff because I don't want to put anyone on the defensive or make them think I'm judging them if they don't do likewise.

I realize that a lot of the lists I post on my blog overlap in many ways, but here it is...

1. Morning quiet time. Prayer, Bible reading, meditation, contemplation, journaling, and, yes, coffee. Coffee that is made in a French press. A dark roast. Poured into a pretty mug.

2. Widen margins and eliminate stress. This was serious business for me. Most of us are blessed with the power to choose. I chose to live slowly, with broad margins around everything, and it has been a huge help, healthwise, and a big part of reducing and eliminating stress.

3. Simplify, declutter, and streamline everything. Daily life. Homeschooling. Routines. The schedule. Involvements. Possessions. Work.

4. Attitude is everything. First, be positive. I have always told my kids to avoid negative people-- to choose friends with a positive, cheerful, encouraging, and strengthening spirit. I don't let people drain me or cling to me. And I aim to be cheerful, grateful, hopeful, and positive. Don't dwell on troubles. Do not dwell on them. Pray and cry and deal with them. Then leave it all with the Lord. Choose to have a good day, no matter how you feel, and most often you will. I aim to enjoy my days and my life and my relationships, even when difficulties try their best to knock me down. Do I do this perfectly well? Absolutely not, but it is still my aim.

5. Enjoy beauty every day. It's there for us. Nature. Literature. Music. Art. Whatever is beautiful to you, enjoy it. Beauty soothes and heals. And don't forget to make beauty, too, with whatever creative inclinations and gifts God has given you.

6. Nature. God's world refreshes when we learn to slow down enough to see, to hear, to smell, to notice, to wonder, to be quiet.

7. Make my atmosphere nurturing and refreshing. Both my home and my self. They both should be lovely, inviting, warm, and good. Joy should characterize an atmosphere. As should Faith. Hope. Love.

8. Do something I love to do OR love something I already do.

9. Get lots of fresh air and sunshine. I'm a "swing open the windows and doors" kind of person. Even in the most severe cold, I keep my bedroom window open a crack at night. I want my air to be fresh (yes, I know-- outside air isn't fresh everywhere!). I know this has helped me. And sunshine is an amazing gift. Don't be afraid of it. Go outside all year long. Full spectrum bulbs in winter lift the spirits of those suffering from S.A.D., and lifted spirits mean better health.

10. Which reminds me. Laugh. Laughter is the best medicine. Some people can see humor in just about anything. Be one of them. (I am blessed to have a family like this.) My mom told me about an Olympic athlete who went through some awful health struggles, to the point that she was bed-ridden. She said she meant to take seriously the verse that laughter is like medicine, so she bought herself the entire set of I Love Lucy videos, and laughter helped her along the way to good health. She went on to win another gold medal.

11. Non-toxic everything. Cleaning supplies. Soap, lotions, lipstick. Dish soap and laundry soap. I don't take over-the-counter medicines for anything, ever (it's been at least a few years since I've had a cold, anyway). I don't use sunscreen or insect spray (though I have on hand non-toxic insect spray). I don't use antibacterials. A home and all that goes in it can be pretty toxic nowadays, and I still have a long, long ways to go to sort out what kinds of things I want to own and use.

12. Good Nourishment. Eat real food as God made it to be eaten. I like mine fresh, without chemicals, additives, or antibiotics. If He put fat in food, I leave it there. No skim-anything or light-anything for me! I eat organic as much as I can. My eating style is a mix of Nourishing Traditions and "raw" or "living" foods, currently leaning more toward the raw side of the spectrum. There's a lot of overlap between these two ways of thinking, but there are differences as well. The way I eat has played a critical role in the improvement of my health, but I'm not sure that the same way of eating works the same way for everyone. Oh, and this is important for me-- I don't like to overanalyze or overthink my daily eating, my daily food log on my kitchen blog notwithstanding! I just want to enjoy my food and my increasing good health.

13. Exercise. It's essential. As much as I can, I try to exercise outdoors, and I try to do something that I enjoy. Mostly, I think it's important to keep moving, however much, and however vigorously, I can.
(I'm coming on just after posting this to my blog to add number 14. I actually meant to write something about this, but I seem to have left it off. I'll make this quick):

14. Move my focus away from myself. Do something for others to make them happy. Love them. Serve them. Surprise them. Care for them. Enjoy them. This is extremely important.

That's 13 items in the list. (Well, now it's fourteen!) Thirteen is a good number. It is the number I wore when I played high school sports. :-)