Addressing inflammation in your body needs to be a whole system’s approach. Diet is key, but so is your lifestyle. Just as we discussed that foods have been afflicted with toxins and chemicals, so have our environments. These days we live fast paced lives getting from one place to the next, fitting in our work and family responsibilities with our social calendar. We spend a lot of time in transit, be it car, bus, taxi… you name it. We have new and improved means of living, complete with amazing technological gadgets to accommodate our needs and desires. We have cell phones outfitted with wifi and social media outlets so we can be in constant contact at all times. Our homes are updated with central air and heat so we never have to suffer the discomfort of the changing weather. And thank goodness for the harsh cleaning chemicals so we can get rid of all those pesky germs that we come in to contact with on a daily basis!
Population increases mean more people now inhabit our cities and towns and neighborhoods. This is wonderful news for our social lives, but it also means increased output of toxins, carbon dioxide, and noise pollution. More construction to accommodate this increase of people contributes to air pollution. Businesses follow the growth of neighborhoods, along with even more construction, and our economy flourishes while our health suffers.
There are many amazing upsides to all we have available to us these days, so please don’t misunderstand me. We have come so far and can accomplish things our ancestors never even thought to dream of! But, this achievement of lofty goals can get the best of us if we are not cognizant of the fact that our roots are important too. While we don’t necessarily need to go back to those simpler times, we do need to remember that some of the knowledge from our ancestors is still relevant. They lived simply. They lived lives according to the seasons. While they were forced to live this way, there is still much value to this method. Eating seasonally has been previously discussed for it’s merits, but consider the idea of living seasonally. Darkness and cold symbolize times of rest and quiet. Evenings were spent with family celebrating music and togetherness. But now, we use our evenings to stretch the day a little further accomplishing just one more task. What we lose is that time at the end of the day to unwind, to relax, to smile, to enjoy our loved ones and our quiet. And while it no doubt seems small, it’s actually quite a big loss.
Reducing our stress goes a long way to make us feel happier each day and improve our emotional wellbeing, but it also affects our physiologic processes. Stress impacts our breathing, our neurologic functions, our hormone and cortisol production, our metabolism processes, and how we function everyday. If we short our bodies their due measures to recover from arduous work, it will eventually add up. We can handle it for a little while, but over time the effects become more pronounced. Remember, if we see something manifest on the outside, it has no doubt been manifesting internally for quite some time. And it is this imbalance in our bodies that leads to inflammation. Reducing stress will reduce inflammation, which then will help us feel more content, improve our sleep, our digestion, mental faculties, athletic endeavors, and all of our very important daily functions.
So let’s discuss some easy ways to reduce our stress, and our inflammation.
- deep breathing
- mindfulness meditation
- exercise, from gentle to strenuous
- walking outside
- spending time in nature
- gentle, soothing music
- art, participating or observing
- hobbies and pleasures
- smiling and laughing
- hot baths
The list is just a beginning. Anything that provides enjoyment is beneficial to our individual stress levels. But don’t stop there. Respecting our need for fresh air, for peace and quiet… that is important and helpful to us as well. Many of us have fallen out of touch with nature and quiet. But it’s not a permanent dislike, teach yourself that it is simply a habit you need to reinstate. If you find yourself to be one of those who would prefer not to go outside or to not slow down, start with small steps. Five minutes a day is doable. Go outside, get some sunshine. Breathe. Soon you will find yourself looking forward to this time for yourself. They say twelve times makes a habit! So keep doing it until you seek it out on your own.
Try to go out without your technology- no smartphones, wifi gadgets and no music. Just nature, just fresh air. Look for places away from traffic. The greener the better. Or the bluer- sky, lake, ocean… Find what soothes you and give this little gift to yourself. And then add to this any of the things on the list above (or, better yet, make your own list!) in your daily or weekly routine. Watch yourself transform and visibly become happier and healthier as a result.
There is no room for guilt here either. Taking care of yourself is taking care of the others in your life. Without you, where will they be? And you realize you would want this for them, so know that they will want this for you. You will come back refreshed, calmer, and more prepared for what ever comes your way next. You will thank yourself, and your family will thank you, for making these small changes. Because it is these small changes that will make some of the biggest impact on the quality of your life.