We hear the term “wellness” with increasing frequency these days, but what do people actually mean when they use it? Wellness is a sort of umbrella word, used to describe practices and/or lifestyles that contribute to the overall health of the individual. Wellness applies to numerous aspects of a person’s life—nutrition, exercise, sleep, and even psychological well-being. I’ll touch on a few things a person can do to help them begin to increase their overall “wellness.”
Sleeping right: Inadequate or improper sleep is responsible for many problems in a person’s life. While it may seem difficult, strive for 7-8 hours of unaided, uninterrupted sleep per night. Our bodies and liver also recover better when those hours come earlier rather than later—sleeping from 3 in the morning until noon is not as restorative as sleeping from 10 in the evening until 7. Also take care to sleep in a fully darkened room, without digital or ambient lights.
Drinking water: Almost nobody that I know, including myself, drinks enough water a day. Low-grade dehydration can lead to fatigue, irritability, poor skin, and a suppressed immune system. Men should drink about three liters of water a day, and women should drink just slightly less. An easy way to do this is to carry a liter-sized reusable water bottle with you and make sure that you go through it three times a day. Other liquids like soda or soup do count towards your daily fluid intake but should not be the only things you rely on for hydration! Coffee, tea, and alcohol are dehydrating and should not be counted.
Eating a balanced healthy diet: Try to eat a healthy blend of fresh whole foods, plenty of vegetables and fruits, fresh herbs, whole grains, beans, legumes, monounsaturated fats (i.e. extra virgin olive oil, avocados, nuts, seeds). Keep animal proteins, sugar, coffee, soda, processed foods, and alcohol to a minimum. Organic and local foods should be chosen over conventionally grown. Freshly prepared vegetable and/or fruit juices are a great way to get those good nutrients and vitamins into your system.
Staying active: While regular exercise, simply for exercise’s sake, is important, some of us with busy schedules or long commutes find it hard to get the recommended 150 minutes a week of aerobic activity. But there are many things you can do throughout the day to increase your overall level of activity. Taking the stairs instead of the elevator is a great way to start. Taking the express trains and walking an extra ten blocks usually takes the same amount of time but gives you a few minutes of exercise. I’ll often walk for a while instead of making a transfer. Doing calf lifts (pushing yourself up to your tip-toes and then back again) while you wait in line is a great way to stay active while saving time. And of course, the big one—biking instead of taking the train or driving. While this is a more serious investment, in terms of equipment, skill, and comfort, the payoff is huge. Bicycles are usually just as fast as a train or a car in the City, and you get to spend your time exercising instead of sitting there! Central Park and the Westside bike path are great places to start riding, and while there are a lot of cars in Manhattan, you get accustomed to it sooner than you might think. If you are serious about staying more active on a day-to-day basis, consider biking.
Being happy: Finally, there’s mental wellness. This is more difficult to define and varies from individual to individual. But in essence, mental wellness means reducing stress, staying happy, and engaging your mind. Learning new skills, such as a language or dance, can exercise your brain, take your mind off of day-to-day troubles, and keep you happy. Constantly be on the lookout for ways to expand your horizons—the payoff will be worth it.
January 22nd 2015 by Hunter Ellis for bodono