Living Healthy

The 3 Basics

I know there isn’t a shortage of information on things we should do to stay healthy nowadays and this subject has pretty much been run into the ground but since I’m blogging about Senior Life, I have to add what I’ve found. I like things that are quick and to the point, so will confine my opinion to what I’ve found to be the basics to good health.

  • I am adding a disclosure so that anyone reading this will understand this is my opinion only, derived from personal experience. If you disagree or find these don’t work for you, please keep searching or using what you have found that works best for you.

1. Sleep

“Sleep is the best medicine”

An Old African Adage

Sleep time is when our bodies do their magic, regenerating and healing. We need this time to withdraw from the physical and mental stress of the day and let the body “go to work” as we sleep.

I look at sleep (whatever schedule our sleep time comes at) as an eraser to the day. It clears the slate, puts us in a resting mode so we can waken with a fresh perspective on things with an alert mind and renewed physical body when we awaken, ideally, of course. If we can’t reach the ideal level or amount of sleep we need, any amount we get is better than none at all and I hope this advice helps you to increase the amount and quality of sleep you’re getting.

If you can’t get a good night’s sleep for one reason or another, if at all possible, take a nap during the day. To me, naps are similar to adding gas to the car, we won’t get very far once we run out. Naps are the fuel to keep us running throughout our day, meeting the demands of the day. I always took naps when my kids were young at the same time they napped. It gave me the stamina to carry on and keep up with them.

I’m sharing some wonderful things I’ve learned to do that help me get to sleep.

Years ago I had a real problem with insomnia. I prefer natural remedies to pharmaceutical ones loaded with unknown chemicals and a long list of harmful side effects so try to avoid these at all costs.

I bought every herb listed as sleep aids in bulk form and made various night-time teas. None worked. Likewise, Melatonin, the most touted sleep remedy does nothing for me. I have come up with a “formula” that pretty much guarantees a good night’s sleep, for me.

As I mentioned above, I’m against unnatural ingredients to apply to any health issue and always look for an organic solution first but after using every natural product “out there” I finally resorted to a mild-acting sleeping pill, one my 90-year-old grandmother and, later, mother took. At first, during the trial period of using these, I would just borrow a few from my mother. I never, in the beginning, took one every night, just PRN, medical terminology for as needed.

At first when I’d go to bed, I’d wait and see if I needed it before taking the sleeping pill. Sometimes I’d lay there for hours before finally breaking down and taking a piece of one pill. Eventually, I realized the amount of time I wasted lying there, unable to fall asleep, was ridiculous and just started taking a piece of one before going to bed each night.

For twenty plus years now, I take the same sleeping pill as soon as I go to bed. I never pop a whole pill into my mouth but have had to increase the dosage over the years. For me, it’s worth it to get the sleep I require. I started biting off about 1/4 of a pill which worked for many years and was plenty to get me “over the hump”. Once I fall asleep, I can usually stay asleep through the night. As years passed, I increased the amount to 1/2 a pill and then years later, today, I use 3/4 of a pill. I figure at my age, 72, the side effects of taking something to help me sleep is far less harmful (on me) than the suffering through insomnia which leaves my production and functioning level very poor the next day.

Sleep Aids I Use

Before succumbing to the sleeping pills I noticed a small pamphlet-like book at the grocery check out line with a method in it on how to get a good night’s sleep. The exercise taught how to stop the endless “brain chatter” to help us fall asleep.

I bought the pamphlet and began doing the exercises to help me sleep. To my great relief, it worked! I still do this when I need to shut down my over-active mind. I’ve revised it to a simpler method I’ll share. I do this all the time because it really does work for me!

  • Position your forefinger knuckle and thumb just below the nostrils.
  • Begin by pressing the forefinger over the nostril close to it and and inhale deeply through the other nostril.
  • Cover the nostril you just breathed through with the thumb and exhale completely through the other nostril.
  • With that nostril still “opened”, inhale through it while holding your thumb over the other nostril.
  • Put your forefinger knuckle over this nostril and exhale over the other nostril then cover it with the thumb and inhale through it.
  • Repeat these alternating inhales and exhales covering the nostril not being used.

As you do this for a period of time, the way it’s performed keeps the mind focused on which nostril to breath in and out of. It’s complicated, just enough, that you do need to focus your attention on the breathing method. This helps to relax the mind from all the information it is always processing and “lulls” you into a relaxed state, ready for sleep.

As I did this every night, over and over for many years, after awhile I quit actually holding my fingers over the nostrils and just mentally pictured the air being inhaled and exhaled out of each nostril according to that method. Funny, but I actually trained myself into “knowing” that as I started doing this, it was time to relax and get into sleep mode.

Amazingly, this simple method works! I still take the portion of sleeping pill but if I have a difficult time, with too much going on in my mind, or even if I feel I need a nap during the day and certainly don’t want to take the sleeping pill then, I can do the breathing exercise and it usually brings me to a state of falling asleep naturally.

My Two Natural Sleep Products

Sleep Pillow and Weighted Blanket

Sleep Pillow

My sleep pillow rescued me from disruptive noises keeping me awake at night. Years ago, living in a rural town in Eastern Nevada, we owned a 100 year old historic home. I loved it, except at night, where the bedrooms were upstairs. Every night there were a few neighborhood dogs who would start a chorus of barking to one another and it seemed many others would join in. In the summer, we would have the windows open and, somehow, I think being upstairs with not as much sound insulation, it seemed as if the dog’s heads were sticking right in the windows barking. Talk about a frustrating and maddening situation. I was like a walking zombie the next day due to barking dogs keeping me up all night.

I came up with the idea of Sleep Pillows back then and sewed the first one for myself. (Later I made multitudes of them and sold them and still do.) They’re made from a heavier outer material and filled with rice with Lavender Essential Oil Drops added to the rice filling. I can add more Lavender Oil whenever I need or want to but the scent lasts for a very long time, years actually.

Some people make them with Buckwheat Hulls but I prefer the rice for a few reasons. The heavier weight is better for blocking out noises plus as I put it on my head it drapes over my head, touching various pressure points. The weight actually draws me into my own, private space and out of the world. It brings me into my own, private haven by blocking worldly cares with the weight over my ears and parts of my head. This is why I prefer a larger size pillow so it can cover the necessary parts of my head and exposed ear.

I sell these on my Etsy Store: Parlor House Boutique for $40.00

They Work!

Weighted Blanket

I have never been able to sleep very well under a light weight blanket or bed cover, except possibly during the hot summer months but, even then, I need something covering my body, for a feeling of protection, comfort, whatever the case may be. I have always slept better with a heavier quilt over me.

In today’s information age, my feelings of well-being and safety in sleeping under a heavy covering have become validated through scientific breakthroughs showing that weighted blankets actually help bring about peacefulness and relieve anxiety. They’re used a lot with people suffering from many symptoms such as PTSD, ADD, and a myriad reasons for anxiety.

I hadn’t really heard all this, at the time I bought my weighted blanket, I just knew it sounded like something I’d like. My husband bought it for me as a gift on some occasion and every time I use it, I tell him it’s the best thing he’s ever given me. It comes in handy when camping and not knowing what the temperatures will be. It’s a great source of warmth as well as comfort. I use it during the day, to throw over myself if I want to take a nap. It basically feels like a all over hug!

The weighted blanket does all the things I mentioned above that my Sleep Pillow does. I got mine on Amazon and, after much thought, chose the Twin Size that weighs 15 pounds. It feels much heavier than a mere 15 pounds but is one of my favorite things now! You can buy it in a variety of sizes and weights.

2. Diet

First Off: I know that most would eat healthier if it were easier and more affordable.

I hear it all the time that this is a major factor blocking eating good foods. To this I would say, do your best. If you have to pick out a few of your mainstays that you eat, whether it be in the form of ingredients you use or choosing between organic or non-organic fruits and veges, choose wisely if you must limit the healthier things due to your budget. Pick a few items and find a way to incorporate them into the regular products you use!

What comes to my mind about our diet is more what NOT to eat than what TO eat. We all know that a variety of fresh, organic real food is optimal to good health. By fresh, a rule of thumb is to buy local as much as possible. It you are buying things from as far away as other countries whose food standards may not be equitable to where you live can be a concern. We assume that food is food and all countries, states or locals have the same regulations as us; they don’t.

Ideally, it would be great to grow your own food but that’s not practical or even possible for some, although, you don’t need a lot of land to grow certain vegetables. Grow boxes can be built in any shape or size to fit your living space and property. Maybe you could buy fresh veges from a Farmer’s Market if you can’t grow your own food. The problem with buying any food you haven’t grown yourself is that you don’t know if it was sprayed with harmful pesticides, etc. Do your best. Just cultivate a taste for various types of fruits and veges and make sure to get a few servings daily. Usually the more colorful, the better. Isn’t Mother Nature creative!

I used to work at a health resort as the head cook and would leave little notes on the dining tables. They pretty much summed it up. Here are a few of the things I shared:

  • “Stay in good company with Green and Brown things.” Meaning, try to choose things with the least amount of processing. Examples would be Brown Rice over White Rice, Whole Grain Wheat Flour vs White Flour. You get the picture.
  • “Processing Foods leads to Non-Foods”, Usually in processing foods, the “good stuff” is processed right out of them and the added ingredients are things that are added to give them a longer shelf life but are not good for human consumption.
  • “Be of good cheer when you prepare a meal.” Only the highest order of monks in Tibetan Monasteries were allowed to prepare the meals. If they had ill thoughts towards anyone, they were not supposed to go into the kitchen. (I laughed at this and thought it was a miracle I hadn’t killed my whole family at times as I was preparing the meals.)

“Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a stalled ox and hatred therewith.” Proverbs 15:17

Found in the introduction of the Zen Macrobiotic Cook Book by Michel Abehsera

I think in this modern age, we take so much for granted. Wouldn’t it be amazing to follow that last saying?

Keep it simple!

The more complicated and rigid a diet is, I know I will not stick with it for very long. Just follow the basic health standards you know. I believe you can eat as many fruits and veges as you want. Throw in a little meat if you want (I am not a vegetarian but think if we would follow the Asian way of preparing meals, we would see more vege’s on our plate and less meat.)

Avoid anything genetically modified; listed as GMO. Hopefully, it should be clearly labeled as GMO. If it’s organic, it should say so and shouldn’t contain any added chemicals, preservatives or be GMO. It’s usually more crucial to buy organic in the soft skinned fruits/veges where the sprayed chemicals can penetrate through easier.

  • A Juice Recipe I use is combining Carrots, Beets, Apples And Ginger Root. When I make and drink this it feels like every cell in my body lights up and says, “More, more!” I think we all tend to go through phases with juicing. It can become a bother to scrub the veges, juice them then clean up the mess but it may not be easy, but it’s worth the time! I think you definitely need to find a juicer that’s easy to use and even easier to clean.
  • I love mine and it’s one of the easiest I’ve tried. Relatively inexpensive as well. You can get it on Amazon.

I like the KETO idea of less carbs and more healthy fats. It makes sense since our brain is nearly 60% fat. We’ve learned in recent years that fatty acids are among the most crucial molecules that determine your brain’s integrity and ability to perform. I think if you read up on the KETO diet, you’ll get a better understanding of what it does.

An excerpt from “The Keto Diet: What is it” When you eat less than 50 grams of carbs a day, your body eventually runs out of fuel (blood sugar) it can use quickly. This typically takes 3 to 4 days. Then you’ll start to break down protein and fat for energy, which can make you lose weight. This is called ketosis.

It’s important to note that the ketogenic diet is a short term diet that’s focused on weight loss rather than the pursuit of health benefits.

I tried it but “fell off the wagon”. I would like to do it again as I felt good as I was doing it.

A very simple food plan I ate while doing KETO was lots of Celery with a natural peanut butter spread on it. I like Adams Brand Peanut Butter, the crunchy version. I also bought non-processed lunch meat and rolled it up with slices of cheese. Having a very busy schedule at the time I was doing KETO, this was super quick and easy to do. When I had time, I’d prepare full meals from a KETO Cook Book but my mainstay is what I mentioned above.

Below is an excerpt from a post I just read in a new Writer’s format I just discovered called, “Medium”. A perfect summary of conditions seen today regarding the past “status quo”. The blog post says the Keto Diet has “staying power” because it’s (another) spin-off from the famous Atkin’s Diet that was the most popular diet at its time selling over 2 billion books when they first came out. —

Excerpt from the blog:

“It is also taking hold in a far more receptive cultural climate, where government recommendations are regarded with skepticism, experts are discounted, and online-abetted populist thinking holds sway.” From The Keto Diet

I can see the trend leaning towards a mistrust of those “in authority” and a growing following of the easily obtained online wisdom. (See my blog on today’s reading styles, it fits into this description, not that this is true, just that this is a growing trend.)

In a nutshell: try to stop eating bread, cookies, pancakes, etc. That’s not easy. Carbs fill us up fast, taste wonderful and are so satisfying! Nothing like grabbing a chocolate chip cookie to eat on the run, I know.

This does not mean to ”pig out” on all fats either. I cook only with Olive Oil and Coconut Oil, once in awhile if I’m fixing an Asian dish, I love to use Sesame Oil. Do not use Canola Oil, it’s made from Soy Beans which used to be considered healthy but, unless organic, are now heavily polluted by pesticides and often fall into the GMO group. Canola Oil has other unhealthy ingredients as well. Sorry…

Another food that has been linked heavily to GMO, is corn. I found a wonderful product, frozen organic corn at Costco. It tastes wonderful and is reasonably priced.

It’s crucial to not combine a lot of even healthy fats with high carb diets. In fact, I believe that most carbs are not good for the average person because our bodies store the unused carbs as sugar. Athletes needs lots of carbs but burn them off quickly. I believe sugar and carbs are the foods contributing to the obesity that is onslaught in our societies today.

Sugar

I’m giving sugar its very own heading because added, processed, sugar is the single worst ingredient in the modern diet. The first place to start in “cleaning up your diet”. is to start by eliminating all processed sugar. This won’t be easy.

Click Link Below to see a really informative book, “Sugar Blues”, on the history of the discovery of sugar. Wars were fought over it and it, you might say, changed the way people began eating thereafter.

Recommended Reading, “Sugar Blues

When I worked at the health facility I mentioned above, I also worked with teaching the clients about good eating habits and of course, eliminating sugar from the diet was high on the list and I strongly advise you to try cutting it out of your diet. You’ll feel the difference Very quickly and it will show on you as well! When I quit, years ago, I noticed a leanness in my face, the chubbiness disappeared. When we eat a lot of sugary things, the fat rested from sugar, is stored beneath the skin as well as everywhere in our bodies, and creates that pudgy look.

Substitutions

I also stressed the point that practically any ingredient can be substituted.

Good News! Sugar is the easiest thing to replace.

In spite of the fact that sugar is the biggest culprit in our desire to eat healthy, it, ironically, is the easiest to substitute with an array of healthier sweeteners.

The following are healthy ingredients to substitute in place of processed sugar.

  • Honey
  • Stevia
  • Xylitol
  • Pure Maple Syrup
  • Sweet Brown Rice Syrup
  • Date Sugar

Many products claiming to be natural or healthy contain sugar as their top ingredient. Pure Cane Sugar is a step above processed sugar but if you are sensitive to sugar it’s still a bad choice. Read the labels on the products you buy. It’s shocking the things that have sugar in them!

Avoid synthetic sugar substitutes at all costs as well as any product containing High Fructose Corn Syrup, which has been found to be more addicting than sugar and with a higher glucose level than sugar. We once believed Agave was a healthy sweetener but have since learned it, too, has a very high glycemic index, higher than sugar. Darn!

Synthetic sweeteners containing Aspartame have been proven to cause cancer. Most diet sodas have this in them. Soda (or pop) has so many false, non-food ingredients and chemicals in them they will melt rust off of cast iron pans. Do you really want them in your body? These are super addicting and very hard to drop.

They can, over a period of time, begin to harm or even destroy the kidneys, especially when consumed in large amounts daily. Most people who are addicted to sodas for the caffeine uplift, consume them in huge amounts. Please avoid these as well.

There are healthier alternatives and if you’re seeking the lift from caffeine, I would say that coffee is a better choice than soda pop. Green tea is actually good for you. You won’t get the immediate kick as from the caffeine in soda or coffee but, once you ween yourself off soda, will start to feel the lift from the lesser amount of caffeine in green tea plus will also be getting the good benefits too.

In a different post, Savvy Grams Favorites, I listed a great alternative to soda and coffee. One I use every day. Actually there are two different products I use to give me my daily boost. They were made specifically for athletes and contain a lot of very healthy ingredients, they also contain caffeine but lack the added chemicals found in soda pop. I will add a link here if you’d like to try substituting them. I wish you luck in finding a substitute for your addictive and very harmful sodas, especially the Diet Sodas, which are actually worse than those with sugar.

Healthier Caffeine Drink Substitutes:

A.C.T.

Spark

Years ago, I learned I had hypoglycemia. This is the opposite of diabetes. Your body makes too much insulin when eating sugar which causes your blood sugar to drop rapidly leaving you with low blood sugar, which is not good and makes you feel light headed, with “brain fog” and some even faint.

I also, strangely enough, learned that caffeine had the same affects on me as sugar. I verified this later through scientific research I read about it.

A Wonderful Daily Tonic

My husband has been a dedicated “health nut” for 40+ years. One thing I learned from him that I know helps our body in so many ways is a tonic he got from a Naturopath that he calls “Kick-a-poo”.

This is made from equal amounts of raw, unfiltered honey and raw, unfiltered vinegar (Bragg or Haines are good brands of vinegar that contain the “mother”.) To make this easy, pre-mix these two ingredients into a container, an empty vinegar bottle works great, and does not need refrigeration. Mix about 1/3 Cup of this into 6-8 oz of good water. (This is a whole subject in itself!) Just try to get a good filtered or Reverse Osmosis water that does not contain chlorine, flouride or other added chemicals. Common sense tells us the purer the water, the better. Do your own research to find which water you prefer. To this, add a small amount of Cayenne Pepper. Start with a small pinch, you can increase the dose as your body gets used to it. Mix well and drink 2-3 times a day.

This is good in so many ways. One thing it does is remove plaque from the arteries and keep your system clean. Your body will thank you!

Water

Chocolate

Think you can’t indulge in your favorite sweet? Raw, Unsweetened Cacao is actually good for you with one of the highest amounts of antioxidants on the planet! Who would have thought chocolate would be good for us! In its pure form it is and is easier to find today, often in regular grocery stores, in the health food aisle.

I like to make either chocolate syrup (for our heathy home-made ice cream) or chewy chocolate candy (fudge) using raw cacao. Find how to make this in the Recipe Section and Basic Grocery List Blog I will be adding soon.

Exercise and Movement

Just a few words to add to this last heading. There are too many good things out there to do to keep us limber for me to single out just one. I will just say….Move It.

Don’t let yourself become a couch potato. I think if we do nothing but go for a daily walk, that’s success!

If you choose to do a daily exercise routine at home or go to a gym, go for it!

I love Yoga but haven’t found the right class for me. I love the stretching in Yoga and am trying to just do it in my bedroom via streaming it over my TV until I learn the routine. Once learned, Yoga can be done practically anywhere!

Don’t discount housework & yard work either. There’s a lot of “exercise” in those activities!

“The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity.” -Amelia Earhart

Find your fit and just do it!

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Author: Mary Catherine

• Published writer that used to contribute a monthly article on any given subject to my local newspaper. I am no longer doing this and miss it. • Owned my own custom paint store, "Wild Woods". I called it "wall art" that consisted of murals, glazing, faux painting and also painting vinyl garage doors to look like wood or metal; usually copper. • Have had an interesting past 14 years living off the grid in a remote area in Southern Utah near the Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park in a progressive community that held many informative events with guest speakers, including a number of published authors, and hands-on exercises in various self-sufficient living. No longer living there. • I have another blog about grandparenting. This is a subject near and dear to my heart nowadays. *As part of "the sandwich generation", I was caught between helping my adults kids (usually with their kids) as well as caring for an elderly parent, my mother, who was suffering from dementia. I want to do some writing on the aspect of full time care givers to people with Alzheimer's as well. I feel I have learned a lot about this. ~ What a Juggling Act! Somewhere with all those balls up in the air, my own dreams had been put on hold for too long and now, after losing my mother just recently, and my grandkids in school, I hope to rekindle them. My husband and I are super busy doing major remodeling jobs on a house we purchased two years ago as well as extensive yard work. The house and yard projects, which include the restoration of an old cottage built in the 1800's that sits on the far, back corner of our three-fourths acre lot we own are keeping us both really busy. Amidst the ongoing projects, I try to squeeze in a moment here and there to work on my blogs. Creativity has always been an essential part of who I am and when I stop doing things like this, I feel like a robot mechanically moving around, just getting the necessities done. Art, Music, Writing, Gardening, Home Interior Decorating, Water Activities like swimming and kayaking are the things I crave and try to find time to do. We have to "make it a good day"!

2 thoughts

  1. This is such a great article! Everything you mentioned is so important for maintaining a healthy lifestyle. I love summer time because we are so busy all day long everyone sleeps so good! 🙂 I wish there was a way to stay as active in the winter….
    Great article and you are a great writer!

    Like

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